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fixed length poles
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Gabriel August
(gaugust) - F

Locale: Penn's Woods
fixed length poles on 05/03/2007 22:24:13 MDT Print View

hey there. quick question about trekking poles. i've been an ultralight backpacker for a couple years now and am just now looking into trekking poles. i originally thought that they were "old man's" gear and am just now coming around to the realization that they will make my backpacking trips easier and more enjoyable. if everyone on these boards is using them they can't be wrong, right?

my question is this. i'm looking into fixed length poles by gossamer gear or BPL. how do i know which height of a pole to purchase. i'm a tall guy (6'2") and wondered what measurement i would take to make sure that my poles actually fit me. any help would be greatly appreciated.

Robert Burns
( - F

Locale: Cascades / Olympics (WET)
Re: fixed length poles on 05/03/2007 22:33:51 MDT Print View

If I were you, I'd go to a retail store such as REI that carries adjustable length trekking poles, raise them to a height so that when you are standing up,holding the poles, with the poles' tips on the ground, your elbows create 90* angles. Then look at the markings on the pole, thats what you want. If they don't land exactly on an interval of 5 cm, rumor has it to round up with fixed length poles, but that's your call. Hope I didn't confuse you. Maybe someone else has a better idea.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Other considerations on 05/04/2007 00:59:08 MDT Print View

If you are new to the trekking pole thing... have you considered a single pole intead of the pair? I only say that because I use a single and the two styles are very different. A pair is meant for a "Nordic" style walking and demands more of the upper body to releeve (a little) the legs. A single more traditional "walking stick" is meant as a third leg for balance on stream/river crossings and boulder hopping. It also helps on the downhill with helping to releave pressure as well as helping to control downward momentum. Of coarse the two pole thing does the same. I recently bought a "take down pole" from TIGOAT and couldnt be happier. Poles that collapse are somthing to consider if you are new to them because they can easily be put away when in transport and when you just dont need them. Again I would consider the adjustable poles from Tigoat :

Lawton Grinter

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: fixed length poles on 05/04/2007 01:08:03 MDT Print View

yes, just go with the 90 degree angle of the elbows. don't get anti-shock ones. i have rei ul carbon fiber ones, and i cut the straps off them. i used to use the straps, but after about a month on the pct, i just figured i didn't need them, and never missed them.

trekking poles rule. great for uphill, easier and safer on the downhill, great for stream crossings, hold up the front of your tarptent, snow field security, and everything else. they rock.

i've used one and two poles before, and i definitely would recommend two, unless you just want some stability in stream crossings and whatnot. since i mostly want them for uphills and downhills, one pole is only half as good.

Edited by disco on 05/04/2007 01:10:10 MDT.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: Re: fixed length poles on 05/04/2007 17:22:53 MDT Print View

For me, a lot depends on the terrain. If I'm on flat ground (or near flat) then I don't use poles. I've started using them going uphill, but only because I want a little weight off my back (I usually carry them while backpacking and put them in my pack while day hiking). I always use them going downhill (to help my knees). For that purpose, I usually have them way out there (130 cm or so) but again that depends on the terrain. The steeper it is, the longer I tend to extend them. I like to get the poles way ahead of me on the trail (as much below me as possible) and essentially lower myself down. I use two poles and go pretty quickly downhill (the poles match my stride). I like to use the straps, putting my weight on my wrist, which is wrapped by the straps and the foam part of the pole in between my thumb and forefinger (I'm not really gripping the pole when I put my weight on it). This is similar to a cross-country ski grip. My advise is to borrow (or rent if you have to) someone's adjustable poles a bit and then figure out what makes sense for you.

For comparison purposes, I would say that "steep" for me is about 1,000 feet per mile. This is pretty common (unfortunately) in the Northwest. At about 500 feet per mile I think about putting the poles away .

I should also mention that there are some folks who use poles to propel themselves (nordic ski style) down the trail. They claim they can move faster than full stride walking, but I would love to see a comparison with a fast walker. I know, personally, that I walk much faster without poles.

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: Re: Re: fixed length poles on 05/04/2007 22:09:20 MDT Print View

Hi Gabriel,

A lot of good info here. I'm the trekking pole editor here at BackpackingLight and I might be able to add some additional information.

First, in my opinion and experience, using trekking poles can be easier on the body and also more effecient over long mileage. I started out a naysayer but converted after using my wife's poles on some long days and through deep Utah sand. Now I use poles for every hike.

Second, there are two main styles of pole usage:
"Trekking style" mans you use the poles for stability and balance. The tips are place beside the feet as you walk and they take weight off the knees and offer additional security. These poles tend to be shorter typically fit the 90 degree rule mentioned above.

"Nordic Walking style" means that the poles are used for forward propulsion, much like a XC ski pole. Sized for this style, the poles are usually a bit longer (mine are about 5 cm longer). Here, the poles are place behind the feet and you push off for increased speed or forward momentum.

That said, you'll likely develop a blend of the styles, although you'll typically fall into one camp. For example, my wife uses trekking style 90% of the time but uses NW style when climbing steep sections. I use NW style primarily but switch to trekking for stability through really rough sections or when decending sketchy or very steep parts.

This gets you to the length question, and it's a tough one. I found my length by using adjustable poles over a period of years. I'm about 6'1" and I used to set mine at 125 for general usage and 128 (yeah, I'm anal) for snowshoeing. Now I use fixed length all the time (except when testing new models for the site) and prefer 128 to 132 cm for all times. I tend to go for my 128s for general use and use my 132 STIX for when I'm really going for it (long days, big mileage). My 128s are just a tad beyond the 90 deg and my 132s are well past that. But if I was using them for trekking, I'd be a 125.

I hope that helps a little. Ross's idea of borrowing an adjustable set to develop your ideal length is a great one. Remember to measure from the tip to the end of the handle for a true measurement. The idea of getting the adjustable Titanium Goat poles is a good one too. I've never tried those but I've used their fixed and collapsible poles- solid products. You can't go wrong with Gossamer Gear either and Komperdell Featherlites are sweet too. Stix are expensive but really stiff and light...they are the Maserati of trekking poles in my opinion (and I mean old Maserati- think 1978 Bora). :-)

You might also want to check this out: Carbon Fiber Trekking Pole Review Summary.

Last, as Ross pointed out, there is definitely debate regarding the effeciency of using trekking poles. I truly believe that I couldn't pull off the mega 40-50 mile days I sometimes do without the use of poles- I see them as a critical componenet of my system. Others such as Andy Skurka would agree. But there are certainly many folks that would offer different opinions. I'd love to offer quantitative numbers to prove my point but I only have qualitative experience. Hopefully someday I can definitely prove everyone else wrong but until then you'll have to find out for yourself. :-) Lots of ways to hike down a trail and that is for sure.

Best of luck!

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
YMMV on this too on 05/05/2007 08:42:23 MDT Print View

Interesting to read comments from different perspectives; one person suggested cutting the straps off the poles, whereas I think of the wrist straps as being pretty essential. Each to their own!

If you've never used poles before, I suggest you take to heart what Doug said about requiring some time to find his optimal length --- and consider starting out with adjustable poles. Perhaps buy an inexpensive pair of adjustable poles at Walmart or somewhere like that, then pass those on if and when you're ready to buy something lighter and more expensive later.

Note that some folks adjust their poles on a given trip along the way based on terrain --- shorter for uphill, longer for downhill. I do this when the gradient is enough to make that seem worth while.

One person talked about using just one pole; I think the difference in efficiency --- depending on style --- is substantial (disproportionate) going from one pole to two. I used to hate the idea of having both my hands occupied, but now I use two poles most of the time. But in times when I'd really like to have a hand free, or if I'm switching from poles to an ice axe maybe, then it's more than just "helpful" to have adjustable poles so I can put one or both on my back.

It's also a little easier with adjustable poles if you're flying to your destination, or in general to fit them in a small car trunk or whatever.
And if your poles are doing double duty as part of your tent or tarp shelter (support pole), then I think it's helpful to be able to adjust them, though you can adjust to some degree also by angling them.

I too have the REI carbon fiber poles (the shorter ones work for me). I usually don't find too much at REI these days that's light enough (!), but I'm liking these as perhaps the lightest (?) adjustable poles, backed with REI's excellent return policy.

Bottom line is that for me, the flexibility of an adjustable pole far "outweighs" the small weight penalty.

Brian Lewis

Edited by brianle on 05/05/2007 08:44:40 MDT.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: single pole... on 05/05/2007 10:04:47 MDT Print View

I would just like to clarify my point on the use of a single pole. I know I am in a tiny minority in the use of a single pole and I didnt want to suggest that one pole is as good or better than two. I think we are using them for very different purposes. For the uses outlined by everyone so far...of coarse no question two are better than one. The use of a single pole (for me) is not to help propell me down the trail and definatly not to help with uphill. A "walking stick" is mostly to help with balance while wearing a pack and this in turn helps you move faster and safer. On the down hill the pole is placed down in front of me and then I step - when its needed on very steep sections. I dont touch down ( in the sense that Im putting any of my weight on it) with every step. So if you are going to use a trekking or nordic style a single pole makes no sense. I just was offering an alternative to trekking poles "proper" since he seemed skeptical of the concept. Sorry for not being a little more clear.

Edited by MAYNARD76 on 05/05/2007 11:03:59 MDT.

Gabriel August
(gaugust) - F

Locale: Penn's Woods
trekking poles on 05/07/2007 12:18:06 MDT Print View

thanks for all the help. i borrowed a pair of my friends REI trekking poles and i'm going to test them out this weekend on the trail. 90 degress for me is about 125cm, so we'll see how well they work.

thanks doug for the info on the NW style vs. trekking style. i'll have to give them both a try.

again, thanks for all the info.

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: trekking poles on 05/07/2007 15:10:52 MDT Print View

Have fun Gabriel! But be warned, using poles you run the risk of becoming a pole addict. If you find yourself at the trailhead without poles, you'll have to drive home because you'll find that walking without them is impossible. Soon, you'll be using them when walking at the grocery store, at the mall, even walking to get the mail. You'll feel like a cripple without them. On the other hand, you'll be amazed at how quickly and effeciently you cruise the halls of the supermarket. Who needs free hands anyway!

Have a good one- seeing the sun up here in Seattle is getting me jazzed for an upcoming trip! The rain doesn't stop be but there is something very nice (and rare!) about the sun and blue sky. :-)


Pamela Wyant
(RiverRunner) - F - M
Trekking poles on 05/08/2007 19:45:41 MDT Print View

I find I hike faster with poles than without. I find the wrist straps essential, with most of the force/weight placed on the strap and my fingers just lightly holding the hand grips.

I really love my Black Diamond poles - the flicklocks have been super dependable, much more so than other twist lock poles I have used. A friend of mine is hiking the Appalachian Trail, and bought Leki poles due to their reputation and ease of finding parts, but after having them slip badly about three times, is sending them back and getting Black Diamond flicklocks.

I find a side benefit of using poles is that my hands do not swell when hiking, as they often do after 5-6 miles hiking without poles.

Of course, as they say, "your mileage may differ".


Edited by RiverRunner on 05/08/2007 19:50:44 MDT.