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How to use your trekking pole strap
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Steve Martell
(Steve) - MLife

Locale: Eastern Washington
Re: How to use your trekking pole strap on 04/02/2014 17:04:14 MDT Print View

Nice video Franco. Count me as a fellow strap user.

I've shown a few friends the benefits of straps also....that they didn't need to have a 'death grip' (strapless) hold on their poles. Most seam to prefer the straps--once shown the correct technique.

But as always...HYOH

Mitchell Ebbott
(mebbott) - F - M

Locale: SoCal
Re: Re: trekking pole straps usage.....yes or no on 04/02/2014 17:44:27 MDT Print View

"Forearm fatigue?

I would suggest not using the straps to build up the endurance of the forearm muscles, thereby not requiring artificial assistance for weak forearms.

Maybe we should use rollerblades on the trail. It would reduce calf and quadricep fatigue."


If you're going down that road, why not suggest ditching the poles altogether in order to build up legs and reduce muscle fatigue there? Heck, we should carry 50 lb packs while we're at it for that same reason!

A little mechanical advantage never hurt anyone.

Edited by mebbott on 04/02/2014 17:45:59 MDT.

peter vacco
(fluff@inreach.com) - M

Locale: no. california
Re: No straps for me... Not. on 04/02/2014 19:56:33 MDT Print View

" On the flip side, what's the argument in their favor? "

ok, we're tally Ho on this one.
the straps let us "not hang on". which equates to a substantial savings of effort (energy).
as pertains to my very sweet PacerPoles, of which i own two sets, the Not Hanging On reaches absurd levels, of simply lifting an arm and having the pole happily zoot out in front of me all on it's own.
for those not yet familiar with Pacer Poles, unlike old style poles, the strap attaches Below the grip, and Lifts the pole and is not used to support the wrist. in practice, this equates to a considerable reduction in wrist strain, and the pain associated with it.

using a conventional strap design, the strap is what takes the majority of the load, not the hand. no strap ... and you are faced with needing to use grip (energy) to shove any real force thru the pole. for some of us apparently, that works ok.
but i got pretty strong arms from years of using poles, and eventually you get to where you can push hard enough to collapse the cheaper pole adjusters, extend creek crossing jumps, arrest falls and keep moving, and cause nerve damage to the wrist joint.

old style straps pay big on steep uphills, where you can hang on them.
with conventional poles, wrist pain may be more an issue for those running elevated weights over noxious terrain than for users on designated trails.

but obviously, there's going to be no right/wrong way to do this subject.

just my op.
v.

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: Re: Re: trekking pole straps usage.....yes or no on 04/02/2014 20:08:37 MDT Print View

"If you're going down that road, why not suggest ditching the poles altogether in order to build up legs and reduce muscle fatigue there? Heck, we should carry 50 lb packs while we're at it for that same reason!"

If you are packing light enough, then yes, I would agree. Most of the time my poles stay attached to my pack. They come out for the odd significant up or down or for river crossings. Oh and to set up my shelter.

What does carrying 50 pound packs have to do with using straps?

Methinks if you rely on the perceived mechanical advantage from straps on a trekking pole, then you are relying too much on the poles themselves and are either packing too heavy, or relying on a questionable panacea for your own lack of fitness.

Get in shape people and drop the straps. Or at least do wrist curls.

Mitchell Ebbott
(mebbott) - F - M

Locale: SoCal
Re: Re: Re: Re: trekking pole straps usage.....yes or no on 04/02/2014 23:54:22 MDT Print View

My point with the 50 pound pack thing was that adding effort for the sake of adding effort is silly. I understand that for some people, using straps doesn't really save much energy. I've found that for me it does. It sounds like your argument is something along the lines of "buck up, wimp, I can do it and so can you." And I suppose that's true. But just because I can doesn't mean I should.

My grip strength is fine, thankyouvermuch, but I find that I like to put a lot of weight on my poles when I'm on a steep, sustained uphill. It's easier to do that with straps. That's true even when I'm out for a day trip, it has nothing to do with how much weight I'm carrying. Part of it could be that I have pretty big hands, and no pole I've found has grips big enough to keep my hands from slipping down on steady uphills. Whatever the reason, I don't see a downside to keeping the straps on the poles, even if I don't always use them.

BTW, why do you even bring poles? I don't see the point if you're not going to use them to bear much weight. My own rule is that my shoulders should end up as tired as my thighs, otherwise I'm using my muscles inefficiently.

Edited by mebbott on 04/02/2014 23:55:46 MDT.

Richard Reno
(scubahhh)

Locale: White Mountains, mostly.
Hmmm... now I'm more confused than ever on 04/03/2014 07:20:19 MDT Print View

I apologize for offending anyone by asking about the upside of straps, but my question is still unanswered.

When I used straps on my poles it wasn’t really a conscious decision; it was more like climbing Everest- because they were there. When I cut them off it was because they seemed to get in the way more than help. After I cut them off I didn't notice any downside at all... wrist fatigue, less stability, forgetting them when I stopped to take a picture. Since I didn’t see any downside to removing them, doesn’t’ that mean that for me at least there wasn’t any upside to using them?

I wonder if anybody who’s pro-straps has gotten rid of them, and then decided to put them back on.

Also surprised the weight issue hasn’t’ come up.

Also going to order some of those swanky pacer poles. If you don't see them in the Gear Swap section in a couple months, you’ll know where I stand!

HYOH.

J Mag
(GoProGator) - F
Re: Re: Re: Re: trekking pole straps usage.....yes or no on 04/03/2014 11:16:05 MDT Print View

I use wrist straps while hiking because, like others have said, the big fleshy palms of my hand take all of the weight spread over a decent sized area (the strap) as opposed to using my grip strength to have to support my weight instead. I agree that it incurs less energy expenditure and I hike UL to enjoy myself, not get fit. That's what the gym is for. HYOH as they say.

I also deadlift over 400 lbs easily (with no straps), bench over 300 lbs, and squat around 360 last time I checked (recent knee injury).

But I am going to have to look into these "wrist curls" Dave U has recommended. Those might be what my routine is missing. If Dave is as strong as he appears in his profile picture I could definitely learn a thing or two :P

Edited by GoProGator on 04/03/2014 11:18:10 MDT.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Yes. on 04/03/2014 11:46:12 MDT Print View

Franco, thanks for the video. I've just forwarded it to my MIL who I gifted some Black Diamond poles (after catching her a few times on slippery Hawaiian trails last week. I love that you demonstrate how to correctly use the straps - I am forever doing that on the ski slopes and hiking trails. So many people use the straps only for retention, not for propulsion.

Another strap use (this is really handy when leading larger groups in which you have a range of abilities): pass each pole tip through the OTHER pole's strap, at the same time. This creates a square knot from the straps (easily separated later) and a more-than-double-length pole (due to the double strap length in the middle). Now for a tricky stream or log crossing, a more-capable hiker goes first. They hold one end of the double-length pole and lean back against it as someone big on the original side does the same thing. Now, all but the first and last person has a "handrail" to use as they pick their way across the stream. Once you get the routine down, it speeds up the stream crossings, damages the meadow less (because people aren't hunting all over for a slightly better crossing spot) and you end up with fewer wet butts in the group. Then you separate the poles until the next stream crossing.

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: trekking pole straps usage.....yes or no on 04/03/2014 11:59:19 MDT Print View

"I also deadlift over 400 lbs easily (with no straps), bench over 300 lbs, and squat around 360 last time I checked (recent knee injury)."

Over / under grip on the deads? Low bar or high bar on the squats? KGs or Lbs?

;)

I am being reasonably facetious here, folks. Use the straps if you would like but I honestly find any of the benefit to be so minimal as to be unworthy of a discussion. Sorry Franco!

If one is relying on the straps from a trekking pole to relieve muscle strain, then there are bigger issues at work here. If you percieve it to be more comfortable, then good stuff. Just don't tell me you do it to reduce muscle strain or I will tell you to lift, Bro.....

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: trekking pole straps usage.....yes or no on 04/03/2014 12:06:47 MDT Print View

"If Dave is as strong as he appears in his profile picture I could definitely learn a thing or two :P"

Not quite but similarly hairy.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Hmmm... now I'm more confused than ever on 04/03/2014 12:20:00 MDT Print View

The plus side of straps:

Straps work better at higher speed. This is very noticeable when cross country skiing and your arm motion is more exaggerated. It is less so when walking, but still an aid.

I can support my weight with less stress on tendons and muscles and feels more stable overall.

I angle my wrists less when using straps and I'm able to flick the poles ahead rather than using small muscles and wrist tendons to to that: it is just less effort overall.

In conjunction with the above, I lessen repetitive stress issues as I have a lighter grip.

My hands won't slip off if I exceed my grip strength, wet grips, etc.

Straps eliminate dropping my poles down a cliff or snowbank, or watch them go downstream in a river crossing.

If I stop for a drink, etc, the straps can just dangle from my wrists rather than resting on my side or falling over in the mud.

I can use the straps for rigging tarp lines.

I use the straps for hanging storage too.


I have made and used poles without grips and didn't like them as much. Certainly we have used sticks as staffs since day one and gotten along just fine. Straps are a refinement. I do have the option of NOT using the straps when it suits me.

Edited by dwambaugh on 04/03/2014 12:20:31 MDT.

J Mag
(GoProGator) - F
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: trekking pole straps usage.....yes or no on 04/03/2014 13:07:32 MDT Print View

Over/ Under, High bar ATG, lbs of course.

And Dale has pretty much summed up the "for" side of the argument as best as it can be done.

I think it is down to personal preference at this point.

William Chilton
(WilliamC3) - MLife

Locale: Antakya
Re: trekking pole straps usage.....yes or no on 04/03/2014 13:16:51 MDT Print View

Last summer, the strap came off one of my poles (user error) early in a week-long trip. I continued with one pole strapless. At first it seemed more tiring using the pole without the strap, but after about a day, I stopped noticing any difference.
Re Dale's comments, though, I never got used to not being able to just let go of the pole when I wanted to take a photo, grab a drink etc.

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
Re: trekking pole straps usage.....yes or no on 04/03/2014 13:31:49 MDT Print View

A couple years ago I had my first real face-to-face encounter with a big grizzly on a GNP trail. It seemed to take several seconds to get my hands out of the straps of my beloved BPL Stix so I could better handle the bear spray. After the incident, I decided to cut the straps off (I couldn't figure out how to remove them without cutting them). I haven't missed those straps one bit. Also, since I use poles to support my Contrail and GoLite SL-1, I no longer brush my face against dangling pole straps when I get in/out of the tents.

I recently bit on a pair of Black Diamond Z-poles on sale. I like how the straps can easily be removed/replaced. That's maybe the best of both worlds--I can choose to use the straps, or not.

Inaki Diaz de Etura
(inaki) - MLife

Locale: Iberia highlands
Re: trekking pole straps usage.....yes or no on 04/03/2014 14:27:41 MDT Print View

the more the poles are used for propulsion, the most benefit from strap use. While hiking I usually skip the straps, when skiing uphill I use them all the time, just as the video shows. I put a lot of weight on the poles, far more than when hiking. It would be tiring, uncomfortable and eventually painful to be holding the handles (I've tried)

Todd Taylor
(texasbb) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Hmmm... now I'm more confused than ever on 04/03/2014 14:59:44 MDT Print View

What Dale W said. And Inaki.

I'll add my speculation that folks who don't find the straps beneficial are probably not getting much benefit out of their poles. My straps take a LOT of weight, especially going downhill. That's weight my knees, ankles, and feet don't have to bear 25,000 times per day. Even if I were Popeye, my grip couldn't maintain the loading my straps take.

Some people seem to use their poles mostly as feelers; I can understand why they would find little benefit in the straps.

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: Re: Re: Hmmm... now I'm more confused than ever on 04/03/2014 16:17:49 MDT Print View

When I go down hills, assuming they are steep enough, I palm the grip. I couldn't do that if I used straps.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Re: Hmmm... now I'm more confused than ever on 04/03/2014 16:43:13 MDT Print View

"I'll add my speculation that folks who don't find the straps beneficial are probably not getting much benefit out of their poles. My straps take a LOT of weight, especially going downhill. That's weight my knees, ankles, and feet don't have to bear 25,000 times per day. Even if I were Popeye, my grip couldn't maintain the loading my straps take."

In at least one case, namely me, you'd be wrong. I don't use straps, preferring to cup the butt of the handle going both up and down, and I am definitely not Popeye. And I most definitely get a lot of benefit from my poles. If you look at the anatomy of the wrist, specifically how it is designed to flex, gripping the handle or even using a strap causes the wrist to flex side to side instead of up and down, the natural direction. By cupping the butt of the handle, one has a universal joint that allows moving the pole in almost any direction with a high degree of precision using only slight pressure from either the thumb or ring finger. I can go all day this way with no forearm fatigue at all, nor the wrist rash/abrasion associated with a broad strap. As for going uphill, the mechanical advantage is similar to a spear throwing stick as the triceps and lats engage. It does require a modicum of fitness, but nothing unattainable if you work out at all, although it may not be for those with tender hands. I do use a 2 mil Perlon retaining wrist loop/cord attached to the pole just below the handle to avoid losing control of the pole for all the possible reasons that can happen.

"Some people seem to use their poles mostly as feelers; I can understand why they would find little benefit in the straps."

Cupping is very well suited for this ability, and I consider it to be almost like having antennae in probing ahead to determine terrain texture, presence of snakes in thick brush or under overhangs, among other things, especially at dusk, dawn, and night.

Not trying to start an argument here, but merely to give my perspective on a technique that has only been mentioned in passing so far. As always, HYOH.

Edited for content.

Edited by ouzel on 04/03/2014 17:15:32 MDT.

Ian B.
(IDBLOOM) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Re: Re: Hmmm... now I'm more confused than ever on 04/03/2014 17:07:55 MDT Print View

I already commented on this but just want to ditto what Dave and Tom said above. When I first bought the Carbon Corks a year ago, I found the straps to be tremendously helpful and used them all the time. I'm not really sure what happened but after using them for a couple months, they quickly became more of an annoyance than an asset. I left them on but stopped using them for a trip or two and then finally committed to getting rid of them altogether.

They certainly help power me up the hills and like Dave, I palm them on the way down to take the shock off of my knees. I really don't perceive any forearm fatigue even after a long day.

Regardless of which way you use them, if it works for you, no one is in a position to say you're wrong.

Glenn S
(Glenn64) - M

Locale: Snowhere, MN
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hmmm... now I'm more confused than ever on 04/04/2014 00:37:56 MDT Print View

Well, I'm still new to poles, so I have questions for both sides...

If you do NOT use straps, do you place your thumbs over the tops of the poles? Because that's the only way I see how to transfer enough weight to the pole to make them meaningful, without having to squeeze the life out of them every step. I turn wrenches for a living, so my grip is fine, but maybe I'm putting too much into the pole, since a sweaty hand slides my pinky into the bottom stop if I don't use a death grip every step. My shoulders are as tired as my legs at the end of the day, or my legs are as strong as my shoulders, guess it depends on perspective.

If you DO use straps, do you turn the head of the pole around when going downhill? Because I don't have to take my hands out of the straps or anything, I just spin the pole around so the cant of the head fits better in my palm and the strap just follows along. So I guess I'm holding the pole backward going downhill, but it feels right when I palm the head.

Geez, and I thought handlebar grip was complicated!