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Trekking poles
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Erica Napolitano
(naperica) - F

Locale: Northeast
Trekking poles on 08/20/2014 10:30:03 MDT Print View

Being short on budget, I have been using old ski poles that I found at a yard sale for $2 for backpacking. They work fine, but my MIL offered to buy me a nicer pair for my birthday!

I have been doing some research and I am not sure if I am better equipped to tell her what pair I'd like.

I think that I am definitely going with the powerlock and cork handles.

I am not sure if I really need a women's the grip a different thickness? I see that they are different height maximum's for standard/women's poles, I will be using them on occasion to set up a canopy 2 tarp from BearPaw, what is the optimal pole height for this tarp? I cannot see on their site?

Is going expensive really better????? I am 5'8" and 135, if that would matter in the type of pole I should use. I will be mainly in the northeast hiking.

I would love some advice (especially from women) on whether to go standard or women's poles and whatnot.

What else am I forgetting to think about.


Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Trekking poles on 08/20/2014 10:42:15 MDT Print View

I've owned three pairs of Black Diamond Carbon Corks. I forgot on pair at a trailhad and still own the other two. No problems with any of them.

They are spendy but very durable. I've used the older and current lock designs; both work great so don't be afraid of the older ones if you see them on Ebay or on sale somewhere. I'm a big guy and they've saved my bacon more than a few times when taking an express elevator to the ground and to help mitigate spontaneous acrobatic acts I'm infamous for from time to time.

There are lighter options out there but the weight of them has never bothered me. This is one area where I'm willing to sacrifice a few ozs for durability.

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Re: Trekking poles on 08/20/2014 11:34:16 MDT Print View

the only difference is the grip size though some have a shorter version too. If you have been using ski poles they are probably the same size as non-women specific. at 5'8 you don't need any special length (i'm only 5'7 125 guy) I also use the BD Alpine Carbons with no problems.

Katherine .
(Katherine) - F

Locale: pdx
Re: Trekking poles on 08/20/2014 11:36:53 MDT Print View

I've never even heard of women-specific trekking poles. Sounds like a marketing gimmick to me.

I also have the BD carbon corks. They're fine.

Many years back I made the mistake of getting a pair with inclined, supposedly ergonomic, handles. They were heavy, not useful for shelter support, and the grip was stupid. So in general I'm wary of anything too hyped up with poles.

You-know-who just updated his recommendation from the BD carbon corks to the REI Carbon Power Lock. I'd get those.

Todd T
(texasbb) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Trekking poles on 08/20/2014 12:04:24 MDT Print View

Woman-specific poles, in my experience, have zero or more of the following:

1) Smaller grips (the ones I've seen were shorter top to bottom, not thinner)

2) Less overall length

3) Dainty colors (seriously)

I doubt any of that is important to you, though #2 *can* make them a little lighter. However, if you're using them to hold up your tarp or tent, you're probably better off getting a full-length (55 inch) version.

The problem with using ski poles is they're usually way too long. Trekking poles need to be a good bit shorter so you can easily get a lot of your weight on them without having your arms too high, which can be tiring. I recommend starting with the pole at navel height and adjust from there.

Erica Napolitano
(naperica) - F

Locale: Northeast
Checking out REI (due to their upcoming sale) on 08/20/2014 13:55:41 MDT Print View

Thank you for the info.

Okay, so it looks like I really don't need a specific "woman's" pole.

I was looking at the difference between the REI Traverse Powerlock, which has cork handles and the REI Carbon Powerlock, which has foam handles. The obvious differences are that of the handles and the material (which effects the weight). Other then that, they seem to be very similar.

I have never held a foam handled pole......maybe I should go and check that out before I tell her which one to buy. I thought I was set on cork, but I didn't even think this option of foam existed.

Are there any set backs on foam? Does it wear away faster, like flake away or rip? Or come off in your hands? If you have "clammy" hands, do they absorb a lot of water?

Todd T
(texasbb) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Checking out REI (due to their upcoming sale) on 08/20/2014 22:27:55 MDT Print View

I've only ever had foam handles, and they've held up very well. No peeling or shifting or anything like that. They get kind of dirty sometimes and rub dark off on my hands in high pressure spots, but washing them real good stops that.

Billy Ray
(rosyfinch) - M

Locale: the mountains
Re: Checking out REI (due to their upcoming sale) on 08/20/2014 22:57:24 MDT Print View

I like both foam and cork handles... have them both... but I do find that the cork handles I have seem to dry my thumb out enough that the skin cracks right in the crease where it bends on a week long hike... and it's pretty sore.

Foam handles can leave a little black residue... especially when they are new... but I have never considered it a problem.

I think the more important thing is 'how do they feel in your hand'.

Try them both and see which is more comfortable.
Some shapes feel more comfortable than others.
Some diameters are more comfortable than others for your size hand.


Space Q. Monkey

Locale: Southern California
Re: Trekking poles on 08/20/2014 23:49:14 MDT Print View

Hi Erica...I'd just like to add that I have the REI powerlock carbon and I've been very happy with them. I'm a big guy and I've put a lot of stress and strain on them and they've been great. Foam grips are just fine. Locks hold (you might have to tighten them when you first get them) and they're light. For what it's worth the REI poles are made by Komperdell in Austria.

Stephen Murphy
(sjtm) - F
A vote for Pacer Poles on 08/21/2014 06:25:36 MDT Print View

These weigh more and have to be ordered directly from the manufacturer in the UK, but after purchasing a pair, I see no benefit to going back to a traditional pole. These are not just about an ergonomic grip, but the way the poles are designed to be placed in concert with your stride. There is no question that they provide me additional benefits over a traditional pole when climbing steeper trails here in New England. The pole tip is planted beside you rather than in front of you. Check out the Pacerpole website for a much better description. Price is in the same range as your other options and they offer a carbon version (although I opted for aluminum as carbon poles tend not to take well to the rocky, root strewn trails in NE.

Erica Napolitano
(naperica) - F

Locale: Northeast
Re: A vote for Pacer Poles on 08/21/2014 06:34:10 MDT Print View

Thank you for the suggestion of pacer poles. They looks really ergonomic. I wonder though, with the angle they have going on for walking, would they be good for holding up my tarp?

Michael Gunderloy
(ffmike) - MLife
Re: A vote for Pacer Poles on 08/21/2014 07:01:29 MDT Print View

I've gone to Pacerpoles as well, and can't see myself going back to traditional grip poles either. For what it's worth I've caught the carbon fiber ones multiple times in rocks and roots without breaking them (though I did manage to trip over my own feet once and tear my MCL, but that's another story).

Pacerpole web site

Wolf's Rain
(WolfsRain) - MLife
pacers on 08/21/2014 07:40:23 MDT Print View

Another +1 to pacer poles. I love the handles and feel they do make a significant difference in ascent / descent. I've used them for setting up a trailstar and flat tarp and have no issues with the handles.

Where are you in the NE? I'm in MA and if you're anywhere in the vicinity, you'd be welcome to try mine out.

I've considered switching to different poles sometimes (I used carbon corks before these too), but I think I'd really miss the grips.

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Re: Trekking poles on 08/21/2014 07:46:38 MDT Print View

No problems with my carbon poles in NH and VT. probably close to 1000mi with mine. I don't find a need for straps so i can let go if they get stuck in a hole.

A friend of mine had his bend at the steel tip and they still didn't break.

oof those pacer poles look uncomfortable to me. no thanks

Michael Gunderloy
(ffmike) - MLife
Re: Re: Re: Trekking poles on 08/21/2014 08:33:35 MDT Print View

"oof those pacer poles look uncomfortable to me."

Yeah they did to me too. But I'm glad I took the chance. I just wish they were easier to try out without taking the plunge.

Billy Ray
(rosyfinch) - M

Locale: the mountains
Re: Re: Re: Re: Trekking poles on 08/21/2014 10:12:20 MDT Print View

Never tried them, but I'd stay away from a radical design like those PacerPoles.
I do think they will be a problem if needed as a pole for your tent/tarp.

Further, advanced pole use includes (in addition to the normal grip)... palming the tops of the poles to give further reach down steep steps-offs, choking up on one pole for steep off-trail traverses and some steep off-trail climbing, using the straps to take the weight of your push instead of having to grip the poles all day, etc.

Looks to me like the radical hand grip of the PacerPole would limit its versitlity in many situations... I would avoid them. If you want a specialized pole like the PacerPole, I'd recommend buying it later as a second or third pole option.

just my opinion... like I said, I haven't used the pacer poles... But I'm pretty experienced with many pole situations.


Erica Napolitano
(naperica) - F

Locale: Northeast
Palming on 08/21/2014 10:27:02 MDT Print View

Good point Billy Ray, I do "palm" the poles quite a bit just to change up my grip. It might not work with the pacer poles.

Wolf's Rain, I am in RI.

Edited by naperica on 08/21/2014 10:56:03 MDT.

Billy Ray
(rosyfinch) - M

Locale: the mountains
Re: Palming on 08/21/2014 11:30:56 MDT Print View

now that you mention the idea of 'changing your grip'... It reminds me of the huge benefits of just simply 'changing your grip' from time to time... Think about the Pacerpoles basically forcing you to have the same grip all the time... seems like a prescription for wrist/hand problems to me.

And... having watched the video and further studied the pictures, it is apparent to me that the PacerPoles would be best at, shall we say, moderate conditions.

You won't be able to use them like we use xc ski poles to get a 'long push' when going up hill... not sure how to explain that, but it looks to me like the angel of the Pacerpole grip would limit it's effectiveness to less of an angle for the back arm when pushing-off as I do with a diagonal stride in xc skiing... though I doubt most non-skiers use this technique with hiking poles.

Also... looks to me like the Pacerpoles would not be very effective at reaching down those big steps to take up some of the pounding off the knees. If fact, looks to me like they would be pretty much useless for doing this 'in stride'.

I'm thinking the Pacerpoles are designed for moderate walking on easy trails... places where I don't use poles at all.

But the worst thing may be what you pointed out Erica: not being able to change you grip from time to time means you are forced into the same grip all the time... a recipe for wrist problems, if you ask me.


Richard Reno
(scubahhh) - M

Locale: White Mountains, mostly.
It's unanimous: Pacer Poles it is! on 08/21/2014 11:33:17 MDT Print View

I too am a former regular pole user and Pacer Pole convert. No, the "radical" handles aren't going to cripple you; yes, you can use all those fancy advanced techniques for going downhill and 'whacking; and yes, they work fine as tarp and tent poles.

Ive had mine for less than a year, and have used them for around 1000 miles or so, on all types of terrain in The White and Green Mountains... sorry, ne deserts or high Sierra! There are three things that make them so cool, in my experience: first, the grip, which puts your wrist and consequently your whole arm (shoulder... Spine... Etc.) in a comfortable, natural position. Then there's the pace; you adjust them much shorter than old-fashioned poles so you don't rotate so much and can keep your shoulders down and back for less fatigue. Finally, there's a whole different paradigm, they way you "interact" with them and push rather than "pull" (i.e., as you swing your arms while you walk, you never have to extend your elbow in front of your trunk and the pole tip is always behind or adjacent to your feet, never out in front of you) that they can explain much better on their web site than I ever could. Check it out!

They are a little heavier (and hardier!) than a lot of other poles, but for the weight you get security and durability, and you hardly notice the extra weight because it's all in the handles, not down near the end where you have to swing it as you walk.

Oh yeah, you,can also e-mail with questions and get an actual, polite, incredibly thorough response from one of the owners, who really, really believe in their product.

Have fun!

Edited by scubahhh on 08/21/2014 16:36:50 MDT.

Mike Henrick

Locale: Boston
Straps on 08/21/2014 11:44:57 MDT Print View

Just to chime in I really recommend not using the straps on your poles. This year I've had 3 friends either dislocate their shoulder or otherwise injure their arms from falls where the pole stays planted.