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How long should trekking poles be?
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Dave .
(Ramapo) - F
How long should trekking poles be? on 09/25/2007 23:25:17 MDT Print View

I'm thinking to get a set of trekking poles in the near future, but I'm not sure how to determine what the right length is. Can anyone help with this? I'm 6'3" so I figure I'll need longer poles.

Also, for some reason I have a gut level dislike of fixed lenght poles. Is this silly of me...maybe a bias left over from a not-so-lightweight time. In any case, I've been looking at the MSR Overland Carbon poles and the Black Diamond Enduro CF (love those grips). ANybody have any experience with either? Any wisdom to impart?



Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: How long should trekking poles be? on 09/26/2007 00:08:20 MDT Print View

Hi Dave,

Hi Dave,

First off, check out the reviews of both of these poles on our site as well as the Carbon Fiber Trekking Pole Review Summary. These will be very valuable in your quest for poles.

Next, it sounds like you're a first-time pole user. With that in mind, I think adjustable poles are a great idea. With these, you can play with different lengths until you find what's right for you. When using the trekking style, you place the poles beside you for stability and easing stress to your legs. The Nordic Walking technique places the poles behind you to use them to push off for increased speed. The NW technique works best with a pole that's about 5cm longer. Also a pole used in the snow is usually a bit longer. And sometimes length is simply a preference thing.

I would guess that you would use a 130cm pole to start. I'm 6'1" and my poles range from 125cm to 131cm with the longest being used mainly for really long and fast trips where I really focus on Nordic Walking technique. I like them for snow too. For more casual hikes, a 125 works out just fine.

If you are a big guy, the MSR poles you mentioned are good and stiff. Also look at the Alpkit carbon fiber poles- they are super sweet- light and stiff (a review of these will be posted within the next few weeks). Life Link makes some marvelously stiff poles too.

My wisdom to impart? Plan on buying some fixed poles in the future. They are super-reliable, silent, effecient, and absorb shock better than adjustable poles due to their single long shaft. Fixed poles are the way my friend...that is, after you have FOUND the way.

Ah, young grasshopper. Time and experience will guide you on the path to righteousness. For I am the inner, AND the outer.

Doug, the BPL pole guy

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
How long should trekking poles be? on 09/26/2007 02:06:08 MDT Print View

..long enough to reach the ground.

Sorry, could not resist the Abe Linclon type quote.

Correct answer in my opinion is; hold the pole upside down under the basket; your forearm should be horizontal. Ajust +10cm or so going downhill and -10cm or so going uphill. Flicklock BlackDiamonds are best of the adjustable poles; again IMO.

Edited by Brett1234 on 09/26/2007 02:07:54 MDT.

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Adjustable is good too... on 09/26/2007 06:32:33 MDT Print View

Also put some thought into what else your poles are being used for (think multi-use). I am 6'3 - about 180 lbs (right now) and I use the Komperdell C3 Carbon Duolock. They are collapsable, which allows me to fit them in my duffel when I travel, adjust them accordingly on long up or down hills, give them to my girlfriend (5' tall) when she needs to cross deeper water, string them to my pack when not needed, use them to pitch a various tarp configurations, and fully extend them to make my DR freestanding. While I'm not going to argue with the pole guy that fixed lengths are the way to go (I have them also and love that they can never collapse under load - which is a setback for my poles), I just find I use the collapsable more because of the options.
That being said, I do consider myself a grasshopper in this department....

Edited by Steve_Evans on 09/26/2007 06:33:06 MDT.

Dave .
(Ramapo) - F
Never thought I'd spend so much time thinking about walking sticks on 09/26/2007 08:35:03 MDT Print View

Thanks to all of you for the advice.

I am a first time pole user, yeah. And I'm 6'3" and 185 pounds. I should have been more specific about that. I am a flagrant noob I suppose.

I'm a first timer for a lot of things here...I wish I'd taken up backpacking years ago. Unfortunately I wasted a lot of time being a musician and hauling very large, heavy equipment out of vans, into clubs, and back into vans so that I could drive hours and hours and hours to the next venue. I feel like light weight backpacking is my karmic reward for hauling a bass cab the size (and weight) of a refridgerator for so many years.

Anyway, back to poles...

Doug, I have checked out the reviews for both the MSR and the Black Diamond poles. I like the Black Diamond grips a lot, but the MSR poles are longer and I can get them cheaper. Not sure what to do...

Regarding the fixed length poles: I'm just sort of scared to put money down on a pair right now. I love the fact that they wont make that annoying clacking sound while in use, but...what if I want to pitch my tarp lower to the ground? I need shorter poles, right? Also they're just harder to pack away while not in use. This matters to me since I'll be hiking a lot of unmarked trails where the poles won't be so useful. What do you do with your fixed lengthers when you aren't using them?

Brett, I like that method of length testing. Cool.

Steven, I think you make a good point: it seems that for all around use and pragmatic purchasing (I only have enough $$$ for one pair), adjustable poles might be the way to go. They'll just see more use I from me I think.

I do have two specific question is anyone can help:

1. Does anyone know if the MSR poles can be used for snowshoeing and cross country skiing? I know the BD poles are for 4 season use, but I'm not sure about the MSR ones.

2. What is the difference in the Terra CF and the Enuro CF poles? Is it just that one extra piece of CF? And a couple onces?

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Never thought I'd spend so much time thinking about walking sticks on 09/26/2007 10:35:12 MDT Print View

Hi David,

re. #1, the MSR Denali models appear specifically designed for snow use, and have large baskets for the task (I presume the baskets are also removable). I don't think any trekking poles would be ideal for XC skiing, but for snowshoeing these should be ideal. You'd want bigger baskets on snow with the Overlands.

re. #2 yes, they're swapping carbon and aluminum sections around and other than small weight and balance differences, they should perform similarly (although with poles, small weight differences are noticeable over a long day). You have to go to the Alpine CF to get a completely carbon model.

Dylan Skola
(phageghost) - F

Locale: Southern California
Fixed length vs. adjustable on 09/26/2007 10:35:17 MDT Print View

Most tarps can be supported by girth-hitching the ridgeline (or front guy-lines for a lean-to configuration) to the inverted pole. To adjust the height just slide the girth-hitch up or down. The tapered shaft of the pole combined with the tension on the line will keep the girth-hitch in place.

For shelters that require placing the pole tip in a grommet such as the Gatewood cape, your adjustment options are limited to angling the pole to get a shorter height, or if you need a taller height I suppose a nice flat rock (if one can be fount) under the pole might work. My fixed-length poles are 135 cm so I generally have the first problem.

Dave .
(Ramapo) - F
Overland, not Denali...right? on 09/26/2007 10:57:35 MDT Print View

Rick, the Overland poles by MSR don't appear to come with snow baskets. They look to be specifically designed for trekking. But I think you could swap out the baskets and use them in winter, right?

Hey, I hadn't even noticed the Alpine model was all CF. Thanks! These look to be 4 season too.

Michael Davis
(mad777) - F

Locale: South Florida
Re: Adjustable is good too... on 09/26/2007 11:04:03 MDT Print View

I would echo Steven Evans' remarks. I have the same pole as him. I find the ability to customize the pole length for uphill vs downhill is important as I do a lot of mountain hiking; not so if you are a flatlander. The adjustable poles can be used for my various shelters, all of which use my treking poles for support. They are also great for totally collapsing and attaching to my pack when bushwacking and I travel by air often to hike.

So, if you hike in faily flat terrain, have free-standing tents, don't bushwack nor travel by air, then I would definitely buy fixed length poles and enjoy the weight savings. I you do many of the above activities, I would get adjustable poles.

Dave .
(Ramapo) - F
Hmmm on 09/26/2007 11:23:34 MDT Print View

Yeah, Michael, the Komperdell C3s look nice. It looks like the Black Diamond poles only extend to 130cm whereas I can get 140cm out of the Komperdells. And they're lighter.

But they don't have that sexy grip.

Also, I can find the Black Diamond poles for $40 less...

Arrrgh. What to do?

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Hmmm on 09/26/2007 17:22:42 MDT Print View


If you don't want to drop a load of money on a first set of poles and don't need the lightest (what am I saying?!?) REI Outlet has 3-section Tubbs poles for $35.

Aside from used, they'd be as low-risk as you're likely to find.

Dave Flanagan
(cbtrekker) - F

Locale: Gunnison Valley
REI on 09/30/2007 10:35:37 MDT Print View


If you haven't bought any poles yet check out REI they have a carbon fiber pole that is made by Komperdell same model as the C3 doulock. I'm not sure which model it is but I know it is a lot cheaper then C3.

J Her
(sailfast3r) - F

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Ski Poles on 09/30/2007 12:59:56 MDT Print View

Who uses XC/Nordic Ski poples for hiking? I have been toying with the idea of picking up a pair of used nordic ski poles to modify for a fixed length trekking pole. Pros? Cons? Other than usual adjustable vs. fixed compromise any thing else to consider? The weights of fixed length Alum XC Ski poles is pretty good @ around 400-450 grams per pair, and prices are fiarly reasonable (Salv Army, GoodWill, Thrift stores, etc...). Most poles are large at 140 cm, but can be cut down to fit.

Edited by sailfast3r on 09/30/2007 13:56:27 MDT.

Mike Barney
(eaglemb) - F

Locale: AZ, the Great Southwest!
Re: Ski Poles on 09/30/2007 14:46:08 MDT Print View

That's what I use. I swapped out the unique XC tips for rubber tips and they're excellent. Their production volume is enough to where they are very price competitive, if not down right cheap compared to some other options, and they're pretty stout. They are so seasonal that you can find them for even less from March to August.


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Ski Poles on 09/30/2007 15:07:31 MDT Print View

> Who uses XC/Nordic Ski poples for hiking?

Now try stowing them on your pack when you go off-trail...

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: Re: Ski Poles on 09/30/2007 21:40:36 MDT Print View

Well, that's true of all fixed poles...but Roger is right, stowing fixed length poles is a real downside of these poles.

The Nordic poles will have some key differences, particularly in the grip, but also in the tip.

A dedicated XC ski pole will have a Nordic grip that is different than a Trekking grip- smaller, with a different style strap. They are designed to be held and released at full estension. This is rarely what you want with trekking poles, although some people (namely XC skiers) love them.

The tips tent to have small baskets that aren't cut round. These will be okay but often you can't swap in small trekking baskets or snowshoe baskets.

A XC ski pole that's built for summer use is called a Nordic Walking pole. Same grip, similar tip, etc. I've hiked with these and it was just fine, but it is limiting in technical hiking and I prefer a trekking pole grip.

Last, many cheap XC ski poles are pretty clunky. I highly recommend weighing them before buying, should you choose that route.

J Her
(sailfast3r) - F

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Nordic Fixed Length on 10/01/2007 09:16:46 MDT Print View

I am very familiar with Nordic ski poles (competed in biathlon, skate and classic skiing for many years) but I don't want to chop my good carbon fiber Swix or Alpina poles. I also have a couple pairs of old fiberglass poles that I used for roller skiing on streets. They have carbide tips and can easily be swapped out for something esle. Most decent basic aluminum poles seem to be fairly lightweight. I haven't bought them in a while as only using composite for the last few years of racing.

Alum is also easier to chop down, slide new grips on and chop further if needed. My original plan is to get a pair, remove the grips and then use bike handlebar tape (soft foam tape) to wrap a grip on the shaft below the ski grip for some versatility to change hand positions. (5 inches of tape and then the grip above)

With skate skiing (and classic) I have pretty well mastered the release, pull and return method for effectively using nordic poles (similar to nordic walking) and the grip most likly will not hinder my hiking. I also like the idea of the added strength of fixed length pokes.

I do realize that fixed length poles are cumbersome to pack when not in use or scrambling and that is something I will either love or hate... yet to be determined. If this trial goes well then that opens up the possbility to other ski poles (alpine and nordic) that are cost effective for light weight and modification to specific needs.

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
New treaking poles on 10/01/2007 14:03:59 MDT Print View

On a trip this past weekend on the AT I lost one of my Komperdell C3s somewhere along the shuttle. Therefore I am now in the market for some new poles and was curious to see if anyone has any experience with the new Gossamer Gear poles? I push off of poles heavily going uphill and wanted to make sure these poles would be stiff/strong enough to hold up to that kind of pressure. I am trying to decide between them and another set of Komperdell C3/REI UL twins. I did break the lower section of my C3 poles before but to be honest it was a spill that would have bent any aluminum pole on the market. BTW I am 6' 170lbs and carry 20-25lbs.

Heather Pisani-Kristl
(P-K) - F

Locale: San Diego
Re: Ski poles on 10/02/2007 15:17:20 MDT Print View

Knowing not much about trekking poles (and less about ski poles), I picked up a pair of aluminum ski poles from a trash heap and hacksawed them to size. Instead of putting the heavy grips back on, I epoxied some Target "gel" bike grips onto the ends, after running a loop of soft shoelace through the weep hole on the end of the grips. I also trimmed the plastic baskets with heavy shears to make them smaller. The shoelace is just enough to keep the poles with me while I hike, and the total weight is 13 oz. for a 36" pair. Not going to win any Lightitude Awards, but I've climbed 12 of NH's 4000-footers with them.

Of course, I just got a pair of Leki Juniors, adjustable -- which will be a whole other thread...