One of the major publications (Outside Magazine, maybe?) did a study that showed that the poles almost always used more energy/calories than hiking without them. Uphill was most obvious, and downhill was least obvious.
(This makes sense--you are using more muscles, and you are carrying more weight. My physics professor was right!)
But they did notice improved stability for some hikers, and also noted some improvement in knee strain, particularly hiking downhill.
I hate hiking poles where the terrain is easy, but when it gets steep I can lean into them and use some chest muscles to help get up the hill, then they're ok.
Collapsable poles are alright for hiking, but I use a staff, maybe an 8 foot 2x2, or a non-collapsing ski pole when hiking/crawling/climbing in really rough mountain rocky terrain. Sometimes you can reach out with that pole and push against a rock 8 feet away, to give you the leverage to make your next move safely. They are especially good for descending unknown mountains where you could end up in a bad situation where ya can't back up and ya can't go forward cacuse yer arms aren't long enough. Jim
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
I always have a stash of good Beaver Sticks, and I usually offer friends their choice of them when we hike, but a lot of them decline.
That surprises me, because I use mine, a lot.
But, based on what I've read here, I think it has a lot to do with hiking style and location. I can see where trekking poles would work great on a trail, and I know you wouldn't want an 8ft staff while bushwhacking here in the Ozarks, where there are so many low hanging branches.
A friend of mine fashioned a foot peg, like the ones that fold up on a dirt bike, onto a hiking stick so he could use it as a step for wet crossings. He uses it kind of like a stilt, but with only one leg, and for one long step. He told me there is a commercial product that is similar, but I've never looked into it. It actually works pretty good for creek crossings, which we have a lot of here.
I thought a retractable knife in the tip of my staff would be cool. Then I could turn it into a spear in case a bear wanted to eat me. So far no bears have shown an interest in that though, so I've procrastinated in actually making it.
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
I have to use collapsible poles--because I'm a shortie, the length I need for hiking is shorter than what I need for my shelter! It's also great to be able to collapse the poles and tie them on my pack if I need one or both hands for scrambling.
Trekking poles do help considerably those of us with leg/knee/foot problems, and I strongly suspect that their use may help prevent overuse injuries in the healthy.
Since my shelter requires only one trekking pole, I still have one available for short excursions around camp, such as fetching water. I'm not sure I'd want a shelter requiring two poles for that reason. For dayhiking or other longer excursions, I use the first measure I described earlier--take out the pole and weigh the tent down with a rock or two so it won't blow open if the wind comes up.
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
Monopod - another use I'd forgotten (I don't take many pictures.) However, the Tracks Sherlite Staff (and their others, too - and a Leki Staff, I think) all have screw-off wooden knobs that expose a screw-on fitting for cameras. A photographer can tell you more about the technical details.
Loc: East Texas Piney Woods
I concur with Jim. If the hiking is easy, I stow my poles and trek on. I also like to take lots of pictures and poles are a hindrance to that. I find poles help me the most on the downhills in relieving the pressure on my knees and ankles.
I carry a 3/4 - 1 inch diameter bamboo staff that is my height. I glued on a pvc cap to the end to keep if from splitting and wrapped one layer of duct tape up the first section of the top and bottom for reinforcement. I've found this to be a great alternative to wooden staffs and/or hiking poles. It does provide that leverage that Jim mentions.
I do have other wooden staffs that I have made that are more decorative and are more works of art than utilitarian. Living where I do, I have plenty of available material for practice.
If you think you can, you can. If you think you can't, you can't. Either way, you're right.
One staff works well for me, especially when the trail requires use of both hands and feet. I got an old Tomic aluminum ski pole from ebay. While not the lightest thing out there its stronger than any treking pole Ive used and a fraction of the cost.
Climb the Mountains and get their good tidings... -John Muir
Do you set up the Rainshadow 2 with one pole or two when you are taking your grandkids?
I find that two poles lets me lever my way along the trail after I've popped an ankle, and makes it easier to avoid popping the ankle in the first place. Doesn't do to end up immobilized when I've got the kids along.
I never used to really like the things, unless I was somewhere (like Jim described) where I needed a handhold, but one wasn't available - like a ridge. Collapsable poles are handy when you don't want to have to carry them, like when you are scrambling uphill and using your hands.
I own a white ash hiking staff that I made for my Dad about 30 years ago. Dad always said if a bear came at him that staff across the snout might change his mind. I say or make it worse! I use two trekking poles for the first time last year. I wont be without them now. My knees are notwhat they used to be, and they really help. They are also useful on the icey spots. Mine are chepo Kswiss from farmand fleet! So far they ae holdingup well!
We keep a plethora of trekking poles and converted ski poles by the back door (we have a nature preserve out our back door). I prefer the ski poles because... 1) they can't collapse 2) don't rattle or have moving parts. 3) are about $1 each at garage sales 4) have been used to wack wild dogs without damage to the pole. (seriously!) 5) tips/shafts are lighter than telescoping poles, which give them an easier and faster "swing", since there is less mass. I convert the handles to have trekking pole straps, if needed. You can't tell the difference once converted.
My wife likes telescoping trekking poles for the adjustment feature, but they have collapsed on hard downhills before, and they are good ones.
Hiking staffs....I have two, one aluminum and one wood, but neither gets used. After several miles of hiking, the staff's weight takes it's toll on wrists.
I like my hiking poles. I used to cross country ski and so I do own some ski poles but never used them for hiking.
The features I like about my trekking poles are:
(1) If I need to be hand (or hands) free I can collapse the pole (s) and strap it to my backpack out of the way. (2) I can adjust the pole if it is used to hold up my tarp shelter. (3) I like the rubber tip as opposed to the point (which is also available on mine).
My poles are very sturdy. They are Tracks Sherlock made in the USA. They have undergone some very rough usage but have never collapsed under load and the rubber tips stay on very securely. They may be slightly heavier than other brands but for me it doesn’t seem to be an issue.
You make good points...my wife would agree 100% with you. I'm a cheapskate and tend to use my poles more as tools, and tend to beat them up, since I use them 3-5 times a week. For tarps, however, I use a prussic or clove hitch slider on the pole for adjustment.
Loc: California (southern)
Sometimes the adjustable feature is useful; sometimes not. I like my adjustable poles when I need to pack everything into a tight space to get to the starting point. Otherwise, a non adjustable pole works fine.
I am about 100 poles short of a plethora, but I still have a passel.
Extreme newbie here, so forgive the ignorance of my question, but for those of you who use one staff or pole, do you tend to use it in your strong hand, weak hand, or do you shift based on the terrane and obstacles?
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Snarly, I tend to keep it in my strong hand, but I switch a lot too. I use mine a lot for moving bramble, brush, and branches away from my body and face, so depending on which side they're on, I'll move my staff. Same with hiking along the sides of steep slopes, I keep the staff on the downhill side. If I'm climbing it's generally in my strong hand.
In the rare times I find myself on a trail, I might carry it, holding it so it's balanced in the center, and if I'm on that trail for a long distance I'll switch hands while carrying it and start thinking that I should be using trekking poles with both hands
Loc: California (southern)
I switch hands from time to time, but usually carry it with the strong hand. On steep slopes, I usually have it on the uphill side, but that can vary with the situation. I like a strap around my wrist, just like a ski pole, so I can drop it from time to time and still maintain contact.
I've used one treking pole quite a bit when out coon hunting and it was great to have one, but two would have been in the way because you need a free hand to move limbs and stuff alot. I tried using two one a hike the other day, and didn't really care for it on the easier (more level) areas. On the other hand, on some steep downhills (especially where there was quite abit of loose rock) having two was WONDERFUL. When using one I typically keep it in my strong hand, but when on the side of a steep hill, I prefer having it on the downhill side.
I always hike with two poles. For all of my lifetime I have never had good balance and using two poles helps keep me on my feet especially with the pack on my back. A slick rock or tree root, start to go for a tumble, many times the poles have helped me get a footing. I also think that in my case the steep downhill runs with two poles are a little easier on the knees. The new lightweight telescoping poles do not seem to wear out my arms and just make hiking more enjoyable and in my case safer.
Hi, I agree with ALLEN,we just did a two day hike through Okanagan Park and I could not have done it without the two trekking poles.They saved so much stress on my knees and helped big time with my balance during the huge inclines and declines. Made the hike so much more enjoyable for me. I know it is a individual preference but I will never leave home with out them,they will be going with me on the West Coast Trail this year.....
I'm kind of an old school hiker. It was just this year that I switched to an external frame pack. Before that, I was using a homemade pack. (I'm 58). The only reason I did the switch is someone gave me a couple of pack 11 years ago and I decided to try one out. It was ok. My pack somehow always ends up at 35 pounds so I'm not into the lightweight thing.
The reason I point this out is to show I'm a little slow to change.
I started noticing a lot of people using trekking poles on the trail and in pictures and movies, so I decided to try them out. I love them. After a couple of hours, I felt like I had 4 legs. The only place I don't like them is smooth flat trails, but we don't have many of those here.
I've never used a hiking staff, but I imagine it would have some of the same benefits...maybe in another 30 years.
Well, it's six months after the original post. In those early posts, I indicated that I was in a state of indecision between a single staff and a pair of poles, and not quite sure I trusted carbon fiber poles.
Since then, I've been using a pair of MSR Carbon Reflex poles, and found that I prefer two poles to a single staff. I've gotten used to the rhythm of two poles, and find that I do feel more confident with four feet than three. About two weeks ago, I had a chance to try a single pole again (a friend forget his poles, so we split my pair for the weekend), and I found that I missed having the extra pole.
I have actually built up a fair degree of confidence in the carbon fiber. They have never seriously flexed or suffered any kind of wear or damage, and (except for one time, when I forgot to tighten it) have never needed re-tightening or adjustment due to slippage in the mechanism. (I've also developed a pretty high level of confidence in the carbon fiber pole that holds up my Carbon Reflex tent.)
I'm not convinced that they work any better than a good set of aluminum poles, nor am I convinced that screw-type mechanisms are any better than flick-locks. But, they work at least as well, in both cases, and that's good enough for me to quit worrying about them and enjoy the hike. And, despite all the debates we have about cost versus function and high-end versus bargain we have on the forums, it all comes down to that: your gear should be so worry-free that it stays in the background of the hike, leaving you free for the important stuff.
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