How to Choose Trekking Poles and Hiking Staffs

How to Choose Trekking Poles and Hiking Staffs
The choice between trekking poles or a hiking staff is a personal decision. Both offer similar benefits, notably helping ease the burden on your legs as you move uphill and, when going downhill, offering extra stability and easing the burden on your knees. While you might still use a simple stick for support in a pinch, technology has provided trekking poles and the hiking staff made of space-age materials, with such perks as interchangeable baskets and adjustable lengths.


Difficulty: Easy

Step 1
Select a pair of poles or a staff of such a length that, when held vertically in front of you, the poles or staff tip against the ground and your arm is horizontal to the ground. Longer poles or a staff would be useful on downhill descents but hindersome on uphill treks. Take weight into account, too. If the poles are so heavy you won't want to carry them, or if they tire you out quickly, odds are the money you spend on buying them ultimately will be wasted.
Step 2
Test the grip on the trekking poles or the staff. Does it fit your hand? Is it comfortable to hold? Do you think it would still be comfortable to hold once you've walked many miles with it? Walk around with the poles or staff in the store, including up and down stairs or a ramp if possible. Is this comfortable? Does the grip of the poles or staff slide in your hands? If so, it might chafe your hands.
Step 3
Check out the loop or wrist strap as well, if the poles or staff have such a feature. Just because it's there doesn't mean you have to use it--some trekkers just cut the strap off. But if you do use the strap it should support your wrist without hindering your stride and without cutting off your circulation.
Step 4
Select any special features you might want, such as anti-shock poles or adjustable-length poles. If you choose adjustable-length poles, make sure you can operate the telescoping mechanism, plus the lock that keep the poles from collapsing unexpectedly.
Step 5
Check the tips on the bottom of the hiking poles or staff. Most trekking poles will come with carbide metal tips on the bottom, although some have rubber tips or a rubber cover to place over the metal tips. If you plan to use your poles on sidewalk, pavement or even solid rock surfaces, you'll want a rubber tip or cover--but keep in mind that rubber can slip on some surfaces when wet.
Step 6
Evaluate the baskets on the poles or staff. For summer trekking poles this isn't much of a consideration, but for winter poles it matters; the deeper and less dense the snow you'll be hiking in, the bigger the basket must be to keep your pole or staff from piercing right through the snow and not supporting your weight.

Article Written By Marie Mulrooney

Marie Mulrooney has written professionally since 2001. Her diverse background includes numerous outdoor pursuits, personal training and linguistics. She studied mathematics and contributes regularly to various online publications. Mulrooney's print publication credits include national magazines, poetry awards and long-lived columns about local outdoor adventures.

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