The staff is the most basic type of hiking pole. This unit is designed to work as a single pole, unlike most other trekking poles that are sold in pairs, and resembles the hiking staff that one crafts from a fallen branch. These poles range in technical specs, from a very simple wooden staff to an adjustable, anti-shock pole with a camera mount for use as a monopod. The hiking staff is good for recreational hikers that spend most hiking time on level terrain without a heavy backpack. Some examples of staffs are the Leki Wanderfreund and the Komperdell Walker.
Many trekking poles feature adjustable sizing hardware that allow them to be lengthened or shortened during the hike. These type of poles are excellent for adjusting in varying terrain because you want to lengthen poles on descents and shorten them on ascents for the best performance. These poles are also good for those looking to purchase one set of poles for multiple users of different heights. An example of adjustable poles are Diamond Back poles, such as the Trail Back, that use the simple lever-based FlickLock mechanism for locking segments in place.
Fixed Length Poles
Adjustable mechanisms add weight to poles. Fixed length poles don't include adjustable hardware and save a little weight. Fixed length poles will require a more careful fitting than adjustable poles, but are a good option for those looking to shave a few ounces. The lightest poles employ carbon fiber construction. Gossamer Gear's Lightrek 3 Custom fixed length poles weigh in at about 5 ounces per pair--compared to most other poles which are in the 13 to 22-ounce range.
Anti-shock poles employ spring-based shock absorption hardware that is meant to take some extra stress off the body. These poles are especially recommended for those with hip, knee and ankle problems. The anti-shock feature is most useful for descents and can usually be locked out for parts of the hike where it is unnecessary. While some can benefit from an anti-shock component, it may be unnecessary for others and will only add weight and price to a pair of poles.
In addition to the various design styles, poles feature other slight variations. Different types of grips include cork, foam and rubber. Cork and foam grips are best for perspiration absorption, while rubber poles perform better in cold environments. Some grips are also angled to make them more comfortable to hold. Other features included on trekking poles include adjustable wrist straps, baskets that are used in soft terrain or snow and rubber covers that protect the tips.