Walking and Trekking Pole Buyers Guide
Types of Poles
These are often used singularly, as a way of helping to increase balance on uneven ground. The grips of walking poles are crooked at a 90 degree angle, so they can be used either in the same way as a traditional walking stick, or extended to use as a trekking pole.
Many people choose to use a pair of trekking poles when out walking in the hills. The poles help to increase balance, allowing the user to easily re-distribute their weight. At the same time, pressure is alleviated from the joints of your lower body, as more weight is borne by the arms. Trekking poles are particularly useful if you are carrying a large pack for long periods, or if you are carrying an injury. For best effect, trekking poles should be used in the rhythm set by your feet, placing the pole on the opposite side to your foot.
On level ground, trekking poles should be adjusted so the users forearm is at a 90 degree angle to their upper arm. If you are going down a slope, you may wish to extend the pole, allowing you to place the pole in front of you without shifting your centre of gravity down slope. Likewise, poles can be shortened when travelling up steep inclines to help maintain balance.
Rather than being an aid, giving you added stability when out on the hill, walking with Nordic poles is an activity in its own right. Rather than placing the pole in front of you as you walk, Nordic poles are placed behind you to propel you forward. For this reason, Nordic poles are generally a lot longer than walking or trekking poles. Rather than gripping the handles as you would with trekking poles, when Nordic walking there is a glove type grip which keeps you attached to the poles.
Telescopic: Most poles on the market are telescopic, breaking down into two or three sections. This allows the user to adjust the length of the walking poles to their own requirements, and allows them to be easily attached to a rucksack when not required.
Locking systems: There are two main mechanisms used to adjust the length of your pole. The most popular way to adjust poles is with a twist lock system. With this system, there is a screw thread inside the pole, which you twist to make a plastic expander grip the inside of the pole shaft. This system allows for an antishock spring system to work. The other popular system for adjusting poles is a flick lock system. Rather than having to twist the poles, there is a small catch on the outside of the pole which you flick up to allow the pole to adjust. This system is much more glove friendly, so worthwhile looking out for if you are using your poles in very cold temperatures.
Anti-shock: Some poles have an integrated suspension system to reduce the amount of shock travelling through your body as the tip of the pole impacted on a solid surface. This may be in the form of a simple spring system, whilst other poles give the option to adjust the level of spring, or switch it off all together.
Pole materials: Most walking poles are made out of tubular aluminium which is both light and strong. To cut down on weight even more, some high end poles are made from carbon fibre, which makes for an even lighter pole.
Grip materials: There are a whole range of different styles of grips on the market. The more common materials used for grips are rubber, cork or neoprene. Each of these have their own benefits, whether you are after the high grip levels found with rubber, summertime comfort of cork, or the insulation of neoprene.
Positive angle: If you are gripping something, the natural position for your wrist is to hold it at a slight downward angle. To allow for increased comfort when using their poles, some walking pole companies factor this in when designing their grips. This means that rather than the grip being perpendicular to the pole shaft, it is slightly off set.
Monopods: If you like to take your camera up into the hills with you, then there are some walking poles which have a dual function as a camera monopod, saving you the bulk and weight of carrying a tripod up the mountain with you unnecessarily.
Tips: Most walking poles come with a hardwearing carbide tip at the end of them. This helps protect the plastic of aluminium bottom of the pole from being damaged by rocks or stones as you use them. If you are using your pole roads and pavements far more than on hills and in fields, it is worth investing in a rubber tip to cover the carbide tip. Not only does it offer increased shock absorbency and grip, but it also helps protect the carbide tip from wearing down on the hard surface.
Baskets: If you are using a walking pole in soft mud or snow, because the weight of the pole is focused on one point, it is very easy to push the pole deep into the mud or snow, making travelling harder work than it need be. Most walking poles can be fitted with either mud or snow baskets to help distribute the weight over a wider area, and stop the pole sinking too deep below the surface.
Looking to purchase new walking poles, trekking poles or nordic poles? Shop from our excellent range of walking poles and accessories here.