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Things to Consider Before Buying Trekking Poles

Backpack, hiking boots, sandals, dry-easy shirts and pants, CoolMax socks, waterproof bags, energy bars, food, water, knife, and yes - trekking poles! We are preparing for a short hiking trip to a mountain with some streams this weekend. That's pretty much all the gear I need for hot weather conditions. No matter how easy the trail is, how short the trip is, trekking poles have always been my friends. Also they are regarded as a basic and standard item for backpacking. Want to buy a pair of your own? Before you place your order, key considerations are price, weight, material of shaft, locking mechanism and grip.

  • Shaft Materials

    A pole's weight and price are mainly affected by the material of the pole's shaft, which are primarily made of aluminum, secondly carbon fiber, and lastly titanium alloys.

    High-grade aluminum trekking poles are the most economical choice and although they may bend under high stress, they are impossible to break. They usually weigh between 18 to 22 ounces per pair. However, the weight is slightly variable based on the gauge of the poles which is in the range of 16mm to 22mm.

    Carbon fiber trekking poles are not only strong but lightweight, thus being a more expensive option. The average weight is approximately between 13 to 18 ounces per pair. They are excellent for reducing vibration during hikes, you won't hear any metallic dinging as your poles hit rocks. However, unlike high-grade aluminum poles, when under high stress they are more likely to break. If you hike in rugged, remote areas, this is something to keep in mind. Many trekking pole shafts made of carbon-fiber have an aluminum external surface to help prevent this from happening.

    Titanium alloy trekking poles can be used by a wide range of hikers of any weight and height because of their minimal weight, strong tensile strength and toughness, extraordinary corrosion resistance and ability to withstand extreme temperatures. As a result, they are the most expensive kind of trekking poles, but will outlast the others.

  • Grips

    Here comes your pure preference part. The shape and feel of the grips are various from different manufacturers. Also remember that many brands designate right and left handed poles on either the grip or the strap. Grip materials are usually a blending and can be:

    Cork resists moisture from hands, and best conforms to the shape of your hand.

    Foam absorbs moisture and is the softest to the touch.

    Rubber insulates from the cold, shock, and vibration. It's a popular choice for cold weather. The only drawback is this grip is more likely to blister hands. Not recommended for warm weather hiking.

  • Price and Weight

    Technically, the lighter the trekking poles are, the more expensive they are. Therefore, price and weight go hand in hand. Lightweight poles can be moved faster and more easily because they provide the advantage of less swing weight. Over the course of a long hike, this means less weight to either carry in your hands or in your pack, reducing fatigue.

  • Locking Mechanism

    Trekking poles length adjustability is subject to the locking system which lets you to adapt the poles to suit your height and the terrain. Different locking mechanisms have turned up ever since LEKI company made the very first telescopic trekking pole in the world in 1974. Nowadays, there are several types of locking mechanisms.

    Duo Lock system is used by several REI and Komperdell poles which apply a wide area of pressure against the pole walls to achieve secure length settings and dependability.

    Flick Lock system is a Black Diamond brand system. It is lever and clamp based which strongly facilitates locking after adjusting especially in winter even without taking off your gloves. However, if the lever is unintentionally caught by a solid thing like a rock edge, it can cause unlocking.

    Super Lock system is a dependable system made by LEKI. They use an expander and screw combination that securely locks the pole in place once it has been adjusted.

    Snap Lock system developed by Austrian company Komperdell allows you to adjust pole length without moving your hands from your grips. Shifting and fixing poles length can be performed with both poles at once.

Other than the above 4 key considerations before you shop for a pair of trekking poles, straps and tips might be something additional that you would like to consider as well.

Most poles have adjustable straps to get a comfortable fit around the wrist. Because your hand and wrist will most likely be in constant contact with the strap, it might be a good idea to get a padded strap to prevent chafing.

Steel tips are commonly used to provide traction on most surfaces, and many poles come with rubber tip protectors to use on rocky terrain that also extend the life of the tips as well as ‘Leave No Trace’.

Any questions? Like always, we are looking forward to hearing from you at contact@trekkingpolesguide.com. Talk soon!

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