Trekking Pole Shopping Tips:
There are several manufacturers of trekking poles, including Montem, Black Diamond, and Kelty. Some companies make high end carbon fiber anti-shock trekking poles while others make simple, aluminum trekking poles. You’ll feel a benefit from any pair you buy, however, there are some features you should look out for:
- Weight. Are the poles made of aluminum? Carbon fiber? Carbon fiber poles are much lighter than aluminum ones, so if you don’t want your arms to be fatigued on a long day hike, opt for the lighter weight poles. Carbon fiber trekking poles are generally more expensive, but worth it. They are slightly more fragile than aluminum ones, but even in extremely rocky terrain I’ve never had a problem with mine.
- Grip. Walmart and Target sell aluminum trekking poles that have plastic grips. While this is okay for those of you on a budget, if you’re willing to spend a few extra dollars, get a pair at an outdoor retailer like REI or EMS that have either foam, rubber, or cork grips. Foam is a good choice because it will absorb sweat. Cork will also absorb sweat and over time conform to the shape of your hands. Rubber is good for cold weather use when you’re wearing gloves, but for most people I know rubber grips tend to irritate their skin after a couple of hours on the trail. The best place to get trekking poles is Amazon.com.
- Fit. Most trekking poles have shafts that telescope, and can therefore be adjusted for short or tall hikers. On flat terrain, your arm should be at a 90 degree angle when you’re holding the poles.
- Locking Mechanism. As just mentioned, the shafts of trekking poles have 2 to 3 sections. They are locked together by one of several mechanisms – popular ones that I see most often are a twisting lock, that applies pressure to secure the shaft, and a flip lock mechanism. The flip locks are great because it is easier to extend or collapse your trekking poles if you’re wearing gloves, but these are generally pricier. My pair has the pressure system, and they work fine for me.
- Women’s Specific? Manufacturers now have women’s specific trekking poles available. They are lighter weight, and slightly smaller than unisex poles. If you have small hands, I’d recommend women’s specific poles if available, otherwise a unisex pair should be fine. It has been my experience, that most brands are suited for men and women. There are no real differences between men’s and women’s trekking poles.
- Anti-shock. Some trekking poles have built in anti-shock devices, so more pressure is absorbed, particularly on downhill hikes. My pair are not anti-shocks, but my 70-year old hiking friend Geoff, who has a knee replacement, swears by them. If you have especially sensitive knees or ankles, it will be worth the extra money, otherwise a standard pair will work fine for you.