A: They all have walking poles!
When I was diagnosed with fairly severe osteoporosis I started using sticks when hiking. I don't mind the going up, but it is the coming down that makes me feel unsteady and using two sticks have been my saving grace. I may look like a crippled crab on crutches but they are my rod and my staff and are a great comfort to me!
You either love 'em or you hate 'em.
Walking sticks, hiking poles or trekking sticks - some swear by them others denounce them, most of us can't bear the click-click-clicking the metal tips make on hard surfaces when hiking or walking.
WHICH KIND IS BEST?Wooden staff, bamboo pole, carbon fibre, aluminium, metal, cane .....
Use what's best for you. Only you know. Test a few or borrow someone else's pole or use a ski pole or a broom handle or a pool cue, just to see how it feels. If you decide on having a pole, then make or buy what feels best. Remember, it should feel like an extension of your body. If it feels clumsy, then you will probably be clumsy. If it fits smoothly into your hiking rhythm and even enhances your rhythm, then you've got a good candidate for your third (and fourth) leg.
My favourite walking stick is a simple bamboo pole I found in a bundle standing next to a sherpherd's croft in the Alps when we walked the Via Francigena. We left a donation of 5 euro in a box next to the pile and chose a stick. I use it together with a telescopic pole.
TWO POLES OR ONEIt boils down to what is your preference. Or more specifically, what feels right on the trail. "Theoretically, I felt that two poles was the best thing to do. It didn't work for me, at first--it just didn't feel right. I couldn't get balanced--couldn't get a good rhythm. I didn't have problems on snow with two snow poles, but I couldn't seem to get the same rhythm on the trail. So, for a long time, I used only one aluminum pole, or one wooden staff, when (non-snow) trekking or hiking. Currently, though, I've gotten more comfortable with two aluminum hiking poles. I've found it helps my bad back, considerably."
WHAT LENGTH SHOULD THE TELESCOPIC HIKING POLE BE?
Hold the pole upside down under the basket with your forearm in a horizontal position. Adjust +10cm or so going downhill and -10cm or so going uphill.
Have a look at this short video from Backpackers Gear School on how to adjust your poles.
There are several choices one can make when using ski-pole type hiking poles.
Hard rubber, hard cork, plastic, foam are all common materials used for pole handles. Plastic is lifeless, cold, hard, and slippery. Foam isn't durable enough. Hard rubber and cork seem to mould to the hand well and are very durable. Make sure the finger grips fit your hands well. Some poles come with slight, subtle design differences between right and left hands (e.g., Leki Super Makalu) to provide less unnecessary friction against the hands.
Hand/Wrist Straps (and How To Use Them)Most hiking/trekking poles come with wrist straps. Several poles (e.g., Leki poles) come with a color coding. The right pole has a red or black dot on top of the hand grip and the left pole has a white or silver dot. The significance is that each pole has a hand strap that has been contoured to best fit each hand. If you use straps, find poles with straps that are made of one-inch nylon webbing that are pre-twisted to provide more comfort to your wrist. Most folks either don't use straps or, if they do, think the straps are just a safety device to keep them from losing the poles, should they drop them. Although that may be true, that's not their main function. If you are using poles correctly, your hands won't get tired.
The straps help to hold your hand in place on the trekking pole, allowing you to swing the pole using a light grip, thus less hand fatigue.
To properly use the wrist strap, follow these simple steps:
- Put your hand up through the bottom of the strap
- Grasp the pole grip, keeping your hand relaxed
- Cinch the strap snug, but not tight and with your fingers, guide the pole to where you want to plant it, still very loosely holding it in your hand, then plant it on the ground with all the weight of your body, pack, etc. transferring to the wrist strap via your wrist and arm.
Adjustable Shafts:Some poles have telescoping sections with a screw-down-tight locking mechanism located at the intersection of each pole section. Some poles have three sections--they can be reduced more in length so that they are more compact--but they cost more. Other poles have two sections--they're longer when shortened, but they may weigh a little less, as well as cost less. Then there is the one-section pole which is cheaper but is not very packable.
Camera Mount:The handle on some poles will unscrew to reveal a 1/4" screw that is compatible with most compact point 'n shoot and zoom cameras. These poles are intended to have camera-monopod capability.
Baskets vs Non-Baskets:
These are those little upside down cradles at the bottom of the shaft. In non-snow terrain, your typical ski baskets tend to get in the way. They get caught in brush, wedged between rocks, and are difficult to use in crossing fast water.
Rubber Tip vs Carbide Tip:Most aluminum ski-type poles come with the carbide tip. Others (e.g., Tracks Sherlock) come with a rubber tip. Rubber tips can slip on wet ground and rock. Some people like the rubber tip because it doesn't sound like "fingernails on a blackboard" when crossing rock surfaces and it's easier to maintain a smooth hiking rhythm because the rubber tip doesn't create "drag" by penetrating the ground.
WHY SHOULD YOU USE POLES??
THEY CAN HELP YOU KEEP YOUR BALANCE
Crossing Creeks, Streams, Rivers
Carrying heavy loads
Resting en route
On uneven or slippery ground
Hiking in muddy conditions
Crossing landslides, shale, scree
THEY WILL HELP YOU MANOEUVRE ....
REDUCE STRESS ON BACK, KNEES, LEGS, & FEET
Provides extra power & balance going uphill
Reduces shock on knees going downhill
Takes pressure off back & hips (mainly uphill)
Help others to cross rivers, boulders etc
Center or side pole for a tarp
To prop up your pack
To lean on when resting
Pushing aside spider webs & brush
A wash line in albergues
An exercise pole whilst walking
Picking up fallen objects
(Thank you to Backpacking.net and Alpkit.com for permission to use info from their websites).