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Questions from a newcomer regarding trekking poles


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  • #1313086
    William F
    Member

    @wkf

    Locale: PNW

    I've been looking through past threads to get a feel for why people use or don't use trekking poles. I don't want to get into this though, so please refrain from making arguments for or against trekking pole use (assume I am going to try trekking poles regardless). Recently picked up a Duomid as my first trekking pole supported shelter, and so I've decided to take the plunge and try out some trekking poles (for hiking too). I'd really appreciate some guidance from those using trekking poles. Here is my criteria and potential uses:

    1) sufficiently durable to support a Duomid under low/moderate snowloads. I don't hike in the snow much but in the shoulder season I do occasionally find myself waking up to several inches of snow. Preferably 55" in length and flicklock adjustable so I don't have to buy/bring a pole extender. I've read too many accounts of slippage on twist-locks but if someone can convince me otherwise…

    2) I'm going to try and use them for hiking too so I'm not looking for a single staff or a pole that is only a shelter support (ie. Ruta Locura CF poles)

    3) poles will ideally be under $100. I've never used trekking poles so I don't want to invest in something like GG LT4's just yet (I think…)
    One option is to go through REI next month with the 20%-off coupon plus a modest dividend (hoping for around $20 to $30 this year), or I could go to Walmart and pick up the cheap Outdoor Products Al. poles (this is my number one option thus far)

    4) poles should be able to withstand user error considering I am new to them; wouldn't want to snap an expensive CF pole my first time out because I was just being stupid and using them incorrectly. I think I want straps based on user comments I've read.

    5) Lastly, those of you who have fully converted from cheaper/heavier to more expensive/lighter trekking poles, how quickly did you find yourself becoming frustrated (if at all) with the weight of your cheaper/heavier poles? Based on what I read many people claimed that moving from heavier poles in the 1 pound + range to lighter poles was a significant improvement.

    If I could get some recommendations that fit within the criteria/potential uses I've outlined that would be great! Thanks

    PS: does anyone have a video they could recommend on the Nordic walking method (or whatever it's called; like cross-country skiing but w/out the skis and snow)?

    #2071515
    hwc 1954
    Member

    @wcollings

    http://www.rei.com/product/863073/black-diamond-trail-ergo-cork-trekking-poles-pair

    I use the Black Diamond Ergo Trail Cork. It's one of their better aluminum poles. The carbon fiber didn't save enough weight or make a lot of sense in the rough rocky terrain in NH, where poles take a beating.

    These have flic locks. Never had a problem and I constantly shorten them for climbing, lengthen them for descending.

    The have very comfortable straps — which actually take the bulk of the pressure.

    They have molded cork grips that are angle a bit to be more comfortable.

    They have replaceable carbide steel tips. After two years on rocks, I'm close to putting on a new pair. They come with small tiny baskets, but large ski pole size baskets are available for an easy convertion to winter hiking/snow shoe poles.

    I've tripped over them. Wedged them in rocks, bringing me to a screeching halt. I've yet to bend or dent one.

    If I ever needed new poles, I'd probably get the same thing. Honestly, I don't see these wearing out. I guess the cork grips will eventually wear out.

    #2071518
    Marko Botsaris
    BPL Member

    @millonas

    Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA

    Been using them for a couple of decades. For me it is all about stability on steep trails. If you hike where it is flat or otherwise where the footing us usually good then the improvement may not be so noticeable.

    If you have never used them before it might be a good idea (as you mention) to start with cheapo poles from KMART, unless money is no object, or are sure about using them.

    Pretty much any of the poles will work for your shelter under all condition just fine. For the lighter carbon fiber poles the risk of breakage is in localized stress and this usually means sticking a pole into a "hole" and snapping off the tip. I have never done this once in the past 15 years. It is mostly a matter of style – if you use then to bear a ton of weight in rocky country there is a chance of this and buy aluminum. Otherwise you should be ok. However, there are a few people on here who claim that can't use carbon-fiber poles because they are to brutal on them.

    As far as the style just do a search on youtube.

    The way I do it, and some people would say is THE way to do it is to put your hand into the straps from below. The straps then go UNDER you palms with you finger lightly warped around the grips. In this style the weight is transferred to the pole via the pressure of your palms down on the STRAPS. Your fingers don't do much work at all. This is extremely comfortable. At some point of steepness you may want to take off the strap and use the death grip method for periods of time, particularly if you are on very uneven ground or are afraid you may fall.

    Edit: yeah there are a BUNCH of crap videos (surprise, surprise!) including many with cute women using them wrong. This shows the "right way" pretty well:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOQFPL2lpMY

    The straps and NOT there to prevent them from falling off if you let go, through I suppose if you use them "incorrectly" this will be all they are good for. They are an integral part on the *function* as this lady shows pretty well – and god bless her, succinctly.

    I'm not sure how applicable "nordic" style is to backpacking, especially in the mountains. I usually find personally that my typical style is to plant the pole a bit in front of me and much of the time put very little weight down on it. They act like a handrail and only get loaded when I lose a bit of balance, which is often enough. That said, I may switch into a more nordic style spontaneous if I am on a long flat well-gromed stretch of trail.

    On your last question, I personally don't feel like the weight is a primary concern when using the poles as described above. The pole basically swing almost pendulum-like. If you want to know, my first frustration or lack of satisfaction years ago came not from the weight of cheaper poles but from the locking mechanisms. Flick locks are least frustrating locks. Everything else are a pain to adjust when they start to slip. Only you can tell, but I suspect you may wear out your cheapos before you will feel a strong desired to replace them.

    If you like the cheapos and are ready for something nicer, I got these poles from Locus gear (a small Japanese company) last year. Until these I was never %100 happy with the pole themselves. You can find a bunch of thread on these – a lot of people like them here. For a shelter, too, adjustable is better than fixed length.

    http://locusgear.com/products-2/trekking-poles/cp3?lang=en

    #2071533
    William F
    Member

    @wkf

    Locale: PNW

    thanks for the review and recommendation hwc 1954. With the coupon and dividend those are looking like a good option.

    Mark Millonas, thanks for the youtube video link I'll check it out. Do you have a trekking pole recommendation though? The locus poles are nice but outside the budget I mentioned, I'm looking for something to get now.

    #2071536
    Marko Botsaris
    BPL Member

    @millonas

    Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA

    I'm sure you will get some good recommendations for the cheaper ones on here. I've heard a ton of recommendations for the Walmart ones. Next level up the cheaper and heavier Lekis are what I always used.

    Also, speaking for myself, and probably %90 of the people out there that have ever tried them, while shock-adsorbing poles sound like a good idea they are NOT. They are more expensive, have more part to malfunction, and make a ton of noise. If you are using the straps as above such mechanisms are a gimic and are totally useless.

    So without a specific recommendation, if you want to go mid range I'd say Leki, BD or Komperdell, 3 part, flick locks, no shock adsorbing ones.

    On the REI site these are the lowest price one that fits these criteria:

    http://www.rei.com/product/863072/black-diamond-trail-back-trekking-poles-pair

    Even the weight there is not terrible – those could well be your permanent poles. But for a cheapo starter/experimental set from REI these $30 ones might be just fine, especially if you have a camera fetish:

    http://www.rei.com/product/809073/mountainsmith-trekker-fx-monopod-trekking-pole

    So $60 for a pair here. Not a ton cheaper. Have to go with the walmat ones if you really want a "test pair".

    #2071537
    hwc 1954
    Member

    @wcollings

    http://blackdiamondequipment.com/en/trekking-poles/alpine-ergo-cork-trekking-pole-BD1121430000ALL1.html#start=20

    Black Diamond makes exactly the same pole as mine, but in a carbon fiber version. The Alpine Ergo Cork. Actually, it has the same aluminum top section, grip, etc. Then, the middle and bottom sections are carbon fiber. Same features. Replaceable tips, etc.

    The carbon fiber version costs $20 more and weighs 565 grams (pair) versus 516 grams for the all aluminum version. I pretty much scratch my head on why I would buy the carbon fiber version.

    These do NOT have shock absorber springs. I would NOT want those. The poles save me from twisting an ankle and doing a face plant approximately once per hike. I want to be able to slam my weight down on a pole and not have it give…

    If you hike in the mountains, being able to adjust the length is huge. I make them very short for steep uphills and very long for downhill (takes a huge load off the knees and hips to be able to plant the pole (or even both poles) and have it bear some weight while stepping down off rocks…

    I use the same grip described above (sticking my hand up through the strap) except when I'm wearing my heaviest down winter expedition mitts. Then, I do it the "wrong" way — although it ends up supporting my palm in the same fashion due to the bulk of the mitts.

    #2071539
    Marko Botsaris
    BPL Member

    @millonas

    Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA

    "Black Diamond…"

    Yeah, you aren't reading him …these are way too expensive.

    FWIW, the locus gear CF are much cheaper and lighter than the BD CF ones, with all the same functionality. Possibly not as beefy if you are tough on poles. But the Locus gear ones are absolutely *beautiful* aesthetically. LOL

    #2071548
    Bruce Tolley
    BPL Member

    @btolley

    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    To the OP.

    I think your original question and use case will narrow the range of options.

    First, if you are wanting to erect your DuoMid with one pole and without a pole extender, you need a pole that is 130 if not 140 cm long. Most of the Komperdell poles meet this criterion. Many poles on the market do not.

    You say you are pitching the Mid on snow, but do not say whether you are skiing or snow shoeing. I would think you want a pole that will take a snow basket.

    Without any exception, get external locks.

    Skip the springs. They add weight and probably have no real function.

    You do not say whether you want to dig down into the snow under your Mid. If so, the tallest pole will most likely not be long enought and you need to get a BD pole link converter to link two poles together. Or you need an aftermarket extendable Mid pole pole from BD or GoLite. If you are basecamping with the Mid, you will need your poles during the day and therefore need that third pole.

    You do not say what kind of terrain you are travelling in. I have personally broken several carbon fiber poles and bent aluminum ones while backpacking, snow shoeing, or on an approach. You might look at the poles that are marketed for mountaineering or backcountry skiing and if carbon fiber, have a 3 year warranty. I think currently only Komperdell and BD warrant the carbon fiber poles beyond 12 months. This of course does not mean they will not break, it just means that the company thinks they break infrequently enough they will not lose their shirts replacing them.

    I personally really like my BD backcountry carbon fiber ski probe poles (on sale now at BD for $85) because they convert to a probe and attach to my saw. I also like my Komperdell C3's. If you think you want to carry the poles on your pack every now and then, get 3 section poles. The Komperdell's are often on sale at Backcountry.com and BackcountryEdge. MLD has a good price right now on the new Komperdell C3 Varios.

    Hope this helps.

    #2071552
    Eric Osburn
    BPL Member

    @osb40000

    Their inventory is always changing but I've seen some good deals on Sierra Trading Post. If you like their Facebook page and check it frequently you'll find they put out a 40% off coupon every few weeks. With the coupon many of the quality poles will be $40-$60 which is sure a lot cheaper than a $100+ pair of black diamonds.

    http://www.sierratradingpost.com/trekking-poles-and-walking-sticks~d~240/

    I own a pair of Leki's I picked up from STP that have been great. I wanted a flip lock pair of poles so I used my 20% off and dividend last year for some Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork poles and they too have been great, just a lot more expensive than the Leki's.

    #2071558
    hwc 1954
    Member

    @wcollings

    Those Japanese poles do look very nice. The grips and straps look pretty marginal, but everything else looks great. Rough calculation, it seems they would be about $150 to $160 delivered from Japan to the US with current dollar exchange rate. Ordering replacement parts would be expensive/hassle with the cost of international freight.

    I think for the rocky terrain around here, aluminum is probably still the better option, despite being heavier. The poles get constantly banged and scraped against rocks.

    The carbon fiber ones sure are pretty, though…

    #2071564
    William F
    Member

    @wkf

    Locale: PNW

    Good point on the shock absorbers Mark. I meant to mention I didn't want those, much for the same reasons you cited. They have always looked gimmicky to me. I called the local Costco asking about the Mountain Tech CF poles that some folks have picked up but nobody in the NW has them in stock according to an employee at the Clackamas, OR location I talked to yesterday (somebody had called earlier and they called around to all NW locations apparently; and no plans to restock them until next fall he said). Those have shock absorbers but I was willing to deal with them for the price.

    Thanks Bruce for the insight. Sorry if I wasn't super clear on my point regarding terrain. I do hike in the shoulder season (not as much as in the summer months though) and occasionally wake up to snow. Meaning, I don't typically go out of the house planning on doing hikes over areas that I know will have snow cover. And while I'd like to get into more snow/winter camping, for my current purposes the trekking pole doesn't have to deal with significant snow on the ground; I'm talking a few inches of dusting that can occur pretty much any time of the year at higher altitudes here in the PNW where I hike. I live in the PNW and do most of my hiking in that region, granted the terrain varies quite a lot depending on where you go. These poles will be mainly for hill climbing/descending, river crossings, and beach/tide pool travel on the coast.

    Eric, I'm on the STP mailing list, is that different than the offers you get through liking the Facebook page? I don't use Facebook, and I don't intend on signing up either. Does Leki and Komperdell make flick-lock type polls? That's kind of a deal breaker based on what I've been reading but maybe I am exaggerating the negativity around twist-locks.

    hwc 1954, the difference between the CF version and Al version had me scratching my head too. A couple of grams for $20 more bucks and a pole that might be less durable… doesn't make sense. Anyone beg to differ?

    What about the BD trail backs Mark M. linked to? Can anyone recommend those?

    #2071568
    Dale Wambaugh
    BPL Member

    @dwambaugh

    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    I recommend the Black Diamond Trail model poles (http://www.rei.com/product/873056/black-diamond-trail-trekking-poles-pair). They are comfortable and rugged, flick lock, light *enough*, long foam grips and replacement parts are available. They are great for shelter poles.

    The only reason I would buy the carbon BD poles is for beach walking, so they won't corrode (and aluminum poles will).

    The super light carbon poles offered will work, but they have compromises in strength/durability and expense, and aren't as handy when used with a shelter. I don't find the weight of the flick-lock aluminum poles to be a big deal.

    +1 on using the straps as a skier would. The pendulum and hand-rail descriptions are good. I flick the poles ahead and walk up to them without putting all my weight, but they are available to plant when there is a trickier bit to navigate or help lift when going up a big step.

    If you want to link two poles together for a single shelter pole, the best technique I have seen is to use a replacement bottom section to substitute for the lower sections of two flick lock poles. See http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=46164&startat=20 and find the post "This is what works for me…"

    #2071584
    hwc 1954
    Member

    @wcollings

    Here's a comparison among the four BD models mentioned:

    Black Diamond Trekking pole comparison

    I believe that that the only difference between the $119 model and the $99 model is the grip. The Trail Ergo has the cork grip, angled for better ergonomics versus a straight grip made of foam. The cork is considered to be a somewhat better grip, but that may just be the tradition of European hiking poles. There is probably some small benefit to the angled grip. Both these also have a foam extension below the regular handle — ostensibly as a way to "shorten" the pole while going uphill, without actually shortening the pole. I have never used this because my hand is in the strap when I'm using the pole. I just shorten the pole on the uphill leg and lengthen it on the downhill leg — the amount of each depending on the steepness of the terrain.

    The $79 poles have rubber grips. Wet and slippery in sweaty hands and probably accounts for most of the extra weight.

    #2071605
    William F
    Member

    @wkf

    Locale: PNW

    Thanks hwc for the comparison function on BD's site. The link you provided got messed up but I figured the feature out easy enough.

    It looks like I've kind of narrowed things down thanks to all your suggestions. Are the angled cork grips worth the extra $20? I'd say both are well within my budget after coupon + dividend at REI. I did notice the foldable length of the Ergo Corks are 29" while the trail trekking poles fold down to 25". I'm thinking this won't be an issue for me though.

    Dale, I do a few trips on the coast every year, between a week and 2 week's time depending. How big of an issue is the corrosion you mention with Al poles? Will just the ocean air cause corrosion after a few days? Thanks

    #2071628
    Marko Botsaris
    BPL Member

    @millonas

    Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA

    "Are the angled cork grips worth the extra $20?"

    I'd say no. If you use the straps "nordic" style the grips are almost superfluous – and the angle comes naturally from the angled grip on the strap. But there are some long distance backpackers, that go all the way to the extreme and use pacer poles (and swear by them):

    http://www.pacerpole.com/

    For me using the straps the way I do %99 of the time, I go for the least *amount* of grip. I get annoyed at some of the name brand poles (looking at you Leki) that have huge grips (with knobby ends, perhaps suitable for clubbing baby seals, or alternative use as a royal scepter) and even extensions going below them as well. On the rare occasion when I need to briefly choke up on the grips I can grab hold of the pole itself thank you very much. Those really offend my sensibilities, but they do it apparently because inexperience people think this is an "added feature". Anyway, par for the course when considering highly commercial companies – what sells best is usually by definition to them what IS best.

    #2071645
    Eric Osburn
    BPL Member

    @osb40000

    William, yes, completely different from the email mailing list. The facebook offers can be very sweet. I usually wait for the 40% off code (usually only a 6-12 hour offer) and then checkout on my ios device for free shipping. I picked up a Mountain Hardware Chillwave a few months back for $140 shipped when the same jacket was $400 at REI. I also picked up some Atlas snowshoes that were over $300 at REI for $109 shipped on the same sale. If you keep your eyes open you can really save a lot.

    Looks like they have Komperdell and LEKI trekking poles at the moment but I have also seen Black Diamond models listed. Their inventory is constantly in flux so I've learn that if I see a piece of gear I want and the 35-40% coupon is available to jump on it. Hope that helps.

    In my personal experience trekking poles have been a lifesaver. Not everyone is young and has unlimited time to hit the trail. When hiking with my son on my back it's a fidgety, 40lbs+ load and the poles really save my body from abuse.

    #2071650
    hwc 1954
    Member

    @wcollings

    While I have never used the foam extensions below the grips, I have put the rounded knobby bit on top to good use. Occasionally, going down very steep rocky stretches, I'm reaching down with the poles further than I could reach with my hands in the grips the normal way, and then hopping down with the pole taking a lot of the weight. Not often, but from time to time.

    And, who knows? Maybe someday I'll have to club a baby seal with one? :)

    #2071694
    Joe Lynch
    BPL Member

    @rushfan

    Locale: Northern California

    I can't backpack without poles because of an old soccer injury. I'm very happy with my black diamond aluminum poles but I'm more of a lightweight backpacker than ultralight. The cork is more comfortable for me.

    #2071707
    Marko Botsaris
    BPL Member

    @millonas

    Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA

    Yes, I commiserate on that %100. I have a surgically fused ankle joint from an injury – think hiking with a cast on one foot. That is about the mobility. The trekking pole are for me pretty fundamental as a partial counter to that lack of balance. But I still don't do logs going over streams. LOL

    #2072152
    slavenya slavenya
    BPL Member

    @slavenya

    Locale: Israel

    How about Pacerpole?

    What do you say about them?

    #2072154
    William F
    Member

    @wkf

    Locale: PNW

    Hi slavenya, thanks for the suggestion, I was not aware of the Pacerpole. Just looking at them though they are outside my budget, too short (51"), and appear to be too heavy for me (18 oz for the CF version, excluding baskets and feet). Also they look like they are twist locks which I'm trying to stay away from. I'd be curious to hear if anyone has used these before though. My guess is that most BPLers would consider the pole too heavy for their tastes. I'm thinking I'm going to spend the extra $20 and buy the BD Ergo corks.

    Thanks everyone for your help

    #2072157
    Marko Botsaris
    BPL Member

    @millonas

    Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA

    Many people who use them are fanatical about them – including a few people who do epic length trips. I have never tried them myself. I'd love to borrow a pair to see what the fuss is about, but short of that they really aren't on my radar. If you are adamant about NOT using the straps in the "nordic" style, or without any straps at all, then I think the ergonomics might be better with the pacer poles than with the angled grips.

    But if I was to go heavy in this department I'd almost rather go with a replica of Gandalf's staff – at least it would be a conversation starter, thought it might seem like I was angling for a certain trail name. ;-)

    #2072162
    Tony Ronco
    BPL Member

    @tr-browsing

    "I'd almost rather go with a replica of Gandalf's staff – at least it would be a conversation starter, thought it might seem like I was angling for a certain trail name. ;-)"

    Mark, Here ya go:
    (Certainly looks the part for your future trail name, made of carbon fiber, but unfortunately damn expensive): Gandalf Carbon Fiber Staff

    Here is a slightly more affordable alternative … but it doesn't "look the part"
    Carbon Fiber Hiking Staff

    #2072185
    Glenn S
    Member

    @glenn64

    Locale: Snowhere, MN

    Last year, I was you. I bought a Duomid as my first pole supported shaped tarp, and used trek poles for the first time. I thought trek poles were gimmicky and a bit hokey, but was I ever wrong! I won't hike without them again!

    I bought Leki Khumbus at my local REI for just under a hundred. I picked them specifically for their long length. A bit heavier at 21.5 ounces, but sturdy flip locks and they extend to 145cm. Even at that length though, I still used the extension pipe and offset the pole for the extra interior room. Sometimes I'd just tie up the Duomid using the external hang loop and forego the center pole altogether. MLD recommends a minimum 54" pole, and that's with a tight ground pitch. Maybe it's just me, but that's a bit short for a good pitch IMO. It makes for too much sloping at the guy-outs and severe loss of interior room.

    This year I've lightened my shelter setup and picked up a pair of BD alum Z poles on clearance. Just over 12 ounces and fixed length, so will see how that works out. I can tell already though, that while they are certainly going to be lighter to swing around, they are much, much more fragile than the tank-like Leki's. You could practically hit baseballs with those things and they'd never feel it!

    Oh, if you get short poles, or don't use the extender, there is a way to make a short rope with a loop on each end and tie two poles together, hooking the loops over the opposing baskets, effectively making a longer pole with really good support. This is what I'll be doing if I use my Duo with my fixed length 120's.

    #2072188
    Joshua Abel
    BPL Member

    @aberrix

    another vote for Black Diamond Ergo Trail Cork trekking poles, love mine – work great.

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