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Are trekking poles necessary/recommended?
#23587 05/06/12 11:58 AM
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Hi all-

I'm a newbie to mountain trekking. Going to hike San G next weekend (for training) and then Mt. Whitney in mid-June.

My buddy is recommending that I buy trekking poles. I feel like they will probably just be more of a hassle / add weight ...but I've also read they can be quite helpful. Is this just personal preference, or has it become "common knowledge" that trekking poles definitely add value for these types of hikes?

The ones I am looking at getting are here: http://www.campsaver.com/contour-elliptic-shock-poles#ReviewHeader

thx,
josh

Re: Are trekking poles necessary/recommended?
Josh P #23588 05/06/12 01:00 PM
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There was just a discussion about this on the SJ board.

I think they have their place. I use them only for snow trips, and for really long treks. For Whitney, I leave them at home, unless there's snow. They're good for balance on snow, and for leverage when you posthole. When I do a prolonged uphill hike like C2C, it helps ease the strain on the quads going up, and the knees when going down. For most hikes, they get in the way.

I would not spend $150 on them though. My cheap $30 pair works well enough.

Re: Are trekking poles necessary/recommended?
Anonymous1 #23589 05/06/12 01:19 PM
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I don't like to hike without them. They are described by some as portable staircase rails, by some as the equivalent of 4WD.

Some find them a bother, and never seem to get the coordination, some like a duck to water.

but I think they do take some practice.

Re: Are trekking poles necessary/recommended?
Josh P #23591 05/06/12 04:37 PM
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I never hike without trekking poles. They help going up allot and they certainly help on your way down. Stepping off of check dams is hard on the knees but with poles you can lower yourself down easier.

They also are invaluable while doing fords or help balance with snow travel.

They can also give you more options of going lighter weight using tents that only use trekking poles.

The only way I find them a minor pain is when you pause to take a drink or take pictures.


Re: Are trekking poles necessary/recommended?
Josh P #23595 05/06/12 06:41 PM
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I went for years without using them, thinking that they were more of a crutch than anything and that only older people really needed them. Was I wrong. Once I bought a pair (with the shock absorbers), I was hooked. I never do Whitney or anywhere in the Sierra without them. Well worth their weight.

Their value: Balance and keeping you from falling in during some stream crossings, giving you something to lean on and leverage with when negotiating rocky steep uphill, saving your knees going downhill, and saving you from falls if you use them as extra appendages, which essentially they are. Others have used them for more varied uses than these. If for no other reason, think of how many jarring steps your knees will take in a 6,100', 11.2-mile descent down Whitney.

I would (and did) spend the $150. Good investment.

Quote:
The only way I find them a minor pain is when you pause to take a drink or take pictures.

In that case, you just lean them against a tree or rock, or stab them into the dirt so they stand erect.

CaT


If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them more than the miracle of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.
- Lyndon Johnson, on signing the Wilderness Act into law (1964)
Re: Are trekking poles necessary/recommended?
CaT #23598 05/06/12 07:31 PM
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I read that the proprioceptive stabilizing effect of having your upper body in control with hiking sticks means that the knees need to work 10% less hard. On a 20 mile day that may be the equivalent of saving 2 miles of work.


Re: Are trekking poles necessary/recommended?
Josh P #23600 05/06/12 08:30 PM
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In addition to the benefits others have mentioned, they also keep your arms moving, which prevents edema/swelling in your hands. I find that if i hike more than about an hour or so without poles, my hands swell uncomfortably. The poles have always prevented that (you can also use thumb loops on your pack to get your hands up, but that doesn't work nearly as well for me, not to mention makes me feel a little unbalanced)

Add me to the camp of 'never hikes without em'

=) tif

Re: Are trekking poles necessary/recommended?
Josh P #23601 05/06/12 08:57 PM
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Josh,

Keep an eye out for good deals, too. I've purchased two different sets of Leki poles via eBay. One still in the box with tags, the other only gently used, both excellent poles (both $150 range) for less than $20/pair. Purchase carefully, but you can snag some great deals online from people who purchased high end equipment thinking they'd use it, and it just never panned out.


Chris

Re: Are trekking poles necessary/recommended?
Harvey Lankford #23602 05/06/12 09:05 PM
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Originally Posted By: Harvey Lankford
I read that the proprioceptive stabilizing effect of having your upper body in control with hiking sticks means that the knees need to work 10% less hard. On a 20 mile day that may be the equivalent of saving 2 miles of work.


Hiking sticks aren't proprioceptive, they are a substitute for proprioceptive stabilization. Trained balance weighs less and is still available after you have set up your ultralight tent.

The UIAA MedCom suggests them for the old, fat, ill, and over packed and not as a full time practice for others:

http://www.theuiaa.org/upload_area/files/1/UIAA_MedCom_Rec_No_11_Hiking_sticks_2008_V1-2.pdf

Dale B. Dalrymple

Re: Are trekking poles necessary/recommended?
CaT #23604 05/06/12 09:50 PM
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I also spent the bigger bucks on a good set of poles. From REI, no less, so if anything happens to them they'll be replaced no issue. I had aluminum poles and didn't care for the flex and wobble that they had. Stepped up to the carbon fiber Carbon Alpines from BD, and I really, really like them. Solid as a rock.

I didn't use poles for years and years, and like others have said, kind of thought they were for older hikers and guys with big knee problems. Then I used one of my buddies pair of poles when he only wanted to carry one, and it only took once to change my mind. Not only does it help with balance and power, but it evens the workload out for your arms if you use them the right way.



One day I'd like to hike the entire John Muir Trail and not leave a single footprint. -Randy Morgenson
Re: Are trekking poles necessary/recommended?
dbd #23605 05/06/12 09:52 PM
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Wow. Talk about severely over thinking something pretty simple.


One day I'd like to hike the entire John Muir Trail and not leave a single footprint. -Randy Morgenson
Re: Are trekking poles necessary/recommended?
tif #23606 05/06/12 09:54 PM
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I also like the fact that they keep my fingers from swelling. I do not have the best balance, so I like having the added edge of at least one pole. I also do not do well in gravel or rock hopping, and yesterday I almost fell in the loose rock of the Manker Flat-Devil's Backbone loop to Baldy. Fortunately, I recovered off of one pole.

It ultimately is a matter of personal preference. I did my first hike to Whitney with a second-hand ski pole from a ski rental shop. Don't spend a lot of money, if you only plan to use them on one trip.

Re: Are trekking poles necessary/recommended?
dbd #23612 05/07/12 12:09 AM
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Originally Posted By: dbd
Originally Posted By: Harvey Lankford
I read that the proprioceptive stabilizing effect of having your upper body in control with hiking sticks means that the knees need to work 10% less hard. On a 20 mile day that may be the equivalent of saving 2 miles of work.


Hiking sticks aren't proprioceptive, they are a substitute for proprioceptive stabilization. Trained balance weighs less and is still available after you have set up your ultralight tent.

The UIAA MedCom suggests them for the old, fat, ill, and over packed and not as a full time practice for others:

http://www.theuiaa.org/upload_area/files/1/UIAA_MedCom_Rec_No_11_Hiking_sticks_2008_V1-2.pdf

Dale B. Dalrymple

I don't think Harvey wrote that Hiking sticks were proprioceptive. They have a proprioceptive stabilizing effect. To me that means the muscles used to keep me upright and balanced can relax some when I use hiking poles.

And yes, trained balance weighs less, but the overall effect of carrying hiking poles so the balance is easier to maintain results in less cumulative wear on the body.

In the referenced "Consensus Statement", it recommends hiking sticks for the situations DBD named, but it ALSO reports benefits in general.

I used to be a hiking pole snob -- couldn't imagine why people needed them. Then I tried a pair, about the time age started to wear me down. Now, I really like to use them, finding they do make hiking just a bit easier.

And by the way, congratulations to Josh P, who signed up and started this thread, for tipping the number of registered users to 1000!

Re: Are trekking poles necessary/recommended?
Josh P #23620 05/07/12 05:46 AM
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For me, the most beneficial effect of trekking poles is balance in rugged terrain - especially going downhill with a heavy pack. If they save you from just one fall, they're worth the investement. Cannot begin to count the number of stumbles, slips or trips over the years that would have resulted in a full fall if not for poles.

I use trekking poles all the time - light dayhikes to heavy backpacks. Last year I read that constant use of trekking poles may degrade your natural balance, so I went for a few hikes without them. I also do some occasional technical climbing and the thought of any deterioration in balance concerned me. I think it was my third or fourth hike without poles when a mild slip on a section of wet slabby granite turned into a broken big toe, multiple contusions, and several weeks of inactivity till the toe healed.

Screw the theory of possible balance degradation - poles go with me all the time now. Period. My personal favorites are the Black Diamond Trail Shocks. Close to 1000 miles on these babies - beat to hell and chewed gnarly by marmots, but still going strong.

Sidebar: Knowing how to use trekking pole wrist-straps, as well as when not to have the straps looped around your wrist in a potentially dangerous situation, goes a long way in comfort, effort and stability. Used properly, poles can make you feel like a four-legged mountain goat. Used improperly, they're just so much dead weight and a PITA hinderance.

Re: Are trekking poles necessary/recommended?
RoguePhotonic #23623 05/07/12 06:24 AM
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I own those poles without the shock absorbers. I used Leki shock absorbers for year and prefer the former after using the BD for the last 4 years.

Do you need them to do Mt. Whitney? No, but they will help.

However, they are a want, not a need. They are something you buy after you buy good footwear, pack and the 10 essentials.

Re: Are trekking poles necessary/recommended?
dbd #23624 05/07/12 06:31 AM
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Originally Posted By: dbd
...The UIAA MedCom suggests them for the old, fat, ill, and over packed and not as a full time practice for others:

http://www.theuiaa.org/upload_area/files/1/UIAA_MedCom_Rec_No_11_Hiking_sticks_2008_V1-2.pdf

Dale B. Dalrymple


What an absurd bit of pomposity from the Ministry of Silly Walks.

One could do a similar pseudo-scientific analysis on whether or not to wear a hat. Or whether sleep benefits humans. Wait... someone already spent our taxpayer $$ on that one.

Just use common sense and your own personal preferences. Humans have been using sticks/staffs for a very long time. They're like shoes - some use them, some don't.

Re: Are trekking poles necessary/recommended?
Bulldog34 #23632 05/07/12 09:54 AM
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Bulldog34 wrote:
> Last year I read that constant use of trekiing poles may degrade your natural balance, so I went for a few hikes without them.

From the UIAA page:
Quote:
Disadvantages
2. Decreased sense of balance: Long-term use of sticks may reduce balance and coordinative ability of the subject. This disadvantage is becoming more and more evident and can lead to certain balancing problems, especially in difficult mountain areas, where the stick-user cannot use his hiking sticks (i.e. narrow ridges or climbing terrain). In fact, the most common type of hiking accident, a fall by tripping or stumbling, can actually be made a greater risk as a result.
I would LOVE to see the study that backs up that paragraph. I wonder what they define a long-term use? I only use mine when I am hiking. I only hike about 1% of the time I am on my feet. So, if I hike with hiking poles 100% of the time, is that "Long-term" use, or do I need to use them every time I step outside my front door??? Pseudo-science, indeed!

KevinR wrote:
What an absurd bit of pomposity from the Ministry of Silly Walks.   ...My comment: like!

Re: Are trekking poles necessary/recommended?
KevinR #23640 05/07/12 11:03 AM
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Originally Posted By: KevinR
Originally Posted By: dbd
...The UIAA MedCom suggests them for the old, fat, ill, and over packed and not as a full time practice for others:

http://www.theuiaa.org/upload_area/files/1/UIAA_MedCom_Rec_No_11_Hiking_sticks_2008_V1-2.pdf

Dale B. Dalrymple


What an absurd bit of pomposity from the Ministry of Silly Walks.
...

Actually, the UIAA is the worlds premiere test designer and standard setter for mountaineering equipment. What we are posting on is a "Ministry of Silly Walks", so it is nice that you have the concept smile.

Dale B. Dalrymple

Re: Are trekking poles necessary/recommended?
Josh P #23647 05/07/12 12:56 PM
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Quote:
In that case, you just lean them against a tree or rock, or stab them into the dirt so they stand erect.


In most cases I rest them into my legs and they tend to fall allot. wink

I owned a pair of the shock absorber type and I didn't like them as much because they would squeak allot from dirt in them.

I do say though that flip lock is a must. The twist lock poles will eventfully come loose. I had a brand new 200 dollar pair of carbon fiber poles that while climbing off a rock fell all the way open and then I put weight on it and nearly broke them while it bend over. This could also have caused major injury if I had fallen. Then I got into the habit of constantly twisting them tight to make sure this did not happen again and I finally broke one by over tightening it.

On the other hand while flip lock is faster and more reliable you can't trust your life to them either. I had one collapse in on me and I suffered an injury to my arm that took 3 months to heal.

Re: Are trekking poles necessary/recommended?
Josh P #23648 05/07/12 12:59 PM
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Get them but know HOW to use them...

If used incorrectly or improperly, you can expend a lot of energy and bonk out...

Good luck and have fun....




Journey well...
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