By Ben Griffin
When you go on hiking or backpacking, you don’t want to get your knee joints and leg muscles hurt.
Do you? I was a fool not to carry a hiking pole on my first hike and get my knee joints hurt.
It was a lesson learnt the hard way, but totally worth it.
I used to think hiking poles are for old people, and they would increase my overall energy expenditure.
Believe me, I was completely wrong.
I found that using hiking poles enhanced my stability and provided me support for all kind of terrain.
Every time I go somewhere for hiking, I always carry a hiking pole with me.
Well, you could either hike without hiking poles that might hurt your knee joints and leg muscles or select one of these ten best hiking poles that will make your outdoor adventure comfortable and fun!
Are Hiking Poles Necessary?
Hiking poles help to reduce the impact on your knees and leg muscles.
A 2008 study in The Journal of Sport Medicine found that use of trekking poles reduces the pressure strain on the opposite leg by approximately 25%.
Another study published in 1981 by Dr.
Neureuther proved that walking on level grounds, hiking sticks reduce the body weight carried by the legs by approximately a whopping 5 kg every step! And, as you move downhill, poles reduce your body weight by approximately 8 kg every step.
That means if you hike for two hours, tons of weights – yes, tons – is reduced.
Another benefit that I found after I started using trekking sticks is that they help to maintain balance in difficult terrain such as during river crossing, on slippery bog bridges, and on tree root-strewn trails.
On top of that, poles help to you maintain a consistent rhythm and increase your speed.
This is especially true on flat terrain.
You would be surprised to know that trekking poles could also be used for other than trekking.
I once used them to replace tent poles.
Trekking poles are more rigid and stronger than tent poles.
So they’re unlikely to break in high winds.
This helps to create safer shelters.
How To Choose Hiking Poles?
If you are thinking to get hiking poles, there are several factors that you should consider when shopping.
It’s always worth to consider the weight, the materials they are made from and adjustment mechanism so that they don’t create any problem when you are trekking.
Here are a few factors you should consider when you are buying hiking sticks.
Pole Locking Mechanisms
One of the most important factors when choosing hiking poles is the locking mechanism.
Hiking poles have two or three interlocking sections to adjust heights, typically ranges from 24 to 55 inches.
This locking mechanism lets you adjust the poles at your desired length and according to the terrain.
Most trekking poles have two types of locking mechanisms.
It is a lever-based, clamplike mechanism.
You can quickly and easily adjust, even when you are wearing gloves.
It uses an expander and screw setup, which is consistently durable and strong.
I have used both of them and come to realize that level lock hiking sticks are more durable, easier and quicker to adjust than twist lock trekking poles.
In fact, I’ve found that nearly all of the level lock style mechanism are less troublesome and outlast the twist lock style.
This may be the reason why many companies nowadays are using a level lock, whereas five or six years ago there were only one or two companies using level lock.
Majority of the trekking poles that I am reviewing use level lock mechanism.
You should also consider the material used to make poles because it is directly related to the weight and durability.
Carbon fiber and Aluminum are the two most popular materials used to make hiking poles.
Poles made from carbon fiber are lighter, stiffer and generally stronger.
These poles weight between 13 to 18 ounces per pair.
They are good at vibration reduction, but they are also vulnerable to breakage under high pressure than aluminum poles.
If you are trekking to remote area and your hike is rocky, this is something to keep in mind.
Aluminum poles are slightly heavier but stronger and durable.
These poles weight between 18 ounces to 22 ounces per pair.
Under high pressure, these can bend but unlikely to break.
Basic Folding Design
Hiking poles come in three kinds of designs.
Two section telescoping
They are heavier and strongest, and are good for activities like snowshoeing and skiing.
But, it could be difficult to put them in an averaged size suitcase.
Three section telescoping
They are commonly used to hiking, and are lighter and more compact compared to two section poles.
They can easily be strapped to a backpack or put into a suitcase.
Even though they are not as strong as two section poles, they are strong enough for heavy duty backpacking and mountaineering.
Folding or tent pole style
They are newer kind of poles, and are some of the most compact and lightest models out there.
They are not nearly as durable as two and three section poles, but they are durable enough for most hikers and climbers for backpacking trips on trails.
I will highly recommend you to get hiking poles with shock absorbers if you have weak or damaged ankles.
The good thing about them is that they absorb shocks as you walk downhill, where your body is taking the most impact.
Most trekking poles come with feature to turn off the shock.
So if you don’t want to use it, especially when you are walking uphill, you can easily turn it off.
You might think there is hardly much difference in weight between various kind of hiking poles.
For example, in my review the biggest difference between the heaviest pole and lightest pole is 14 ounces with most poles fitting into a 10 ounces range.
This adds 5 ounces to each arm.
This doesn’t seem a lot.
Does it? So why worry about it? Now, consider you are lifting your arms up a thousand times per day.
May be 10,000 or more if you are on a multi-day trip.
This adds up a lot of weight.
I would not recommend to brush off lighter sticks just because they are only 5-10 ounces lighter.
Packability is more important to some people than others.
Most packable poles are shorter in height.
If you travel frequently, I would recommend to consider this factor.
Shorter poles are easy to travel with and could be easily packed into a suitcase.
If you don’t plan to packing your poles, then packability doesn’t really make a difference.