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Trekking poles are important equipment for an efficient and seamless trekking experience. Many times, the purpose of it is underestimated and people shy to use it, not knowing the actual purpose and the gains of it. This article will help you to understand the purpose and benefits of using trekking poles, understand the different parts of a pole and the best practice of using it to your benefit.
Benefits of Using Trekking Pole
- It makes walking much easier and seamless, assists you to balance better in those uneven terrains, with better stability and grip. Having poles on each hand brings in four touchpoints on the ground giving you more confidence and support.
- Trekking Poles help reduce the stress and fatigue developed on the knee joints and muscles, developed during the uphill and downhill trek.
- It can come very handy is crossing streams and wading water
- It is a proven fact that by using trekking poles your upper body muscles get worked out including biceps and triceps beyond the aerobic activity of trekking itself
- Last but not the least, it can also be used to build shelters or support your tent as a pole.
Different Types & Features of A Trekking Pole
Trekking poles come in different built types with varied features, most common types are adjustable, non-adjustable and foldable. Depending upon your usage, brand and type you select, the poles come with interesting features like shock absorbers and camera mounts. One thing to keep in mind is every additional feature comes with a weight and price added to it.
The height of the pole can be adjusted to enhance stability and balance in different terrains. Generally, pole length is shortened when going uphill and extended when going downhill.
These are usually the lightest type, as the length of the pole is fixed, and it cannot be adjusted. This type of trekking pole comes handy for those people who indulge in activities that need a constant height throughout the activity.
These are not like the adjustable poles, which slide into themselves; these function similar to that of tent poles and are best for packing light. It’s a favourite for ultra-marathon runners.
Parts of a Trekking Pole
The strap is a loop which helps you in securely holding the grip. Depending upon the brand and quality of the pole, it comes with and without padding. A strap with padding supports your wrist far better and gives you good comfort.
The grip is the place where you hold the trekking pole. It is usually made of plastic, foam, rubber and cork. The grips also come in many shapes and sizes to fit different hand types. It is better to try the grip before you purchase for better comfort. Cork & foam gives better grip as it does not slip once your hands are wet or sweating, it also costs comparatively higher than all the other materials. Plastic is the most economical grip but it does not meet the complete purpose. A grip made of a combination of cork and rubber would be a good choice for an all-season trekking pole.
Shaft makes up the major portion of a trekking pole and contributes the maximum weight. Shafts are usually made of either aluminium or composite materials of carbon. Aluminium poles are more durable and economical on the other hand the carbon fibre poles are expensive and super light. The carbon fibre made poles are more susceptible to breakage than aluminium poles under high stress.
The trekking poles usually come with a small trekking basket which is removable. It can be substituted with a larger basket for walking on powder snow or muddy terrain.
This is the portion that interacts with the ground. It usually comes with a plastic body and a metal point. The metal points are typically made of hardened steel or carbide, both are harder than the rock which allows the pole to bite better on a rock or icy patch giving extra stability. The tips come with a removable rubber cap that covers the sharp metal tip, this can come handy while carrying the poles in a backpack or when the poles are used in pavements and indoors to protect the surface from scars.
Locking Mechanisms of a Trekking Pole
Every trekking pole comes with a locking mechanism irrespective of whether it’s an adjustable one or not, to keep the pole from snapping its length while on a trek. However, the locking system in adjustable poles also helps in adjusting the length of the pole as per the need. Different types of locking mechanisms are internal, external, push-button and combination lock.
Internal / Twist Locking
This system uses a screw set up to expand or shorten the shaft segments. This system is comparatively stronger and durable.
External Lever Locking
This type of locking comes with an external lever like a clamp to lock the segments of shafts. When using the pole wearing gloves, this locking system comes much handy and easier.
Push Button Locking
In this mechanism, the button gets snapped in a socket and locks itself. To unlock the button needs to be pushed and the shaft segment needs to slide in or out to snap the button in the next socket. This kind of mechanism may be challenging to operate with gloves on.
In this type, the pole may come with a combination of different locking mechanisms to improve the strength and efficiency. For example, a particular pole may have a lever lock on the upper shaft and twist-lock in the lower segments of shafts.
Right Usage of Trekking Pole
Single or Double?
It is a proven fact that using a pair of trekking poles is much more beneficial than using just one trekking staff (It’s called “Trekking Staff” when a single trekking pole is used). A trekking staff can be conveniently used when the trek is on a relatively flat surface with very little luggage. It is strongly recommended to use a pair of trekking poles when trekking on uneven terrain with heavy backpacks.
Using The strap
The strap needs to be used properly for a comfortable trekking experience. First, adjust the loop for the hand to be put through the strap from below and bring it down to run between the thumb and the fingers and back of the hand.
While trekking on the flat terrain the height of the trekking pole should be such that, when holding it the elbow must be bent at a right angle. When going uphill reduce the height by about 5 to 10cms and going downhill reduces the height by 5 to 10cms.
Trekking poles are going to be useful and handy gear which can make your trekking trip more comfortable. Choosing the right one hugely depends on your budget and usage.