7+ Things To Consider When Choosing Trekking Poles
Got legs? Real, replaced, or repaired, never mind: you gotta have trekking poles. So here we go with choosing trekking poles, the right pair for you.
What are they?
Whatever they’re called, trekking poles, walking poles, Nordic poles, hiking sticks, leaners—Muddy Boots just invented that one—they’re about moving briskly, efficiently, and safely. Or, yes, leaning on, while you take a break to admire the scenery or chat up someone you just met and like. You’ll find you cruise right along and have more fun if you’re swinging a twosome.
Absolute necessity for adventuring 62 plussers, limited budget or no, they are for breezing through a city park or rainforest, under arches or over hills, on the tourist track or down a trail, in a crowd, à deux, or nicely alone.
Unless of course you’d rather do the sights by palanquin and leave the trekking pole schtick to the porters? Muddy Boots supposes this might be an attractive option—’cos it looks way fun—but in Whitefish? Fishkill? Rockfish Gap? LMBAO (=Laugh MB’s A** Off)!
Those palanquin wallahs have it right. If you’re carrying a load or just yourself, poles make the task more efficient so you can go comfortably for longer. This is true for 20-somethings as well as 80-somethings.
Crucially, poles smooth out the ride when body joints have started to get creaky. This sometimes happens to 62 plussers, especially if a luxury spa vacation in Bora Bora is not a great budget fit.
Or maybe you broke a bone years and years ago, sprained an ankle, or acquired a new body part? Wore out? These things happen to mortals, Muddy Bootsers, et al.
And hey, they’re versatile. You can use the same pair of poles for walking hiking skating snowshoeing toddling resting pooping the dog back country skiing umm waving at a bear?
Aaahhh…but a decision to own poles is a minor matter. Picking out a pair, not so much. So, here ya go…
Tips for choosing trekking poles
Number One: Buy Two.
You gotta have 2 poles, folks. Half a pole-package, where you get one and your partner gets the other? Definitely not, unless you want to show up at the chiropractor’s with a lop-sided body.
Using one of a two-set is AWKWAAAARD. Slip, slip, rubble underfoot……Slip, slip, canyon on left…..SCAAAARY.
Simply, a two-pole-package is not designed for two people: the poles are not robust enough to work individually and increasingly come left and right in a set. So you and your partner are both left-handed? One of you gets the left pole and the other is SOL? Nuh nuh nuh NO…
Number Two: Buy One.
But only in specific conditions. For instance, if you use a camera prolifically, get a onesie model that will help you hold the camera steady: you screw off the top, and voilà, there’s a threaded mount for your camera. Onesies are made especially to bear weight that half a pair can not. Leki makes at least two models like this.
#3 The Grip Must Fit.
Try on your poles-to-be: no joke. Every style of pole has a different grip. Some are more ergonomic than others. Women’s grips have a smaller diameter than unisexes’. There are grips that are different lengths and may have ridges in all the wrong places for your hands. And some are rubber, some foam, some cork. Make sure your hands love ’em.
#4 Length Matters.
It’s gotta be right for you, not for anyone else.
Start with this rule of thumb: when you have your upper arm and your lower arm at 90° to each other, the height from the floor to your hand will be roughly correct for pole length.
Then, make sure your wannabe poles have 10-15 cm extra length, because “roughly” is the operative word here. You may need your poles longer or shorter, because you’re not somebody else: you just might be more comfortable and walk more relaxed with a not-according-to-the-rulebook length. And, you may like them longer for downhills, and shorter for up.
If you’re smallish, investigate compact or women’s versions. There’s no need to be swinging extra pole length if you don’t have to.
See? You need to try them on.
Two pole sections are impractical for most adventurers. Think of the problem this way: if you ever have to fasten the poles to your pack, a two-part model will tower over you by a foot or two. Wanna snag some low-hanging branches? A bridge? A mess of a blow-down?
Exception: ignore this consideration if you are using one-part ski poles. The most important thing is to have poles PERIOD.
#6 Clamp Not Twist.
Muddy Boots has had the twisty model for years, and suffered no consequences. However, most folks seem more satisfied with the clamp models. Muddy Boots acknowledges that twisty joints are a little too eager to collapse when it’s -20°.
But natch, clamps benefit from some special considerations. So:
Special Consideration A. The poles are a non-starter if your hands can’t easily clamp the clamps. Astonishingly, some major brands—e.g. Black Diamond, cough, cough—evidently don’t care a hoot about whether the poles can actually be made to work by average hands, especially of the 62+ variety.
Special Consideration B. Make sure you can adjust the tightness of the clamp. On a quality pair, there’ll be a screw adjustment. If you can change it on the fly—no tools required—so much the better.
#7 Buy In A Store.
NOT online. Did Muddy Boots say to try them on? Yes, indeedy.
‘Cos you are choosing trekking poles for your body, not someone else’s!
Buying poles in a store will keep a Muddy Bootser’s limited budget nice and trim in the long run: no waste on mistakes. And the store spent it’s resources in letting you touch and feel and clamp and twist and walk and swing? The store stocked them and stored them just for your arrival, appreciation, and approval?
À la Muddy Boots, do the right thing, and honor their can-do floor flunkies and overhead $$$, so you get to TRY THEM ON.
Photo credits for choosing trekking poles. Hiking sign: CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay. Top image, Crowd walk: CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay. Palanquin at Shatrunjaya, Gujarat, India: CC BY 2.0 by Mark Hodson and www.101holidays.co.uk. Arches National Park, Hiking with trekking poles: CC BY 2.0 by Mark Doliner. Grand Canyon Downhill: CC BY 2.0 by Grand Canyon National Park via Flickr. Low bridge: CC B-ND 2.0 by Arriflex2007. Credits image, Bird on Leki Perch: CC BY-ND 2.0 by Evelin Ellenrieder. Trekking poles, clamps and grips: ©DustyCarMuddyBoots.com, All Rights Reserved.