Trekking Poles: Not just for the Elderly!
You might have noticed in most of my pics when I’m out and about in the woods I’m sporting trekking poles. Gone are the days of the good old fashion wooden walking stick and in are a pair of aluminum or even carbon-fiber trekking poles. They are an optional piece of gear rather than an absolute necessity but I find them very useful and a good add-on if you’re looking for something that will help get you through those long hikes. Specifically, I use the Black Diamond Contour Elliptic Trekking Poles.
Now, what do trekking poles do? For me, they do 3 things:
1) Provides stability
2) Keeps my body upright when carrying a pack
3) Allows me to travel faster
With a pair of trekking poles, generally, you just doubled the number of points of contact touching the ground at any one given time. If there is one thing that poles do superbly is reduce the number of falls you’ll have. Many a time, I easily saved myself a rough tumble because I was able to brace myself on my poles.
Keeps my body upright when carrying a pack
It’s pretty easy to want to lean forward a lot when carrying a heavy 60-100 lbs pack to try to hold some of the load on your back. What you should be doing is standing straighter, which transfers that weight
Allows me to travel faster
Trekking poles make hiking a full body workout. With each step, use my triceps (in a tricep extension motion) to propel my body forward. This makes me move faster than if I used my legs alone.through the hip belt onto your torso and legs. By using poles, I find my arms help to push my body back up into a straighter standing position, thereby reducing strain on my lower back.
These 3 things keeps me going back to my poles for every outing. As you can see, while not absolutely necessary, there are some good benefits to having them. Also, it is essential to have TWO (a complete pair) of poles. Going with a single pole will not effectively provide the benefits I just listed as you need the balance of 2 poles to make it all work.
A little about the BD Contour Elliptic Poles:Although any poles will likely do the job, I’m pretty happy with these ones. Made out of aluminum they are pretty light and are adjustable in length from 76 to 140 cm. The elliptic shape is supposed to be stronger than normal circular poles but I wouldn’t know for sure. What is really great is the locking mechanism. Black Diamond uses a patented “flick lock” system which makes it extremely easy to adjust the pole lengths. Not only that, but it is extremely solid and will not slip or collapse the pole under load. This is especially important when you’re falling and you brace yourself with your pole. If the pole collapse under your weight you’d be in a world of hurt. Fortunately, the flick lock system is great and reliable. The only real downsides to these poles are the price and the length markings. The contour elliptics are pricier than other poles, more than double compared to cheap ones, $109 at MEC. Also, because the length markings (to tell you how long the pole is when extended at different lengths) retract back into the poles, they rub a bit against the metal and they start to fade. While it is still easy to make out what lengths are what, it’s an imperfection against an otherwise great pole. If you have the resources, I’d suggest these poles. If not, cheaper ones will still do a fine job.
So there you have it. Trekking poles in a nutshell. A pretty good purchase to help your hike. Not essential but it definitely is an added bonus if you can get a hold of them.