Walking or trekking poles
Walking poles (AKA hiking or trekking poles) have long been popular with our continental cousins, offering improved security on awkward ground, and reducing the bashing and stresses our poor knees take on a typical day in the hills.
British walkers on the other hand, no doubt due to our un-continental view of anything related to skiing, have taken much longer to adopt these remarkably effective devices. Thankfully, walking poles are now firmly established among serious outdoor users in the UK, either used singularly, or in pairs.
Walking poles can be divided into two categories:
hiking poles © blas
i.e. standard ski-style poles, which although foolproof are awkward to carry when not needed.
Two or three section telescopic poles:
Telescopic poles are ideal for walking; they are compact for storage or transport and can be adjusted to suit the height of individual users and their requirements. Three section poles are most common and are compact enough to fit conveniently on the side of a rucksack. Two section poles are less prone to failure, simply due to the fact that they only have one adjustment rather then two.
There are two common adjustment systems for the telescopic (or 'collapsible') poles:
Internal twist fit is the most common, where a small plastic screw-fit collar expands to hold the pole in place when twisted. Take care not to over twist or tighten more than half a turn once the correct length is selected - otherwise the adjustment can prove difficult to release and damage may occur. Generally any failure is caused by this collar wearing out (though most are replaceable), or the collar becomes totally unscrewed and needs to be refitted.
Like any great piece of equipment, once you've used poles you'll wonder how you ever managed without them
External collars click into place, cinching the poles together. Unlike the internal system that can freeze together in cold weather, the external collar can be easily unclipped in any conditions.
Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages, and both are very robust and effective.
There is a wide selection of 'baskets' for the foot of the pole, but perhaps the best for best all-rounder is the small solid basket: small enough not to get jammed between rocks nor get in the way of your feet, yet still big enough to provide some resistance to sinking into snow or soft ground. If you plan to do a lot of snow work then fit a larger snow basket.
Take care of your pole
- Poles aren't indestructible. Take care not to store them underneath heavy items.
- Make sure the inside is dry before you store it. You might even lightly wipe the shaft with a light oil or WD-40 before storage.
- Top brands like Leki provide an extensive line of spares and accessories, meaning you can repair components when they wear out.
- Like any great piece of equipment, once you've used walking poles you'll wonder how you ever managed without them.
Andy Kirkpatrick is recognised as a world authority on equipment and technique, a knowledge built up on some of the hardest big walls and faces in the world. Andy's expertise is big wall climbing and winter expeditions. He has scaled Yosemite's El Captan, one of the hardest walls in America, over 24 times. As well as being a successful climber, writer and speaker, Andy also works in film and TV as a stunt safety advisor.
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