The Search for the Perfect Trekking Poles

Several years ago ‘Nordic Walking’ took Europe by storm and everyone started hiking with extendable modified skiing poles.

What at first looked silly has since become the norm for hikers everywhere aiming to scale serious elevation on their trails.

Trekking poles can offer much needed traction and safety on steep trails or ice and snow, they can take weight off your knees as you’re supporting your body with your arms, and they give your upper body something to do while hiking.
Those are not exclusive or scientific reasons of why you should use trekking poles, but those aspects were good enough for me to pick up a pair a couple of years ago.

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You know how it is with ‘optional gear’. You don’t necessarily research for hours, you find a pair that works for the price you want to pay, don’t care about the brand and you go for it. Second Ascent in Ballard, WA is a great place to find that kind of gear. You never used that type of gear before, so you’re willing to gamble a bit.

So a couple of years ago, I picked up a pair of trekking poles on year-end clearance.
They seemed to be good enough. They were nothing fancy, but for the price I paid, couldn’t complain.

I didn’t intend to review trekking poles.

My first pair of MSR trekking poles broke on my second trip.

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The turn to lock mechanism completely locked up and when I applied some pressure to try to unlock it the pole completely separated in two pieces. I wasn’t able to fix it and brought it back to Second Ascent.
Of course they were super-friendly and helped me get them exchanged. Thank you Second Ascent!

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My second pair from MSR looked all fancy and I was impressed when I first looked at them.
But I soon realized that the fanciness comes at a price:
The wrist loop broke immediately off and I had to find my own solution, which a bit of climbers rope offered. The wrist loops are also specific for left and right hands, which require constant checking that you’re holding the poles correctly.
But the most annoying thing about those poles is that vibrate. The extra-feature, MSR calls it ‘trigger release’ has way too many internal components and with every step or stab of our pole the pole vibrates due to the internal elements making noise.
Insanely annoying!

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Last Summer I bought my wife a pair of Komperdell Carbon trekking poles at REI. And you know what? They work.
I have since used them a few times and I really want to trade mine with her. I won’t though, I’m not that kind of guy.

Those poles hit all the things I care about and need in a great trekking pole:
They are lightweight. Offer a simple power lock mechanism for adjusting the height of the poles.
The wrist bands are forgiving and don’t require constant adjusting and checking to see if you are holding the right pole.
The grips are comfortable.

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Now, I know there are a few other trekking pole mechanism out there I haven’t tried out, but this is what I care about most.

The handle/grip

Needs to be comfortable and shouldn’t feel slippery when your hand gets sweaty on trail in the Summer.

Simple wrist loops

Seriously don’t overthink it. Ski companies have made wrist loops for decades. Just give me damn loops that work.

Height adjustment mechanism

Perfect to lock is more important because I don’t adjust 300 times per trip. I just want to adjust it to size, lock it up and know it will stay locked.

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Lightweight

I know I want them sturdy too, so there’s a tradeoff somewhere.

But most of all

No sensible internal vibration in the poles. When I’m on a 10 mile hike and hit the ground 1000’s of times, the poles need to feel solid. This will drive you crazy – believe me.

So, if you’re looking at getting a pair of trekking poles for your next hike look for those things.
Don’t get side-tracked by the fancy features. There’s no app store for your hiking poles. Above all, things they need to feel comfortable and solid in your hands.


What are your favorite trekking poles? And what do you love about them? Tweet us and let us know.

 

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By Doug and Mathias on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington State

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