More Than a Stick

In the snowSo I was never completely sold on the idea of hiking poles. But after using it for the last couple of hikes, I can see where it can help. Although, it is my personal preference to not use them on the way up. Either I haven’t figured out the technique, or I’m just too stubborn to use them properly.

My first use was on Iron Mountain which looking back now was a bad idea. A couple of reasons why I think they were a detriment:
1. They worked my upper body which wasn’t used to these movements,
2. They made me go at a faster pace.

For number 1, my arms and upper body never did much on the hikes except sway back and forth. Now I found myself using up extra energy. As for going at a faster pace, that pace was only maintained for a very brief time. This only got me winded faster.

Eddie Bauer brandHowever, now I only take one pole with me and use it primarily for steep downhill ascents and a spear when hiking alone. Although, I’m not sure how a $15.99 pole would hold up against a cougar or bear. But psychologically, it helps.

On to the product…

I got both of mine from Target for only $15.99 in September. For the first 3 months, they saw barely any use. But for the last month, I’ve taken one with me to Baldy, Mt. Wilson, and to do some exploring over steep terrain. So far, they’ve been great. Only once did the locking mechanism unlock. But that was in the snow and the pole got wedged in pretty deep and it me twisting the pole loose that probably unlocked it.

Tip protector and basket attachedThe pole came with a rubber tip protector, a basket, and that’s all. It features a anti-shock section which actually helps I think.

The carbide tipThe carbide tip as you can see and suffered some wear. When I first got it, it was flat and toothed. Now it’s been worn down to a ball point tip. You can buy replacement tips, but for the price of the pole, it would be easier just to buy another one. Plus, I tried to unscrew the black plastic end to no avail.
Pistol gripThe grip is a bit thin for my hands. Wearing gloves I’ve found improves grip. Plus with gloves, I don’t have to worry about blisters. It also has an attached wrist strap which I find to be more annoying than useful.
Double lockLike most other poles out there, this one has a two step locking system. The upper and lower portions extends to 135cm before the “STOP” warning is given. For my height of 5′-11″, this is plenty. I normally extend both sections to 125cm.

My last hikes have covered steep terrain with scree, loose dirt and rock, and snow. Each of these times, I have used the pole to help me on the downhill. This “third leg” lets me dig in and gives me something to hold on to. I’ve avoided a couple of slip-and-slides because of it.

I would recommend using a pole for downhill portions and very steep inclines where loose dirt and rock present. Otherwise, keep it packed away. I don’t like using them for the aforementioned reasons on the uphills. I prefer to give my legs a workout.

I would also recommend using these if you have knee or other legs issues. Using them has saved my knees great discomfort on even the slightest of declines.

I would not recommend using these in dense foliage as these could get caught up and become a tripping hazard. And speaking of hazards, if you are using these, be sure to keep a good distance between the person fore and aft. These can be dangerous to them.

Also, you wouldn’t want to use these while negotiating a rock climb. Once you get to the rock faces of Strawberry Peak, these would only get in the way. So pack them away and start climbing.

That’s all I’ve got. If you have anything to add, please do so.

Related posts:

My Trail Shoes
Accuracy In Estimating Elevation Gain
My Trusty Hiking Camera

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This entry was posted on Thursday, December 25th, 2008 at 3:06 am and is filed under Gear Review. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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