Tips for Using Trekking Poles

Trekking poles, that tool sometimes so criticized and often misunderstood that little by little it begins to have more followers and that many do not hesitate to put it in the backpack on each of their routes. Today its usefulness is beyond doubt and begins to be one more piece in our essential material for going to the mountains.

¿Why do we need poles?

Some purists say that poles are for the least strong, but common sense makes us finally go for them. In fact there are numerous studies that praise the benefits of these utensils. We list a few below.

Security: Some poles provide security. This is as basic as walking on 4 legs, the more supports we have on the ground there would be less risk of falling. Crossing rivers, walking through stony or snowy places, poor visibility, ... are just a few examples. However, it must be applied to the places where we must use them, since the poles are not always optimal in all conditions. If, for example, we reach a ramp where we must use our hands, the poles should quickly go to the backpack. In short, we win in balance.

They help with certain injuries: many people use hiking poles to avoid injuries or even not make a dent in ones that one already has, such as ligament, meniscus, ... injuries, etc. Well-worn poles help distribute the footprint and curb the load on the legs and back. However if these are poorly carried, such as an incorrect height or the mere use of poor grip, they can generate injuries that we did not have before.

It increases our performance: generally the legs are the ones that suffer the most in our routes and if these are alleviated with a distribution of the load through our arms and chest much better. This will allow us to carry more weight and to suffer less back pain, in addition to making our leg muscles feel less overloaded. An example is when we walk on snow and use the correct rosettes. This will allow us to walk more nimbly and sink a little less.

Various uses: having the shape of a stick, you can gain profit in areas with a lot of vegetation, removing this to make way for us. In addition, if we do not find an aggressive animal, the same serves as a defense tool.

Poles design

The poles are generally made up of 8 well-differentiated elements that in some cases may be a few more:

Handle: the place where we hold the poles. It can be made of different materials such as plastic, foam, foam rubber and even cork, since this material considerably prevents sweating. Logically we have to look for one with a somewhat rough touch, avoiding plastics since they do not get along when our hands sweat in addition to being especially cold. Finally, there are models with a double handle positioned at the bottom of the main one, being made of foam and with the aim of being able to temporarily grip the pole on short slopes without changing the length of the pole. My opinion on this is clear ... not to use it. When the leash does not reach her, you run the risk of the staff slipping from your hand and the upper handle pointing towards your face. I leave it there.

Leash : it is a strap that sometimes comes with foam for comfort and that is attached to our hand in order to grip the cane more securely, exert some additional force and make our hands make less effort.

Telescopic sections: The sections are, after all, the cane divided into pieces. They are generally made of aluminum or even carbon fiber, making the latter very light poles. You can find them divided into several sections, generally 2 and 3, since one would practically only be a ski pole. Each section has a specific length and can be extended to achieve an optimal fit.

Clasps or Assemblies: These elements allow you to adjust the length of the pole. There are several types and the most used are screw, button or clamp system. The thread has never worked out for me, especially in wet situations. The button is perhaps the worst of all since it doesn't always work well and jams easily, requiring great force to unclog it. My preferred clamp system, which despite not being perfect usually works properly. By the way, it is generally the first item to break into a cane, so I advise looking for quality assemblies.

Rosettes: there are two different types and sometimes both usually come in our pair of poles. Those with a small diameter are for use in summer and the largest for snow.

Tips: generally made of tungsten to guarantee maximum duration. Keep in mind that this element is continuously hitting the ground. Today, most poles have an “anti-shock” system that is housed in the spout and that causes the tip to fold under each pressure in order to cushion the blow. They are interchangeable but what can really be spent is the plastic protection above and where the rosette is attached.

Contreras : It is a utensil attached to the tip. It serves to protect it and in turn provide a smooth footprint thanks to its rubber or rubber compounds, which helps to reduce vibrations even more thanks to anti-shock. The bad thing is that they grip less and are usually used exclusively for walking.

Spike : where the tip is lodged. Generally constructed of plastic and interchangeable.

As there are many cane manufacturers on the market and the technology is advancing slowly, many have had to put forth ingenuity to increase their sales. These models bring such curious things as:

Compass: a compass on the grip. It will probably last very little and we already have one in our pocket or watch.

Tripod: one thing that fascinated me is seeing how a monopod can be created from a cane and thus anchor your favorite camera and avoid blurred photos. Curious idea.

Use tips

And the key moment arrived. We already have some shiny sticks and we want to learn how to use them. A priori it seems that grabbing them and putting a measure that we think comfortable is enough, but beware ... this has a little more difficulty. To start we must set a height as optimal as possible. Generally we should follow the 90 degree rule, although there are people who wear them a little shorter. This means that when calibrating we must grab them and that they leave our arms flexed 90 degrees with our body. If we put them higher it will cost us more effort to carry them and to top it off our hands will cool more easily.

Logically this rule works on flat or shallow terrain. At the moment when the inclination is very high, we must readjust them, reducing the size on the climbs and increasing it on the descents. Anyway, in difficult terrain where we can have a fall, it is better to save them and use your hands if you need them.

Later we must grab them using the dragonera. Our hand should go under it and then grasp the handle, leaving the drag under our wrist. Once this is done, we tighten the drawstring so that our hand is fixed to the handle, even if you do not press too hard. Once this is done, you release your hands from the handle and check that the poles are held by your wrists. This position is good for relaxing your hands while still having your poles on hand.

To walk you have to be careful since the tips always have to be in front of the feet and not on the sides. Also always one of the tips should be in contact with the ground, but the poles are meaningless. If by chance the pole gets stuck, do not pry it, much less if it is made of carbon fiber since it will break. Aluminum ones tend to bend.


The poles are very sensitive elements and over time they need maintenance. Logically, the rosettes, being made of plastic, will wear out and have to be changed, this operation being very simple since they are attached to the poles with a thread system.

Then the telescopic sections usually pick up dirt and form some lime once we fold them. The more lime is formed the more difficult it will be to take them off reaching a point that will be almost impossible, especially in cold situations. This is mainly generated by not cleaning them at each outlet and even more so by not drying them when they get wet. It is convenient to prove that the deployment is carried out correctly before leaving the house, as we can have a good scare.

Another detail that we must take care of is those poles with a threaded system. This tends to loosen over time, making it almost impossible to close them. To fix it, all you have to do is remove the pole completely and move the thread, enough so that when we insert the cane again, it will cost us a little.

Source: Viaja por la Libre

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