By Bernette Perret. Trekking Poles. Published at Friday, April 12th, 2019 - 00:12:06 AM.
Folding poles pack down really small—to 15 inches, say, versus about 25 inches for telescoping poles—making them ideal for air travel, mixed hikes and scrambles, and trail runs. But they come with trade-offs: The joints always wobble, and the design is usually heavier, resulting in a sacrifice to either weight or strength.
In 2002, on day eight of my first-ever thru hike of the Appalachian Trail, I descended to the Nantahala Outdoor Center at mile 138 with a deflated spirit, a crushingly heavy pack, shin splints, and inflamed iliotibial bands. That afternoon, I shipped home a box of unnecessary gear, ate a cheeseburger, and traded the tree branches I’d been crutching on since day four for a new pair of Leki trekking poles. Trekking poles transfer load from legs to arms, helping to avoid injury and fatigue, and they were vital on my journey to Maine. The additional points of contact add stability on slippery or unstable surfaces, and on long trips they can even be used as tent poles with some backpacking shelters. I’ve brought a pair on every trip I’ve taken since that first Appalachian Trail journey, including expeditions that lasted months and covered thousands of miles.
The Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Quick Lock trekking poles are not best in class, but they’re an irresistible combination of price and utility. Each spring, I see them at my local Costco for $30 per pair, and on Amazon they’re never more than their $45 MSRP. At just under eight ounces per pole, they’re a smidge lighter than other premium models, and their max length of 53 inches (135 centimeters) makes them suitable for snow travel and really tall people. When telescoped down to their minimum 26-inch length, they will fit into most checked suitcases. (You’ll have to disassemble them for carry-ons.) I’ve used these poles extensively, including on a thru-hike of the Wind River High Route, and I’ve recommended them to countless hikers.
My pair of Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork poles are tough, stiff, and have endured years of hard use. Black Diamond included stainless-steel lever-style locks that are secure and easily adjustable, and the foam extension grips are comfortable and versatile. The cork in the hand grips is real. These poles, and the women’s version (identical except for color), inspire confidence in rough environments.
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