By Helaine Masson. Trekking Poles. Published at Sunday, April 28th, 2019 - 02:26:45 AM.
For hiking and general outdoor use, adjustable poles are worth the extra weight and expense. They can be used for more activities (hiking, snowshoeing, backcountry skiing) and perhaps by multiple members of the family. They can be adjusted to accommodate changes in terrain—shorter for uphills, longer for downhills, collapsed for scrambling. Finally, collapsible and adjustable-length models are compatible with more backpacking shelters that utilize trekking poles for support.
The shafts of premium poles are made from carbon fiber, which is stronger by weight than aluminum. However, aluminum is less expensive and better withstands abuse, especially dings and knocks. In cold temperatures, the conductivity of aluminum can be a liability.
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.
When evaluating poles, I start with the shafts. They need to be stiff, free of vibration on impact, and able to endure reasonable contact with rocks and vegetation without fracturing. Next, I look at the hand grips, which should be soft on the hands but still responsive, meaning not mushy. I also really like extension grips. Finally, the locks need to be secure and reliable and easy to use and repair. Only some of the poles I tested met those criteria.
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