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
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To properly size your poles, stand upright and hold your elbows at a 90-degree angle. You should be able to hold the primary grip with the tip touching the floor. For difficult terrain and off-trail hiking, I prefer my poles shorter by a few centimeters. For long downhills, some people
There are two types of multipiece shafts: telescoping and foldable. Telescoping shafts nest into each other. They’re more rigid and weigh less for a given strength, but they’re less packable.
The Quick Locks include extension grips—sections of foam below the main grip that extend your range of carry options—and are available with either cork or foam grips. Both options will work fine, though the faux cork and two-piece construction isn’t as slick as Leki’s seamless grips. Cascade Mountain Tech includes
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This summer, I tested eight pairs of poles representing a range of prices, features, and designs. I had used some of these models in years past, but I gave them all a fresh look while guiding and hiking in California and Colorado. My first pair of trekking poles cost $100
Still, these poles are inexpensive for a few reasons: The shafts vibrate, the grips are a bit rough, and the carbide tips don’t last as long as those from Black Diamond or Leki. The locks don’t slip or break and are easy to adjust, but they’re not as nice as
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.
And remember that lighter is not always better. For example, I’ve found that the ultralight (and ultra-thin) shafts of the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z poles are too fragile for backpacking. The RaidLight Vertical Carbon 3 poles lack versatile extension grips.
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