By Leola Guillet. Trekking Poles. Published at Thursday, April 11th, 2019 - 09:38:34 AM.
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.
I have broken several trekking poles, and I’ve witnessed other hikers break theirs. The common denominator was not the shaft material but user error. Specifically, the poles were being used on steep, loose, off-angle, and/or slick terrain, and the pole either became overly levered (like between two blocks of talus) or broke the hiker’s fall after they slipped.
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.
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.
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