Whether you’re an avid hiker who prefers the outside to the inside, or if you plan on taking a hiking trip shortly, you might be considering a hiking pole. You’ve undoubtedly seen people using them out on the trail, and if it’s something that can help you improve your hiking endurance and safety, then it’s worth a try. Any tools you can bring to help you win the battle against nature’s obstacles is something a hiker should eventually add to their arsenal.
There’s no disputing the hiking poles are useful and in some situations necessary. However, not all hiking poles are the same, so you’re going to find plenty of variation in the features and aesthetics. To help simplify your decision-making process, here are the top seven factors you should be comparing when choosing a hiking pole:
Usually, most hiking poles range in weight from 6 to 14 ounces, so there isn’t a major difference if you’re strong, but if you’re of smaller stature or don’t have a lot of arm strength then it would be best to opt for the lightest option you can find. According to this hiking pole review guide, the pole will be decreasing the pressure on your legs by about 11 pounds with every step you take.
So, regardless of the weight of the pole, using it makes you about ten pounds lighter, which can make a huge difference in tough situations. The material the pole is made from will also have an effect on the weight, so if low weight is your highest priority, then you’d probably want to opt for an aluminum or carbon pole.
Most hiking poles can be extended to different lengths, but some older models are just one solid length. If you’re under six feet tall, then you’d want a pole with a length of about 47 inches, while people over 6 feet should go for a pole that is set at the 56-inch or 54-inch setting.
Most poles will retract into a carrying mode and have a folded length of about 24 inches, although some will be longer or shorter when folded. If you have an adjustable pole, it’s important to work out the perfect length setting for your height to make sure you’re using it ergonomically.
Hiking poles incorporate a wide range of materials that affect weight, durability, and performance. Many poles are made from aluminum to prevent rust and corrosion. Some manufacturers put tungsten on the tips to prevent wear and tear, and many poles have rubber tips as well for added traction.
Since the industry is constantly evolving and new designs are popping up every year, it’s best to compare a few of the latest models to determine which materials look most appealing based on how you intend to use the pole.
4. Locking Mechanism
The locking mechanism keeps your pole set at the desired length and is also used to keep it folded for storage and carrying. There are several kinds of locking mechanisms used in hiking poles. Some work via an external lever that locks the pole in place and others are a push button; while some work via twist action. Although all locking mechanisms work to an extent, most hikers would agree that the twisting locks are the sturdiest because they keep the pole from unexpectedly retracting or extending during a hike.
5. Method of Storage and Carrying
Consider how you’ll be carrying the pole when it’s not in use, and how compact you’ll need it to be when folded. Many hiking poles also include carrying bags or cases, so that’s another perk to look for when comparing models. Some models fold into two pieces, while others have 3-fold designs.
Multiple retractable points can be great for maximum portability. However, it’s also wise to note that folding hiking poles with poor locking mechanisms may buckle under the weight of the user. Thus, it may be a good idea to test out several models and locking mechanisms at a local shop before buying online to ensure you’re getting the functionality you’ll be confident and comfortable with.
The accessories that come with the hiking pole also increase its value and usability, so these are notable factors to consider as well. The main attachment you’ll find will be the basket, which is attached to the end of the pole primarily to keep the pole from sinking into the snow or mud, but also to provide a convenient way to carry small items like utilities and tools.
Last but certainly not least, hiking poles can vary greatly in cost. From the cheapest used poles at your local thrift outlet, to the most expensive poles you can find online, there’s a huge gap and price difference. That’s great news for someone on a budget, but it can also mean that there are a lot of sub-par products to sift through if you’re searching for the most stable and durable hiking pole.
So, the question certainly comes down to whether you’re willing to pay for the best of the best or would rather settle for any functional hiking pole for now. The answer to that will indeed depend on how serious you are about adding this tool to your trekking tool set. If you’re ready to start conquering tough hikes with ease, a hiking pole could come in handy.
Making the Final Decision
Overall, your choice should be based on which factors above are most important and whether you’re currently able to splurge on a top-of-the-line hiking pole. If not, there’s no need to be discouraged by the cheaper options, because many of them will get the job done just fine.
Still, if you know you don’t want to be making a second purchase in the near future, then it’s best to go ahead and opt for the best you can currently afford. There are many poorly designed hiking poles on the market, so don’t trick yourself into settling for something that you’ll later regret buying. Be sure to take your time during the comparison and selection process, and you’ll most likely be satisfied with your choice.