Tips for a smart purchase
Trekking poles have become an indispensable hiking gear. Their utility? They help you save energy relieving the load on your joints. Walking along a bumpy trail, with all roughness it presents, often leads us to overload our legs putting a lot of strain on both muscles and joints. Using the hiking poles, we take some of the effort we make, on arms and shoulders. When we walk for several days with a heavy backpack, they also become useful for better maintaining balance saving our precius joint.
Let's know better all the elements to consider in order to buy this gear.
Handle: An element not to be underestimated. It is better to choose it with a soft material that does not cause blisters or calluses while hard use. Many sticks have a coating extension similar to the handle, this is useful when, uphill for example, we have to place the trekking poles far above us preventing us from holding them at the top with a awkard position.
Adjustment and locking system: The telescopic hiking poles, as the word suggests, can be stretched and shorted according to our height and use. We have to set the right height, here are some little directions: grasping the pole handle and placing the stick perpendicular to the ground we have to form a 90° angle with our elbow, this is the right height. There are available two main blocking systems to block the sliding of the tubulars: inner screw (the most common) and screw lever. The screw system is the simplest and most widespread one (cheaper), inside each tubular there is a thread and a small helical brake that widens by screwing it acting as a brake on the tubular. The lever system instead is composed of a collar with a screw equipped with a lever locking system, similar to that used in bicycle saddles, this is more stable and safer and it should be more efficient and durable in time.
Tip and washer: The end of the pole is equipped with a metal tip with a knurled head to create greater friction on rocky surfaces and to grip on any type of terrain. The washer is positioned a few centimeters from the tip. There are mainly two washer types: one with a small diameter used in summer and on non-snowy terrain and one holed with a wider diameter used on snow-covered paths. We can exchange them depending on the terrain and season because they are screw fixed. In the first case, summer, the washer prevents the stick from slipping between the rocks or from sticking into the ground. In the second case, winter, it serves to prevent the stick from sinking into the snow.
How to use them? Here are some tips.
The sticks accompany the walk with the following coordination between arms and legs: right leg forward, left arm with trekking pole forward, it is the classic technique of Nordic Walking. Alternating arm with opposite leg you have a fluid and balanced walk and the opposite arm to the forward leg serves to give a little push by lightening our steps. This is possible on plain or easy trails, where there are no obstacles to "break" the pace. It is the basic movement of walking with sticks.
When the uphill slope is stronger (from about 20 - 25 ° upwards) it is good technique to bring both trekking poles forward in order to lighten the load on the legs and proceed uphill with less effort and greater speed. In this case, we do have to pay attention not to bring them too much forward, we do not have to bend forward our back too much otherwise we do more effort instead of save energy.
The right position is alway with our torso erected or slightly forwardly bended. When we walk on the side a steep slope, they are useful for maintaining balance.
When we make a cross on a narrow path on steep slopes, the upstream pole (e.g. on our right side there is the slope, so our pole on the right it is the one upstream) is the one on which we must rely for stability and safety. In the event of a slip, it is the one on which you need to force yourself to avoid falling. The pole downstream in this phase is only used to balance the pace. The movement is similar to the one mentioned above for a steep climb: the pole upstream must always be kept forward.