Spotlight - equipment views and reviews from the AK team
Take a hike
By Jay Oram
17, Aug, 2015
Trekking poles can help reduce fatigue when you are out walking, Jay runs through tips to get you walking further for longer
As a young lad a set of poles were thrust into my hand to carry on my first mountain overnight trip. I tried them for the first 500m then got fed up and carried them the whole way. A bit later in life 4-5 days into a big walk and with a bigger rucksack on my back, I came to a steep descent with a 25kg bag. First of all I was glad a friend had a set of poles he wasn't using, secondly it would have been a lot easier if I had got some practice in. They do feel a bit funny the first time you use them, but they really can make you a bit quicker, a bit more stable and a lot safer with heavier loads.
We have a couple of poles in our range.. the really lightweight Carbonlites and the soon to arrive Compact Ultra.
Setting up your pole
When using the Carbonlite twist lock poles unscrew the bottom section of pole anti-clockwise, pull out and lock back into position at the STOP line. To lock back into position rotate clockwise until hand tighten, do not overtighten as they could become jammed or worse, damage the pole. Then adjust the second section by twisting anti-clockwise - we will look at the perfect height in the next section.
The strap on the Carbonlite is super simple, but really effective - put your hand up through the bottom of the strap and bring the hand down over the strap and handle. Adjust the length of the strap by pulling the top section of strap through the plastic retainer. You should be comfortably on the grip, don't overtighten the strap and stop the blood going to your hand, but make sure it comfortably supportive. You should be able to relax your grip and your wrist should take the majority of the weight.
The Compact Ultra pole is really easy to set up - pull the bottom section of pole out and let the connectors fit together, a small ball should pop out and lock the pole sections into place. The top section does all the adjustment with a simple snap lock. With an elasticated cuff and wrist support the strap should be comfortable in a open handed position.
Top Tip - Don't forget to adjust the straps if you are putting gloves on, it is often best to do this in your nice warm house before venturing out for a winter walk. It can be a bit fiddly when out on the hill!
Setting the length of your pole can make the day much more comfortable, when walking along flat or moderate gradients set the pole length so the pole tip is touching the floor when your hand is in the strap and your elbow is bent at 90º - most of the time this is perfect.
When using your poles they should be behind you pushing you forward, we've heard stories of more efficiency if you do opposite leg/opposite arm or vice versa, find what is comfortable to keep you going.
On technical uphills it is worth shortening your poles, when climbing steps or continually reaching over rocks it is less tiring if your arms are not stuck high up in the air. But for steeper ground or long uphill sections leave your poles at 90º arm length as they can be used to push you uphill.
When going downhill extend your poles as long as you dare - they should be used as brakes, place your hands on top of the handles and use them to brace on the way down. This is most peoples main purpose for poles, helping take the strain off a heavy rucksack on the descent or to help take some weight and shock off your knees.
What else have I learned?
Relax - let the poles do the work, that's why you bought them.
Know when to put them away - after the walk in to a scramble it can be tempting to keep going and drag your poles for a bit, but it can make it awkward when things get steeper. Scrambling on grade 2 / 3 will certainly need you to pop the poles away, hands are definitely more reliable than poles for balance on steep rock
Keep them clean - make sure to dry them out after use, pop a bit of oil on the screw thread of each pole after a Summer of walking and let us know if you need any spares.
Now get out and have fun walking!