These Poles were Made for Walking
Why use poles? Here at Glenmore Lodge, the majority of our Instructors choose to use walking poles. Be that for a summer walk or approaching a climbing route in the summer or winter, they are never far from our side. But why?
Poles are incredibly beneficial for any adventurer needing more stability, looking for a chance to increase their endurance and reduce recovery time, or just wanting to cover the ground more swiftly.
Walking poles immediately double your contact points to the ground, thereby minimising impact on your joints and improving traction. They also allow you to use your upper body, spreading the load and reducing fatigue. By improving your posture, you will also improve your aerobic capacity – breathing more easily on long ascents or steep terrain.
It is because of this that we have been proud partners with LEKI for many years. There are many manufacturers available, but the following points to note remain constant:
The first decision to make is over the length of your poles. This should correspond to your own height. Ideally you want your forearms to rest at 90 degrees to your body when holding your poles out in front, with the tips on the ground.
On undulating terrain, you want to be able to shorten the poles depending on the steepness of a hill before you climb it to give you more leverage, and then lengthen them when heading back downhill in order to keep your body in an upright position.
Should I go for aluminium or carbon fibre poles?
Aluminium poles will always be more durable compared to carbon, that’s the nature of these two materials. However, aluminium poles will also be slightly heavier. The metal can take more knocks and is more flexible and easier to repair in the event of damage while out on the hill. Carbon is lighter, stiffer and, although strong, it needs to be treated more carefully to avoid damage.
You should consider the additional features you require before spending money on a certain type of material – what type of locking mechanism you want, whether folding or telescopic and whether or not you want anti-shock. If you are particularly tall or heavy, you may require a Carbon Strong or thicker diameter aluminium shaft to give extra strength and stability.
You can now buy walking poles that fold up – much like tent poles do. The key advantages of folding poles are their very short packed length and speed of deployment/packing. By folding them, you can stow them in your backpack when you don’t need them. It’s also easier to take them on holiday. One of LEKI’s best sellers, the Micro Vario Carbon, is a folding pole that’s fast becoming the pole of choice for many walkers and climbers.
Poles with a built-in anti-shock mechanism can reduce the impact on your wrist, elbows, shoulders and neck by up to 40 per cent compared to poles that do not incorporate this feature. However, whether you choose to have anti-shock is very much a personal preference. Anti-shock mechanisms are more beneficial on hard surfaces.
There are generally two types of locking mechanism – an internal twist lock or an external lever.
Twist locks are lighter, stronger and generally have a higher holding force.
External locks are heavier because the mechanism is bigger, but they are much easier to use when you’re half way up a mountain in driving rain and your fingers have fused together in the cold! Whichever you choose, try them out in store before you buy, with gloves on if necessary.
The design and shape of a pole’s grip is very important as it determines how comfortable the handle will feel. Poor grip choice can also lead to blisters on your hands and a very unpleasant walk.
There are typically three different options when it comes to grip material – the options are foam, cork (or CorTec in the case of LEKI) or rubber. Foam is very lightweight, warm and comfortable. CorTec, a mix of natural cork and rubber, offers good grip and can shape to the hand over time. And rubber, which on some LEKI models comes with built-in venting, is a good shock absorber and a lower cost option.
There are many new innovations occurring all the time, for example removable straps and improvements in grip systems, but ultimately it often comes down to personal choice and what feels most comfortable for you.