The need for trekking poles is frequently questioned by new and even experienced hikers and mountaineers. They wonder if hikers and explorers traversing difficult terrain used poles or contemporary equipment and question why such gear is required. After all, humans have evolved to do one thing really well: trekking across the globe. However, efficiency gains can be obtained by utilizing current equipment. For example, take a look at a contemporary hiking boot or trail running shoe. Hikers can wear whatever they choose to walk on trails, but if they want to walk long distances through broken terrain and enjoy the experience with the least amount of physical suffering, then a hiking shoe is the obvious choice.
Trekking poles can be said to be descended from the ordinary walking stick or wanderer’s staff. These poles are typically used by hikers for the same reasons i.e. to provide some rhythm to their walking speed and some extra support. They aren’t essential on flat, smooth terrain, but they can boost the amount of workout a hiker gets. However, on less stable terrain or steep hills, they give useful lateral stability, and many people use them to relieve knee discomfort, although a prescribed staff would be a better option if you intend to use it for this purpose. Trekking Poles can be used as climbing aids to investigate the depth of mud or water, ease a crossing, and for many other reasons which we will get into in-depth.
Tips and Benefits of Using a Trekking Pole
How can you have a more pleasant climbing experience on the heights without injury or danger? There are still people who believe that Trekking poles (otherwise known as hiking poles, mountaineering sticks or walking poles, and climbing batons) are only for those who are old or have leg injuries, but this belief is completely wrong. If you are a mountaineer and hiker, you must have felt the importance of batons in your plans. A trekking pole or a climbing stick will be your best friend on uneven, uphill, and downhill paths.
The trekking pole (climbing stick) is one of the most essential and at the same time the most basic tools that you should have with you when climbing. Nowadays, many climbers use the trekking pole on long journeys and winter climbs, and the trekking pole plays the role of 2 additional auxiliary legs for them on the mountain, and its popularity is increasing day by day. It is very important that the trekking poles are used correctly so as not to injure the climber.
A trekking pole or a climbing stick is a tool to help maintain the energy and balance of a climber while walking on uneven paths. At first glance, it may seem like a simple tool that is only necessary for the elderly, but if you have the experience of walking rocky paths, you will change your mind.
A climbing stick reduces the pressure on the back and legs from the ground. In this way, it helps to maintain your energy and physical strength.
Using this tool, you can avoid obstacles while moving or learn about the depth of snow and sand.
This tool has other functions such as defending against wild animals, use as a tent pole, or support to relieve fatigue.
The Essentials of Using a Trekking Pole
Climbing is one of the most popular sports in the world. But before climbing, you must know important principles, for example, the principles of correct walking and stepping in mountaineering, the principles of nutrition in the mountains, etc. On the other hand, you should bring equipment that will sometimes be your savior: climbing shoes, climbing gloves, gaiters, etc. A trekking pole is also one of the necessary tools for mountaineering, especially for long hikes and winter climbs.
In this category of programs, factors such as long distance, long time, and heavy load require the use of a trekking pole. The use of a trekking pole in this type of mountain climbing (crossing ridges, chain climbs, etc.), can transfer part of the climber’s weight to the hands and upper body and reduce the risk of knee injuries.
In winter climbs, the use of a trekking pole is necessary, and not having it with you can cause serious problems. In this type of climbing, the trekking pole is used to check the depth of the snow, increase balance and reduce pressure on the knee and prevent slipping, etc. Of course, keep in mind that it is necessary to carry an ice pick or an ice ax on steep and icy paths, and a trekking pole cannot replace it.
Note: If you are carrying a heavy backpack, be sure to use trekking poles in pairs to maintain balance.
Trekking poles reduce and transfer about 30 tons of weight and pressure from your knees.
The Benefits of Using a Climbing Trekking pole
Trekking poles transfer several tons of weight from the lower body to the hands for every hour of climbing activity. This device reduces and transfers about 30 tons of weight and pressure from your knees for one day of heavy climbing activity.
Reducing the pressure caused by the body weight on the legs and knees, reducing fatigue, and transferring part of the body weight to the hands, which are generally resting during mountaineering.
Increasing the sense of balance, and preventing slipping or falling, especially in long-term climbing programs with excessive fatigue. The trekking pole is particularly handy when carrying heavy backpacks on long-term or winter programs, in aiding heavyweight climbers, relieving existing discomfort of joints and spine
Using a trekking pole helps to prevent excessive heart rate increase at the beginning of the activity and at the start of climbing (but after a while this decrease in heart rate does not continue due to the activity of the muscles of the arms and legs)
The benefits of using these climbing poles are more than you might expect. Apart from increasing your stability and balance, they also help redistribute the load from your legs to your arms and upper body. Trekking poles can be used in other cases, such as:
– When crossing a river: When you are hiking around rivers or streams, sometimes you have to cross a river to reach your destination. Maybe you’ve seen the difficulty of crossing a river path while maintaining your balance and stability but with two trekking poles in your hands, you can easily cross the river.
– Using it as a tent pole: If you are planning a light and short-term mountaineering or nature tour, you can make a canopy for yourself with only a cloth and a pair of trekking poles.
– Defending yourself against animal attacks: Sometimes when you go to the heights, different animals may appear on your way, not necessarily all of them domesticated. With a pair of trekking poles, you can defend yourself against wild animals.
– Use of a trekking pole in first aid: many climbers may experience a fracture or loss of part of their or their friends’ legs during the program, in this situation they can use their trekking pole to stabilize the injured or broken limb (splint). ) and… use the pole as a splint. Some trekking poles with high resistance can be used to carry injured people.
– Leaning on a trekking pole to relieve fatigue: Walking with a heavy backpack puts extra pressure on your body. We suggest that you relieve your fatigue by taking regular breaks. In this case, you can lean on your trekking poles and restore some of your lost energy, even if it’s just for a minute or two, this will help a lot to relieve your fatigue.
– Helping to maintain the rhythm of your movement: Using the trekking pole makes your hands and feet synchronize together, making you walk at a higher speed and encouraging you to take longer steps. Using a trekking pole can be a huge advantage for climbers who have multi-day programs and need to finish their program according to the set time.
– Avoiding vegetation on the way: Sometimes climbers encounter various types of vegetation along the way, which are obstacles in front of them. With the help of their trekking pole, they can overcome these obstacles without destroying the plants.
In this kind of mountain climbing (crossing ridges, climbing chains, etc.), the trekking pole can transfer part of the mountaineer’s weight to the hands and upper body.
Disadvantages of Improper Use of Trekking Poles While Climbing
Improper use of the trekking pole: if the distance between the body and the trekking pole is large, you may stretch your limbs, and end up feeling pain and discomfort.
The use of trekking poles reduces the feeling of balance: the continuous use of a trekking pole reduces the coordination ability of the climber. As for frequent use of the trekking pole, the climber feels more secure. This effect is destructive and causes a person to have problems in areas that are difficult to pass, especially where he cannot use a trekking pole, for example, in narrow mountain blades and cliff paths. (The most common climbing accident: falling is due to slipping during descent).
Reduces Physiological Protective Mechanisms: Continuous use of trekking poles reduces the physiological stretch stimulation that is required to nourish the articular cartilage and exercise and maintain the elastic state of the joint.
Increased heart rate: due to the activity of larger muscles in the upper limbs and hands
Not being comfortable while taking pictures or filming in mountaineering programs: Of course, this is not a medical reason, but it can have risks for the climber.
Types of Trekking Poles
Fixed (ski stick): nowadays it is not used for climbing.
Adjustable (telescopic): Telescopic trekking poles are better and safer in terms of efficiency in climbing because telescopic trekking poles have the important ability to adjust the height of the trekking pole. In navigation, we must use the adjustable button (telescopic) to adjust it for different conditions. In mountaineering, it is necessary to use a pair of trekking poles (2 poles).
Normal trekking pole: These types of trekking poles are more resistant to damage, due to their construction. Although these types of trekking poles transmit successive blows from the ground to your hand and cause some fatigue. If your physical ability allows, it is better to use these types of trekking poles. Especially in very heavy and alpine climbers, because the possibility of trekking pole damage is minimized.
Anti-shock trekking pole: due to the spring used in these trekking poles, they are more effective in terms of reducing the impact and pressure on the hands and causing fatigue in consecutive blows to the hands.
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As shown in the figure below, the components of the button are:
Support strap: There is an adjustable strap on the top of the trekking pole handle, the hand must pass through the support strap and grab the handle, to distribute the weight force on the wrist.
The main body: The body of most trekking poles consists of three parts and is made of steel alloys (heavy and very resistant), aluminum alloy (light and low resistance) or titanium (light and very resistant) and recently carbon fibers (very light and very resistant). 2 or 3 parts that slide into each other two by two and create a telescopic state.
Lock system: This part of the trekking pole is responsible for adjusting the size of the trekking pole. It opens by turning it to the left and closes it to the right.
Adjusting the Size (Height) of the Trekking Pole
The height of the trekking pole should be adjusted according to the person’s height and the path’s slope. When you hold the rod in your hand and its end is on the ground, your hand’s and forearm’s open angle (elbow) should be 90 degrees. Taking this into account, according to the slope of the route, it is clear that the size of the pole during the ascent is smaller than its size during the descent.
At the beginning of the movement, look at the path’s general slope and adjust the bar’s height accordingly. In snowy, sandy, or muddy tracks, the height of the trekking pole is calculated from the place it penetrates, because the pole sinks into the snow and the height of the pole is reduced.
When using the trekking pole, be careful so that it is as close as possible to the perpendicular line of the body. It doesn’t matter if one or two poles are used when walking without carrying luggage and a backpack. But two poles must be used to maintain balance in carrying heavy loads.
The height of both trekking poles should be the same, except in special circumstances, for example, when you traverse a route, the poles that are at the foot of the mountain are shorter than the poles that are at the foot of the valley.
The Special Trick to Adjusting the Pole Size
In adjusting the height of the trekking pole, first, take out the third part of the body (the thinner part) to the end of the limit and take adjust the second part for the final adjustment of the height of the pole. The benefit of this is that the next time, to change the height of the button, you can only change the second part, and this makes it much easier. Of course, this action is recommended for high-quality trekking poles that have used strong and light alloys. As we have already mentioned the body material of the poles is made of 4 types of material: aluminum, steel, titanium, and carbon, which respectively go towards lightness and more resistance.
A Few Tips on Using Trekking Poles
Never use trekking poles alone in the long term because it will cause complications to your body.
Using a trekking pole in climbing should not be permanent and become a habit. Also, it should not be used on all routes, particularly for children and teenagers.
The use of the button is not good on paths with a low slope. Also in technical or steep tracks. Also, an ice pick or ice ax should be used on steep snowy paths.
Avoid running on slopes and taking long steps, and use a rope as help and support on narrow and dangerous paths.
Carry and use the trekking pole in such a way that if you need your hands and don’t need the pole, you can easily put it in your backpack. In this case, place the sharp part of the pole down so that it does not pose a danger or disturb the climber on your back.
Choose climbing programs according to your physical ability.
Trekking Pole Care and Maintenance
When Your work with the trekking pole is finished, clean the body, the tip, and other parts of the baton first with a cloth and then collect them.
At the time of carrying the backpack, the button should be placed upwards and the protective tires should be placed on the bag.
Never lubricate the joints of the trekking pole. If it gets greasy, the pole joints will loose their strenght.
The reputable brands Black Diamond and Leki sell spare parts such as rubber tips, snow flowers, pole joints, etc.
New Studies on the Benefits of Mountaineering Sticks
According to studies done at the University of Northumbria, it was found that trekking poles help maintain the muscle function of climbers while significantly reducing the pain of the following days of climbing.
In this study, 37 male and female athletes were divided into two groups of equal fitness and asked to climb and descend Mount Snowdon, the highest mountain in England and Wales. Among one group, they were taught how to adjust and use trekking poles, while the other group hiked without any climbing stick. Both groups ate the same food the night before, ate the same breakfast, carried the same weight, and had the same scheduled breaks during the ascent and descent. The heart rate of the participants and the perceived exertion rating of each person were recorded during the hike. Then, at the end of the mountain hike and at intervals of 24, 48, and 72 hours, the muscle damage and function were evaluated through various tests.
The results showed: that the group using trekking poles had much less muscle pain. This group had also lost less energy and power and had a faster recovery rate immediately after mountain climbing than the other group. The self-assessed pain increased in each group at 24 hours, but it was significantly lower in the trekking pole-carrying group both at this time and at 48 hours. In addition, creatine kinase enzyme levels (an indicator of muscle damage) at 24 hours were significantly higher in the no-bar group, while enzyme levels in the bar group were close to pre-walk levels. This shows that the muscle damage they had was negligible.
“The results provide strong evidence that trekking poles reduce the extent of muscle damage almost to the point of complete disappearance during a one-day hike,” says study lead author Dr. Glenn Huatsen.
Preventing muscle damage is likely to improve (a person’s) motivation and therefore allow people to enjoy the benefits of exercise for a more extended period. Probably the most crucial advantage is that the combined benefits of using the trekking pole are: reducing pressure on the lower body, increasing stability, and reducing muscle damage can help avoid injuries in the days after the march.
Often, decreased reaction time and sense of position, along with damaged muscles, cause falls and slips, leading to further injury on mountainous or uneven terrain. These findings benefit athletes who want to do several days of activity in mountainous terrain.
Tips for Buying Trekking Poles
The climbing cane should be made of a material that is light and has sufficient and necessary strength. They are often made of aluminum and carbon.
The pole should be adjustable in height. For this purpose, they usually either have a latch or increase the size by two to three stages by rotating the body of the cane.
Some types of climbing canes have anti-shock capabilities. This feature makes it possible to reduce the pressure on the legs and waist when crossing uneven paths, but according to some, this work causes the pressure to be transferred to the wrists.
The handle of the climbing cane should ergonomically provide comfortable and safe use conditions for the hand. Also, its material should be such that it prevents hand wear and sweating.
Stick mud or ice mud is a tool to prevent the stick from sinking into the cracks and crevices between the rocks.
The tip of a trekking pole is the pointed end and is covered with a plastic cap to prevent damage to the body or the backpack when you don’t need it.
Trekking poles are designed and produced individually or in pairs. Single batons are usually used in areas with few uphill and downhill slopes. Paired rods are used during climbing and multi-day ascents with many uneven paths.
Different Types of Climbing Poles
Telescopic trekking poles are the most common poles and can be resized based on the person’s height and the slope of the route. This setting makes people feel less uncomfortable, although care should be taken to adjust the pole size so that the elbow is bent at a 90-degree angle. This type of walking stick is very suitable for ascents and descents with many ups and downs.
Remember, your climbing pole should be long enough to keep your upper body upright and have a 90-degree angle at the elbow when the tip is on the ground. A climbing pole that is short for your height will cause you to arch your back while using it, which can lead to neck and back pain. Therefore, you should choose a cane that allows you to adjust it according to your height and body anatomy.
Folding Trekking Poles:
Folding poles typically have three or four pieces of fixed length twisted on a string so that the pieces do not separate. The advantage of this type of pole is that they take up very little space in the backpack when folded and are produced with the aim of quick disassembly and reassembly. This type of pole is designed for sky-running events and those who run in the mountains, which is the fastest way to use the trekking pole.
Trekking poles can be resized and locked in three ways:
Latch: This type of locking system is usually located on the cane handle, which you can increase or decrease the height by pressing the latch.
Screw: You can increase or decrease the height of the trekking poles, which can change the size of a screw at any stage by twisting the body of the baton and moving it downwards.
Clip: There is a clip on the body of the trekking pole that opens the pin to set the desired height and closes it again.
To buy a trekking pole, you should pay attention to many things because it will impact the quality of your climbing. So be sure to consider the following:
Body Material :
For most climbers and nature walkers, the type of pole is of particular importance because it is directly related to the weight of the climbing sticks. For this reason, they are generally made of aluminum and carbon, which, in addition to being light, also have good strength. Of course, there are differences between these materials, which we will explain now:
Carbon (Fiber Carbon):
As you know, the lightness and strength of the equipment you use during mountaineering and trekking programs are essential because this equipment should not tire you and take your energy but should taher restore your lost energy as quickly as possible. Carbon fiber poles are what you need during your programs. Carbon is very light, which can significantly benefit longer-distance climbers. In addition, the carbon absorbs shock vibration caused by contact with the ground, so it does not hurt your wrist.
Trekking poles made with aluminum are more stable and cost-effective but somewhat heavier. If you put too much pressure on them or misuse them, they may bend, but they can be easily shaped.
The internal shock absorption mechanism is one of the popular features of a trekking pole. But this ability to climb batons has advantages and disadvantages, which has caused a difference of opinion between climbers and nature walkers about its use or not. A spring is installed in the inner part of the handle of this type of pole, which transfers the pressure applied to the ankles and knees to the hand. This anti-shock mechanism is activated when descending and easily deactivated when not used. The primary purpose of designing a climbing cane with anti-shock capability is to maintain balance and increase energy storage during movement. But in contrast to its positive features, it also has disadvantages. As mentioned, when the pressure caused by the movement is transferred to the hands, it may cause damage to the hand and especially the wrist. When moving on hard surfaces and at high altitudes, it is undoubtedly challenging to use anti-shock batons because their vibration may disturb your balance. Therefore, it is suggested to use this type of cane on downhill paths and soft surfaces
Trekking poles with anti-shock capabilities can be dangerous for people with joint pain or fractures; that’s why trekking poles with this mechanism are not very popular with professional climbers.
The handle of any hiking and climbing baton you choose should be in such a way that it can be held comfortably. It should also be made of suitable materials to avoid discomfort or pain during use. Trekking pole handles are simple and stick-shaped and generally made of cotton, foam, and plastic, the purpose of which is to make them comfortable and prevent your hands from slipping.
The handle of some trekking poles has Left and Right, and according to the slope of the path, they are designed in an arched way, which helps to navigate the track more easily.
Cork: If you are one of those people whose hands are constantly sweating, cork handles can be the best option due to their moisture absorption and reduce slips to a great extent.
Plastic: poles with plastic handles absorb the cold, so they are not recommended in the cold seasons of the year.
Foam: Similar to a cork handle, foam handles absorb moisture well and are also very soft and flexible. Other than being comfortable, they do not slip from your hands, even more so than cork, but are generally more prone to damage.
You’ve probably seen trekking poles with foam at the handle’s bottom. Using foam on the body of a climbing stick has an advantage that you may not be aware of; for example: In the cold season and during climbing programs, you will reach a point where you don’t have time to change the size of the baton. In this case, you can hold the bottom of the baton handle and prevent your glove from sticking to the baton body.
There is usually a tiny detachable piece at the end of the tip of the poles to prevent them from sinking into loose and weak surfaces. These small but functional pieces make it easier for climbers to navigate and are produced in two forms: sand or stone and snow or ice.
The sharp point is at the end of the pole, and a cap is designed for it so that when you don’t need to use the pole, you can use it to cover the surface of the pole so that it doesn’t get damaged anywhere.
The straps designed on the top of a climbing stick ensure that your palm properly holds the cane handle and prevents you from losing power when your palm sweats or shakes.
Pole straps are made with durable, stretchy material that you can loosen or tighten to fit correctly around your wrist. One feature of the straps is that you can keep the pole on your wrist at any angle. But what is the proper method of holding a pole strap?
First, keep the pole straps facing up. Then wrap the hand from the bottom inside and hold the pole handle, so the strap is behind your wrist. And finally, fasten the band on your wrist, but not so much that it bothers you and causes your skin to wear.
Maybe you have asked the question, what is the advantage of using pole straps correctly?
When you go climbing in winter, it may be difficult for you to use gloves and poles at the same time. Because, in this case, you cannot hold the pole continuously for hours. When you hold the pole strap correctly, you can use your climbing stick even with your fingers when there are no steep slopes in front of you. Sometimes you find yourself in areas where you don’t need your climbing stick for a few minutes. So you can drop the pole handle and carry it with you.
Walking with a trekking pole has principles that every hiker and hiker must follow to navigate the path better:
– The foot, pole, foot, pole movement
– The pole, pole, foot, foot movement
The mountaineers carry out these principles of movement according to whether their path is uphill or downhill and what rhythm they believe to be appropriate. Of course, you should be careful that the distance between the trekking pole and the body is as small as possible, and the steps taken during landing should be relatively relaxed and stretched, but not so much as to cause muscle strain and fatigue.
One of the points that may not be paid much attention to is cleaning the trekking pole after the activities. We recommend separating the trekking pole parts after finishing your programs, then washing and drying them with a cloth and warm water. You can use a toothbrush to clean the spring and latches to get all the dust between them.
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