/ Walking poles and cold hands

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jonny taylor on 12 Dec 2013
My girlfriend struggles with cold hands in winter, and she believes this is made worse by using trekking poles. I can't comment personally as I don't use poles, but I can well believe that an "open hand" posture is colder, and that there's a limit to how insulating your gloves can be if you need to grip the poles well. She also thinks that the handles on her Leki poles, which have a fairly thin-looking cork-like surface to them, help to conduct the heat away.

Questions then to people who know more about this than me...

- Any suggestions on specific glove makes that are good with poles but very well insulated?
- Do you think the pole handles are an issue, and if so can you recommend any particularly well-insulated alternatives?
- Any other suggestions? (chemical handwarmers are of course one thing to try...)

Thanks for any suggestions
Jonny.
SethChili - on 12 Dec 2013
In reply to jonny taylor:

The thicker the grip the better , as having a hand close to cold metal will conduct heat away from you .
I'd think a skiing glove would do the job - they are designed for use with poles whilst remaining dexterous . I always combine a outer glove with a liner glove to boost the heat whilst keeping the bulk down .
I have a lovely pair a Dakine Titan gloves, very grippy and dexterous but also packed with insulation and with a zippy pocket on the outside for handwarmers (or venting if you get too hot ) . I've yet to test them in truly nasty wet mountain weather but they are goretex lined such should be ok . Expensive though - about 60 .
jezb1 - on 12 Dec 2013
In reply to jonny taylor:

Most people don't use the straps on poles properly, these should take most of the weight and reduce the need to grip tight, but yes your hands will get colder.

Someone should design a heated handle.
pog100 - on 12 Dec 2013
In reply to jonny taylor:

I definitely notice this myself. I am not sure why, but I have found that a good wind resistant layer, e.g. goretex Handbags or something similar, over a thinner glove seems to do the trick.
Andy DB - on 12 Dec 2013
In reply to jonny taylor:

Cork must be a fairly good insulator so I can't imagine conduction into the poles is an issue (as opposed to an axe head which there is a noticeable effect). It could be that holding the pole compresses the insulation in the palm so making it less effective. My only other thought is that the act of holding the pole slightly lessens blood flow to your hands therefore they get colder quicker.

As for glove my recommendation is two layers an inner glove that is thin and can be left on all day and an outer warm glove or even mittens.
Mountain Llama on 12 Dec 2013
In reply to jonny taylor: Why not go 4 mits, fine 4 poles & much warmer than gloves. Buffalo mits r cheap and v warm.

HTH Davey
jonny taylor on 12 Dec 2013
In reply to SethChili:

Thanks everyone for your comments and suggestions. Good point Andy about the conduction, I'm inclined to agree.

"Seth", do you happen to know anywhere in the UK that stocks Dakine? (the womens equivalent appears to be the Dakine Sequoia...). Only suppliers I could find were in the US (or amazon, but would be nice to check out in person at a shop...).

e.g. "Here at Cotswold Outdoor we stock a wide selection of Dakine" a wide selection of... one item!
In reply to jonny taylor:

Yes you definitely get colder hands holding poles (or an axe) than empty-handed. Your hand is still, and exposed to the wind.

Aside from better gloves, the only thing I can suggest is a pair of neoprene pole 'pogies' (a kayaker's term) - if you don;t know what they are it's a sort of cover thing that fits over the handle, you then slide your hand into it and hey presto toasty fingers even in thin gloves. I gather motor bikers have something similar. Pacerpoles is the only company I know that makes them.
SethChili - on 12 Dec 2013
In reply to jonny taylor:

Snow and rock seem to have them online - I don't know whether they have them in the shops though .
http://www.snowandrock.com/pws/UniqueProductKey.ice?ProductID=DAK0615K1&gclid=CKfVmMjeqrsCFUUOww...

I found my pair at TK MAX so it would be worth looking if you have a local store .
lnn - on 12 Dec 2013
In reply to jonny taylor:

If the poles are telescopic try setting them a little shorter. Having your hands lower helps keep the circulation going. A relaxed grip and correctly set up wrist loop should also help. Carbon poles conduct much less heat than aluminium ones so these might be worth a try.

gilliesp on 12 Dec 2013
In reply to jonny taylor:

Check she does not have the poles set too high. My mate frequently had his fingers go numb as he had the pole far to high. Hands are best kept level around waist height with refined adjustments being made as terrain varies...uphill, downhill, stream crossing etc. Also hand should rest in loop with it being very rare to really grip pole handle.

Another RAF instructor mate has a 10 point lecture on using poles. Sometimes when on greasy descents it pays dividends not to have your hands entwined in loops as a slip can result in you going down with the danger of your shoulders being dislocated as they get left behind.

Earlier suggestion to heat handle is a novel idea. Patent it quickly!!!
Ron Walker - on 12 Dec 2013
In reply to jonny taylor:
I get away with thin thermal liners and hands in my pockets when not using poles, but struggle to keep my hands warm using poles, even wearing thick mits!
As others have said keep the hands low and below the heart if she must use poles. Poles are useful in certain circumstances but a real faff a lot of the time. Too many folk especially hillwalkers seem to rely on them way too much.

maybe_si - on 12 Dec 2013
In reply to jonny taylor:

Mittens are the way forward!
patsaunders - on 12 Dec 2013
In reply to jonny taylor:

keeping your wrists warm helps alot with keeping your hands warm, either a base or mid layer with thumb loops work well or you can make your own out of old socks etc
GridNorth - on 12 Dec 2013
In reply to jonny taylor:

Mittens are much warmer than gloves and last winter I found wrist warmers very affective.
highclimber - on 12 Dec 2013
In reply to Andy DB:

> My only other thought is that the act of holding the pole slightly lessens blood flow to your hands therefore they get colder quicker.

This, and the fact that when going up hill the hands are placed even higher thus making it hard to get blood to the extremities.
altirando - on 12 Dec 2013
In reply to highclimber: Actually my hands are not higher going up hill - I still plant the poles either alongside my ankles, or on steeper sections, behind my feet to get an upward thrust. On particularly steep uphill bits I sort of turbocharge myself by double poling behind me, thrusting on the straps of course. You can actually almost release the poles except for two finger tips to get an extended push. All techniques from nordic skiing. Gloves, I find Extremeties Velo perfect, thin insulation, grippy palms.

captain paranoia - on 12 Dec 2013
In reply to jezb1:

> Most people don't use the straps on poles properly, these should take most of the weight and reduce the need to grip tight

I think gripping the handle tightly (bad technique) is, as you suggest, the likely problem here, assuming there's no circulation problem. As altirando says, your hand should only really be guiding the pole, not gripping it tightly, if you're using the strap correctly.
masa-alpin - on 13 Dec 2013
In reply to lnn:
I agree with Inn. It is true if you use walking poles your hands tend to get colder than otherwise in my experience.
I can think of a few reasons.

First, because your hands are positioned higher than just hanging freely, the circulation is limited more than otherwise, hence the hands tend to get colder.
Second, if you use the wrist loops, that will be another hinderance of the circulation, hence the hands get colder.
These two reasons are exactly the same as in climbing with leashed-tools and leash-less. The hands stay much warmer in the latter, because with leashless, (1) you don't have a circulation-constricting wrist loop and (2) you can shake out your hands easily, so you do so a lot more frequently.

Third, if you don't use poles, you can stow away your hands out of wind (to some extent) in the lee side of your body. Also, you can curl your hands inside your gloves to warm up easily. If using poles, those things are not practical, hence your hands (in gloves) are inevitably exposed to the wind and you can do very little to get the circulation back.

Fourth, although the handles of most walking-poles are reasonably insulated, they can not be better than holding nothing, namely holding your own hand (by gripping).

Fifth, when people use a pole(s), there is a tendency they don't grip but keep the hands loosely open, particularly if they use the wrist loop (strap). That does not do any good to keep the hands away from getting cold. Better keep the fist, because by doing so fingers are touching each other more or less, which helps keep the warmth.

Personally I use poles regularly, if not always, and I have got very cold hands. So, what I do is to keep the above-mentioned points in mind, and try not to do so.
For example, use a shorter length of poles (anyway, if your elbow is acuter than 90 degree, I don't think it is an effective way to use the poles). Not use poles on easy terrain and stow my hands away from the wind, such as, back of my hips or in front of my waist, depending on the wind direction.
Or, simply to walk faster can do a trick in some circumstances, as it enhances the circulation.

There are loads of tricks, which I have experimented in desperation and found over years... I am sure it is the same for any experienced winter activists. To stay warm and keep your extremities away from being frozen (it is impossible for me to keep them warm... Best I could do is to prevent them from getting useless) are a skilful job, at least for some people like me.
I hope you will find a way!
Masa
Damo on 13 Dec 2013
In reply to jonny taylor:

I'd agree with most of the above. I see it guiding in Antarctica, where it is obviously more pronounced.

- yes, set poles so hands are below the heart. You're not ski racing in the Olympics.
- yes, many people grip their poles too hard and don't let the loop take the weight
- mitts are warmer than gloves but pogies are a pain in the arse to use and are surely overkill for hillwalking
- as are chemical heat packs surely? if so, try them *above* the hand, where the veins run under thin skin
- lots of people wear their gloves too tight, especially if layered
- make sure base layers and other layers cover the wrists completely, using thumb loops if necessary
- eat enough, drink enough, keep the core warm, hydration helps circulation
- don't start off with cold hands from standing around. Windmill arms hard to get blood to fingers and hands warm before you start off

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