/ Walking poles- any good?
I find them very handy with a big pack to take the load off your knees, particularly in descent. There have been studies that show an improvement in efficiency through better distribution of load. For lightweight days, leave them behind as they do add clutter.
I used to be a skeptic. Got a pair of super Light Titanium leki jobs, wouldnt be without them on a Proper walk now.
On the Other Hand i Know people who dont Like them at all.
Agree with this.
Get a good set of poles (Black Diamond Trail are excellent), as cheap poles are heavy and usually fall to bits in less than 5 days!
I bought mine for distance running and when leading groups where the length of time on my feet is going to be more than a few hours. helps a great deal. I've got Black Diamond trail z-poles and they're fantastic if a little expensive.
Excellent things. I use them when out walking. Adjust them for level ground. Shorten them a bit for going uphill. Extend them a bit for going downhill. Sorted.
I find mine really useful, especially with a pack on. They help my knees a lot.
Black Diamond ones for me :)
I am also happy user of Black Diamond poles (though managed to bend lower section a wee bit and it needs a little bit more force to adjust the length, but they still work perfectly otherwise).
Helps with heavy loads on your back, makes the descent easier, helps while ascending (so you can lean forward) and you will feel way much better while crossing rivers. They are also handy while walking on boggy areas so you can "pole jump" or check how much would you get in trouble!
Cheers everybody for the replies.
I would also second the titanium leki trekking poles as they have a comfortable wrist support and are very light. They helped me with a very heavy pack to take the weight off my knees. Any other time I dont bother with them, but they are so light you might as well strap em to your bag anyway
Technique, technique, technique.
Used correctly on a multi day trip they'll save you so much grief.
Very useful especially if (like me) your knees aren't as good as they used to be. Having broken a number of cheap ones, I went for Black Diamond flick locks - twist locks can start to slip and are more difficult to adjust. I too managed to bend the bottom section, but you can get spare parts.
If it is not totally flat I will always have my poles with me. They provide great stability on uneven terrain and I can move much quicker over the ground especially if I am carrying a load. Second the black diamond flick lock type. So quick and easy to adjust and seem quite tough.
I've used Leki and Black Diamond poles, but Pacerpoles are the best for walking, I think.
please enlighten me as to this technique?
Well for a start it is NOT to shorten/lengthen the poles depending on whether you are going up or down hill. The distance to the normal plant point, by your ankles, remains the same. Actually going up hills, especially short steep ones, you might well plant the poles BEHIND your feet - a modified form of double poling used in xc skiing. And if you think about it, it would be absurd to change the length every few minutes on a switchback trail. Important to get the grip right too - the hand goes UP through the strap, the pole grip is held with thumb and fingertips, the push goes on the strap that sits under the thick edge of the palm. If you are unfamiliar with pole use, it might be worth joining a Nordic walking course for the basic action which you would modify for hill walking. This would get you familiar with the diagonal stride action with arms and legs although again you would modify the cadence for walking/running speeds so that it is not one for one. Normal hill walking speeds you would probably do a double stride for one pole plant.
Perhaps I'm doing it wrongly but I can't agree with you there. I understand what you are saying about pushing behind you, a la Nordic skiing. But only on flat ground would I push behind me as a primary technique.
When ascending steep ground, the initial plant point is well in front, on the next step up so to speak, so that shoulders can be recruited to push upwards. Descending, it is a step lower in order to lean on the pole and take weight off the knee. Of course, by the time the ankle has caught up, the plant point is neutral, but by then a good proportion of the work has been done.
I agree with you BnB. There's more to using poles simply to push oneself forward, there is also pushing oneself upward- as you say placing the pole higher up the slope ahead of you, and there is putting a longer pole below you when descending in order to provide a surer foothold and take the strain- again, nothing to do with propelling oneself.
Placing the poles by the ankle joint all the time may make for efficient forward movement but in my experience it doesn't translate well to the hill environment.
Oh, and in reply to a previous poster who said cheap poles fall apart, my 'Crane Sports' Aldi ones are several years old and seem to be an identikit copy of Lekis.
Google or You Tube, there's loads of info out there.
For me the strap is the key part of the pole, allowing the load to be spread over a greater body area.
Useful info ... https://www.thebmc.co.uk/hill-skills-using-trekking-poles
I always take poles now - they weigh hardly anything and, for me, reduce the effort needed on uphill sections.
Experiment with them to find what suits you - I found it best to shorten the poles and plant in front when going uphill so my arms can take some of the load off rubbishy old legs and knees.
Same downhill but with poles lengthened - only takes seconds to adjust and helps particularly when carrying a heavy pack.
I havent used, but have been told by many, that Pacer poles are the way forward - they are supposed to be anatomically correct for you and based on walking movement rather than snowpoles that conventional walking poles are based on. Ill be getting a set next time im out on the hill!
I'll second that. P.Poles are brilliant once you get used to their quirks. Unique design with real biomechanical advantages over a conventional pole. It's all in the handle
Just remembered after reading other replies.
In general, upper body does not do any job while hillwalking. So it is beneficial to transfer some work for upper body muscles. Clearly, legs will appreciate that. I remember that after first use I definitely noticed that my hands were more tired than usual. Also, now they just don't hang, they have something to do.
Also, keep in mind that taking photos or eating while walking is not as easy.
"I remember that after first use I definitely noticed that my hands were more tired than usual. Also, now they just don't hang, they have something to do."
Were your hands, wrists and forearms sore because you gripped the pole?
If you use the straps correctly, you barely need to grip the pole.
I hate poles and never use them- but im in the minority!
I think that my shoulders were sore, not fingers/wrists for sure.
Never been able to understand the purpose of the design. The slanted grip makes it impossible to get the most effective thrust straight down the shaft
Like them especially on long cold days out when my knees struggle a bit, especially on descents, but avoid the twist locks, they are a nightmare to use with cold hands!
It is strange to get used to initially. The trick is to plant them behind you, giving maximum push through the shoulders. If you look at how people generally use poles on the continent, it is a more efficient style. Pacerpoles lend themselves really well to this propelling motion.
I generally find poles irritating - I like having my hands free. Mind you, I'm the kind of person who finds an umbrella really irritating to use.
Having said that, I sometimes use them if carrying a heavy sac, particularly if it's a walk in to a base camp of some description.
Is the Iceland trek based on huts (so fairly light pack) or backpacking?
Yes it is using the huts for accomodation but we will be camping for a few days before so not yet sure if we will have chance to ditch the tent etc-I hope so!
Thanks for your advice. Have you been on the trail?
Cheers to everyone for the response!
No, although I've seen a TV programme about it, so that's pretty good by UKC standards ;-)
More helpfully, my experience of Iceland was that the people were very laid back and helpful, so I'd imagine negotiating somewhere to leave the tent would be easy enough (or so much open space, caching it somewhere ought to be pretty safe).
Well that's one thing we agree upon, I can't stand them myself. I don't know if we are in a minority though it's also that on these threads, which come up regularly, it's those that have bought the things who feel the need to justify them. I have tried them on difficult ground - I had some as I was lugging my skis down from a bit of ski-climbing and found they didn't help a great deal, two more things to think about, I think walking in balance is preferable. There's also the noise, the clickety-clack of a horde of Japanese tourist coming down the PYG track is enough to make your blood run cold.
Where I live is on a regular hiking path and mid-week there are always swarms of pensioners hobbling along, they mostly have poles even though the path is flat and they don't exactly move quickly - it keeps a few people in work somewhere on the planet I suppose.
Or maybe some folk are intelligent enough to make their own mind up after trying them (as you did). I tried a cheap pair and they made a massive difference to my trek (in comparison to a previous, similar trek without poles). When they broke I bought another cheap pair and tried them again, here in the UK. When they broke I decided I'd used them that much it was worth buying a decent set. I'd have had nothing to lose (or justify) by throwing the broken set away and never replacing them, and I sure as hell don't carry or use anything that I don't find to be of benefit no matter what it costs (that's what ebay is for!).
It also prevents many of those pensioners falling and injuring themselves. I've done case studies on various groups, including those with osteoporosis and spinal injuries. Falling is a big (and rightly so) fear for many, and because of this they become less active, lose co-ordination and balance, and it becomes a downward spiral. Walking poles help give balance and confidence, allowing them to remain mobile and socialise. Just something else to think about whilst they're disturbing your morning paper...
All I can say is:
Walking poles: yes
Flick lock poles: yes
After a lot of trial and error I have to admit
I did a long trek in Iceland last summer and one thing I particularly regret is not using snow baskets on my poles: they would have been really useful in the sand!
On the contrary I don't think they do, that's my main objection to them, they prevent a novice developing a good technique of walking in balance... but it's all a question of personal preference so I'll say no more.
As I said before, I have managed to bend a BD Trail Trekking Pole's bottom section. I am not sure how did I do it, but I assume it was while I was descending over quite steep scree (it wasn't safe, so relying on poles wasn't a good idea - the only safe way down was crawling, probably) and I slipped. I probably leaned on the pole a little bit too much while falling on my bum. I also managed to rip my tent's sack, so the fall was quite bad. By telling the story I tried to explain that the pole wasn't faulty and I am glad it bent not too much anyway.
I contacted BD Customer Service and I got replacement parts within a week free of charge. Great service and would recommend BD poles for everyone.
Yes, all the push goes via the thick edge of your palm on to the strap. You only need to hold the grip with thumb and fingertips. Grasping the pole handle tightly all day must be awful. It is the tricep muscle that does all the hard work. I include tricep presses in my gym routine. Makes a difference! Educational to have watched the xc skiing in the Olympics.
Iím frankly bemused by the biomechanical arguments, but purely empirically I feel poles have done a lot to extend the hill-bashing life of my elderly knees. I certainly endorse the view that theyíre a real help in river crossings. And - a new benefit - twice this past winter Iíve found fully extended poles provided something to focus on, as well as helping me with balance, in (happily short) spells of full-on, falling-over, sensory-deprivation white-out, when I was walking solo on snow plateaus in clag & dead flat light.
Totally agree with you...
I feel saddened to see even young kids being told the should use poles.
I'm a cross country and mountain skier and I'll take them on expedition when carrying a big pack or in deep snow but most of the time I'll leave them behind. I get very cold hands with them, they add lots of faff, especially in winter, and have caused shoulder elbow and wrist injuries over long term. They destroy your normal dynamic sense of balance and with groups they are a complete nightmare and safety hazard to those using them and everyone else around them.
Well said, my thoughts entirely. Fair enough if your knees are shot or you have a massive pack, but otherwise you're just robbing yourself of core stability / balance skills that would serve you well on steeper ground.
If only it were that simple!
To ger to the point where your balance skills are well developed, you'll have to develop them first.
On any accessible mountain, spend some time watching hillwalkers walking over any mildly uneven, rocky path. The sort of path that has an uneven rocky bed rising smoothly.
It is my observation that the majority of hillwalkers have poorly developed balance skills -and I'm not talking here about the level of ability needed to slackline- just that of moving efficiently over broken terrain.
Unless you're an infant, infirm, carrying a big load or have had a really long and challenging day, 'skipping' along the tips of rock on a path is usually the most efficient. But most would rather rather walk between the rocks, seeking the security of flattened soil or trampled vegetation. Pavement conditioned, they seek maximum area of contact with the ground at each step, rather than consider the inefficiency inherent. This technique I see frequently with or without poles.
The more contentious aspect of this discussion is the type of pole (n.b. I did not say 'make' of pole). Owners of poles other than Pacerpoles, who have not used pacerpoles correctly, will generally display brand loyalty, assuming that Pacerpoles are no more different to theirs than the difference between say Ford and Vauxhall.
I Beg to differ.
Most of the users of poles do so in a manner which initial propulsion is achieved by pulling the upper limb and trunk into flexion. Essentially what many walkers do without the emcumbrance of poles. So poles rob these people of less than imagined.
Pacerpoles , when used correctly, tap into the normal pattern of walking so that, they could be used to encourage balance and core stability.
But what do I base these assertions on?
I rehab people's gait as a physio and I solo walked/cycled the British 3000's in 2012, unsupported, with Pacerpoles.
My ability to move efficiently in a mountain environment without Pacerpoles
is far better than most 54 year olds. So there!
Go and have a look on the Pacerpoles website- rather than continue the discussion with my soundbite level of input.
It is the 'pulling' that is the problem and which is the wrong technique used by most walkers as commented. Plant the poles by the ankles or behind them on a steep incline upward and it is the triceps that work, pushing. It is also of course a modified version of the xc ski technique, and after all trekking poles began life as an idea from here.
Can't see how pacerpoles lend themselves to more efficient propulsion as you can't thrust down the length of the shaft. And the slanted grip almost inevitably puts the pole plant in front of the legs. OK if you are just wanting a sort of walking stick to lean on. Perhaps I have a different attitude as I had done a lot of xc skiing both on and off trail before I tried trekking poles so I automatically used the same grip and same techniques. As I have mentioned, this includes double poling up short steep inclines which almost turbocharges you. As you say. Of course the timing is different. The basic diagonal stride in xc skiing is geared to long glides. Walking, it is usually one pole plant to a double stride. Jogging is probably a double stride and a half.As to the balance thing, I find poles are immensely helpful moving rapidly on a variable surface, stones etc, as I am usually wearing running or trail shoes which don't give such a solid foot plant as do boots with rigid soles. I purposely include tricep presses in my gym routine as this is the muscle used. I am so used to poles I even take them on a short hour's local brisk walk as they give the shoulders and upperbody a workout too.
Agreed (your 23.28 post,not your reply to Lorraine.)
In the past I've tried to explain this, and the advantages that derive, as simply as possible, when comments are passed about my Pacerpoles, which facilitate the improved pattern of propulsion and carriage of the body.
Generally, it appears to fall on deaf ears. I suppose it could be the way I try to get the information across.
But I tend to think the closed mind has more to do with a mix of things-
The person using their maladaptive pole technique is getting from A to B by walking. They've done 'walking' for decades without interference or advice, so they don't need it now, thank you very much.
Advertising and availability- many choose conventional Black Diamond/Leki poles because that's what Cotswold sells, not Pacerpoles. This is for commercial reasons, not because those makes are better for the user.
Magazine reviews-there's only so much you can say about a pole, or a pair of boots. Many journalists are no different in their ignorance of pole technique. So their focus is on the irrelevancies of weight, colour etc.
'Monkey see, monkey do'. Instinctively, people use conventional poles in an inefficient method (barring altirando and a few others)-the design of conventional poles encourages this. Granted, any pole'll take some load off their knees, so in their mind there's nothing wrong in the poles or their use of them.
Although Pacerpoles facilitate improved technique, they do not guarantee it. The other month ( might have been on UKC) I saw a video trailer (?Cairngorms)featuring Chris Townsend. The man's a legend, but on the basis of that clip, and presuming he hasn't got an undisclosed spinal problem, he could get even more efficiency out of his poles if he used them correctly!
I'm sure Lorraine'll be along in a minute. But whilst I'm on this thread, I have to say that, in my experience, you're wrong on both counts.
"OK if you are just wanting a sort of walking stick to lean on."
Pacepoles can be used like that if you're minded.
" Perhaps I have a different attitude as I had done a lot of xc skiing both on and off trail before I tried trekking poles so I automatically used the same grip and same techniques. As I have mentioned, this includes double poling up short steep inclines which almost turbocharges you."
Sometimes, when really slogging up steep bits, particularly when tired, you can end up sort of 'double poling' with any pole. I've found it generally happens when your legs have had it. It keeps the momentum going, but it's at a cost of loss of trunk rotation and consequent reduced balance. For me, the pole plant does tend to migrate forward in such a scenario.
"I purposely include tricep presses in my gym routine as this is the muscle used. I am so used to poles I even take them on a short hour's local brisk walk as they give the shoulders and upperbody a workout too".
I guess it depends whether you want to walk briskly and efficiently from A to B (pacerpoles) or have a work out/ expend unneccesary energy by strenuous use of your upper limbs.
If you took my poles away from correct 'Pacerpole gait', My gait pattern would not be altered to the same degree as would be the case in XC poling technique.
This is a much better technical description than I could ever hope to reach. I love my poles and they help lots. I do like going out without poles now and then when I am not carrying a big pack. I see people using poles wrongly a lot of the time and this looks clumsy. I also see a lot of people not using them who are new to walking looking clumsy. I have given poles away on the hill to clients who are struggling and find they are relieved to have the support. I have also found that when I have given my poles away on an uphill section I am suddenly working much harder.
For me when used properly they really help balance, efficiency and speed.
Each to their own though.....
Definitely agree with your last two sentences. And yes I do have Black Diamond for more alpine terrain but I prefer my Alpkit carbon fibre poles for zipping along easy trails. Still can't quite understand the logic of Pacerpoles though. The hand up through the strap, holding the grip just with thumb and fingertips automatically places the hand and wrist in a natural position. And you don't have to 'grasp' the handle or clench the fist. I did a multi day traverse of the Vercors plateau once and I was never conscious of actually carrying anything.
And I would just add - poles seem to turn me almost into a four-footed animal.
Have you actually tried using Pacerpoles?
Fair point, only picked them up in a shop. But as I said, I am very accustommed to xc ski poles, my hands are used to the light grip, and again, the thrust is down the length of the poles not across the axis so much more effective. And the push doesn't depend on gripping the pole grips tightly.Oh, the traverse of the Vercors was of course on skis. Lot of thrusting there. Not sure how Pacerpoles would cope with hopping along a rocky alpine trail either.
I'd used Leki poles (1 got lost) and BD ones (one broke) before buying my PPs for a long walk half way across Iceland last summer. I agree with you about how to get the maximum propulsion out of poles: at that the PPs were excellent, and they require very little gripping at all - in fact, you can flick them, albeit in a different way, just as you can strapped poles with a vertical handle.
They can be placed pretty precisely in rocky terrain but it's a technique that has to be learned, and they are safer than strapped poles too, imo, because if you do trip or whatever, you can let the pole go and so not risk a broken wrist.
Not sure I'd use any poles in more tricky, scrambly terrain: they can be too much of a (risky) nuisance.
stand on a weighting scales, then stand on with poles in each hand and you will be surprised at how much weight they take off your legs.
Just been out for a quick hour with poles. Took the opportunity to try a little experiment. Grasped them tightly, clenched fist, elbow in to waist, horizontal forearm - they automatically went into an angle similar to that of the Pacerpole grips and the points planted by my ankles. I think this is where Pacer thinking went wrong, in assuming poles have to be upright when planted. So they slanted the grips. This would have put the pole plant in front of my feet.
Of course this is where many people wrongly plant their poles, often reaching right forward and even tilting their wrists back, then levering themselves forwards.
So Pacer Poles are perfect for people who don't know how to use poles properly, making it easier to use them wrongly in fact. Which I suppose is some form of success. Can't understand the comment about broken wrists. If you are only holding the pole between thumb and fingertips your grip automatically releases in a fall. And I am not sure of the precise placing. And don't poles reduce the risk of falls?
Your turn Lorraine. Sounds as though you lead nordic walking groups?
Check out the websites I linked to higher up in the thread. Quite a bit of design has gone into PPs and I've certainly never found them planting anywhere other than where you describe they should. But of course, it's always possible that all the people who endorse them on the website are just like me and don't know how to use poles properly.
Broken wrists? From getting wrists trapped in the strap when falling awkwardly. I am sure poles do reduce falls but they don't eliminate them and they can cause them, eg when their tips get trapped between rocks when fully loaded and the user is moving rapidly - which is how my BD pole got broken.
But I am sure we can agree that getting the most out of poles, whatever the design, requires them to be used correctly.
i got a cheap pair of leki poles, absolutely brilliant. after all a four wheel drive is better than two. taking the time before you go to get into the rhythm of walking with poles tho will serve you well.
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