Trekking Poles: Selecting a Pair (Part 3)

8:19 p.m. on June 29, 2010 (EDT)
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This thread is for comments on the article "Trekking Poles: Selecting a Pair (Part 3)"

To narrow down the choices available at your local outfitter and find the right pair of poles for you and your treks, consider hiking style and terrain, your body, special features, and your budget.

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11:29 a.m. on July 1, 2010 (EDT)
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Then there are folks like me who have several sets of hiking poles for different types of terrain and travel. For example, I use 3-section poles for expeditions where I have to travel by plane and thus require compact packing. For my daily hikes, where I don't want to keep beating my more expensive poles, I use a pair of cheap REI poles I got on one of their sales (I do NOT recommend those poles for serious hiking - my Lekis, which I have reviewed on Trailspace, and Black Diamond Expeditions are what I use on expeditions and serious, long hikes, mostly the Lekis these days).

On poles that double as monopods - be very careful when selecting these. My first camera monopod/hiking pole was a fold-up model that used a bungee to hold it in its unfolded configuration. It had a number of problems. First was that it was not adjustable, though it folded compactly for storage and carrying. Second was that the bungee was not really strong enough to hold the pole in assembled mode - if the tip got caught in a crevice between rocks or roots, for example, the lower section would get left behind, separating it from the middle section. When you noticed the pole pulling back and backed up to free the lower section, it wouldn't quite line up, resulting in a comical floppy multipole. Third was that as a monopod, the stability left a lot to be desired.

The major high quality camera tripod manufacturers (Gitzo, Manfrotto, Giottos), as well as the less expensive ones (Slik, etc), make monopods and unipods that are primarily camera stands, not hiking poles. And they can be much more expensive than hiking poles. Some have fold-out legs at the bottom to form a stand, though these are nowhere as stable as a true tripod (very easy to knock over, dropping your expensive DSLR onto the rocks). And they are sold as single poles, meaning you end up borrowing a regular hiking pole from your "other set", and thus being unbalanced, though not as much so as hiking with a single pole.

The monopod/hiking pole I have been using for awhile is one from Leki. It has a shock absorber in it and a positive twist lock. I almost always lock the shock absorber out. It has proven very satisfactory for those cases where I wanted the camera support (such as on Kilimanjaro). I have had several discussions with Elder (a Leki rep who posts here from time to time) about the mixed pole question. He strongly makes the point that mixed pole types is not a good idea for numerous reasons. I tend to agree, but when you need a monopod, rather than carrying the extra weight of a tripod, that's the compromise you have to make.

On the other hand, a monopod is not a full substitute for a tripod. So there are times when you have to use your regular hiking poles and carry a good tripod. I sometimes use my Gitzo Traveler (very light weight, but quite sturdy), and sometimes (as on the upcoming Easter Island trip next week) take the Gitzo Mountaineer (still pretty light, but sturdier, plus I can hang a water jug on the hook under the center pole to make it more solid).

1:44 p.m. on July 1, 2010 (EDT)
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re monopods: I suspect the people must tempted to buy one are using smaller compact digital cameras, but I can't help thinking that holding my point-and-shoot would be only marginally less shaky on top of a single pole.

I strongly suspect that for best results with a monopod, you need the weight of a big SLR, which would provide a bit of gravitational stability that you'd never get from a compact.

I've seen professional photos using monopods at football games with those huge long lenses that must weigh 10 pounds -- I can see where it might work better with that heavy rig.

9:19 p.m. on July 1, 2010 (EDT)
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Hi Bill

I recommend those gorilla pods (?) that spider around the top of the poles.

Bipods prop easily, and a spare stick makes a tripod.

I always suggest paired trekking poles over single staff for anything except short distance hiking...birding for example.

Have you tried the Stickpic yet..pretty cool.

It fits the pole tip and allows you to include yourself in the shot..or not.

11:27 p.m. on July 1, 2010 (EDT)
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I have a stick pic ordered, I'm eager to try it out.

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