Trekking poles vs. hiking staff

12:19 p.m. on February 20, 2016 (EST)
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I bought a cheap pair of trekking poles from Wal mart. I've used a hiking staff for over 20 years. Do u have a advantage useing poles over a stick? I am old school and some habits are hard to break. But I am willing to try new ways. Thank you for your advice.

1:17 p.m. on February 20, 2016 (EST)
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One advantage of a pole over a wooden staff----when hitchhiking, I can break the pole down and fit it easier into a vehicle.......i wouldn't want to leave my wooden staff behind if it didn't fit in car and/or someone objecting...

also, with a pole---I can extent it fully which makes fording a creek a little easier.....

5:39 p.m. on February 20, 2016 (EST)
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Poles are lightweight, packable, and adjustable. Depends what you do. Casual backpacking, staff is probably fine, maybe even easier as you have one hand free. Scrambling and mountaineering, you arent going to take a staff.

8:07 p.m. on February 20, 2016 (EST)
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I've never used either but I've been told the poles make carrying heavy loads easier,now that's what I've been told so I maybe very wrong. 

8:49 p.m. on February 20, 2016 (EST)
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Trekking pole straps are designed to efficiently transfer the weight off of the smaller muscles and bones of your wrist. Ideally you are barely, or lightly, gripping the handles.

Also they are usually significantly lighter, which can add up on longer distance hikes (kind of an irrelevant point over shorter day hikes). 

10:57 p.m. on February 20, 2016 (EST)
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Jake W said:

Trekking pole straps are designed to efficiently transfer the weight off of the smaller muscles and bones of your wrist. Ideally you are barely, or lightly, gripping the handles.

 ^This. Many people don't understand how to use the straps on trekking poles as they are designed to be used. They are *not* to help you hold onto the poles in case you drop them, they actually are intended to be the main way you push down on the poles. It's a totally different way of transferring weight to grasp a staff in your hand vs. push down on the straps with your whole hand and wrist. Night and day.

11:31 p.m. on February 20, 2016 (EST)
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Other that the obvious weight issue. I prefer poles because I can palm them and make them an extension of my arm. In steep and slippery terrain. Gravity can be a ------  

7:17 a.m. on February 21, 2016 (EST)
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Beyond the advantages of their straps the most obvious benefit of two poles vs one staff is that there are two of them. You always have a stick for stability on the side you need it while with a staff you need to plant it across your body if it is on the wrong side and you'd best be quick or you'll already have toppled over. In steep, slippery or otherwise challenging terrain being able to instantly stop a wobble or slide can be valuable, especially for those carrying a heavy load on their backs.

A good staff is nice for a day hike in the woods where you have a small load and more even terrain, but for backpacking in the mountains I take poles, always. If others prefer to use a staff or nothing at all that is their option of course.

I would be careful with cheapo poles though. Bending or breaking a pole when you are expecting it to hold your weight can be very dangerous. I've watched folks who come up for trips stop buying cheap ones after having to replace them after every trip. You don't have to buy the expensive carbon fiber poles, but do make sure you can count on what you get to do the job.

9:25 a.m. on February 21, 2016 (EST)
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Thank you all for the advice. It will be hard for me to give up my staff. After 20 + years of useing one. I went with the cheap poles to see if I like them. If I do like them I'll get a better pair. You all gave me food for thought.  Thank you........ Oogway

10:08 a.m. on February 21, 2016 (EST)
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Oogway- doesn't have to be one or the other! Both have different benefits and drawbacks. If you've found what works for you don't just give it up. It's fun to experiment with new gear and technologies but sometimes the tried and true methods work better than the newer alternatives. I do own, and use, poles but I also just grab a stick sometimes too!

11:12 a.m. on February 21, 2016 (EST)
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Totally agree with Jake. Try different things out and stick with what works. Mix and match your options to suit the trip you're heading out for.

I came across an stooped elderly woman last Fall on a leaf strewn trail in NH who had a magical looking staff with a colored glass ball tucked into a gnarled bend near the top. No way I'd tell that lady to get some hiking poles. She totally knew what she was doing :)

11:34 a.m. on February 21, 2016 (EST)
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I snowshoe with trekking poles, but I've seen more than a few snowshoers out & around with a 5-6 foot staff that had an 8" leather disc with some sort of stiffener screwed into the bottom. More than once I've found myself having to shorten 1 pole and let it swing by its wrist strap while gripping rocks with that hand, so as has been said there's no one right way to do it. 

3:33 p.m. on February 21, 2016 (EST)
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I agree HYOK, nobody's saying you have to change. On poles just be sure to use the straps as intended. Like this:
Right-poles.jpg
GripRight.jpg
Your hand goes up through the loop, so the strap rests on the back of your wrist then wraps around and under your palm.

Not like this:
wrong-poles.jpg

12:02 p.m. on February 22, 2016 (EST)
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Not all poles are adjustable, plus those that are use 2 (or maybe I should say 3) different methods of adjustment.

1. Twist-lock - these have a plastic expander inside the pole mounted on a bolt. When you twist the pole at each one of its joints, the bolt screws into the plastic expander until it spreads enough to lock by friction. One problem with twist-locks is that the inevitable dust and dirt build-up can eventually prevent locking (the dust acts like a lubricant so that there is insufficient friction to allow the bolt to screw into the expander). This means you need to disassemble the pole every so often to clean the tubes out. Also, wince you unconsciously twist the pole as you walk, the twistlock can (and usually does) gradually loosen to the point that it will collapse when you put weight on it. So an occasional twisting to re-lock is a good idea.

2. Flick-lock - These have an external lever-locking grip with an adjustable screw to adjust the tension of the clamping grip. These are more dependable, though you do need to check the level-lock to be sure it grips well enough. And you can lose the tightening screw on the lever (I have never had this happen, but have seen it for others, usually after having stored the poles in a duffle for airplane travel). Again, simple care procedures will prevent this. I have seen a couple of people manage to break the plastic lever arm. Also, the external clamping assembly can occasionally catch on a pants leg or bushes. No big deal, but it can be annoying.

3. Z-poles - these poles have the sections all connected by a series of plastic cables. You can pull the sections apart (still all fastened together) and fold the pole (hence the "z-pole name), for packing or sticking in your pack or side-pocket when scrambling up a climb. These are usually a variant of the flick-lock design.

For much of my hiking, I take the basket off. This eliminates the basket catching on bushes. But it also means the pole will just sink into the snow or even mud on a heavily rainy day. But, the removable baskets mean you can swap the baskets according to conditions - really large baskets for powder snow, mid or small size for firmer snow or mud, no baskets for hard-packed or rocky trail conditions. You can also swap the carbide tips found on most hiking poles for rubber tips or slide a rubber tip protector on for travel over rock slabs or walking around the neighborhood (or practice XC skiing on your in-line skates). The rubber covers or tips also quiet things down for walking through the neighborhood and they do reduce chipping and scratching the rocks (LNT practice).

and +10 for JR's pictures for the proper way to use the straps.

Your poles can also be used for skiing and snowshoeing. And a friend of a friend discovered that you can make a mountain lion back down by pointing your poles at his/her face - something about confusing the lion, since theyir vision doesn't allow them to fully resolve what this thing pointing at them is. Dunno about whether bears get similarly confused [but, going off-topic for a moment - if you saw the movie "A Walk in the Woods" (based on Bill Bryson's book of the same name), you saw how to use your tent to make you look huge and scare off the bears]

2:39 p.m. on February 22, 2016 (EST)
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i haven't used a staff, so it's a little hard to compare.

i like having 2 poles for a couple of reasons:

-balance.  i think having 2 poles helps me get up and down, provided a trail isn't really steep, better than just using my legs and feet.  one reason to get slightly more pricy poles is the foam grip 'extension' below the grip - helpful if you're side-stepping or on steeper terrain to choke up on the poles

-rhythm.  you get this with a staff, except you're only using one arm instead of two.  at least based on the last couple of months, during which i have been tracking my hikes on an app and wrist device, i move a little faster over the same distance when i'm using poles.  

-fitness.  poles have unquestionably given me more upper body and core strength, and they to some extent reduce strain on my lower body.  

PS - nice article about poles from our own Seth, 2010:  https://www.trailspace.com/articles/trekking-poles-benefits.html

5:14 p.m. on February 22, 2016 (EST)
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I've seen both Poles and staffs used on long distance hikes..I could never say which is better since I use poles..But I will say it's whatever you think works best for you..They each have pro's and con's

7:37 p.m. on February 22, 2016 (EST)
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Fitting snow baskets to a walking stick seems like too much work. 

8:03 p.m. on February 22, 2016 (EST)
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FromSagetoSnow said:

Fitting snow baskets to a walking stick seems like too much work. 

 Dunno why you would have baskets on a walking stick in any case.

The baskets on ski poles and trekking poles (at least all the ones I have from 2 different brands) simply screw on and off, as do the carbide and rubber tips.

I forgot to mention that some hiking/trekking poles come with built-in shock absorbers. I used to have a pair, but found them more trouble than they were worth, since they require a fair amount of maintenance. But some people really like them.

9:20 p.m. on February 22, 2016 (EST)
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Bill S said:

some hiking/trekking poles come with built-in shock absorbers. I used to have a pair, but found them more trouble than they were worth

 Agree. And they are quite a bit heavier.

8:52 a.m. on February 23, 2016 (EST)
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I think the sarcasm went right over your head there, Bill! 

The picture of Jeff trying to whittle a stick to fit a basket in is entertaining though...

10:37 a.m. on February 23, 2016 (EST)
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Jake W said:

I think the sarcasm went right over your head there, Bill! 

The picture of Jeff trying to whittle a stick to fit a basket in is entertaining though...

 No, I got it. Still trying to figure out how to get the holes right in a bamboo pole to play the right tunes, though.

5:05 p.m. on February 23, 2016 (EST)
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I just bought a new set of poles, black diamond flick locks with a carbon shaft and cork handle; replaced a pair of black diamond aluminum poles. also collapsible flicklocks that have shock absorbers.  the shock absorber poles are several years old and have replacement sections - i had bent one lower aluminum section and couldn't get the carbide tip to stay in the other lower section.  (black diamond replaced the section where the carbide wouldn't stay seated, free of charge, and has moved from tips that push in to tips that screw in.  a worthy improvement, and great warranty service).  

i regretfully admit to having never done any maintenance or care on the shocks, and they still work fine.  they add some weight, and it means the poles, collapsed, are a bit longer than others.  most of the time, i can't tell the shocks are there.  the shocks are beneficial on hard landings - when you lose your balance, or if the carbide tip slips and you land unexpectedly hard as a result.  because the shocks rarely come into play, and the carbon shaft should dampen impact a little, i didn't think the shocks were a must-have this time around.  

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