Open main menu

Trekking Pole Tips

Interested how many of the trekking pole users out there use rubber tips on the poles?
20170604_113448.jpgI almost always do in "normal" weather and field conditions (no snow etc), mainly to keep the "tick, tick, tick" noise down to a minimum since I like the peace and quiet of solo hiking.  I also find they don't "wedge" in between rocks as easily, grip well on hard surfaces, help absorb shock, keep the tips of the poles clean for use on my tarp tents, don't pick up stacks of leaves in the fall, and don't leave the new common tread along either side of a trail...

Any disadvantages I am missing?  I see lots of folks without them on the busy trails.  I occasionally lose one but keep a spare in the repair ditty.

I've never used them but the only negative that comes to mind is the likelihood of losing them without realizing it and leaving gear trash on the trail.

Semi-related tangent: When I reviewed the Vasque shoes recently and examined the side by side of a new shoe with an old one it made me think about where all that Vibram material went as it wore off. I guess I left those rubber particles all over the areas I trekked.


I use the rubber tips as well, other than snow or serious mud. I may be giving up a little traction but I don't think it's enough to really make a difference.  I keep the rubber feet duct taped to the shaft. I keep my repair duct tape on my poles anyway so taking them off and putting them back doesn't require removing my pack. 

Never use rubber tips.

I learned in an LNT class a little while back about how the rubber tips help prevent disturbing various soil crusts.

As a vocal proponent of soil crusts in general, whenever I notice my path has me going through sensitive areas such as a sand barren in an otherwise deciduous forest; an area where my path goes directly through crypto crusts, lichen-spattered rock, or moss forests; I don the pole tips to limit disturbance.

During times I find the ticking sound annoying I will also use the tips.

Interesting thoughts.

Patman...I never considered the loss of soles across the landscape. It's more constant than the occasional loss of a rubber tip but the solution to pollution is dilution they say so the impact is spread far and very thin.

Jason...I use the poles every night as tarptent support so duct taping them would be a real inconvenience for me. In an unscientific test I switched from cheaper (by a whole dollar!) REI brand pole tips to Black Diamond (my pole brand) and haven't had one slip off in over 100 miles so far. Maybe it just fits slightly better or I am just on a run of good luck.

Pillowthread...I hear you on the LNT aspects. In real moss and lichen country and especially my frequent bushwacks I tend to just move a little slower and hold the poles until I get back on tougher ground. The speckled soil marks on either side of the trail last weekend is what got me thinking about this...we are widening our trails and increasing impact even more.

I don't use rubber tips; the pair I had, I poked through pretty quickly.  I don't use poles any time I cross a wood bridge.  

My poles are from Walmart....I don't think any tips would stay on without duct tape.

I think we are way overthinking this.  At some level rubber pole tips are similar to the car bras people used to purchase in the 1980s for their vehicles, with the common connection being Madison Avenue coming up with new but otherwise useless gimmicks to sell us.  Whatever the impact poles may have I'd still give priority to stability and safety, two main reasons to use poles in the first place; and in that context me says go with whatever maximizes these objectives.


in thinking about the impact of carbide-tipped poles, i think about studded snow tires and volume.

i grew up with studded snow tires.  some/most of you may have, or may know what they are.  Car tires with pointed steel cylinders embedded in the tread blocks.  They make a big difference in the way a car handles and brakes on snow and ice.  they also damage roadways to some degree.  most states still allow them, sometimes with restrictions to winter use.  ten states more strictly limit or forbid them.  ultimately, most states tolerate studded tires because the safety gain in foul/winter weather outweighs the damage.  i'm guessing the same is true for trekking poles, except that poles wielded by human beings are lighter, cover less surface area, and are traveling around trails in much, much less volume than studded tires on roadways.  

guess that means i agree with ed.  

Trondheim (my fair city) allows studded tires if you pay a hefty fee. They basically grind up the road and put the finer particles up in the air -- Trondheim has a persistent winter particulate pollution problem because of this. In just a couple winters after repaving, heavily used roads, especially the commuter highways, end up with noticeable grooves ground into them. At one point my wife wanted to get studded tires for our Prius, but I didn't want to participate in this madness. I looked into the issue on the Norwegian Automobile association web site and other sources -- it seems that the traction advantage applies only on hard ice, not snow, and decreases over time as the tires wear in, so I managed to convince her to stick with studless snows. It gets plenty icy here in Trondheim, especially on local roads, but we don't drive in town all that much, and our studless Prius has reliably delivered us to snowy trailheads for many a winter and spring ski tour. 

I do use studded bike tires, but I don't think a bike+rider has sufficient weight or power to contribute significantly to the problem. I suppose trekking poles may contribute to trail erosion, but I doubt it matters much what the tips or made of, or that rubber bumpers make much of a difference.

I think we are way overthinking this

I am sure we are Ed but that's half the fun!

Do you all find the carbide tips grip better on rocky surfaces? My results are mixed and the rubber tips definitely reduce the occasional wedge between rocks. That and the noise on the rocks (I know Im getting picky but silence out there is one reason I walk) are my main reason for using tips.

I have rubber tips for my poles...but I can't find my poles! I have a set of really nice three-section Komperdells (EMS branded) that I used to use as ski poles, but where they are? I have three different versions of tips for them, plus replacement baskets, but I cannot find the actual poles! LOL

I use a Quickie commercial mop handle, now, with 1" copper plumbing caps epoxied on, and a furniture leg rubber cap on one end.


** Use these straps the same way XC skiers do for maximum efficiency and minimum lower arm muscle fatigue. (GOOGLE this on Youtube for correct use.)

Do NOT cut them off or remove them. The weight "saved" will never offset the help they provide, especially on descents.

Eric B.

I was thinking about that the other day as I passed two backpackers with their poles set at almost shoulder height and the straps hanging loosely at the side...I always want to say something but never do unless it comes up in conversation.

Thanks for the tips on pole tips. Here are a couple of thoughts just for the purpose of adding information:

1. A good friend of mine spent his entire career with the National Park Service, and I asked him about trail erosion from hiking poles. I was concerned about trail erosion. He told me that the NPS has done several studies on the trail impact and none of their studies indicate any measurable trail erosion from the poles, so they have no plans to ban their use in national parks or on trails under their supervision.

2. I don't care for the "click-click" sound, but I believe it to be a good early warning system when in bear or rattlesnake country, so I don't use plastic pole tips when I'm in areas known to be inhabited by either where you don't want to sneak up on them by mistake.

3. I don't use the pole straps. Reason is that one of my regular backpacking buddies was moving down a trail and accidentally got a pole in between his legs as he was moving along at a fairly good clip. With the pole straps around his wrists he was unable to let go of it and it flipped him off the trail and down a steep embankment. He went about 20 feet before he was able to arrest his fall. If he had been able to simply let go of the end of the pole, he would have stumbled but not fallen.

Thanks for the review. I just wanted to weigh in with additional info.


As a kid I learned to walk silently through the forest, but now I spend most of my time in woods full of bears so I try to remember to make noise. Pole tips on rocks are a great warning to the bears that I'm coming so when I feel I'm being too quiet I make a point of poking a few rocks or even bang the sticks together before entering a thicket.

On the strap thing I think folks should do what they please. Used properly the straps let you use the poles to greater effect and are easily released when needed. Of course if you can't use them properly then they aren't helping and may kill you in your sleep, so do what works for you.

Also have noticed more and more folks carrying, but not using their poles. I have taken to asking them "Taking the poles for a walk today are we?" as we pass just to see the looks on their faces. :p

Bob Freeman said:

".. 3. I don't use the pole straps. Reason is that one of my regular backpacking buddies was moving down a trail and accidentally got a pole in between his legs as he was moving along at a fairly good clip. With the pole straps around his wrists he was unable to let go of it and it flipped him off the trail and down a steep embankment. He went about 20 feet before he was able to arrest his fall. If he had been able to simply let go of the end of the pole, he would have stumbled but not fallen. ..."

Bob, the lesson learned should have been your friend needs to slow down, not that he needs to remove the wrist straps.

One primary reason people use trekking poles is to improve efficiency.  As others note, use of wrist straps on properly adjusted poles is a crucial element of the solution.  Choosing to not use the straps greatly diminishes the effectiveness of poles in this regard.  One should not drive any faster than they can safely operate a vehicle; by the same token if one is tooling along so fast on trail that an entanglement with their poles causes a fall, then perhaps the hiker needs to slow down!

But if one is leery of the straps consider switching to a walking staff.  Effective use of a staff does not require poles.  I own both a set of trekking (telemark) poles and a staff.  I find poles help offer better stability while XC over rough terrain or snow, but that a staff achieves all the advantages of trekking poles on trail; and additionally is superior in aiding balance when negotiating large steps on trail.  My staff is adjustable, doubles as a tent pole for my pyramid tarp, and is lighter than a set of trekking poles.  FWIW: both my trekking poles and walking staff are metal tipped.


Regarding others comment about noise making for bears: the clicks of pole tips is insufficient.  The sound doesn't carry, partly because it is emanated from ground level.  I have surprised big horn sheep and coyotes on several occasions while clicking away - I imagine the same would be true of bears.  As for snakes, well they are deaf.  Good luck rousing them with noise!  But when I am concerned with snakes I find a thin, long bowed stick and use it to probe up coming brush and back sides of logs where a snake may lurk, physically provoking them to warn me of their presence.  The ideal stick for this purpose is about six feet long with a 24" bow.  A stick of such dimensions is much more effective flushing snakes than poles or a staff.  I found it awkward to attempt using a snake stick while also using poles or a staff, so I stash the poles, prioritizing snake safety over walking efficiency.


LOL, much more complicated hiking/trail walking/camping and backpacking has become since I was a kid in the hood. Seems that one almost needs a collage degree to do these things.

I have a pair of MSR Flight 2 poles with quick-detach straps that will come loose from your body weight if the pole gets wedged or tangled in something. Though I agree with the comment that not going any faster than is safe for trail conditions is the best way to avoid falling. I use poles because I'm overweight and my knees are in pretty bad shape, and poles transform me from a 2-legged animal into a 4-legged. I've been using them less on flat & rolling terrain and mostly on steeps, though; I've found I like the more natural pace with my arms swinging at my sides in these cases. 

Lone Stranger,

That's the same approach I have with the poles.  I try to make as much "Human" noise as possible.

October 23, 2020
Quick Reply

Please sign in to reply