Step 1: Regular or Anti-Shock?
As we already mentioned, this feature is mostly a matter of personal preference. Poles with built-in anti-shock mechanisms are usually a little more expensive than standard poles, but the shock dampening can be beneficial on descents, when more impact is generated on the hands, wrists and forearms. Also, anti-shock trekking poles are recommended for hikers who have sustained a wrist injury in the past or who suffer from arthritis.
Step 2: Choose a Pole Length
Most poles adjust from about 25-55 inches in length. Taller individuals should choose standard length poles. Shorter individuals and children may prefer compact trekking poles.
Step 3: Choose a Shaft Material
The most common shaft types are aluminum and carbon fiber. Aluminum poles are strong and the most affordable. Carbon fiber trekking poles are lighter than aluminum, but will be a little more expensive.
Step 4: Choose a Grip Material
The type of grip you choose mostly boils down to personal preference. However, some grips have specific benefits or drawbacks. Below is a list of the most common trekking pole grips available:
- Cork tends to be a little more expensive, but is considered superior by many hikers because of its texture, durability and look. Some people say that cork grips tend to feel less sweaty in hot weather compared to other materials.
- Polyethylene is a good all-around choice. It has a slightly smoother texture than cork, but is quite durable and less expensive.
- Synthetic rubber provides a good gripping surface, but is better suited for cold weather. Compared to other materials, rubber may cause hands to sweat more in hot weather.
- EVA foam offers the most softness and cushioning, but may also cause hands to sweat more in hotter weather.
Note: Some trekking poles also offer an extended grip zone for more versatility, allowing you to quickly lower your grip without having to stop and shorten the pole length.
Other Features to Consider: Wrist Straps, Baskets and Tips
Although they may not seem necessary at first, wrist straps are actually an essential component. With proper adjustment, wrist straps will help distribute the load from the hands and fingers to the forearms, helping prevent grip fatigue. Most trekking poles come with a small removable basket, which is important if you’ll be using your poles on very soft or muddy terrain, or navigating through snow fields. Larger baskets may also be included or purchased separately for snowshoeing and ski mountaineering in powdery snow. Carbide and steel are the two most common tip materials. Both are designed to bite into hard, rocky or icy surfaces. Carbide tips are harder than steel tips, but both provide very good traction and durability.