Hiking the Red River Gorge – Selecting Trekking Poles

Oma H. Barnett

Whether you like them or hate them, trekking poles are something that are becoming more and more popular. This may be due to the aging population or that people are increasingly gadget hungry. Personally, whenever I hike at the Red River Gorge for more than a hour my knee’s tend to start hurting. Going over uneven terrain hastens this and I have become a convert to trekking poles. There are a number of types of trekking poles that fall into a few distinct categories:

1) Antishock Poles,

2) Standard Poles,

3) Compact Poles,

4) Hiking Staff.

Anti-Shock Poles have springs inside the main tube that compress when you walk down hill. Most poles allow for this to be turned off when you are going uphill. It makes life much easier if you are like me and have bad knees.

Standard Poles aren’t as heavy as anti-shock poles, cheaper but they don’t have the anti-shock feature…

Compact Poles are shorter and can be easily used by petite people or children.

Hiking Staffs are poles that are singular in nature (usually heavier) and may have attachment’s for cameras or mobile phones. These are best used in areas when rough terrain won’t be encountered.

There are a number of “extra features” that will affect how much you pay that can make your trip more enjoyable. Decreased weight, locking mechanisms for each section, types of grips, straps, baskets (at the bottom of the pole) and the types of tips are ways that you can modify your trekking pole.

  • The Black Diamond Trail Back Trek Poles are light strong and have great quality construction. I like the way that my hands easily maintain their grip even during a sweaty hike. This is my favorite pole that I use when I’m hiking at the Red River Gorge.
  • Hammers HP5 Anti-Shock Hiking Pole is very sturdy and have a lovely “cork” handle that make it very appealing when going over rough terrain. This particular pole comes with a compass and thermometer which are a nice added feature. However, I wasn’t a big fan of the ‘locking system’. It is a nice pole that is relatively cheap.
  • Kaito BT409 Anti-Shock Hiking Pole has a great shock absorption system and is very compact so it will fold into your suitcase easily. Every hiker in the Red River Gorge has multiple flashlights and this trekking pole increases the availability of light whenever you need it.
  • Stansport Outdoorsman Trekking Pole’s nicest feature is the extreme collapsibility of it. It can almost fold up into your pocket. This isn’t the sturdiest pole in the world, but it’s very nice if you have to travel, especially on airplanes.
  • SE Collapsible Walking Stick is a favorite of one of my friends who doesn’t like using a cane. He uses this as an aid for his mobility on a daily basis. He is a big guy and loves the stick but wishes the grip was a bit bigger because of his large hands.

Here are some measurement and use tips:

Grip the pole, put your hand ‘up’ through the strap and grip the pole so that the strap is in the palm of your hand and you are putting your downward force on the strap. This will help you keep a firm grip when pushing down on the pole.

The length of the pole should be that when on a level surface, your arm should be at a 90-degree bend. You can also adjust the pole longer for going down hills and shorter for going up hills to help with pole placement.

You should plant the right pole with the left foot and the left pole with the right foot, so that your step and pole planting alternate during each stride. This is similar to your natural arm motion when walking and the poles just become an extension of your arms.

Copyright © 2012

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