Thursday, April 14, 2016

Which is best? Wood or metal trekking poles

Is a wooden pole better than a metal one for hiking?
When out on the trail, you’ll see hikers usually a variety of trekking poles. Usually though, they are made of one of two materials – wood or metal.

Which one is better to use? The answer depends on a number of factors and your personal preference.

Broadly speaking, a wooden trekking pole has a couple of major advantages over a metal pole (which usually is made of aluminum or carbon fiber). First, it is sturdier. Metal poles tend to be thin and built for lightness and so will bow. A wooden also often is hand carved, so often will be more ornamental, allowing it to express its user’s personality. This admittedly is an aesthetic factor rather than one of performance, but for some hikers that’s significant.

Likewise, a wooden pole also carries some disadvantages. Most notably, what you see is what you get when you buy it. They are not adjustable for your height, and typically there are no add-ons (such as tips or baskets), as there’s no place to attach them, unless you head into a wood shop and start modifying. Another problem is that they are inflexible. They come in one size only – the size you bought it in – so there’s no folding it. That may not sound like a big deal, yet imagine if you decided to take off your jacket but couldn’t fold it and had to carry it exactly in the shape it takes when worn; that would be inconvenient. Wooden poles also tend to be heavier and bulkier than their metal counterparts. They also will disintegrate from the natural elements if made of soft wood; hardwood poles do as well but have a longer life. Wooden poles also lack a shock absorber that the better metal poles will have; if walking long distances or on a rocky surface, that absorber can help reduce stress on your wrist and arm. Lastly, wooden poles’ hand/wrist straps are a single leather loop that can dig into your hands and will wear as exposed to the elements, though often the loop can be easily replaced.

The advantages of a metal pole, as you might imagine, are the disadvantages of a wooden pole. For example, metal poles sold in store are adjustable for your height. You also can easily add on or take off a whole variety of items – such as baskets or tips or camera mounts – to enhance your hiking experience. They also are collapsible and lightweight. They are fairly impervious to the elements unless exposed to salt, such as on oceanside walks. Better models come with a shock absorber. The hand/wrist straps usually are of better material and are wider than a wooden pole’s leather loop so they don’t dig it and they don’t wear as quickly.

Metal poles aren’t perfect, of course. They can break if too much weight is placed on them, though this typically is only a problem with the less expensive, cheaper made models. And as with almost anything that is mass produced, most of them lack any aesthetically unique qualities, though I suppose some people may prefer the manufactured look.

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