|Examining your trekking pole before purchasing it will ensure your comfort|
and the tool's usefulness when on the trail.
Start by examining the shaft. It should be sturdy enough that it doesn’t bend when pressed to the ground; if it does yield, it won’t be able to handle rugged terrain. Always purchase a telescopic pole as well. This will allow you to adjust the pole so it best matches your height and walking stance. In addition, if you hike up or down inclines, you’ll want to be able to adjust your pole.
The shaft should contain a shock absorber. This reduces the amount of shock your wrist and elbow must absorb each time the trekking pole strikes the ground. If you will do a lot of up and down hill hiking, look for a shock absorber in which you can lock out (or “turn off”) the anti-shock system. That’s because a shock absorber actually works against when you go uphill, as it reduces your power each time the pole is planted. You’ll want to use a shock absorber when going downhill, though, as your pole will hit the ground with more impact, so reducing the force your wrist, arm and shoulder must absorb is vital.
Next, look at the hand grip. Opt for hard rubber or cork. These are soft grips that are shaped to fit your hand and will absorb sweat. Eschew plastic grips, which are hard and remain wet, which can cause your hands to blister. Foam, while soft, lacks durability, and also should be avoided. Test various trekking pole grips to see which best fit your hand. An angled cork handle tends to be ergonomic and is a good bet.
A strap on the handle to wrap around your hand is useful so the trekking pole doesn’t slip out. Make sure you can fit your hand through it and that the fabric doesn’t dig into skin. The fabric shouldn’t be frayed, as it will only further tear with use and become worthless.
Carbide tips provide the best traction, as rubber tips tend to slip on rocks and wet surfaces. Rubber tips, in contrast, tend not to create drag as they don’t penetrate the ground. There are other good reasons to go with the rubber tip, depending on your personal tastes. A carbide tip’s poked holes into the ground, in some situations, can have environmentally negative consequences; they also can scratch rock, which goes against the leave no trace ethic. Perhaps more noticeably, carbide tips tend to sound like fingernails on a blackboard whenever crossing rock. They also can cut and scratch seats and other objects in vehicles when traveling.
See if you are able to take the basket on and off. If walking on wet surfaces or through snow, a basket is a good idea so the trekking pole doesn’t sink into mud or sand. On dry ground, a basket tends to wedge itself between rocks and tangle up in brush; when crossing fast water, it makes the trekking pole difficult to use.
Finally, examine if there are any add-ons, such as a camera mount or a compass at the top of the hand grip. Generally, they’re unnecessary and not worth the additional cost they carry. A tripod is much better for a camera mount than a monopod, and you’ll want a compass that can be placed over a map to help you best navigate.
Learn about more than a hundred other hiking diversions for kids in Hikes with Tykes: Games and Activities.