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How to Choose Hiking Sticks: Everything You Need to Know

Hiking sticks shouldn’t be considered essential, but several hikers love them for a few good reasons.

The hiking sticks help you lessen the effect on your knees and deliver stability on challenging land. Several hikers even use hiking sticks to pitch their ultralight tents.

So, I have decided to assemble all the valuable information regarding hiking poles or sticks, seeing hiking poles’ importance.

Let’s have a look at the guide below.

What do hiking sticks do?

Hiking sticks deliver many advantages to backpackers and hikers, from added balance and stability on uneven paths to less wear and tear on hips and knees, particularly while hiking downhill with speed.

The most prevalent hiking sticks used by backpacks and hikers are flexible in length and come with a clamp-type lever lock system for an adjustment rather than twist locks since they’re easier to fix and more reliable.

Moreover, hiking sticks are useful in dealing with steep slopes and boulder fields and while fording streams.

So, I will now begin with the major considerations while choosing hiking sticks without further delay.

Tip: In my other blog post, I mention more important items in your hiking equipment that should not be missing. Just follow the link.

How to choose trekking poles?

Poles can be extremely helpful when hiking, but choosing the right ones is important.

Not all poles are created equal, and there are a few factors you’ll need to consider before purchasing a set.

To get the best hiking sticks, you need to consider the following.

Pole length

Appropriately sized hiking sticks will keep your elbow at around a 90-degree angle while you hold the hiking stick’s tips near your feet.

Several hiking sticks come in flexible lengths, making things easy for you to achieve.

Nevertheless, some sticks are sold in a fixed length or a certain range of sizes.

If you can’t find hiking sticks of a suitable length, it is suggested to go for the longer ones.

On the other hand, if you plan to use your poles for other activities such as Nordic walking, you will need poles specifically designed for that activity.

Pole features

Depending on how you plan to use the poles, you may want to consider poles with some of these features:

Foldable Sticks

Such trekking sticks’ function is quite similar to tent poles.

In the case of a foldable hiking stick, you need to fold the stick to adjust its height.

Foldable trekking poles are generally the most convincing as packability is concerned.

Moreover, foldable sticks are often very quick to deploy and lightweight.

They’re extremely popular among fast hikers and ultrarunners.

Adjustable Sticks

Several hiking sticks are adjustable to enhance the stability on various terrain.

They typically adjust from around 24 inches to 55 inches long.

Generally, you will wish to shorten the sticks while going uphill and lengthen the stick while going downhill.

So, you can adjust the stick as per your requirement.

Non-adjustable Sticks

Some hiking sticks are non-adjustable in length.

It means these sticks are fixed.

These fixed-length sticks tend to be slightly lighter than adjustable ones because they have fewer details, making them favored among hikers who like ultralight poles.

They’re great for sports where you know that you need only a specific length.

Shock-absorbing Sticks

These deliver inner springs that absorb shock as soon as you walk down.

With most sticks, this quality can be turned off as well as it isn’t required, like when you are hiking uphill.

The shock absorption system is a nice attribute for any hiker.

However, it is especially recommended if you’ve unstable knees, ankles, or hips or have had any prior injuries to your lower joints.

Ultralight Sticks

Ultralight sticks benefit from less swing heaviness, making them quicker and easier to move.

For longer hikes, this means you will get less fatigue.

Such a pole is also more manageable to pack.

The stick shaft’s materials are the key determinant of the pole’s overall weight.

Standard Sticks

These don’t come with a shock-absorbing quality and are more lightweight and less costly as an outcome.

While they do not absorb shock while going downhill, they don’t deliver similar support and balance as shock-absorbing sticks.

Pole locking mechanisms

Adjustable sticks utilize a lever lock adjustment technique.

This technique has superseded the old twist-lock technique used broadly in the past.

In case you’re new to this lever lock technique, you’ll be impressed by the relaxation of use and the secure locking system that this technique delivers.

Some sticks use lever locks made of plastic to save weight, which is more prone to getting smashed or snapping when you throw it down on the ground for some reason.

The more stable options come with aluminum lever locks that hardly break while hiking using them.

Pole shaft materials

Modern hiking stick shafts are made from either using carbon fiber or using aluminum.

Let’s know more about the materials.

Carbon fiber shaft

Carbon is a stiff and light material utilized in items that should support plenty of weight. They also must be lightweight.

Carbon fiber sticks are excessively strong as soon as loaded vertically.

Moreover, these are the lightest stick options available on the market now.

However, they’re weak when you bend them horizontally.

They similarly can crack or chip effortlessly on rocks, which generally makes them prone to snap.

Such poles are most suitable for light to medium-duty usage where your weight is the most important concern, like climbing, ultralight backpacking, and running.

However, it would help if you were prepared to spend more on a carbon fiber pole.

Aluminum shaft

When it comes to aluminum sticks, they are heavier than carbon fiber sticks.

They even tend to be more inexpensive than carbon fiber.

Aluminum breaks easily, which can be bad on long journeys where breaking a stick would be a significant issue.

These sticks are most suitable for short-distance hiking, travel, and backpackers on a tight budget.

Pole grip materials

You would think a grip is simply a grip and nothing more, but they differ quite a bit.

A pole grip comes in different widths, shapes, and also materials.

Some sticks are marketed in a “female’s” version.

The Female version generally means they have fewer grips than the male versions.

Forget the terminology and get what makes you feel comfortable in your hands.

Good quality sticks use 3 different grip materials or often a mixture of rubber, cork, and foam.

Grip comes in a wide range of materials that impact how the sticks feel in your hands.

Rubber Grip

This protects hands from shock, cold, and vibration. Thus, it is most useful for cold-weather sports.

However, it is more likely to blister or chafe sweaty hands. Thus, it is less appropriate for warm-weather trekking.

If you have sweaty hands, try to look for cork or foam grips.

Cork Grip

This withstands moisture from your sweaty hands, reduces vibration, and pleasingly conforms to your hand’s shape.

If you sweat a lot and decide to hike in hot weather, then go for the cork grip materials.

You will be thankful for it.

Foam Grip

This absorbs moistness from sweaty hands and is the most delicate to the touch.

I’m not a big fan of foam grips; however, some people truly like how they feel.

I have used all three types of grips in the past, and I still think that rubber is the best for shock absorbency.

Cork is my next favorite as it handles moisture the best – it is not as durable as rubber.

The foam feels good initially, but after some time, it gets slippery when wet.

Conclusion on hiking sticks

When selecting hiking sticks, the first thing you need to take into account is the weight and the packed size.

  • The lighter the stick, the more comfortable it will be to use since you will be carrying them for long periods. Go for carbon fiber or aluminum models since they’re not only lightweight but also quite durable.
  • The next thing you should take into account is the staff’s length. The staff’s length must be based on your height and the terrain you will be hiking.
  • If you use your sticks mainly on even surfaces, go for a longer model since it will provide more stability.
  • If you use them on rougher terrain, then go for a shorter model since it will be easier to maneuver.
  • The last thing you should take into consideration is the grip material. The most common materials are rubber, cork, and foam.

Choose the hiking stick that provides the best grip and feels comfortable in your hands.

Tip: Read also my other blog article about the right mountain boots.

Happy hiking!