You’d be mad not to use hiking poles. Walking poles help uphill and downhill, take some pressure off your knees and are almost essential with the river crossings. You might ask: “One or two?” Two. You get much better balance and drive that way.
So, what are the pros and cons of trekking poles? By using trekking poles you reduce the load on your feet, legs and back by 15 to 20 per cent. The effect is most noticeable going downhill, but when using poles going uphill you get a lot more drive and propulsion. On flat ground, trekking poles really help you to increase your stride length, which also increases walking speed.
There are few, if any, cons when using trekking poles. Occasionally, if the scrub is too thick, swinging poles will catch, and at these times it’s probably more convenient to strap them to your pack until the track is more clear. Other times, it’s convenient to have free hands, such as if you are scrambling through boulders and want your hands to take some weight.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN WALKING POLES
When you're choosing a pair of trekking poles, the first thing you need to consider is what length you'll need. Hiking poles need to be long enough to touch the ground when your arms are bent at 90 degrees, when you're walking on flat ground. When you're going downhill, you will need to lengthen your walking poles a by about 5 to 10 centimetres, because you will need to reach down further.
Next, you consider the weight of the trekking poles. Since you will be carrying them all day, poles that are too heavy will fatigue your arms. A lightweight pair of walking poles will be barely noticeable, and therefore you get the most benefit from the trekking poles. Of course, how heavy the poles feel is dependent on factors such as your height and strength. If you have a big build, you will need a sturdier pole.
Another difference between walking poles are the type of locking mechanisms they employ. Flick-locks are the quickest way to secure the pole in place, but twist-lock poles provide a slightly stronger hold. On the lower segment, some Exped poles (which we stock sometimes) use two square push buttons, which snap quickly into place and prevent rotation.
TREKKING POLE REVIEW
One year in February, I spent two weeks walking in Tasmania with trekking poles. We walked to Frenchmans Cap via the 'soddon Loddon' Plains, visited the Western Arthurs and climbed Mount Anne.
I have found trekking poles a definite must on any trip where I am carrying a heavy pack or walking through rough terrain. The 'soddon Loddon' had me knee-deep in mud, so I used my walking poles to haul myself along. On Frenchmans Cap, I used them for balance on the rocky ascent and descent. I especially like the features on high-end poles, such as the long, soft-foam handles (useful in undulating terrain) and the three-pole structure, which packs down compactly.