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Do two hiking poles help that much?

Posted: Sep 22 2006 8:25 pm
by Sun_Ray
Just completed Rim to Rim for first time and used two hiking poles the whole time. I CAN'T believe the fact that I'm not very sore for the 15 hours and 24 miles I hiked. I was very hydrated, eat every hour, layed down twice and put my feet/legs up for 10 minutes twice and had max mg of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Was it the poles? Do they make that much of a difference? I'm a big guy and always feel it in my knees and legs the next few days. Any simular experience, comments?

Posted: Sep 22 2006 8:54 pm
by Nan
I used a borrowed pole on the Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand a few years ago, and immediately went out and bought myslef a pair. They save a tremendous amount of wear and tear on my knees by transferring the load to the arms. Plus, as a quadruped I'm a lot surer on trails with steep drop-offs.

Re: Do two hiking poles help that much?

Posted: Sep 22 2006 11:06 pm
by Al_HikesAZ
In response to Sun Ray's reply: They soften the "jarring" on the downhill. And they spread the load to the upper body on the uphill. They do slow me down a little - on even terrain I will carry them and not use them.

I have not had a "5 ice pack hike" since I started using 2 poles. I remember some hikes before the poles when I would come home and ice my ankles, knees and back.

Most people do not use poles properly. I adjust them for uphill and downhill which also slows me down a little. On long downhill stretches I make them a little longer and I shorten them for long uphill stretches.

I do remember some soreness in my triceps as I adjusted to the poles. And I remember a hike with some tightness in my upper back and neck after about 14 miles.

There are hikes where the poles get in the way - coming down Flatiron and Brown's Peak come to mind. But there are hikes with creek crossings or scree where they are indispensable.

The poles are a constant reminder that I'm not as young as I used to be. But they help me to keep hiking. Some day maybe I'll have to hike with a walker, but until then the poles do the trick. Rim to Rim at 90 in 20 hours with a walker? - that's ok, I can live with it.

The most important thing with poles - - make sure you have someone to carry them for you when lightning threatens :twisted:

Posted: Sep 23 2006 6:24 pm
by Sredfield
Yes, absolutely.

Lots of air and bandwidth wasted on this topic, so I won't add more.

Posted: Sep 23 2006 7:05 pm
by joebartels
They certainly make a noticeable difference on long hikes. I like them if I'm pushing my current physical limit on a must-do-now type of hike. Otherwise I find them to be a nuisance as I'm out hiking to help stay in shape. I prefer to steadily work up to a desired fitness level.

Then again, many new models are far more compact than my five year old lekis. They're likely easier to pack in the areas not needed.

Re: Do two hiking poles help that much?

Posted: Sep 23 2006 11:04 pm
by big_load
In response to Sun Ray's reply:

Yes, they do. I've used poles for over 10 years, but sometimes I forget them on long dayhikes near home, so I have a good basis for comparison. My legs take less of a beating when using poles, and my bad knee (torn meniscus) can be practically pain-free.

Unfortunately, also forgot them this summer signing out at a trailhead register in the Frank Church Wilderness in Idaho, so I have a shiny new pair and a thinner wallet.

Posted: Oct 18 2006 6:54 am
by Canyonram
Agree on the positive benefit of using poles. I feel more secure navigating over rough sections. I picked up some ski poles at the Goodwill for $2.00 and they do the job!

Re: Do two hiking poles help that much?

Posted: Oct 27 2006 8:48 pm
by bionichiker
In response to Sun Ray's reply: :) Yes hiking poles do help. I just did the rim to rim hike on Oct 14. For long hikes I use two poles especially after having both knees replaced 22 months ago. Your arms do take about 10 % of your wieght from your legs. I took less than 13 hrs., not a fast hiker but steady.

Re: Do two hiking poles help that much?

Posted: Jan 24 2009 5:51 pm
by Sun_Ray
Interesting how much more interest, based on the number of comments posted, on this topic than when I posted a similar question on Sept 22, 2006. YES, they help a great deal and I'd say again because of the number of our comments there use is increasing.

Re: Do two hiking poles help that much?

Posted: Jan 24 2009 7:43 pm
by Sredfield
Yes

Re: Do two hiking poles help that much?

Posted: Jan 25 2009 7:16 am
by azbackpackr
Well, there seem to be two threads about this topic. Anyway, although I still think it's something of a fad, I think two poles do help in certain situations.

1. You have a bad knee.
2. You are carrying a big, heavy overnight pack.
3. Both of the above.
4. You are somewhat of a klutz.

I think some people are more klutzy than others and poles really help them. I also think some terrain is loose and very steep (scree, etc.) and poles will help most people with that.

All that being said, if you are quick on your feet and very sure-footed, I am sure you may find poles will somewhat limit your feeling of freedom of movement. I know, because that is what I feel, and have heard this expressed by other people as well. Freedom of movement, and that feeling of being so quick and surefooted is the best feeling in the world if you are a hiker, and using two poles will rob you of some of that feeling. However, if you are in this category you probably already know that. Save the poles for when you get old.

So I keep in mind it's an individual thing. I still say its kind of a fad, because some people are new to hiking and have not tried hiking without the poles, they think they are "supposed" to have the poles, they see everyone else with poles. So they don't even know what it feels like to be quick on your feet and sure footed and NOT use poles. I wish I could still be as sure footed as I used to be, but I am getting older, so poles are a help, especially when backpacking.

Re: Do two hiking poles help that much?

Posted: Jan 25 2009 4:28 pm
by rushthezeppelin
Another thing not mentioned much that poles help with is swelling of the hands. When your really getting your blood flowing your hands tend to swell and you can really feel it......and they look like sausage fingers. Carrying poles applies enough pressure to the hands to cut the swelling down so that it doesnt feel so awkward when you have do something with your hands.

Re: Do two hiking poles help that much?

Posted: Jan 25 2009 10:18 pm
by Hoffmaster
azbackpackr wrote:I still think it's something of a fad
I think you're crazy. Hiking poles certainly are not a fad. A fad is a briefly passing fashion. Trekking and trekking/hiking poles have been around for 60 years. That's not brief. Remember "tight" rolled jean cuffs in the 80's? That was a fad... thankfully.

But if they are, I"m going to really uncool on the trail when hiking poles go out of style.

Re: Do two hiking poles help that much?

Posted: Jan 25 2009 11:49 pm
by Vaporman
azbackpackr wrote: All that being said, if you are quick on your feet and very sure-footed, I am sure you may find poles will somewhat limit your feeling of freedom of movement. I know, because that is what I feel, and have heard this expressed by other people as well. Freedom of movement, and that feeling of being so quick and surefooted is the best feeling in the world if you are a hiker, and using two poles will rob you of some of that feeling. However, if you are in this category you probably already know that. Save the poles for when you get old.
My thoughts exactly. Plus I can hear someone hiking with poles a mile away... Doesn't that detract from your wilderness experience and scare the crap out of the wildlife? The constant noise of the poles would annoy the snot out of me. :yuck:

Re: Do two hiking poles help that much?

Posted: Jan 26 2009 3:40 pm
by azbackpackr
I absolutely dislike the sound of many poles clicking and clacking along when I am hiking with a club. I have rubber bumpers on my poles, much quieter.

Single hiking staffs have been in use for centuries, true, Matt, but not the double pole system. I'm sure people have done it before, using ski poles, but hiking poles were not sold in pairs until quite recently, way less than 20 years. It is definitely a newer trend or, yes, even a fad. And people new to hiking should know they have a choice, and not feel they have to use the poles. It's an individual thing.

Re: Do two hiking poles help that much?

Posted: Jan 26 2009 6:45 pm
by nonot
We should all go back to the 80 pound external frame leather rucksacks, spam, and the gigantic 7 foot hiking staffs :sl:

Re: Do two hiking poles help that much?

Posted: Jan 27 2009 5:22 am
by azbackpackr
Since we are on the topic, (although no one but Vaporman seems OPEN-MINDED enough to admit, that poles are an individual choice and are not for everyone, nor for every situation), I also might mention that the way most people use poles is very fatiguing to the hands. I am copying and pasting what I wrote on the other thread:

If you are using the poles correctly you would use them like ski poles. If you haven't skied, have someone show you. You barely have to grip the grips if you are using the straps correctly. This saves an amazing amount of fatigue on your hands.

Place your hand through the strap underneath, so that the strap ends up on top of your wrist when you are gripping the pole. Grip the pole with the two ends of the strap resting in the soft flesh between your thumb and index finger. You sort of hang your wrist in there, but make sure the strap goes around on TOP of your wrist!! The strap has to be a certain length to do this correctly. Then with your wrist hanging in there you can get a lot of leverage out of the poles and swing them forward very easily by just barely gripping the pole with your thumb and index finger. You put the weight into the strap at the wrist and on that soft fleshy area between thumb and index finger.

This is very hard to describe, but if you know a skier he/she can probably show you this. I may be ambivalent about using poles, but I do know how to use them!! And this method will take some getting used to, but it's worth practicing. I have seen many people cut the straps off, or not use the straps at all. But if you practice this ski-type method I think most folks would find it is actually easier once you get the hang of it.

Re: Do two hiking poles help that much?

Posted: Jan 27 2009 6:57 am
by Hoffmaster
azbackpackr wrote:no one but Vaporman seems OPEN-MINDED enough to admit, that poles are an individual choice and are not for everyone, nor for every situation
I just said that I disagree with your opinion that they are a fad. Nobody said you had to use two or any at all for that matter. If people are too stupid to figure out if they like one, two or no poles at all... well... that's their problem. I'm a big fan of hiking poles; there have been many instances when I felt that they really saved my butt from certain disaster. There has also been many times when hiking poles were nothing but a hindrance. Often, both scenarios played out on the same hike. But, as pointed in previous threads, that's why most of them are collapsible. Lash them to your pack and move on.
azbackpackr wrote: the way most people use poles is very fatiguing to the hands
You've got to be kidding! Who's walking around with a death-grip on their hiking poles? If the "most people" part of your statement is true, then there is really something wrong with people. I don't know why, but this thread is starting to exasperate me. How could something so simple be so complicated?


Maybe I'm not being open-minded enough to make this complicated. :?

Re: Do two hiking poles help that much?

Posted: Jan 27 2009 8:54 am
by big_load
Hoffmaster wrote:You've got to be kidding! Who's walking around with a death-grip on their hiking poles?
They're out there. UL poles from two different companies don't have straps. I think that's nuts, since I pretty much leave my hands relaxed and let the straps do the work, but some people like them OK.

Re: Do two hiking poles help that much?

Posted: Jan 27 2009 9:14 am
by Jeffshadows
I don't have statistics to back up a statement like "Most people misuse poles" but, for what it's worth: Most of the folks I encounter with poles down here in Tucson seem to be relying very heavily on them to make their way. I suppose that's part of the reason why I; and, to a lesser extent, Nick; have always had such a negative opinion of them and never gave them a fair shake.

The picture that always pops into my mind is one of a moderately-to-severely overweight individual with brand-new, pristine outdoor gear leaning on their poles as they grunt and clang their way through the first mile or so of a trail. They have the guile, attitude, and general outward appearance of a person who just finished a fifty mile backpack, though they've probably only been on trail for twenty minutes. It usually looks like they will fall over and not be able to continue if you took one of the poles out from underneath them.

Believe it or not, I encounter a lot of people like this in the Catalinas and Rincons. Before I get flamed, not all of them are Baby-Boomers, many are guys younger than I out to prove to nature that they really are tougher than she. This is the crux of why I never looked at poles, and generally laughed at their use. Now that I think about it, this is a pretty dumb reason to deny myself potential relief from knee pain... :sweat: