I couldn’t decide whether to call this a review or a Project Half Dome post. It’s a little of both!
Oh, man. How much do I love using hiking poles?! I beg forgiveness for ever having made fun of them.
A couple months ago, I purchased the Cascade Mountain Tech Ultra Light Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles with Quick Lock, since I plan on doing a lot more strenuous hikes – particularly Half Dome – and I want to preserve my knees.
The Cascade poles come with a snow basket, mud and sand basket, rubber tip, tungsten carbide tip and walking boot. As it says in the name, they’re ultralight and certainly don’t feel heavy to me, but they weigh one pound. That sounds kind of heavy from what I know of ultralights – and Cascade sells another pair that weigh in at 8 oz. that curiously does not have “ultralight” in the name.
The quick lock is easy to operate once you figure out how it works. You need to adjust the screw to get the correct tension so that the pole is nice and secure and doesn’t collapse when you lean on it. This took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out. Pro-tip: leave the tensions off when storing your hiking poles so they don’t wear out.
The handles are nice and comfy, and the straps have a soft material inside to make it comfortable to lean on them. They are also a great value at $50 or thereabouts.
If you don’t know how to use hiking poles, watch this video. I found it really helpful before I went out and used the poles for the first time. The woman in the video is right – you’ll find your own rhythm for sure. It takes a little time to get comfortable with them, but you’ll get there.
Hiking pole benefits
If you’ve never used hiking poles, these are some of the benefits:
- Increased calorie burn. When you use poles, your arms are more engaged. By resting your palms on the straps while gripping the pole, you can push off when going uphill, giving the triceps a fantastic workout.
- Muscle tone. Since some of the weight you’d normally be putting on your legs is now transferred to your arms, you’ll be going to the gun show soon.
- Less strain on knees. This one is particularly important for me, since I have awful knees and want to remain active until I drop dead. The hiking poles have helped insanely in this department; when I first hiked Mt. Baldy, my knees for sore for a week. The second time, after using the poles, there was some soreness the next day and then I was good to go.
- Better stability. Without the hiking poles, I am Trippy von Tripsalot. With them, it’s more like Trippy von Tripsoccasionally. These things are especially handy on loose gravel.
The pros far outweigh the cons, but there are a few:
- They’re one more thing to juggle and you’ll need to stop every time to take water breaks.
- They require more energy to use, so pacing yourself and having enough fuel is important. Again, on the second Baldy hike, I was famished nearly the whole way up! Very different from the first time.
- The tips don’t seem to last long. Three hikes in and the original tips are shredded, though all were long hikes. Fortunately, they’re not terribly expensive to replace and can be purchased here. And I probably shouldn’t have used rubber tips on Mt. Baldy, which is very rough terrain. Oh, well. Live and learn.
I’m sure a lot of hikers get by just fine without them – I did for a while – but there’s no way I’ll go back now after seeing how much they have improved my hikes!