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How to Choose the Right Trekking Poles

Walking is our preferred way to see the world, though part of what keeps this form of travel interesting is the physical component. Understanding that walking over hilly terrain can put some pressure on certain parts of your body (especially your knees), we recommend using trekking poles.

Poles are a no-brainer for someone dealing with lower body joint pain, but they're also great for preventing as much wear and tear on the hip and knee joints.

We checked in with Marina Meerburg, an avid hiker who guides many of our Vermont tours, to learn more about the benefits of using poles, as well as how to choose the right pole for you.

CW: What kind of terrain is best trekked with poles?
MM: I definitely recommend poles in hilly and uneven terrain. This aids greatly with stability. If the ground is soft, the tip of the pole will penetrate nicely. If the terrain is mostly rocky, or if you are on a paved or stone path, I recommend using the rubber tips that either come with the poles or can be purchased separately.

CW: When do you use poles?
MM: Personally, I use my poles all the time for the additional upper body workout. I also have a knee that is a little crispy, and using poles, even on flat terrain, really takes the pressure off your hips and knees.

CW: What are the benefits of using poles?
MM: Stability, taking the pressure off hips, knees and lower back; strengthening the upper body and triceps. It is also excellent for working the upper back and improving posture for people who do a lot of computer work or any other type of typing.

CW: What are better: collapsible or fixed-length poles?
MM: It depends on how  you intend to use them. If you are planning on travelling with them, or if they are shared between two or more people, then you may want collapsible poles. Measure your suitcase and make sure they fit when collapsed. Make sure the securing mechanism is solid so the poles won’t collapse during use. If you don’t need to adjust the length, then I would recommend against collapsible poles and get a pair that fits your height.

CW: How do you determine what pole height you should use?
MM: Turn the pole upside down and grip it under the basket. For a beginner/intermediate user, the elbow should be at 90 degrees.

CW: What are some other things to look for?
MM: Check the strap and make sure it is easy to adjust and comfortable. Try the handle and make sure it supports your hand and the material is too hard. Cork is an excellent material but there are others.

CW: What questions should someone ask when shopping for trekking poles?
MM: What are the poles made of (aluminum or carbon)? How long has the manufacturer produced trekking/hiking poles? Price? Then try them out in the store and make sure they feel good. Or even better, rent them for a weekend and try them out on a hike.

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