Hiking Staff vs Trekking Pole (Which Is Best)

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Lady hiking with poles

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​​We all want to spend our hard-earned money on the best gear. But with so many options out there, it can be difficult to find what is right for you.

One of the most common questions we get asked is which hiking staff vs trekking pole (which is best). The truth is that both are great pieces of equipment and either one will serve you well on your next adventure!

To help make this decision easier, we’ve put together a list of benefits that each option has to offer.

Lady Hiking with Poles
Lady Hiking with Poles

Some people prefer walking sticks because they are lighter weight than trekking poles and don’t require as much maintenance like changing the length every time you go up or down in elevation. On the other hand, trekking poles provide more stability and are better for downhill portions of the hike. Poles also tend to be less expensive than sticks.

Which one is best for you really depends on your personal preferences and the type of terrain you’ll be hiking on. If you’re looking for a lightweight option that doesn’t require much maintenance, then walking sticks might be right for you.

However, if you’re looking for something that will provide more stability and is better suited for downhill hikes, trekking poles are a good choice!

No matter what you choose, make sure to practice with them before hitting the trails so that you feel comfortable using them in any situation. Happy hiking!

Walking sticks are best used with little to no load, so if you’re thinking of trying backpacking or going for a long day hike, and you need extra support, a pair of trekking poles would, in our humble opinion, be a wiser option.

Types of Trekking Poles

Trekking Poles: Sold as a pair and used in tandem, trekking poles enhance your stability and can reduce the force on your knees while hiking and backpacking. Most are adjustable in length and some include internal springs that absorb shock to further reduce impact.

Hiking Staff: Sometimes called a walking staff or travel staff, this is a single-pole that’s most effective when used on relatively flat terrain and with little or no load on your back.

Hiking staffs are adjustable and some include a shock-absorbing feature. They may also include a built-in camera mount under the handle so the staff can be used as a monopod.

Trekking poles and hiking staffs are standard equipment for many walkers, hikers, trekkers, backpackers, and snowshoers. The reasons why are simple: They enhance your stability and provide support on all types of terrain.

To get the most out of trekking poles or a hiking staff, follow these steps:

  • Single or double? You’ll start by choosing between a pair of trekking poles or a single hiking staff.
  • Find the right length: You’re aiming for a 90-degree bend at your elbow when pole tips touch the ground.
  • Choose features: Adjustability, foldability, shock absorption, weight and locking mechanisms (for adjustable poles) are just some of the features and options that will guide your buying choice.
  • Learn tips for using poles: Knowing a few handy tips, like how to use poles to get around obstacles in the trail, will get you on your way.

Note: While trekking poles and walking staff might seem like a logical walking aid for urban use, you should never get them in lieu of a cane from a medical supply store. Trekking poles and hiking staffs are designed for people fit enough to travel in rugged backcountry terrain.

Are Trekking Poles Better than Walking Sticks?

Although both increase base of support and assist the lower body, trekking poles are not ideal substitutes for walking canes because their fulcrum is not as strong and the base may not offer traction on slippery ground. … The measurement between the wrist joint and the ground is the ideal length of the walking cane.

Which Type of Walking Stick Is Best?

Traditional, non-folding walking sticks are best suited for those that need to use a walking stick most, if not all, of the time. Non-folding walking sticks are available in a range of materials and handle styles, with height-adjustable or fixed height options.

Is It Good to Walk with Trekking Poles?

Information Regarding Hiking Poles
Information Regarding Hiking Poles

Walking with walking poles or trekking poles enables a total-body workout that exercises both your upper and lower body, creates stability, and gives you a more intense exercise without necessarily feeling the exertion.

Do Trekking Poles Work Arms?

In addition to strength training, and building muscles, the use of hiking poles can lead to leaner, more toned arm muscles. Because the resistance is not overly large, arms will enjoy a gentler strength training workout.

Hiking is great exercise. Yes, it works your lower body more, but you will get a good workout on your core too. If you go with trekking poles, as many do, you can also work your arms and upper body too, turning it into a full-body workout.

Are Walking Sticks Good for Seniors?

Walking sticks and trekking poles provide additional stabilization for aging activity seekers. Quality walking sticks work well to provide balance, absorb shock to joints, and assist movement over various

Which Type of Walking Stick Is Best?

Traditional, non-folding walking sticks are best suited for those that need to use a walking stick most, if not all, of the time. Non-folding walking sticks are available in a range of materials and handle styles, with height-adjustable or fixed height options.

What is the correct height for a hiking stick?

Generally speaking, walking poles should reach the top of your palm when your arm is down by your side with your forearm held out in front of you at 90 degrees to your body. Essentially the top of the handle should be at the waist or hip level and your elbow at 90 degrees.

Trekking Pole Length

Properly sized poles will put your elbows at a 90-degree bend when you hold the poles with tips on the ground near your feet. Many trekking poles come in adjustable lengths, which makes this easy to achieve.

However, some are sold in fixed lengths or in ranges of sizes. Use these guidelines to help find the right length poles for you:

For adjustable-length trekking poles and hiking staff:

  • If you’re taller than about 6 feet, choose a hiking staff or trekking poles that have a maximum length of at least 51 inches.
  • If you are shorter than 6 feet tall, you’ll be able to shorten most adjustable trekking poles and hiking staffs enough to make them work for you.

For fixed-length trekking poles:

Adjusting Pole Length

If you have trekking poles that adjust in length, it’s important to know what height to set them at. Improperly adjusted trekking poles can cause distress to your arms, shoulders, back, and neck.

For general hiking, adjust the length so that when you hold the pole with the tip on the ground near your foot, your arm makes a 90-degree bend at the elbow. This will be the right length for most of your hiking.

If you have poles with three sections, it’s helpful to set the top adjustment so it’s in the middle of the adjustment range and then set the bottom adjustment to the length that puts your arm at the correct angle.

Then if you need to make adjustments while hiking, you can use only the top adjustment to fine-tune the length.

For long uphill sections, you can shorten each pole by about 5–10cm to get more leverage and more secure pole plants. The steeper the slope, the more you shorten your poles.

Your trekking poles should assist you in moving uphill without causing strain or fatigue to your shoulders and your shoulders should never feel as if they are in an unnatural, lifted position or as if they are being pushed up into your backpack straps. If so, you need to shorten your poles even more.

For long downhill sections, try lengthening each pole by about 5–10cm from the length you set it at for general hiking. Doing so will keep your body more upright for better balance.

If you’re on a long traversing section, you can shorten the pole on the uphill side and lengthen the pole on the downhill side as needed to improve comfort and stability.

Is Staff a Cane?

is that staff is (plural staffs or staves) a long, straight stick, especially one used to assist in walking while the cane is (uncountable) the slender, flexible main stem of a plant such as bamboo, including many species in the grass family Gramineae?

Trekking Pole Features

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

Adjustable: Many trekking poles adjust in length to enhance stability on different terrain. They generally adjust from about 24 to 55 inches long. Typically you’ll want to shorten the poles when going uphill and lengthen them when going downhill.

Non-adjustable: Some trekking poles don’t adjust in length. These fixed-length poles tend to be lighter weight than adjustable poles because they operate with fewer parts, making them popular among the ultralight crowd.

They are great for activities where you know you only need a certain length.

Foldable: Foldable trekking poles function kind of like tent poles rather than collapsing into themselves like adjustable poles. Foldable poles are typically the most packable and often are very lightweight and quick to deploy.

They are especially popular among ultrarunners and fast hikers.

Shock-absorbing poles: These offer internal springs that absorb shock when you walk downhill. With most poles, this feature can be turned off when it’s not needed, like when you’re walking uphill.

Shock absorption is a nice feature for any hiker but is particularly recommended if you have unstable hips, knees, or ankles or have had any previous injuries to those joints.

Standard poles: These do not have a shock-absorbing feature and are lighter and less expensive as a result. While they don’t absorb as much impact when going downhill, they do provide a similar level of balance and support as shock-absorbing poles.

Ultralight: Ultralight poles offer the advantage of less swing weight, which makes them easier and quicker to move. Over the course of a long hike, this means less fatigue. Ultralight poles are also easier to pack.

The pole shaft’s material is a key determinant of the pole’s overall weight, ultralight poles as those that weigh less than 1 pound per pair.

Camera mount: Some trekking poles and hiking staffs include a built-in camera mount under the handle, enabling the pole to be used as a monopod.

Trekking Pole Locking Mechanisms

Whether adjustable in length or not, all trekking poles have locking mechanisms to keep the poles from slipping in length while in use. For non-adjustable poles, the mechanisms lock and unlock so you can extend them to full length for use and collapse them for stowing.

Adjustable poles operate in a similar way, but the locking mechanisms also let you adjust the length of the two or three interlocking sections.

This adjustability (which typically ranges from 24 to 55 inches) lets you adapt the poles to your height and the terrain.

Most poles use one of these four types of locking mechanisms:

External lever lock: A lever-based, clamplike mechanism that makes pole length quick and easy to adjust, even when wearing gloves.

Push-button lock: Poles with this locking mechanism snap into place and lock with a single pull. Press the push button to release the lock and collapse the poles. Some of these poles do not adjust in length.

Twist lock: Uses an expander and screw setup that is consistently strong and durable.

Combination lock: Some poles use a combination of the other locking mechanisms to achieve a balance of strength, lightweight, and ease of use. For example, a pole might use an external lever lock on the upper shaft and a twist lock on the lower shaft.

Note: All pole locking mechanisms can loosen over time, so always double-check to be sure they’re securely locked before you start hiking. On lever locks, this also means double-checking the clamping tension.

Trekking Pole Shaft Materials

The pole shaft’s makeup is a key determinant of the pole’s overall weight.

Aluminum: The more durable and economical choice, aluminum poles usually weigh between 18 and 22 ounces per pair. The actual weight (and price) can vary a bit based on the gauge of the pole, which ranges from 12 to 16mm. Under high stress, aluminum can bend but is unlikely to break.

Composite: These poles feature shafts that are made either entirely or partially from carbon. The lighter and more expensive option, these poles average between 12 and 18 ounces per pair.

They are good at reducing vibration, but under high stress, carbon-fiber poles are more vulnerable to breakage or splintering than aluminum poles. If you hike in rugged, remote areas, this is something to keep in mind.

Trekking Pole Grips

Some poles and staffs include ergonomic grips that have a 15-degree corrective angle to keep your wrists in a neutral and comfortable position. Also, some hiking staffs have grips that look like the grip you’d find on a walking cane. This shape provides good support for casual walking and very light hiking.

Grip Materials

Grips come in a variety of materials that affect how the poles feel in your hands.

Cork: This resists moisture from sweaty hands, decreases vibration, and best conforms to the shape of your hands. If you sweat a lot and will be hiking in hot weather, go with cork grips.

Foam: This absorbs moisture from sweaty hands and is the softest to the touch.

Which one is best for you really depends?

Rubber: This insulates hands from cold, shock, and vibration, so it’s best for cold-weather activities. However, it’s more likely to chafe or blister sweaty hands, so it’s less suitable for warm-weather hiking.

Conclusion

Hiking staff vs trekking pole ( which is best ) – both are great pieces of equipment and either one will serve you well on your next adventure!

To help make this decision easier, we’ve put together a list of benefits that each option has to offer.

Some people prefer walking sticks because they are lighter weight than trekking poles and don’t require as much maintenance like changing the length every time you go up or down in elevation.

On the other hand, trekking poles provide more stability and are better for downhill portions of the hike. Poles also tend to be less expensive than sticks.

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