Know your hiking pole
Your own feet are a great mechanism for maintaining balance on uneven terrains present in the outdoors. In many Hiking conditions, however, it helps to have more than your own two legs to provide the needed balance. That is where Walking Sticks and Trekking Poles come in. Hiking Poles are rapidly replacing the good old wooden walking sticks. Hiking Poles generally have better grips, are extendable, and have better shock absorbing mechanisms. For serious hiking, they are definitely the way to go. The typical Hiking Pole looks like the illustration given here.
Most pole grips are made out of high friction contoured rubber that gives maximum grip when fully clinched in your fist. Pole Grips come in many variations with many designs catering to specific needs. Most standard pole grips have a rounded top for holding the pole top in the palm of your hand as an alternative grip. Some more advanced poles might have slightly bent pole grips which are better for steep inclines. Some pole grips even include self-arrest hooks which are a feature copied from Ice Axes.
Most poles consist of two or three parts that compact into each other. By counter-rotating these parts, you can either loosen or fasten these parts. This enables you to increase and decrease the length of the pole. Most poles have scales written on the extendable pieces that allow you to set an exact pole length. Higher quality poles have a lock system which prevents the pole pieces from getting compressed as you are using them.
The basket keeps your Hiking Poles from diving in too deep on softer surfaces. On snowy surfaces, special snow caps can prevent your poles from disappearing into the snow.
The pole tip is often made of a rounded tip of steel. This ensures that the pole tip gives enough grip without it being too sharp. Sharp pole tips could end up puncturing your clothes, Hiking Tent, or even your skin.
Hiking Poles are adjustable in length. Here are some practical tips in using your Hiking Poles:
1. You can shorten your poles on steep ascents to compensate for the height difference. On descents, you can lengthen your poles in the same way to keep your body from leaning forward. Hiking Poles can help you maintain your balance and keep a good straight body posture on uneven terrain.
2. Make sure to securely tighten the individual extension pieces. If not securely fastened, the poles might collapse in use causing you to fall over. The danger of a collapsing pole should not be underestimated, especially in situations such as River and Stream Crossing where you might exert great pressure on the poles. In general, poles are meant for balance and not for fully supporting your weight.
3. Hiking Poles are strong, extendable, and usually have a tip and rounded grip with an adjustable strap. All these features make Hiking Poles excellent surrogate Tent Poles and they are useful in making Makeshift Tents and Outdoor Shelters.
Hiking Sticks or Trekking Poles are very helpful in keeping your balance, especially when hiking on uneven terrain. Just make sure to use Hiking Poles with features that meet your needs.