Trekking Poles- Not Just for Germans
Well maybe not a cult, but I had viewed the use of trekking poles as something other people did. I admit I thought it was wimpy to use poles when I hiked. Or maybe it was just for Germans who liked to wear high waisted pants and socks with sandals (which I might add in my crunchy fashion period I also modeled the stylish Tevas and socks look) in my life, and never with the disdain I had for trekking poles. Or maybe it was ok for old people, especially old alpiney people, who walked with a smoothed but gnarled wooden stick, someone who probably knows how to milk cows and goats and yodel, then I had no issue.
My opposition was likely not logical, I used them for skiing and snowshoeing and so why not for hiking? In Colorado( well at least ten years ago) they were not so common. Then I moved to Italy where there were much more frequent sitings on the trails ( and not just by the Germans or yodeling shepherds). Some use just one and some used two and I had already been using them for snowshoeing so the initiation was more subtle.
Your mountain ruggedness on display for the world to see
I deliberated but I was warming up to the idea. First, if not actually using your trekking poles, you can attach them to the outside of your zaino ( backpack) This has the added benefit of enhancing any mountainy style you want to exude. Think of all the admiration you will garner with poles strapped to on the outside of your backpack, indicating that you are likely carrying something importantly rugged.
Outdoor gear design is pleasing, why relegate it to the garage? Outdoor stores are beautiful with their displays, why must we buy these things and at least not admire them when not in use? Plus there is something satisfying about having mountain gear in my city apartment. Let’s not underestimate the decorative value of hiking poles. Not to mention anything telescopic is cool. However, I like to research and thought I should perform my due diligence for such equipment. I didn’t want them to annoyingly collapse as I was walking, possibly doing more harm than good. But still, I kept thinking about using trekking poles on the trail.
Last summer I was in Macugnaga for a couple of days. The town is a picture-perfect Italian alpine village at the base of Monte Rosa, where chickens and cows roam free. There is a nice hike up to the Rifugio Zamboni. ( No connection, as far as I know, to the American who invented the ice resurfacing machine but it is located at the base of a glacier, so there is at least that icy connection). The rifugio offers places to sleep along with food and is located a couple of hours hike up from the town, the poles could come in handy ( no pun intended).
While I hadn’t yet performed my normal full-on research for gear, I thought that maybe I should go ahead and pick up a pair anyway, so I went to one of the local shops with a nice display of poles and spent 20 minutes chatting with a short and twinkly-eyed mountain guide who appeared to have quite a bit of experience. When not guiding people he ran his shop. He explained the benefits (especially for older knees, of which his were and mine were becoming) and laughed as at one point he too eschewed the use of them but now was a loyal convert. Why wouldn’t you use them? He assuaged my concerns of collapsing telescoping poles with the patented closure that was easy to use and kept the height where I wanted. the added feature was an extended grip, nice, he assured me if sweaty hands had to grab a bit lower.
The trekking pole evangelist
I didn’t spend a fortune on them the Gipron- Italian patented system closures, (read the product review here) about 50 euro, ( you can spend hundreds) but neither were they the 10 euro cheapies. After the first hikes, I was immediately a convert. I found they actually came in handy (pun intended) even on non-snowy walks, easing some of the aches and pains that seemed more present in my knees and ankles, plus can help with balance . Like any new convert I had become an evangelist and wondered about the years I had wasted without these poles in my life. Plus they were useful for things like pushing branches out of the way or beating wild boars, the latter of which I haven’t yet encountered and maybe they wouldn’t stop the boar but then again better than nothing. I now can’t hike without them.
Like a new cult member, I perhaps have gone overboard in trying to have my pole-less friends see the light They remain unconvinced, but in time they too may start reaping the benefits of trekking poles.
Leki- Trek Together
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