trekking poles

Converting to the Cult of Trekking Poles

trek leki

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.


The Conversion

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.


Image credit:

Leki- Trek Together




Product Review: Gipron 757 Powerblast Trekking Poles

These moderately priced telescoping trekking poles work are lightweight, easy to adjust but have a few areas that could be improved. Still they are durable and a good value. If still debating whether you are a pole person or not, check out: Converting to the Cult of Trekking Poles


  •                   Cost: About 48 euro
  •                   Weight: 216 grams/7.6 oz.
  •                   Material: aluminum
  •                   Length: 62 (closed)- 135 cm/24.4″(closed) 53.1″
  •                   Conditions evaluated in: winter snowshoe, summer treks and trail runs

Each pole comes with two adjustment levers. The patented grip system is easy to use and rarely does not keep the poles at the designated height. There were markings printed on the poles at 10 cm intervals, however after just a few months of use they have faded and so one must line up one pole to the other to adjust the two length sections if you want them the same.

The poles have an soft cushioned handle, better grip for sweaty or wet hands than plastic. The grip area is also extended for those who may want to grab their poles further down. I haven’t had need for this but I can imagine some would like the extra  long grip area.

This pole comes with plastic tip covers for use when there is no snow. The plastic tips reduce the sound made of the metal points on dry rock and are less likely for the pole to slip away when used on rock, however for grass the plastic tips have the opposite effect and their ability to stay in place makes them hard to remove on the fly so for the someone fickle with pole tip preferences they are not as easy to adjust for varying situations. The same is true for the  baskets, which will stay in place even if tugged on by rocks and ice. The baskets also have a  relatively small diameter so when in deep, softer snow they don’t do much to keep the pole from sinking deep.

One of the pole straps came undone and it is not possible to remove the cap of the pole to rethread the pole strap. Probably one day I will have to sit down with a safety pin and try to thread the strap back through the hidden plastic bar.  Gipron should make it easier to rethread the straps, especially if at some point they need to be replaced.