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  1. #1
    Registered User simeo's Avatar
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    Default Solid vs Adjustable Poles

    I currently only use one hiking stick. I genuinely appreciate the heft however a recent hike on steep ascent and descent is making me realize the value in two poles.

    A friend of mine is strongly against adjustable poles because he has seen others "with expensive, black diamond trekking poles" and other brands have their poles fail at the worst times. He told me at one moment a hiking friend's poles failed and he almost fell down a steep ridge line before being caught. It was at that moment my friend says he has "sworn off adjustable poles" because "we could have lost him".

    So what are the thoughts about adjustable vs solid poles? I wanted adjustables for the convenience however I'm 230lbs. I'd hate to accidentally place too much weight on the poles and 'snap'. (I understand they're supposed to be mostly for balance but I'm sure they receive weight too)
    He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. -Psalm 91:1

  2. #2
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    You're right that they're supposed to be used mostly for balance, but they do in fact carry the force of body weight at times. If you are 230 pounds, that is a consideration.

    I have a number of different poles over the years, right now I have Black Diamond Z-poles which are super light weight (I'm 180 pounds) and have a much different feel than my Leki's which were true adjustables. (The Z-poles snap into place more like tent poles rather than telescoping poles.)

    That being said, I've never had poles break, except for ski poles when someone crashed into me--those weren't adjustables.

    The biggest issue with non-adjusting poles for me is setting up my tent which requires that I use my trekking poles at a certain length.

  3. #3
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    I've had poles fail, both solid and adjustable. I also had times when I fell on one where the shaft was pointed at my mid section, I was lucky that time as the solid pole broke instead of impaling me. So I am not sold on that argument.

    Also I don't buy that you can't put any serious weight on adjustqle poles as I frequently put my full weight on a pole as a method of down climbing/lowering myself.

    Having 2 means if you break one you still have one.

    Adjustable is much nicer and neater to put/pack away when not needed, like in trail towns or road walks.

    Lite weight is so much nicer too, it is hard to go back to my Al sticks once I switched to carbon fiber.

  4. #4
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    Up-hill vs down-hill, crossing a log over water, setting up my Tarptent vs my tarp in porch mode. I adjust my poles multiple times per day. Same as any item of gear, if you can use it for more than one purpose it is more valuable. I can't imagine why anyone would choose to carry non-adjustable poles.

  5. #5
    Registered User simeo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OCDave View Post
    ..... I can't imagine why anyone would choose to carry non-adjustable poles.

    Failure and strength is why my friend advocates non-adjustable poles. I don't have enough personal experience to say either way but I was wanting adjustable for the convenience until my friend's "near death" stories thanks to adjustable poles.

    Now I'm really concerned because I'm 230lbs and about '6 "3. I know I'm going to put my full weight on the poles at least once as unintentional as it will be. I'm sure the poles will need to support a good 25-75lbs quite regularly up/down hill and stream crossing.
    He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. -Psalm 91:1

  6. #6
    Registered User Old Hiker's Avatar
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    6'2" - 217 pounds. I have both: semi-adjustable Black Diamonds and a pair of "real" sticks: one rake handle and one natural tree limb.

    I like the light weight of the BD poles when walking in the neighborhood. I like the heft of the real sticks any place I'm going up and down. If (when) I trip, I want to be comfortable in knowing the poles won't break under my weight.

    I have a LightHeart Gear SoLong 6, but instead of using trekking poles, I bought the tent poles to use. 8 additional ounces, but I'm OK with it.

    I've also turned the top of one of the "real" sticks into a sharp wedge shape for self-defense.
    Old Hiker
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  7. #7
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    Simeo,

    I am comparable in weight. I use Black Diamond Carbon Fiber poles. Up and down my poles provide much more than just balance. Using my poles to carry a percentage of the load has made a huge difference with respect to my knees. In addition, I get a bit of an upper-body work-out. I have had the poles slip a bit when catching myself from a trip but, never fully collapse.

    Good Luck

  8. #8
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    I have the Black Diamond Carbon Cork poles which are adjustable and use the flick lock mechanism. They come in three sections. The bottom section of one of the poles broke early on my Colorado Trail thru hike last month, in the process of breaking my fall. I feel like the pole did its job. After a few days of not realizing that I could fashion a temporary solution, I was able to put the broken pole back into use by re-inserting the remaining portion of the broken lower section and simply extending the middle section more than normal. This wasn't ideal because the pole slipped a little and became shorter over a few miles but I limited that by tightening the flick lock and also readjusting from time to time. Anyway, I think that this temporary fix is one big advantage of the adjustable poles. This wouldn't be possible with a fixed length pole. I use both of my poles for my shelter so having solutions like this in mind is important to me.

    I'm going to look into having the lower section replaced under warranty, but in reality, the pole did its job and the replacement part, if I can find it anywhere in stock, is only $15 list price...
    HST/JMT August 2016
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  9. #9
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    This is reminscent of the anti-seatbelt argument - someone will always tell you about a friend of a friend who drowned because he couldn't undo the belt. Can it happen? Sure, but it's very rare and even your wooden walking stick can suddenly snap.
    "It goes to show you never can tell." - Charles Edward Anderson Berry

  10. #10

    Default

    The Leki twist locks will loosen up slowly but it doesn't take much to get in the habit of giving them a twist before heading downhill. I routinely put my full body weight on Leki's where if they fail it could get real uncomfortable. When on a steep rocky section I will lean forward and down, then place the two poles down on the ground at the base of the rock and then walk down the rock face mostly supporting my weight on the poles.

    The major reason for adjustable poles is when you need to stow them for scrambling. My poles collapse down not much taller than my pack while solid poles just will get caught.

  11. #11
    Registered User Old Hiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Old Grouse View Post
    ......................... and even your wooden walking stick can suddenly snap.
    Funny you should say that. I used a Scout staff for a hiking pole when I first started my attempt. I was using it to flick small branches, etc. off the Trail to help out. About mile 100, it snapped when I tried this with the same type of branch I'd been flicking before. Suddenly and unexpectedly.

    I'd had this staff for over 20 years - US and European hiking. It was like losing a friend.

    Still, I'm more confident with my 1 inch wooden poles than my flexible thin Al tubes.
    Old Hiker
    AT Hike 2012 - 497 Miles of 2184
    AT Thru Hiker - 29 FEB - 03 OCT 2016 2189.1 miles
    Just because my teeth are showing, does NOT mean I'm smiling.
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  12. #12
    Registered User simeo's Avatar
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    Who knew something I took so casually to hiking would be such a hard choice.....
    He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. -Psalm 91:1

  13. #13
    PCT, Sheltowee, Pinhoti, LT , BMT, AT, SHT, CDT 560 miles 10-K's Avatar
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    Adjustable hiking poles are fairly necessary if you use a shelter that uses a trekking pole to save weight.

    Having said that, I'm pretty sure trekking poles are meant more for balance and low-level support than crutches that should support your full body weight - no matter how much you weigh.

  14. #14
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    I'm a pretty clumsy 300 pounder... I've put a lot of weight on my generic Cabela's poles & they have yet to let me down. I haven't tried them yet, but I'm sure the higher end poles are probably even more durable.

    Now that I've had them for a few years, I couldn't imagine going out without them... Especially during winter.

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Old Grouse View Post
    This is reminscent of the anti-seatbelt argument - someone will always tell you about a friend of a friend who drowned because he couldn't undo the belt. Can it happen? Sure, but it's very rare and even your wooden walking stick can suddenly snap.
    Or worse, suddenly burst into flames...

    I used to use a wonderful hiking staff hewn from hickory, it was a wonderful trail pal for many many years. Then I discovered trekking poles and I have never looked back. A friend of mine who hikes a lot is about 280 lbs, I go about 225, we have both worn out two sets over the past decade and I have never had a unexpected failure that caused me to lose balance, get a boot wet, or otherwise be a problem.

  16. #16
    Registered User Ktaadn's Avatar
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    My weight fluctuates anywhere from 195-220 and I use Black Diamond Contour Elliptical poles which have flint locks. They are a little heavier than some other poles out there, but the elliptical shape gives them a lot of strength. I've put a lot of torque on them on occasion when getting the tip stuck between some rocks or roots without realizing it or simply slipping on some wet ground. I few time I thought for sure that they were going to break, but they show no signs of wear. I think they are 6 years old now.

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    I use Masters Manaslu EVO Kompressor Anti-Shock Trekking Poles that I bought over 10 years ago. I used them to hike the AT when I weighed over 400 pounds and still use them now at a svelte 230. They have been invaluable to my knees, especially when I was heavier. Being able to adjust the length is great for the varying terrain, the ups and downs. I, too, have put much of my weight on them while going downhill and have had no issues.

  18. #18
    Registered User simeo's Avatar
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    I may use one solid hiking stick like the one I'm used to and take an adjustable for climbs and descents.
    He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. -Psalm 91:1

  19. #19
    Registered User joshuasdad's Avatar
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    After breaking 3 sets of poles while at (or near) your weight, I used fixed length ski poles from the Sugarloaf "hiking pole" bin to hike most of Maine and New Hampshire. I got my $4 worth. However, be conscious of the grips, which can blister your hands, or worse, impale you if improperly used.

  20. #20
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    I've got a 12 year old pair of adjustable Lekis, still going strong. Adjustable has the advantage that you can stash them entirely (when hand-over-hand climbs or descents are involved, or for hitching into town.) Also: you can lengthen them a bit for long descents, or shorten them for long ascents.

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