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Popular with a growing number of hikers, hiking poles offer numerous advantages: reduction in joint pain and fatigue, better balance, smoother walking, etc.

Muule takes stock of the benefits of hiking poles and helps you choose the model best suited to your practice

The bodily benefits

The main benefit of hiking poles is to reduce shock and joint pain . The use of sticks makes it possible to absorb and better distribute the shock wave with each step. Without poles, the entirety of this wave is reflected in your joints and can, in the long run, traumatize your ankles, knees, hips, spine and neck.

In addition to earlier fatigue, the repetition of these traumas can cause pain or even injuries.

At the same time, by working your upper body, the poles help relieve part of your legs .

When going uphill , this allows you to shift your center of gravity forward and thus adopt a more economical and faster walk .

When going downhill , this also gives you better balance , considerably reducing the risk of falling, knowing that most accidents occur on the last descent of the day, when the legs are tired and respond more difficult to requests. The poles especially come into their own in scree slopes and slippery descents .

Technical advantages

In addition to their primary function, poles allow you to walk faster and help keep a regular pace thanks to the swing of the arms acting as a metronome.

They can be of valuable use when crossing certain obstacles such as ditches and rivers. They reveal themselves
moreover very useful for testing the solidity of a firn, the depth of a watercourse, the stability of a rock , etc.

They can also allow you to keep out of your path dense vegetation that is not always very friendly, or even an animal that appears somewhat threatening.

For fans of minimalist hiking over several days, they can also act as a stake to set up a shelter using a tarpaulin or tarp for example.

Faced with all these advantages, it is difficult to find any disadvantages to the use of poles even if they exist.

Chief among these is extra weight. However, this is often tiny compared to the total weight of your equipment. The aluminum and carbon used now make it possible to offer models at record weights.

The other criticism that is often made is that the hands are busy and that they can therefore obstruct and hinder movements, for example when grabbing a water bottle, a map or in passages requiring the use of the hands. However, it should be noted that almost all models on the market today are telescopic and can be stored very quickly on the side of the bag, without even having to remove the bag, many backpack models having a quick hook for sticks.

The different types of sticks

First of all, we must distinguish two types of poles: hiking poles and Nordic walking poles .

Designed specifically to meet the constraints of
this discipline with growing success, Nordic walking poles are single-stranded, that is to say composed of a single tube .

This type of pole cannot therefore be adjusted in height and is chosen according to its size, like ski poles. Made from a mixture of alloy and carbon , these poles are above all developed to provide great dynamism . The higher the carbon content, the lighter the poles will be and will absorb vibrations .

Finally, they have a gauntlet strap ensuring
excellent grip and optimal arm movement.

Quite exclusive in their design, these sticks are not
therefore not suitable for use while hiking.

Nordic walking poles are most often single-stranded to guarantee great dynamism

Versatile, hiking poles are suitable for use in the mountains or on the plains, in winter and summer.

Offering a wide range of choices, hiking poles have evolved significantly in recent years.

The vast majority of them are based on a 2 or 3 strand design allowing them to be easily stretched and adjusted to both your size and the terrain (uphill, flat or downhill).

This telescopic aspect also allows you to take up as little space as possible on the bag when you are not using them.

Hiking poles are characterized by their great modularity and their small footprint

Adjustment systems

There are two adjustment systems:

- cone systems (sometimes called Twistlock) :
Concretely, you just need to unscrew a strand to pull it and screw it back in once the desired length is obtained. Very light, this system is however less reliable (the strand can sag during the ride) and less easy to use (the strands can be difficult to unscrew, particularly during exercise with hands wet with sweat.

- wheel systems (sometimes called Powerlock) ;
reliable, robust and ultra-easy to use, this system allows you to release the strand by opening the lever; just close it to lock it. These levers can be made of plastic or metal depending on the degree of finish of the sticks. The disadvantage of this system compared to the first is the additional weight induced by the screws and the levers (one on each strand)

Adjustment by cone system on the left and dials on the right

The materials

Regarding materials, the poles can be offered in aluminum or carbon.

6061 aluminum offers very high rigidity while 7075 aluminum has the advantage of being both extremely strong and light .

The carbon models, obviously more expensive, are characterized by being very light while guaranteeing very good resistance to torsion . They also provide excellent vibration absorption but can be more fragile.

Handles and accessories

Finally, the choice of a model can be guided by its level of finish.

In terms of handles , we most often find EVA foam or cork handles.

The two materials ensure a comfortable grip and
effective. So it's mostly a matter of taste. Furthermore, certain models combine the two, with a cork upper part extended by an EVA sleeve guaranteeing effective grip in all situations.

In addition to the handle, the sticks are equipped with a
wrist strap more or less evolved: from the simple fabric wrist strap to the microfleece lined gauntlet.

Versatile, hiking poles are often delivered with different types of washers allowing them to adapt to asphalt, dry terrain or

EVA handle / Cork handle extended with an EVA sleeve / Multi-surface washers

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