Tips for using our lightweight Alpkit walking poles
As a young lad a set of poles were thrust into my hand to carry on my first mountain overnight trip. I tried them for the first 500m then got fed up and carried them the whole way. A bit later in life 4-5 days into a big walk andwith a bigger rucksack on my back, I came to a steep descent with a 25kg bag. First of all I was glad a friend had a set of poles he wasn't using, secondly it would have been a lot easier if I had got some practice in. They do feel a bit funny the first time you use them, but they really can make you a bit quicker, a bit more stable and a lot safer with heavier loads.
We have a few types of poles in our range... the really lightweight Carbonlites and it's longer CarbonLong equivalent which works well for extra height when pitching a tarp. Compact Ultra's and Carbon Marathon's are also 3-section, but as they brake into foldable sections they pack down really small for when you need to stash them away. Shox have the added comfort of a sprung handle just to take more impact out of those long walks.
Setting up your pole
When using the twist lock poles unscrew the bottom section of pole anti-clockwise, pull out and lock back into position at the STOP line. To lock back into position rotate clockwise until hand tighten, do not overtighten as they could become jammed or worse, damage the pole. Then adjust the second section by twisting anti-clockwise . The other poles all use asnap lock system which is fairly self explanatory and easy to use.
The strap on the Carbonlite is super simple, but really effective -put your hand up through the bottom of the strap and bring the hand down over the strap and handle. Adjust the length of the strap by pulling the top section of strap through the plastic retainer. You should be comfortably on the grip, don't overtighten the strap and stop the blood going to your hand, but make sure it comfortablysupportive. You should be able to relax your grip and your wrist should take the majority of the weight.
The Compact Ultra pole is really easy to set up - pull the bottom section of pole out and let the connectors fit together, a small ball should pop out and lock the pole sections into place. The top section does all the adjustment with a simple snap lock.
Top Tip - Don't forget to adjust the straps if you are putting gloves on, it is often best to do this in your nice warm house before venturing out for a winter walk. It can be a bit fiddly when out on the hill!
Setting the length of your pole can make the day much more comfortable, when walking along flat or moderate gradients set the pole length so the pole tip is touching the floor when your hand is in the strap and your elbow is bent at 90º - most of the time this is perfect.
When using your poles they should be behind you pushing you forward, we've heard stories of more efficiency if you do opposite leg/opposite arm or vice versa, find what is comfortable to keep you going.
On technical uphills it is worth shortening your poles, when climbing steps or continually reaching over rocks it is less tiring if your arms are not stuck high up in the air. But for steeper ground or long uphill sections leave your poles at 90º arm length as they can be used to push you uphill.
When going downhill extend your poles as long as you dare - they should be used as brakes, place your hands on top of the handles and use them to brace on the way down. This is most peoples main purpose for poles, helping take the strain off a heavy rucksack on the descent or to help take some weight and shock off your knees.
When traversing a slope or on a zig zag path it maybe be best to have one long and one short and swap them at each turn. But just remember you supposed to be walking not adjusting you poles, but when you need a rest on a uphill slog it is always best to have something technical to adjust rather than blame your fitness.
What else have I learned?
Relax - let the poles do the work, that's why you bought them.Don't grip the handle too hard, it is the strap that should be doing all the work. Have a relaxed grip that allows the trekking pole to have natural swinging action.
Know when to put them away - after the walk in to a scramble it can be tempting to keep going and drag your poles for a bit, but it can make it awkward when things get steeper. Scrambling on grade 2 / 3 will certainly need you to pop the poles away, hands are definitely more reliable than polesfor balance on steep rock. The Carbonlites will sit nicely on the side of a pack, or if you're covering this kind of terrain more often than not perhaps look towards something like the Compact Ultra's that will fit better actually inside.
Keep them clean - make sure to dry them out after use, pop a bit of oil on the screw thread of each pole after a Summer of walking and let us know if you need any spares.
Now get out and have fun walking!