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I've always enjoyed walking and I'm lucky to live in a part of the world where I don't have to walk very far before I'm out in the country and climbing towards quite splendid views.
Climbing hills is painful but the rewards are sumptuous. It isn't just the views, in fact, but the sense of being closer to nature, to something elemental; and of course it's about endeavour, adventure and achievement.
For many years I took the kind of dilettante approach that I take to most things. I would be a Mountain Rescuer's worst nightmare. I'd set off in a pair of cord trousers, stout shoes and a tweed jacket, with a cheese sandwich stuffed in one pocket and an apple in another. It's what comes of reading too many boys' adventure stories that had been written in the twenties and thirties.
In time, I learned the wisdom of wearing proper hiking boots and clothes, carrying maps and whistles and enough provisions in cases I needed to bivouac halfway up Helvellyn.
One thing I didn't do for many years was carry walking poles. I saw it as something that old people did and when I finally bought my first, about ten years ago, I was a little embarrassed to be seen out with it. However, it wasn't long before I'd bought a second to make the pair and I was asking myself why I hadn't done this long ago.
THE ADVANTAGES OF WALKING POLES
The advantages of walking poles are pretty obvious if you are actually heading for the North or South Pole, in which context I'd always thought of them: stability, balance and support. What I had never understood was just how much of the strain they take out of your legs, and more especially your back, even when you're walking on the flat along a country road, never mind when you're tackling a steep fell. The load is spread and you can make ground more quickly with less damage to your body.
Another advantage is the feeling of security they give, as you have something that gives you grip and balance. This is particularly true when making a descent. I find coming down a hill far more arduous in some respects than going up it. Poles make it not only a lot easier and safer, but also more enjoyable. The expression, "I'm just enjoying the view" no longer has to be a euphemism for, "I'm knackered and I need to get my breath back".
If you intend to walk any distance, or across terrain that isn't absolutely flat, you would be well advised to get yourself a pair of walking poles. But which?
LEKI TRAIL WALKING POLES
Leki make good poles. Their range includes some quite expensive ones, with the Trail version sitting about mid-range. If you are not thinking of emulating Ranulph Fiennes, but you do want a strong, reliable pole that will last, then this could be the one for you.
The shaft is made of aluminium, as lightness is a key feature of a modern pole. It may be less effective in beating off wolves than the old fashioned walking staff, but it's a lot easier to carry if you want to strap it to your rucksack, weighing in at about 273 gms per pole (roughly 10 oz).
It comes in three sections with the Leki Super Locking System, which allows the length of the pole to be adjusted with a few light finger twists, yet leaves you very confident that the pole is secure. The sections are graduated so that you can get both the sections and a pair of poles at the correct relative lengths. These will depend upon you and what you are doing. On the level, you should have the poles adjusted so that when gripping the upright pole your arm is forming a right angle. Going uphill, you would shorten your poles; going downhill, you would lengthen them. Collapsed, a pole is 66 cm (just over two feet) and it extends to 145 cm ( just under five feet)
The rubber handles are ergonomically designed and have a very good feel. There are safety straps that can easily be adjusted and from which you can quickly gain release.
Towards the bottom of the lowest section is a "basket", like the basket on a sword that protects the hand. In this case, however, the purpose of the basket is to prevent the pole sinking too far into soft ground. These can be removed and replaced, either with new baskets, or with bigger ones if, say, you were to be walking across snow and wanted wider distribution of weight - as with a snow shoe.
The carbide tips are very strong, as you would imagine, and if you did meet a wolf, perhaps, or a passing yeti, you could give one a pretty serious poke in the eye. Some poles come ready equipped with rubber feet that you can put over the hard tips for when you want to walk on a hard, smooth surface, like a road. The Leki poles do not come with these as standard but you can pick them up online for as little as £2.95 each.
I've seen these for as little as £40.00 for a pair online, but more generally I would expect to see them at about £30 each with a reduction for a pair. Go Outdoors currently have them at £54 for the pair, and I would recommend that you buy as many poles as you have hands.
There is a version of the Leki Trail Pole with their anti-shock system, which features springs in each section. They're only a little more expensive, but they are a touch heavier (not much) and don't extend quite so far. I tend to like keeping things simple, knowing that the fewer features there are, the less there is to go wrong, but it might be worth going into a shop and trying them to see for yourself.
Don't worry that people will think you're up the pole. You'll be the one who's laughing when you're first to the summit and, much more importantly, first in the pub. You're also more likely to be able to get out of bed the next morning (depending on how many you had in the pub, of course).
I have 2 walking poles. One is Leki Trail and the other is a Brasher walking pole. They were purchased at different times which is why they are odd. Having 2 brands has given me the opportunity to compare them and I prefer the Brasher pole.
The Leki Trail walking pole is okay, but not perfect. Having a pole is better than no pole, and having 2 poles is more than twice as good for your joints as having one pole. So, having the Leki pole is a good thing, but there are better poles available on the market.
The main problem with the Leki Trail walking pole is that the gripping mechanism that holds the pole at the desired length is not as robust and dependable as on other brands. I have lost count of the number of times I have pressed down on the pole with only the normal amount of force and it has shortened itself rather than supporting my weight as I walked. It has 3 sections, therefore 2 section joints, and it seems to be both joints that suffer this weakness of grip.
The handle is comfortable enough, and the wrist strap is good, but they don't outweigh the problem of the pole shortening itself!
Last year I did part of the coast-to-coast walk - and before starting it I was advised to buy a trekking pole to aid in my walk - and Leki was a name that I was told meant quality at okay prices. I had never bought a trekking pole before and so I wasn't totally sure about what I needed or what I was looking for in a trekking pole, and so I literally plumped for one that had decent reviews. The Leki Trail Trekking Pole cost me £24.99 from the www.headtothehills.co.uk website - which seems like a really good price to me and was actually less than I thought it would be.
When fully extended, this pole is 145 cms long, but this can then be collapsed down to 65cm to make it easier to carry when it's not being used. I would quite like it if it collapsed down a little further so that it was small enough to fit in a small bag. Having said this, this did attach quite nicely to the front of my day pack. It's really lightweight, weighing 0.25kg and so it's not a chore to have to carry - and it's light because it's made out of aluminium which has been strengthened and so it's lightness does does not diminish its strength. I have full faith in its ability to stand up to a lot of weight and stress. The height of the pole can be adjusted and so I was able to adjust it to the best height for me.
The handle of the pole is made of rubber with textured grips which are actually really comfortable to use. The grip is soft and ergonomically designed so that it is tilted in such a way to make the pole easy to use. The grips are moulded and are very comfortable to use and they don't make my hands sweaty or become blistered, even after extensive use. There is also a safety strap that is attached to the handle that aids the correct use of the pole, as well as helps to carry the stick when it is not in use. I found that the pole's shock absorbing capacity was really good and it helped to preserve my knees when on a gradient. The pole also helped to keep my upright when I was on uneven ground. The tip was carbon and was non-slip, even on rocky surfaces.
Overall, this trekking pole was a real help to me when I was doing the trek and really took some of the strain.
Whenever I go for some serious walking in the Lakes or across the Moors I always use a set of walking poles, this is to help reduce the strain on my back and leg joints as well as giving me some extra stability when traversing difficult terrain.
These poles from Leki are not cheap however I got them as part of a sale and purchased two for £50, they are really light weight but strongly made as well, they weigh a mere 607g which is pretty light and means that they do not become an extra burden. They are easily adjustable with a twist and lock mechanism and have a total extendable length of 140cm and will collapse down to half that size for easy storage inside a rucksack or they can be secured to the outside if you want. Like I said they are easy to adjust and once secured into place I have not experienced any slippage, there are marking along the length of the poles and als a clear indicator of the maximum length
There is just enough flex to these poles when you apply downward pressure on them and this give helps to ensure that any shocks are absorbed and do not pass up into the arms. The hand grips are also incredibly comfortable and non slip, there are also straps at the top for you to pass your hands through to ensure extra security and to stop the poles falling away from you. They are made from aluminium with a carbide flextip that is very strong and excellent when dealing with hard icey ground.
I have had these poles for about 18 months now and they have been an excellent purchase, they are robust, lightweight and provide excellent support and stability when walking across tough terrain, they are comfortable to use with or without gloves and I have been very impressed with them and would certainly recommend them to anyone looking for a good quality set of walking poles.
Ive had numerous walking poles on my trips, earlier versions were made by trekmates and other manufacturers. You can pick some pretty non discript ones for about a tenner, you might be able to pay that and get a pair. And there is nothing wrong with that if you are going on a standard trek in the UK, up and down some moors and the like. These poles are normally sturdy, but there are draw backs. One is the weight, the general rule of thumb here is the cheaper the pole is , the heavier it will be. The other problem which i have found over the years is the question of robustness. Normally I have found that the cheaper poles locking mechanisms that you twist to lock the pole out or the actual rubber tip on the end are the two things that either break entirely or get damaged easily.
So on my last trip I had a fairly robust trekmates pol with a cork handle btu the weight was quite hefty. So when I decided to buy a new pole for my next trip to Russia, after borowing one of my friends leki poles, knew it would have to be a leki.
So when researching the best ones to buyI saw the 'Makali' pole ,the ones pictured, for £28, I decided to get that. The main reason was that it needed to be lighter. I got this one trhough the post and Ihave to say, although lighter then my trekmates pole, its not that much lighter. The Maki weighs about 225 grams, about 100 grams less then my trekmates pole. I suppose this doesnt sound allot but when you are mountain climbing getting as many grams off as possible is paramount to a succssful summit. I know that for around £65 you can get the carbonite lighter pole, but thats quite a lott of cash and having used the carbonite pole its only about 100 grams more off id say and im not sure thats worth another thirty five quid.
You untwist and twist the pole mid way down to realease the lower section from inside the upper section and this is how all walking poles work, the bottom section can add on anything from 40 - 140cm depending on how long your legs are.
You will get a robust build, I have not, so far, had it break on me and I have not heard anyone say that heir leki pols locking mechanism has broken or the tip broke off.
You can also get attachments for these pols such as the very helpful snow cap , for about £5-6. This is just a plastic cap that fits on the end and acts like an umbrella to capture a wider area of snow, compact it when you lean on it and provide a solid base to push off.
Id say for the price this is a good solid pole, I wouldnt bother with the more expensive carbonite pole unless you have quite a bit of cash, and again dont bother with the cheaper 'unnamed' poles, they will break quite quickly.
I have been walking in the countryside since I was a kid. When I was young my parents often took me and my sister out walking up hills and round the countryside. As I grew up I developed a real love for the outdoors. When I was old enough to drive I found myself regularly heading for the mountains. Now I get up to the Lake District or Scotland as often as I can to climb the stunning mountains there. I have always scoffed at the idea of walking poles assuming these are only for older people. However after reading an article in a walking magazine I decided to give them a try. My mum has bad knees and when she goes out she regularly uses Leki walking poles, so I thought rather than buy my own I would borrow hers to see if I liked them.
So a few years ago I set out on my first adventure with these Leki walking poles. I must admit I was instantly impressed. When walking on level ground the poles seem to give you a rhythm to your walking that is so easy and natural. They take some of the strain of your knees and make walking slightly easier. I'm not going to lie and say these make walking easy and are the answer to any problems you may have walking. But they do take some of the strain away from your legs and give you a better sense of balance.
When walking up hill the poles really come into their own. I would say they give you an extra 20% and make climbing hills so much easier. The only time I found them awkward when going up hill was on really steep rocky ground, then I had to put them away and strap them to my rucksack. Going downhill I didn't like them. If you walk slow and steady they are not to bad, but I tend to come down pretty quick so found they got in the way, I soon put them away on my rucksack.
As for how these work and how they feel, well they are pretty easy to use. They are easily adjustable and you can change then according to your height. You simply twist them and then either lengthen or shorten them. The grips on the handle are quite comfortable, they are moulded in a way that fits your hand very smoothly. Even when using these for a few hours non stop I found they remain comfortable. There are little loops on the top of the handles that you can wrap around your hands, this means if you drop them they won't go anywhere.
If you like the sounds of these and want to get yourself a set then they cost around £22 each. Some people only use one when they go walking but I preferred using both. So a set will cost you around £44. If you shop around you may be able to find them for a little cheaper. I don't always use these when I go out walking but if I'm taking on a really long route they do come in very handy. For anyone who has knee problems or just wants that little extra bit of help when they are out walking I would say these are highly recommended.
Just before Christmas I wrote a review giving advice on the use of trekking poles and now I want to review my current pair that I have used in both this country and abroad. These are the poles that I use for travelling with and they are a top set of trekking poles (I always use two) and indeed they have to be because sometimes they are being used on a five or six day trek and so get a really good workout across some pretty tough terrain.
These are not the cheapest poles on the market, a pair will set you back about £50 however that does not make them the most expensive you can buy, they are a very good mid priced walking pole and certainly if either of these were to demise over the coming twelve months I would certainly replace like for like. The one slight niggle I do have is that even for this amount of money they did not come with rubber stoppers on the end of the poles and this is an additional expense all be it a minor one.
These poles have a lovely balance to them and they are reasonably light as well coming in at 607g so they are ideal for going into your pack when flying, they also collapse down to 72cm so they do not take up a great deal of room. They extend to 140cm in length and use the classic Leki adjustment system which is a simple twist and release method, you reverse the action to lock the poles into the desired length and there are plenty of markings on the two extension poles to allow you to tailor the length to your own preferences.
Where these poles really come into their own is in the comfort that they provide and the additional support when you are either ascending or descending a mountain or hill. The grips are extremely comfortable and they have a slightly forward leaning angle when using the safety straps that are attached to the top, this helps improve your walking position and the moulded grips are excellent whether you have gloves or not on. I have used these in the sweaty jungle and my hands did not slip and I have also worn them with thick snow gloves on and they worked equally well in both sets of extreme conditions. They also provide some great shock absorbing qualities with a three spring antishock system which you can feel giving and absorbing the pressure as you apply it to the poles, I find this particularly beneficial when descending which is when my knee joints come under most pressure and need the help the most.
The main body of the pole is made from aluminium and is coated to avoid scratches however my predominantly black poles bare the scars of a number of scratches however the poles are certainly strong enough and there are no dents or bends in mine even after one of them had a 30 metre fall down a rock face once, fortunately I was not attached to it. The tip is a carbide flextip and there is a plastic retaining basket as well which can be removed, I tend to do this when travelling especially as it is not essential. The tip is strong and has been able to cope with the very icy conditions over the Christmas period when we have been out walking on Dartmoor.
Leki do make very good and reliable poles, the black with a splash of bright yellowy green on the shaft also means that these poles have one other very important use. You can wave them around like a light sabre or samurai sword and make the noises as well, an important feature and something every male has done at some point in time; then again maybe it is just me.
Overall these are a robust set of poles that are light enough and collapse down to a reasonable height making them good for travelling, in addition they are strong enough to provide support in a rescue scenario (mine have done just that) and the anti shock system will provide extra support for joints and make walking easier. Other than the generic downside of all poles when scrambling up or down cliffs there are no negatives for me with these poles which have been faithful servants to me over the past eighteen months and I certainly recommend them.
Thanks for reading and rating this review.