By Dan Finkelstein
on 8.14.09

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People have been using trekking poles on the trails for years. If you’ve ever seen someone wielding them, you might have thought they looked a little goofy and were unnecessary. After recently attending a workshop on hiking the John Muir Trail, this hiker found out that trekking poles were an absolute necessity. 

When I began my search for trekking poles, everyone I spoke with gave a hearty recommendation to Black Diamond Poles and I soon found out why. Black Diamond makes the highest quality poles and has a well designed adjustment system with few parts (fewer things to break when you are three days walk from civilization). The poles adjust for height and with a quick snap and the ergonomic cork handles absorb sweat and are very comfortable. The grip is canted at a 15 degree angle which fit the natural shape of the hand. There is also a non slip foam section below the cork which is great for those pesky hills. Additionally, there is a small basket at the bottom of the pole as well as an additional snow basket for the all weather treks.

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To test out these poles, I headed out to Peters Canyon Regional Park in Orange County California. A large hill sits in the middle of the park which is quite steep and always leaves me sucking wind by the time I hit the top. I charged the hill poles in hand and I instantly felt the power of the poles. I shifted my weight and pressed on the poles as I ascended the steep hill.  I now had a stable platform and even in the soft dirt and gravel I was able to propel myself up the hill, and, in no time flat, I was at the top. It’s now plainly obvious to me why trekking poles are so popular.

Most folks use trekking poles to help transfer some of the weight off the back and knees to move it to the shoulders. Although this is true, the bigger benefit of trekking poles is balance. Instead of two points of contact on the ground, you know have four. Its easy enough to slip and turn an ankle, but the poles will keep you stable and balanced. The Trail Ergo Cork poles are great for an afternoon hike or a long-term thru-hike and should definitely be considered if you enjoy trekking or hiking.

Cost: $99

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