Sunday finds me reviewing my current kit and my next few walks and camps. I want to do a bit more tarping in the next month or two but I have a conundrum which links into the title of the post. When previously tarping I have used bespoke tarping poles of the carbon variety for lightness. These have left me somewhat underwhelmed because of several things:
1. They are quite bendy compared to tent poles. Bendiness in the poles restricts how tight I can pitch the tarp which is important in windy conditions. Ok they are light and the bendiness is the compromise you accept for the weight saving. I would just feel more secure if the poles had more rigidity.
2. They lack “feet”. Ok what I mean is that all the poles I have end in a simple rubber grommet type bulb. There is no wide foot or platform for placing on the ground which if you have soggy conditions means the poles will simply start sinking. Again a weight compromise and yes I can buy “feet” for the poles but its an inelegant solution.
3. The tips dont lend themselves to guylines. I mean that the tops of the poles are very simple affairs that can fit in a grommet but will not hold a simple guyline knot. Yes again, I could learn how to do hitch knots and the like but I like point and shoot equipment. I could create grommet straps for linking the tarp to the pole but again this is a faff.
4. I cant use them for anything else! Ok I am being curmudgeonly here as my poles together weigh around 100g or so and therefore not exactly heavy. This last point alone led me to thinking or rethinking about walking poles….
So, in the past I have tried poles and not been enamoured by them. I find I dont need them per se at the moment (though as I get older I am sure this will change). People who use them rave about them. I still in the back of my mind think pole use is a bit like the boot vs shoe argument. People who wear boots say they help walking because they are sturdy and they can walk over any terrain and not slip fall over or break ankles etc. Poles to me feel like they are a detraction from the art of walking. Having said that I can see a use on climbs and descents but for pure ridgewalking I dont see a need for them (IMHO of course!)
So, my pondering about tarps and tarp poles made me think about walking poles. If I could find a pair of poles that were lightweight, could be used for occasional walking duties (but more often then not stowed in the pack) and be much more superior to tarp poles for the above 4 reasons then maybe……
Having spent a few hours researching I have come to the conclusion that standard poles be they flick lock or twist lock just wouldnt cut the mustard for me being heavy and faffy. Also aluminium as a material of construction would be much heavier than my current poles (4 or 5 times the weight). Delving in a bit further I discovered that apart from the obvious carbon poles, there were actually simple 3 or 4 section poles that rely on stretch cord to assemble/disassemble rather than locking mechanisms. These have the advantage of being lighter and thus less likely to fail (in some ways). Having looked at several examples of these types of poles I have a little list of potential goers.
- Black Diamond Ultra Distance Carbon Trekking Poles – these are around £100 and 265g for the 110cm length. They are unadjustable in height but have mini baskets (but cant fit snow baskets), a longish foam handle and adjustable hand straps. Apparently the locking mechanism is the best for this type of pole (less slippage of the internal bungee cord)
- Grivel Trail Poles – these are typically around £75 so cheaper and have a long foam handle and sleeve for hand position adjustment when going uphill or down. They have a simple baskets (again no snow baskets) and apparently the locking mechanism can be hard to disengage. They weigh 430g for a pair so are relatively heavy but still lighter than most standard poles. Again height of finished pole is unadjustable
- Mountain King Trail Blaze Walking Poles – these are the simplest and lightest of all the poles here being a mere 220g for a pair! They have simple foam handles and rely on an external velcro tab to retain the bungee cord that keeps the pole sections together. They can also suffer from boggy ground pulling the pole sections apart slightly in use. The pole height is again fixed. They are cheap though at around £65 for a pair
- Black Diamond Distance FL Trekking Poles – these are a halfway house with most of the pole being the bungee cord fixing arrangement. However the very top section has a flick lock giving 10-20cm of height adjustment. This is very useful for tarp tents and also if you want to adjust your poles for uphill or downhill sections. They weigh in at 445g and cost around £90. Again they cant accept snow baskets.
So, two questions.
1. Do I get a pair of walking poles with a mind to occasional use eg uphill/downhill sections but not used 90% of the time? In addition to this replace my unsatisfactory tarp poles which I feel are flimsy and not ideally suited to getting a good tarp pitch (yes I am lazy and dont want to faff too much!)
2. If I did, which of the above examples would best fit my requirements?
Answers on a postcard…..