I am sure if you are reading this, you have already decided that hiking poles are for you. Whether you want poles because they will help you hike more efficiently with less fatigue or because you have sore joints or knee problems, I am sure you will find this short discussion on trekking pole accessories valuable. We will discuss what accessories are available and which ones will help you in the conditions you will encounter in your trek, day hike backpack or camping trip.
The best trekking poles come with basic accessories included free with the purchase of poles. Other brands will require a separate purchase. We always recommend that you shop and find the type of pole that meets your needs, then find one that includes the accessories important to you with your purchase.
Accessories are awesome in that they allow more utility from the same piece of equipment in varying terrain and weather conditions. Accessories allow a single set of hiking sticks to serve the function of multiple pieces of equipment. Imagine if you had to carry a separate set of trekking poles for mud, sand, snow, rock and hard trail…
Let’s take a look at the common trekking pole accessories:
Baskets in General
Rubber tips pictured above fit over the end of the hard metal tips of the pole and afford two things: 1) prevent wear of the metal tip on hard surfaces like rock and concrete and 2) provide traction on rock and concrete, where the metal tips of the stick would just slide and be of little use in assisting your stability. The rubber tips are a wear item, meaning that over time, just like shoes and tires they will wear and require replacement.
Most people find that the rubber tips are the most used accessory of all. For casual walkers, they are essential for use on pavement and sidewalks. They also are a great help on hard and rocky terrain. I always make sure I have an extra set in my pack in case i lose one or wear one out on a long hike.
Baskets in General
First let’s take a look at what “baskets” are and what they do. Baskets were originally developed for ski poles, they create a larger surface area to spread weight over – think about the small tip of a pole, it concentrates all the weight put on it in a very small area. A basket, just like snowshoes, spread that weight over a much bigger relative area, and helps prevent the pole from sinking to the point it is a hindrance rather than a help.
So just think of a basket as a mini snowshoe for your walking sticks. Now let’s take a look at the two most common and useful types of baskets.
Now that we understand the concept, let’s look at why we have distinct types of baskets. Mud can generally support more before it gives than snow. Mud is also generally much more stickier than snow. So the mud basket is a solid disk that is smaller than a snow basket and attaches a few inches up the pole from the tip. This allows the tip to sink into the mud to provide traction while preventing it from sinking any further. The basket is designed to prevent mud from sticking all over them, which would dramatically increase the weight of your poles and make them a hindrance rather than help.
The snow basket is as you have already learned a development taken directly from skiing. In a pinch, you can use your trekking poles for skiing and they would work o.k. Trekking poles with snow baskets are a must have on snowshoeing adventures. They make balance easier and walking much more efficient. The snow basket design is much larger than the mud basket and therefore can be used on much softer surfaces. The baskets are more open, since snow will not generally stick to the surfaces. In many cases, they resemble snowflakes!
Nordic Tips are used for Nordic Walking. This is an exercise that uses the hiking stick in a very specific way that benefits from a rounded, treaded tip, due to the way that you push off when using the pole. Not all trekking poles are suitable for nordic walking and even fewer include this accessory with the purchase of poles. There have been many articles written on the health benefits of nordic walking. I would encourage anyone considering trekking for fitness to research and learn more about Nordic Walking.
I hope we have given you some good information that will help you make decisions about which accessories you want and will use. I feel you should have a good idea of how to make the decision about which accessories to take along on your next outdoor adventure!