When you bring a new hiking pole to a hike, you might have trouble deciding which pole tips to use. With our guide, you’ll be able to overcome this problem.
When going uphill or coming downhill, hikers feel stress on their backs and knees. This problem can be solved using a hiking pole. Without a hiking pole, hikers may not be able to test a terrain before stepping on it or even maintain balance.
To pick hiking poles tips to use during a hike, consider the surface and terrain you intend to trek or hike. You can use rubber tips for regular hikes and carbide tips for extreme hikes. Specialized equipment like hiking poles is built around the conditions and challenges different terrains present.
In this post, I will go over the benefits of hiking poles, the different types of hiking pole tips available in the market, their utility, and which one is best for you.
I have prepared using extensive research from online resources, input taken from experienced hikers, and my experience of traversing trails and challenging tracks throughout the world.
Types of Hiking Pole Tips Available
You’ll see many options available when choosing hiking pole tips. A hiker can encounter multiple terrain conditions, and there are numerous hiking pole tips for them. These tips are different in their construction material and shapes. The hiking pole tips provide varying degrees of traction, suspension, comfort, and stability. I will now list down the various types of hiking pole tips available in the market today.
Rubber hiking pole tips are perhaps the most commonly available tips for hiking poles. These are easy to use and are almost the default tip you’ll find at the base of your hiking pole. The real benefit of rubber terrain is that their shock absorption is excellent, and they handle vibration better than traditional metal tips. They are also less damaging to the environment on the trails, unlike carbide tips that I will cover later in the post.
Another benefit of these hiking pole tips is that they don’t create a lot of noise. You won’t find these hiking pole tips make much noise even when they strike against hard or rocky surfaces. They are also best suited if you have to traverse any slippery terrain.
On the downside, rubber tips are not as durable as metal or carbide tips. These tips tend to wear down quicker than metal and carbide. Also, they may be unreliable in extreme weather. Extreme heat will make them soft and cause them to leave a mark on friction. In extreme cold, rubber tips become stiff and can break after some time.
These tips would suffice for most users as they don’t have to deal with extreme climates during their hikes. They are also easily available, making them easy to find at the right price. However, if you are going on a desert or glacial treks, avoid these tips since the surface may be hotter or colder than the air temperature, which can cause wear-out and breakage.
Carbide tips have been developed with one thing in mind: durability. Carbide tips are best suited if someone is looking for a long-term investment. Carbide tips provide excellent mobility and grip while being used on most surfaces that trekkers and hikers use. These tips are great for off-road use as they will provide you with a firm grip and balance.
Carbide tips are also ultra-resilient. You can buy a carbide tip and depend on it for years on end. However, you need to exercise caution and not bang your hiking pole too hard against rocky surfaces as that will damage the carbide tip and deform its shape.
On the flip side, carbide tips are not suited for roads and rocky surfaces because they tend to make noise and vibrate. The unwanted noise and vibration can be annoying for the hiker. Also, carbide tips have to be kept carefully in storage since they are sharp and can even poke a hole through your hiking bag if not stored properly.
Rubber feet are a type of rubber tip, but they are placed in a separate category as they are shaped quite differently from regular rubber tips. These tips are shaped like little feet, and they have been specifically designed to provide forward propulsion and stability.
These hiking poles have been felt to allow hikers/trekkers to move forward faster while keeping their balance and momentum. Rubber feet will also provide you with better shock absorption than carbide tips. They will also be useful in preventing slippages on slippery surfaces.
On the downside, rubber feet are not meant for extreme heat or cold temperatures due to their construction material. Also, they are good if you are a beginner and walk on normal gradient trails. However, avoid using them for high ascents and steep climbs in which the normal rubber tips fare better.
Baskets are accessories that are circular in shape and are attached to the top part of the hiking pole. These are used on muddy or snowy surfaces or soft surfaces to prevent your hiking pole from sinking too deep inside the earth. These are useful as they provide you additional stability by digging into the soil in instances where you would feel danger from slipping.
They are also helpful in detecting crevices on hikes involving glaciers and can be used for crevice detection by trekking party guides and leaders.
On the downside, having extensive baskets also means you can get stuck in the very same surface you just wanted a slight sinking in from. Also, wider baskets often get entangled with roots and bushes, sometimes becoming nuisances.
Benefits of Using Hiking Poles During a Hike
If you’re wondering whether or not you should invest in a hiking pole, I have put together a few reasons you should absolutely make this investment! Read on to find out!
Hiking Poles Provide and Reduce Stress on the Knees and Joints
Hiking is not easy, and it does tend to get tough on the joints and knees. Here, hiking sticks or hiking poles tend to come in handy as they help in shock absorption, especially in rough terrains. Going up a steep hill can be quite a challenge for the knees. Using a hiking pole takes some of the load and pressure and helps relieve pain, increasing efficiency and speed during a hike.
Help Maintain Balance in an Uneven Terrain
Hiking is often done in mountainous terrains where the surface is uneven. In such challenging terrains, one wrong step can prove very dangerous. So, you need to carry a hiking pole to help maintain balance. They will work as though you have an extra set of limbs. If you enjoy hiking in snowfields, ice patches, or along unstable and narrow ridgelines, you will need to maintain balance.
Help in Maintaining a Good Pace During the Hike
Hiking is more enjoyable if you can maintain a smooth pace or rhythm. Hiking poles help you achieve this rhythm by allowing you to sustain your pace for extended durations. Using hiking poles helps you walk faster and get into a repetitive motion that can be therapeutic.
Even if you are remarkably fit, going uphill does slow you down. However, when you use hiking poles to distribute the load between your arms and legs, you can stay active longer without slowing down.
Come in Handy for Protection Against Wild Animals
One of the scariest and most dangerous things about hiking is the risk of running into wild animals during the hike. You can also use your hiking pole to scare off dangerous animals. So, you need to stay vigilant and be aware of your surroundings where there is a high risk of animal encounters.
Despite your best efforts, these encounters are inevitable. If you ever find yourself in a situation like this, you can try banging the hiking poles together or against the ground or a tree, which will help scare off the animal.
Allow You to Test Rough Terrain Before Stepping
In rough and irregular terrains, it is often difficult to anticipate cracks, deep trenches, or crevices which is why you need a hiking pole to help you test the terrain before stepping on a surface that might not hold your weight. Keep an eye out for leaves covering any holes or trenches!
There is no ideal hiking tip that suits everyone or every trek. It will all depend on the trek’s requirements, the user’s proficiency level, and their available budget. By and large, rubber tips will suffice for most users. However, carbide tips will be a good investment if you think you are taking on extreme hikes in terms of distance or weather.
About THE AUTHOR
I’m a hiker, backpacker, and general outdoor enthusiast. I started hiking out of college while working for the National Forest Service, and have been hiking ever since. I’ve been solo hiking and leading hiking groups for two decades and have completed hundreds of small hikes and some majorones such as the Appalachian Train and the Pacific Crest Trail, and hiked on four continents. I’d love to share some of my insight with you.Read More About Peter Brooks