Hiking poles are a vital piece of gear for any hiker. They can help you balance on uneven terrain, relieve stress on your joints, propel you forward and upward using your arms, control downward motion, and reduce fatigue by distributing weight evenly over your body.
Choosing the right trekking pole is key for enjoying a safe and comfortable hike. If you have used trekking poles before, or have shopped around for them, you’ve likely realized one of the most important decisions you’ll have to make when buying a pair of trekking poles is which material to go with: aluminum or carbon fiber being the most common options. The material you choose to go with can depend largely on the type of terrain and distances you hike, so let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the most popular options out there. We’ll cover weight, durability, reliability, comfort, cost, longevity, and more.
First, what are trekking poles?
Like we mentioned above, trekking poles are a handy tool that helps you keep your balance while hiking on uneven terrain. They're designed to give you support when going downhill or uphill so that you can use your muscles less and focus on enjoying the sights around you.
What are additional benefits of using trekking poles?
Using hiking sticks is beneficial for a number of reasons. Here are a few more that we have not already mentioned:
1) They help reduce strain on your knees and hips by distributing your weight more evenly across your lower body (which reduces wear on those joints).
2) They provide an extra source of stability when traversing wet or snowy trails or slippery surfaces like mud or sand. This can help prevent sprained ankles or twisted knees from occurring while hiking in these conditions.
3) They give you something to lean on when taking breaks during long hikes so that you don't have to sit down right away after standing up again (which can take longer than expected).
The Pros and Cons of Carbon Fiber and Aluminum Walking Sticks
Carbon fiber is lighter than aluminum. An average carbon fiber pole weighs about half as much as an average aluminum pole. When you are going on hikes that are several miles long every ounce makes a difference.
The Hiker Hunger Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles weigh in at only 15 ounces compared to the aluminum which are 18 ounces. This makes Carbon a better option for those focused on speed, ultralight backpacking or simply prefer less weight while they hike. However, if you're looking for something that's still relatively light and strong enough to hold up on long hikes or rough terrain, aluminum might be better suited for you.
Both carbon fiber and aluminum are quite durable. A well-made pair of carbon fiber hiking poles will easily withstand forces coming from top to bottom. However, most aren’t that strong when it comes to withstanding side-to-side forces.
Aluminum poles manufactured with 7075 alloy can handle a lot of abuse, particularly when compared to carbon fiber but are still susceptible to bends and breaks. They are not temperature sensitive and small bends in the aluminum poles can typically be straightened out. If something does happen to break with either material while you are hiking (and it happens to everyone), it can be easy to repair both types of poles using replacement parts, like the ones found here.
The main drawback of carbon fiber hiking poles is that they tend to be more expensive than other materials like aluminum. You can typically expect to pay around $75-$120 per pair of carbon fiber walking sticks based on quality and features. Aluminum isn’t as expensive as carbon fiber and poles made out of this material can be obtained at a more affordable price, which may be best for beginner hikers or first time trekking pole users.
When to Use Aluminum Trekking Poles
Aluminum sticks can handle more force compared to carbon fiber poles, so if you’re carrying a heavy load they are a great option. If you’re adventuring in colder temperatures, aluminum will also be a better option because they are not as temperature sensitive. And if you are a hiker who likes to lean on the pole for a break during the hike, wants to relax and take it slowly, aluminum would be the perfect fit.
When to Use Carbon Fiber Walking Poles
Simply put, Carbon Fiber trekking poles are for those looking to carry less weight and go farther, faster. If you like to put a premium on your speed during the hike, while saving weight this would be the option for you.
So, which one is right for you? It will depend on your particular use, trail conditions, body weight and height, and budget.
In conclusion, aluminum poles are great when your budget is low and you want a solid pair of poles. Choose carbon fiber when you are going ultralight and preparing for a thru-hike.
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