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Gear Matters: Poles Apart

Sherpa Expeditions' Walking Guide with Gear InformationEvery month our resident guide, John Millen, brings you an anecdote, update, or tip on the gear you are likely to use on a walking or cycling holiday. Always from his personal point of view. In this first post, he looks at walking poles and how to use this equipment - or not!  

Gear Matters: Poles apart

Walking Poles are great equipment to bring on a trekking holiday to Switzerland


There was a time when the Brits would joke about German groups of walkers “Look here come the 6 Germans with the 12 Poles!” we would chuckle. That was the 1980's and early 1990's, now most people seem to use poles. The advent of the collapsible walking pole in all its manifest forms has been a great coup for gear manufacturers. Research has shown that they help with propulsion, save knees from shock and can help the upper body to get stronger if used in a certain way. Other research has shown that you may loose some of your sense of natural balance if you rely on them too much.


For group walking there are some pointers that need to be addressed, especially for beginners. So many people come on a guided walk and use poles for the first time, quite often resulting  in tripping themselves up, or doing the classic pole plant into someone else’s boot. It can be worse of course; some people do the classic ‘follow through’ where the pole is propelled too enthusiastically behind them resulting in someone being impaled. Then there is the case of dangerous dangling poles when people are scrambling over rocky sections. Walking with groups I try to get them to attach their poles to their bags when it is rocky and try to point out that they are not in a fencing competition when they do the follow through swing. This usually makes them think. For first timers: it's a good idea to practice using your poles before your group trip, and while on your walking holiday, remember to be aware of other people’s space compared to walking on your own.


Active travellers using walking poles on their Europe holiday

Even children on an active walking holiday profit from bringing poles


There is an antidote to the ubiquitous Leki Pole: Check out the wonderful British-built Pacerpole. Their form and function are based on applying anatomical and biomechanical research analysis to the transmission of effective upper body power to improve overall walking performance - which is why I believe the left and right contoured handle shape puts these walking poles into a category of their own.

If you like to know more about the walking gear we recommend for your holiday please get in touch with our enthusiastic team in London, or read on if you are interested in our walking holidays


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