This is a tale of why you never say never. Or judge people for the gear they use, because one day you could find yourself using the very same thing and loving it….
You’re on a popular trail, not trekking in the backcountry. Stop being a goober, I thought to myself when I’d see people using trekking poles. Especially if they were using them on a packed, high-use trail in Rocky Mountain National Park. While I did make my judgemental exceptions for people with potential joint and stability problems, I’d see a lot of people who I’d classify as gear geeks nearly power walking with them on the trail.
Unless I was hauling 40-100 pounds on my back for backpacking or hunting, I didn’t need trekking poles. Or, so I thought.
A couple of months ago my husband saw that Costco had some Cascade Mountain Tech trekking poles at a super reasonable price. I wanted poles for the fall hunting season and next winter’s backcountry snowshoeing season, and since we never pay retail prices for gear, he grabbed them before they were gone.
Cascade Mountain Tech has a set of quick-lock carbon fiber trekking poles on their website. They’re about half the retail price at Costco. Lightweight and built with different attachments for various terrain, they seemed like they’d be a great addition to the gear closet.
I took them along with me while I was testing out the crampons in Pingree. Since it was the first outing, I was definitely seeing that there was a coordination and efficiency learning curve (there are trekking pole techniques that I may cover in a future blog post). I hadn’t quite figured that with the combination locking system, you were supposed to tighten the screws to keep the locking brackets snug, so they slid around and weren’t as stable as they should have been. However, you can’t screw the locking system in too tight or you’ll break the brackets when you snap them back in. There’s a sweet spot, but when you find it, it’s perfect.
I brought them with me to Odessa Lake in RMNP while continuing to test out the spikes. I was SOLD. I figured out how they should be tightened and secured properly so they worked like they should, and holy hell, I did feel like I was power hiking up a snowy trail. It was like going from 2 wheel to 4 wheel drive on a hike. Because I wasn’t focused on stabilizing each footstep, I hiked remarkably faster and was able to enjoy the view since I wasn’t always looking down at my feet. I found them to be an essential piece of gear on that trip because there were narrow parts of the trail that were a bit sketchy. You could see skid marks from people who slid down the edge of the mountain from missing their steps. With the poles helping to give me stability, I was able to cross those trail sections very easily.
I was eating crow on my trekking pole judgements. I didn’t think I’d use them often but I kept them in the back of the car just in case.
A few weeks ago I met up with a friend to hike Hewlett Gulch trail. Runoff had just started so when we got to the first stream crossing, it looked deep and we didn’t know how rocky it was.
“Wait! I have poles in the car!” I exclaimed.
So we turned around and each used a pole to test water depth and stabilize ourselves while crossing some of the deeper rocky sections that nearly reached our knees. They were perfect! Now I was really eating crow because I was thinking that I needed to have them attached to my pack on most hikes “just in case.”
If you’re looking for an inexpensive set of trekking poles, run to Costco and grab yourself a pair. At this price you can’t lose, especially if you loose them, and if you find that poles are your jam, I think this is a good set to have on hand. Since this is my first set I can’t compare them to the super fancy cork grip ultra light sets, or any other trekking pole for that matter. However, they were good for what I needed them for! I plan on using them on backpacking trips this summer, so I’ll be sure to update this post if they don’t live up to expectation.
And now I’ll refrain from gear judgement on the trail. Because you never know unless you try it out for yourself.