Reader Poll: Do You Use Trekking Pole Straps?

The First Thing I do is Cut the Straps Off

The First Thing I do is Cut the Straps Off

Whenever I get a new pair of trekking poles, the first thing I do is to cut off the straps. I don’t like them.

And while I use trekking poles religiously, I don’t like the feeling of having my hand trapped in a strap if I fall because it’s a great way to break a pole, a wrist or your arm.

I didn’t always feel this way, but I haven’t used trekking poles straps for a few years now and I’ve stopped breaking trekking poles, so I reckon there’s a correlation.

What about you?

Do you use trekking pole straps?

Why or Why not? Please leave a comment.

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60 Responses to Reader Poll: Do You Use Trekking Pole Straps?

  1. Martin Rye June 20, 2013 at 2:51 am #

    Cut the straps off. Done so for years and did so this week on a new pair of poles. As you recall I told one person on the TGOC this year, don’t use straps as you’re risking an injury. Alan Sloman’s blog has a photo of his whole arm bruised and looking bad due to an accident, with his arm locked into the pole using straps and he never has used straps since then.

  2. Jim C June 20, 2013 at 4:00 am #

    Interesting question.

    I DO use straps. I believe they give me the opportunity to not grip the poles overly firmly.

    I say opportunity … which begs the question “Do I really make good use of that opportunity?” I know I do sometimes (when I’m conscious of it). How consistent is that?

    Maybe it is time to test that belief? Challenging (and testing) one’s own beliefs is a smart and useful discipline.

  3. Patrick June 20, 2013 at 5:03 am #

    Straps!
    I find that i use less power when I use straps.
    I don’t like the feeling of grabbing the pole hard for each step i take.

    I remove the straps from my hands when i’m in very difficult terrain.

  4. Ed Danziger June 20, 2013 at 5:22 am #

    Usually not, but occasionally helpful on AT for hanging poles on wrists when scrambling.

  5. French hiker June 20, 2013 at 5:24 am #

    Hello,

    I do use the straps when climbing, they help me a lot, and they are very useful to pitch “half-pyramid” my 3mx3m tarp.

    I put one pole upside down the other, the handle within the other strap, and flip back one pole. I get an A-shape pole to pitch the tarp.

  6. Leanna June 20, 2013 at 5:44 am #

    I leave the straps on but I don’t use them.

  7. Marco June 20, 2013 at 6:15 am #

    Yup. I always use them. I never use the handles, choosing to simply grasp the pole like a pencil. I use a longer strap on a fixed length pole. The whole staff is adjusted by taking one or two twists in the strap or placing my hand on top. Never got a blister on my wrist from the wide straping.

    I have made several of these, often giving them to hikers that express a need. They cost about $7 these days, take about 15 minutes to make and weigh 4-5oz. My kind of MYOG project, they are easier than an alcohol stove to make.

    A 10′ carbon dapping pole butt (or panfish pole.) Two – 3/16″ x 1-1/4″ bolts, a 16″ piece of 1″ wide nylon strap, a cap washer and some 5 minute epoxy. Instructions are here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BackpackingLight/files/A-HikingStaff/
    (You might need to join the group to view the files.)

    He has a lot of frills on his, though. Shoulder straps, fishing line, etc. The light weight keeps shock to a minimum. They are sturdy enough to support about 100 pounds. More if you wrap the ends with nylon cord.

  8. Tim June 20, 2013 at 6:30 am #

    Straps! Love them for climbing – I loosen my grip on the pole and “hang” my wrists on the straps on steep ascents.
    Also good for just letting go of the pole to free up the hand for use while dangling from the straps.
    Can’t imagine not having them…

  9. Adam Skinner June 20, 2013 at 6:35 am #

    At first, I thought this post was a joke; perhaps April Fools had come early?

    I can hardly see a point to carrying normal trekking poles without using the straps. Perhaps you were using them wrong in the first place:

    http://www.personal.dundee.ac.uk/~pjclinch/poles.htm

    http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/hiking_poles_technique.html#.UcLaufmG1s4

  10. Rick June 20, 2013 at 7:07 am #

    I used to always use them, and even fell with them on a couple of times – breaking a pole as a result one time. Then I started finding out about just how many dislocated shoulders, etc. have been caused by that. So now I don’t use them, even though I think they make the poles easier to use. I do, however, find that I spend a lot of time just carrying the poles rather than using them, and the straps make a quick and easy way to temporarily free up your hands without having to attach the poles to the side of your pack. Simply slide the tips between your side and pack strap, pointing behind you, then clip the hip belt between the straps. Works great as long as you remain aware of the location of the tips in relation to other people. I find I can slide the straps off to the same side the poles are on (always my left) to keep them more directly behind me and be more comfortable.

  11. Trip June 20, 2013 at 7:35 am #

    Easy terrain, yes. As someone said, it relieves your having to always grip the thing constantly.

    Hard terrain, no.

  12. M>Pearl June 20, 2013 at 8:00 am #

    My use of straps and poles for that matter is terrain dependent. My best guess-timate is 85% strapped, 10% strappless and 5% poles packed. Each has it’s pro and con, greatly changes which muscle group is used and by how much.

  13. Mike June 20, 2013 at 8:39 am #

    Yep. I’m never without them. I find them supportive and comfortable.

  14. Mike June 20, 2013 at 8:40 am #

    …but now I’m afraid I may break a wrist! Thanks. ;-)

  15. Disco June 20, 2013 at 8:52 am #

    Oddly enough, I never have. I just never use them nor have I ever found the need to use them.

  16. Liz June 20, 2013 at 9:07 am #

    Yes, when I use my poles, I use the straps. And I always put my hand in from the bottom so that they are merely resting on the straps and I don’t have to grip the straps or the poles at all. It’s very easy to let go quickly if I fall, and I think that having the poles to hold on to keeps me from putting my hand out to stop a fall, thus saving me from breaking a wrist.

    Dislocated shoulder, though…great, now I have to worry about that.

  17. Jeremy Puskas June 20, 2013 at 9:14 am #

    I removed mine a while ago. Never use them anymore. Haven’t bent a pole since. Not having the straps has also made sitting the pole down to accomplish tasks like using the bathroom or getting out my map or taking pictures easier.

  18. Just Your Average Hiker June 20, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    On my last set of poles, I cut them off. I have not done so yet on my new set, and not sure why… Except for the occasional loop over the arm so I can do something with my hand, I never use them. In fact, I am going to cut them off now.

  19. mazzachusetts June 20, 2013 at 9:39 am #

    Poles are an extension of your body when the straps are used like ligaments. This is really hammered home if you are or were ever a skier as straps will be almost instinctual. Definitely a matter of preference just like most things hiking :)

  20. ATBob June 20, 2013 at 9:41 am #

    Always use straps.
    They add support for your hands, relieving strain of gripping.
    Allow quick use of hands by simply letting go of the pole. Great for getting that quick picture without chasing the pole over the clift. Do stop them from swinging while taking the picture. :-)
    Only broken poles occurred in VT – its the sticky mud.

  21. alan.sloman June 20, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    Indeed, Martin!
    You can find the story of that by clicking
    HERE

    I believe that wrist loops on trekking poles are dangerous. If they are to be installed on poles there should be a load limit applied where the straps snap, to avoid injuries like I recieved from mine.

    Always, always cut them off.

    • Earlylite June 20, 2013 at 7:38 pm #

      Terrible injury Alan. Gave away your Ardbeg? No way!

  22. Korpijaakko June 20, 2013 at 10:09 am #

    Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. I don’t cut them off so I have the ability to use them on easier terrain for a loose grip and efficient push forward (think abotu nordic skiing, the strap does help) but I don’t wear the strap in more difficult terrain for the sake of safety and for easy use of different grips.

  23. Michael June 20, 2013 at 10:13 am #

    I use them, although have also hiked without using them. I find the difference it that I have more power with the straps. Try cross country skiing and not using the straps on your poles. Similar idea.

    Not sure about the risk of injury if you have straps on during a fall. I have never seen a case, although I am sure they exist. I would want to see a credible study or at least solid statistics before I jumped to conclusions.

    You can shave off a little weight without the straps. But in the end, after a long day of hiking, the days I use the straps I feel like the poles did more for me than the days I don’t.

  24. Amanda June 20, 2013 at 10:40 am #

    Remove the straps and free the phalanges is what I say. I haven’t used straps in…well longer than I can remember.

  25. Daydé June 20, 2013 at 11:10 am #

    No I don’t use the straps. I made the change first on advice for avalanche safety when touring in the backcountry but found that the flexibility I gained for changing my grip was increased so much that I didn’t want to put them back on. The weight savings being an obvious win as well.

  26. Grandpa June 20, 2013 at 11:16 am #

    When I hiked with Lekis, I found that using the straps as instructed actually helped and I did so probably two thirds of the time. Now that I use PacerPoles, the straps are really a cord that is not part of the hand suspension system. All I use the cord for on the PacerPoles is to lash them together for travel or provide more secure fastening on my pack when I’m not actually using them, such as scrambling or riding a motorcycle.

  27. Alissa June 20, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

    I do use them because I hate bending over with a full pack to pick up a fumbled pole. I know, totally amatur move.

  28. Geoff G. June 20, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

    I use Pacerpoles – designed and manufactured in the UK – which have unique contoured handles which are anatomically configured to each hand, and so do not have or need straps. http://www.pacerpole.com

  29. Brett June 20, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

    I don’t use the straps when hiking, but I don’t cut them off. I frequently prop the poles on a tree when taking a break for snack, pee, map, etc; and if one of the poles falls, I can be a lazy person and hook the bottom of the other pole through the strap & pick up my fallen pole w/out bending over. I know, lazy person, but its nice to not have to bend over w/ a heavy pack on sometimes

  30. Walter Underwood June 20, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

    I always use the straps. I run them underhand, like for XC skiing. Three advantages:

    1. I don’t need a death grip on the poles, I can use my whole hand to take any weight.

    2. When I take a photo or do anything else that needs fingers, I can let the pole dangle from my wrist for a moment.

    3. The straps are useful for lashing two poles together to make a longer pole for tarp setups.

    I’ve never broken a pole. I use rubber tips all the time, which helps avoid getting poles stuck in the mud. Also better for LNT — no “trail measles”.

  31. Gail Storey June 20, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

    I do see the danger in breaking a wrist, so for harder hikes no straps, but for everyday hiking on relatively easy terrain, I use Nordic walking poles with the glove-like straps that clip out to free the hands when necessary.

  32. George Nicholson June 20, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

    A few years ago I fell at home and had a really bad High Ankle Sprain. Ever since then I have used trekking poles. i wouldn’t feel confident or stable without them. I also started using a tarp tent around that time, so it was good timing to adopt trekking poles for me.

    I leave the straps on because I don’t want to drop them and I like being able to let go of the handle and grab tree limbs or rocks for balance as needed. I haven’t broken a pole before, but I use cheap poles anyway, so it wouldn’t be a big loss for me. i suspect you could ct the straps in half and use velcro to create “break-away” straps for the best of both worlds.

  33. Petch June 20, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

    I am one who has been injured by using straps. A couple Winters ago I was coming down the Owlshead Brutus bushwack. I lost traction on a steep section, and fell forward. My hiking pole/basket snagged a tree. The strap kept my hand attached to the pole. My arm snapped back as I fell forward, and ripped my bicep tendon.
    So, no more straps on the downhills…..

  34. David Lottmann June 20, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

    It’s situationally dependent, and I’ll cover that in a second. But first, cutting them off is a bad idea. You can not use them without having to cut them off if you prefer, and in some situations it is better NOT to use your straps. The straps add versatility, and when used properly BETTER technique, and self-rescue applications. Removing them saves you virtually no weight, so even if you choose not to use them, don’t cut them off…

    Now, onto when to always use them;

    Moderate terrain, uphill & down, ESPECIALLY IN WINTER. Proper use of straps, as many have mentioned, allows you to grip the pole lightly increasing blood flow to the hands & fingers… just like ice climbing, if you grip the axe to tightly you get cold hands no matter how expensive your gloves are. It is important to note many people think “using straps” just means putting your hand through the loop. That is a poor use of a strap. The hand goes through and over, and the strap must be properly adjusted. Good skiiers, both downhill and XC know this truth… It is better for your wrist to use a strap in these situations.

    When NOT to use a strap;

    1) Back-country skiing in avalanche terrain. Back-country skiing in general, especially through trees. Having a basket get caught on some hidden kromholtz while moving along at 20 miles an hour has certainly led to a few dislocated shoulders, or worse.

    2) In rough talus/boulder fields, like those found on “the Rockpile”. While I would say it is optional here, this is where I am sure the vast majority of the “accidents” people report being worsened by using straps have taken place, and also where most trekking poles break. Too many crevices to snag an unsuspecting trekker.

    Other than those two situations, straps are a good idea. They provide better “push off” going uphill while barely gripping the handle, better control on the descent, and can be used to lash trekking poles together when making everything from emergency shelters to litters. I hope you’ll consider giving straps another try!

    • Earlylite June 20, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

      I use pacerpoles mainly. Not even comparable to normal poles. Handgrip is completely different and they optimize your posture making climbing much easier than a conventional pole which is held in front of the hiker and actually acts as a brake requiring more effort to ascend.

  35. Grandpa June 20, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

    I learned when to take my hands out of the straps skiing through the trees at Ski Cooper in Colorado about thirty years ago. I was flying through the woods alongside the trail following a young kid who was teaching me some techniques. Suddenly, something grabbed me and flung me violently in a wide arc. The young man worked his way back up to me and said, “I forgot to tell you. Take your wrists out of the straps when you’re in the trees.”

    If I’m ever moving that fast when hiking, there’s probably a bear chasing me and I’ve already shed the poles trying to use them as spears.

  36. Gerry Brucia June 20, 2013 at 5:17 pm #

    I too use pacer poles and I have left the straps on. However, the ONLY time I wear the straps is when crossing a fast moving stream where I don’t want to lose the poles. Otherwise, I have no need to use the straps while hiking. When I stop to take a picture, I may wrap the strap around my wrist to keep the poles from falling to the ground. And sometimes I hang my poles from a tree branch at night.

  37. Stephen June 20, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

    I never use the straps either, years ago a friend of mine crashed while skiing and broke his wrist because of the straps. I do leave them on though because of river and stream crossing like the above poster mentioned.
    Take Care

  38. Grandpa June 20, 2013 at 6:45 pm #

    I use the straps for the aforementioned tree hanging, lazy man pick up by hooking the strap, hanging from my wrist for photos. etc. PacerPoles don’t really use the strap as part of the hand suspension system and the straps are very unobtrusive.

  39. Cattail June 20, 2013 at 7:06 pm #

    I use the straps, as their proper use means that one doesn’t have to grip the pole with a deathgrip. The straps, when used correctly, also alleviate stresses on your wrist.

    Here is a short video showing the proper way to fish your hands through the pole straps, from the bottom!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7ShLirVcDU

  40. david richardson June 20, 2013 at 9:07 pm #

    I am going to 2d Cattails comments, I use straps and do not grip my poles at all. I find gripping poles makes my hands very tired. At the end of the day I do not really notice much when using the straps.

  41. Mike Spalding June 20, 2013 at 9:20 pm #

    I use the straps. 40 years of cross country skiing, from competitive to back country, have taught me how to use the straps, relax my hands/arms, control the motion of the poles, avoid breaking poles or body parts, etc. It’s always amazing to me how people will invest twice as much time and energy into reinventing a proven technology than it would have taken them to just learn how to use it in the first place.

    • Hikin' Jim June 21, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

      +1 on the above three comments (from Cattail, David, and Mike). I’m an old X country skier, and I use the straps. I barely have to grip the poles.

      HJ

  42. Shocker June 21, 2013 at 5:58 am #

    Safety first… Lose the straps…

  43. Ed June 21, 2013 at 6:08 am #

    I keep the straps on my poles, but then they get used about twice a year. As a general rule if the weight of my pack is under 50lbs I go sans poles.

  44. Jeff Hester June 21, 2013 at 11:58 am #

    I use trekking poles much (but not all) of the time when backpacking. Day hikes it depends. But I always use the straps.

    Most people don’t take the time to actually learn how to use trekking poles effectively, including PROPER use of the straps. When I see people using trekking poles, they are usually making three mistakes.

    1. The pole height is incorrect.
    2. They mis-use the straps. The straps are not intended to be “leashes” but to transfer the weight so you don’t even need to grip the pole.
    3. They don’t use proper (or often ANY) cadence.

    I put together a few videos to show the correct way: http://socalhiker.net/2010/05/hiking-with-trekking-poles/

    Of course, YMMV.

  45. Dave June 21, 2013 at 11:59 am #

    I have been using trekking poles with straps for many years but just recently decided to take off the straps and will see how that works for me. Saving the weight and ridding myself of the discomfort of having a pole get stuck between two rocks while I continue to walk and nearly pulling my shoulder out will, hopefully, be benefits of this change.

  46. Gaute June 21, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    As a norwegian I’ve always used the straps on my ski poles and walking poles…
    Except for my pacer poles which has a very different handhold that does not require straps.

    I’ve never heard of anyone breaking their wrist due to using the straps here in Norway so I don’t think there is any reason to fear it.

    Of course if you fall flat on your face and you try to break the fall with your hand you risk breaking the wrist, but I don’t think poles affect that risk in any way…
    Poles might help help to stabilize for long enough to get your feet/skis under control again.

  47. David lottmann June 21, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

    Well said Gaute. I would bet the vast majority of injuries sustained while using straps (outside of backcountry skiing) would have resulted in injury anyways. I equate this debate to the one that existed 20 years ago as the merits of seatbelt a were being debated. “I want to be able to jump free of the car in a crash”.

    Also, victims of injuries often look for a scapegoat, in this case wrist straps

  48. Grandpa June 21, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

    As I stated earlier, when I used Leki poles, I threaded my hand properly through the straps about two thirds of the time–the rest of the time I was just being lazy. I found the poles were more comfortable when the straps were used that way, especially downhill. The strap loops around the wrist and goes between the thumb and index finger. I could hike and hold the poles with minimal pressure from my fingers and found it quite relaxing, although not nearly as much so as with PacerPoles. I hiked many a mile with my wrists in them and never had a time that I thought my safety was compromised by that.

    As David says above, it’s likely most of the tumbles that would bring injury would do so whether or not hands were in the straps. Twice, I have fallen while hiking and broken my right wrist. In both cases, I was working (or was that stumbling?) through steep rocky sections without poles.

    There’s always a chance of injury with any piece of equipment. Many of the injuries are freak events that could hardly be duplicated if you tried. A few years ago, someone told me his father had gotten a cheap pole caught between some rocks, fell, broke the pole and then impaled his calf on the stub of the pole. An event like that can either cause paranoia and the determination never to try a product that could have great usefulness or help a person strive to avoid complacency and practice the safest way to use it.

  49. Greg June 21, 2013 at 10:21 pm #

    I cut them off. Too risky for a break of the wrist. It also saves a tiny little bit of weight.

  50. Peter June 22, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

    I don’t use straps because I like to move my hands from the cork grips to the foam below the cork regularly. I hold the poles very loosely and I think it’s a misconception that those without straps grip the poles tightly. I also rotate the poles for a minute or two when the grips feel sweaty which I couldn’t do with straps. Strapless poles offer me more flexibility.

  51. Robert N June 22, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

    I hold with those who favor straps. You can always elect not to use them.

    I use conventional poles and find they help power an ascent. Like others, I came to poles from cross country skiing. There the pole is only gripped firmly during the power stroke, after which the grip is relaxed and the pole is held only lightly by the thumb and one or two finger tips, so lightly, in fact, I find myself sometimes dropping a pole if I don’t use the straps. On an ascent, the pole placement is not in front in a breaking position but angled back and to the side, as in cross country skiing. This is a dynamic and not a static placement. On descent the placement is different, of course.

  52. Oldbag June 22, 2013 at 8:54 pm #

    Don’t use the straps… but have not removed them as of it.

  53. Matt June 24, 2013 at 10:18 am #

    These days I remove them and put a short loop of triptease in their place. I liked the straps when I was using the poles to power myself along, but after lowering my pack weight this became unnecessary. Also, I didn’t like the way they would stay wet after a rain. Still, I like to have the rope there so I can keep my hands free if need be without putting the poles away and also for hanging them up at the end of the day. Separate topic really, but these day I just use one pole.

  54. Jim C June 24, 2013 at 10:56 am #

    On Saturday I led a day hike for our BSA troop’s Philmont crew. 12 hilly miles (hilly by midwest stds). I did not use the straps and did not miss them (much). I did have tingly feelings in my hands on the 40 minute drive home though … perhaps from gripping too much (speculation).

    This discussion has been a useful read for its variety of points.

    Viewing photos and videos of some of Andrew Skurka using poles shows him not using straps. They also show him gripping the poles in a variety of locations, choking up on the poles on climbs and gripping the ends of the poles on descents. Perhaps strapless allows him to use poles a bit longer than ideal for level hiking (more speculation)?

  55. Robbie G June 25, 2013 at 10:31 am #

    I had always used straps, just a reflex i guess from Nordic skiing. Then I recently got a pair of Gossamer LT3′s, which come strapless, and I discovered how much easier it is to move my hands up, down and around the handles when I’m moving over varied terrain. When pole tip wedges in a granite crack (happens routinely in my stomping grounds in the Whites), it’s much easier just to let go of the pole. I don’t miss straps at all.

  56. Todd Foster June 27, 2013 at 10:19 am #

    I use and rely on hand straps exclusively. Not the narrow, abrasive webbing that comes on most hiking poles. Those straps are just wrist retention straps IMO. So you don’t lose the pole if dropped. They are unsuitable for long hikes unless you want holes worn in your skin.

    The best hand straps I’ve found are Leki Nordic Walking hand straps. These come in 3 sizes. I like the large tho a bit large so thin gloves fit easily in them when needed.
    I took several weekend Nordic Walking workshops in L.A. just to see what they had to offer for backpacking adaptation. NW technique has the hand almost totally relaxed on the return stroke, saving energy for one thing. The hand straps make this possible. But more important for me is the ability to really bear down on very long, steep upgrades like Eastern Sierra passes, without having to keep a finger numbing, hand cramping strangle hold on the pole. NW hand straps are more like wrist cradles and make this much easier. Having experienced the advantage, I’m not going back. Poles with these straps are going on a 12 day Sierra trip next month.

    When my current 1 piece carbon poles croak (with screws I put in, holding NW hand straps on), I will replace them with Leki NW poles and straps. I want the strap’s bayonet quick release feature on those poles. I want 1 piece, proved that works for me. Don’t need buzzing, vibrating, slipping joints that never need adjusting anyway.

    And I have no fear of injury from falls with hand straps on poles. Never happened, and I have fallen. NW straps have enough swing so no risk of wrist or arm breakage. Real damage in falls is human skin hitting sharp granite rock edges! Straps do prevent pole loss too, FWIW, not much IMO. I wouldn’t use them for this purpose, but I’m incidentally glad they are there to prevent loss over cliff edges or in rapidly flowing streams, where, yes indeed, I’m really bearing down.

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