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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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  1. 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.

  2. Safety first… Lose the straps…

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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

  8. 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.

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

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

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

  13. 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.

  14. 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)?

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. I do the same thing, I cut them off immediately. I never attempted to remove the metal strap clamp, so to keep it from moving around I put tape inside. I also put tape around the height adjustment rings to prevent them from becoming loose. My favorite hiking poles come with foam grips, the rubber ones wear out quickly I find. I also prefer a hiking pole that doesn’t have a shock absorbing spring, I find that feature annoying.

    • Straps are indispensible but not the POS thin webbing the pole makers put on for 50 cents if that. I use Nordic Walking handstraps attached to a screw in the top end of the pole not even slightly lower down. Note NW hand straps from I think Leki come in 3 sizes. Get large enough for thinner gloves in cold. Any doubts take a 1 day NW class. A huge boost in power and efficiency even with modified NW technique and a backpack. Don’t miss this evolved tech, it’s super.

  18. Margaret williamson

    I broke my wrist and both bones in my right arm last month due to falling with the pole strap around my wrist. It wasn’t even in the middle of the hike – I’d looped the pole onto my wrist but wasn’t even using it at the time. Beware – normally if you slip or fall you try to shield yourself by curling up but if you fall with a pole attached to you you can’t protect yourself. I’ve had to have an operation, am still in plaster, and my wrist may never recover 100%. I will never again use the straps. Coincidentally a friend of mine had the same happen due to using the straps on her skiing pole.

  19. Accidents can happen with or without poles or straps but I do not understand why some would remove the strap from a pole..ski or trekking. The hand must enter the strap,from the bottom as the strap is vertical from the grip, then the part of the strap that converges with the grip is between the web of the hand. I use very little hand pressure on the grip. The pressure should be against the strap at the web of the hand. This also allows using the poles as brakes and balance on descents as the poles are in a forward angle which makes firm hand grip on the poles difficult but unnecessary.
    I know people who won’t use the front brake on a bicycle or even on a motorcycle because they think cutting their braking power by 60% is the safe thing to do and nothing you tell them will change their mind.

  20. Margaret williamson

    Yes of course accidents can happen with or without poles but my breaks were caused 100% by the strap and had I not used it I would perhaps have grazed my arm but not severely broken it. I fell on a level and actually fairly soft surface. It wasn’t what I fell on that harmed me, it was the fact the pole twisted and prevented free movement of my arm. The rest of me wasn’t even damaged and I had no cuts. When I tried to get up I couldn’t until someone helped me remove the pole strap from my wrist. I agree that pole help you avoid falls but if you do fall they can cause awful damage that will take a year to put right. Personally having learnt the hard way I will never use a strap again

  21. there a proper and improper way to use your straps. youtube has great vids on how to properly use straps for hiking poles. the wrong way is very dangerous in a fall and is almost always going to injure you.

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