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How to Prevent Broken Trekking Poles

How to Prevent Broken Trekking Poles

I’ve been breaking trekking (hiking) poles since I started using them. Aluminum or carbon fiber, it doesn’t matter. The same with three-piece, two-piece, and one piece poles, and twist lock or flick-lock style poles. I used to break a pole every 6 months, on average, usually by catching the lowest section between two rocks. Forward momentum took care of the rest.

But I haven’t broken a trekking pole in nearly two years with one simple trick. I keep the snow baskets on my trekking poles year-round. Since I started doing this, I haven’t broken any trekking poles, which I think is kind of incredible. I don’t know if you’ll have the same results, but you might want to give it shot if you break a lot of poles.

Summer Trekking Pole Baskets and Snow Baskets

Summer baskets and snow baskets
Summer baskets and snow baskets

Trekking poles often come with two types of baskets: summer baskets and snow baskets. I say often because some manufacturers, like Black Diamond, don’t include snow baskets with some of their trekking poles anymore. The purpose of summer baskets is to prevent the tip from becoming wedged between two rocks, while the purpose of the snow basket is to provide flotation and stability when hiking on snow, so your tips don’t plunge down into it.

Both types of baskets screw onto the tips of your poles (if they have a threaded tip), although some manufacturers use a less secure bayonet-style mount. The baskets are usually interchangeable across trekking pole brands, as long as they’re threaded. This used to be the norm when most trekking pole makers had standardized on what was called the Leki Tip, but you can’t count on that anymore.

Big size difference between summer baskets and snow baskets
Big size difference between summer baskets and snow baskets

The problem with summer baskets is that they’re not large enough to prevent many trekking pole tip entrapments, particularly those that cause broken poles. But snow baskets are and will prevent many entrapments by spanning gaps between the rocks and roots that typically cause a pole to snap. Because of their width and size, they also telegraph more proprioceptive feedback back up the pole to your hand, which can alert you to changes in the terrain and footing.

If you a break a lot of trekking poles, try keeping your snow baskets on year round. Yes, you’ll look like a dork and people will tell you that they’re not needed in warm weather. But this little trick can save you some money on pole replacements and will amaze your friends. Try it.

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13 comments

  1. That’s a good idea ?

    I’ve been lucky not to break any if my trekking poles – other than the carbide tip falling out on a pair of old BD Traverse poles.

  2. I also had the same problem with trekking poles. I snapped two sets in half before realizing my solution. I cut those stupid straps off so that I can let go of the thing if I needed to. I’ll definitely give some consideration to the snow basket idea. And if anybody out there has a good use for the little mr. Potato Head feet I’d like to hear it

    • I assume the Mr Potato Head feet are the rubber covers that sometimes come with poles? These are useful when hiking on sandstone (like Moab, UT), where you don’t want to scare the stone. They will also give you more grip on rock than the standard tip. Many archeological parks ask that you use rubber tips, so you don’t leave marks.

    • I, too, took the wrist straps off my trekking poles for the same reason. That way I could easily break free of them if a tip did gets stuck between rocks, boards, etc. Haven’t broken a pole yet – knock wood.

    • I do the same thing. No straps for me. Although I did break one last week when I slipped off the snow monorail and fell, landing on top of my pole.

  3. Dumb idea! Where I hike the trails are often brushy, especially late in the season. I removed completely the baskets from my poles since they were constantly getting hung up in the brush. Once, I lost the bottom shaft from one of my flick lock poles and I had to go back and hunt for it.

  4. YMMV… My mileage has certainly varied from Philip’s, way on the low side in comparison. The trails I hike are less rocky than the terrain he regularly travels. I haven’t broken any poles yet, although I have gotten them caught and come close on occasion. I may try this suggestion and see if I like the larger baskets.

    My brother and I met a man whose father broke a pole and then fell on it, impaling his leg. Understandably, the man we met was not a fan of hiking poles.

    My grandson and I once backpacked with a dear friend from Warsaw, a true hiking Pole, who covered ground far more quickly than us. Snow baskets would only have hindered that hiking Pole’s ability to climb trees and nap in the branches while he awaited our arrival.

  5. Well, I keep my snow baskets on year-around because in mud and soft ground, they just work better. I never considered that I looked like a dork, so thanks for that. :) But I’ve also not (yet) broken a pole in nearly 200 x NH4k summits over the past few years, so maybe that’s a newly realized advantage. Appreciate this post, as always.

  6. Phil: if the following risks hijacking the thread, feel free to move it to somewhere more appropriate, or to delete it entirely.

    When I began backpacking, I used a single hiking staff (mostly because Colin Fletcher did, but also because a “utility” handle was really cheap at the hardware store.) Later, I went through a succession of Tracks hiking staffs. Eventually, I wanted to be one of the cool kids, so I switched to a pair of trekking poles. I never had any problems with any of them, and would always want either a staff or pair of poles.

    Just out of curiosity, do any of you have a preference between a single staff or a pair of poles?

    • For me, I prefer a pair. They give me quasi-four wheel drive going uphill and reduce stress on my knees and back while going down. Although one pole helps on stream crossings, two is even more stable. Also, my backpacking tents pitch with two hiking poles.

    • Yep, 2 poles are better than one. Just ask any 3 legged dog.

  7. Interesting suggestion i suppose could work for some folks.

    Momentum = mass x velocity. I guess i have enough mass, but velocity is usually low enough that if i catch a pole, i can react fast enough to stop before any damage is done. One of the advantages of being pokey.

    I like using the rubber tips. Better grip on rocky areas (and less damage to rocks), and they don’t sink as much in mud. A bit of good-quality duct take keeps them from getting sucked off in thick mud.

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