Every year, I like to name a piece of backpacking gear that has had a transformational impact on my hiking and backpacking experience and recognize it by giving it the Section Hiker Gear of the Year Award. To qualify for consideration, the gear or clothing has to be something I’ve used on most of my 3 season backpacking and day hiking trips during the previous year. Last year’s award went to the Superlight Bivy Bag made by Mountain Laurel Designs.
This year’s award goes to Pacer Poles, an innovative trekking pole made in the United Kingdom and favored by many hill walkers and long distance hikers there.
If you’re not familiar with Pacer Poles (see prior review), they are collapsible trekking poles, available in aluminum or carbon fiber, that have specialized hand-grips that change your posture when you walk. Instead of cranking your wrist 45 to 60 degrees to hold the foam or cork grip at the top of a standard trekking pole, Pacer Pole grips let you hold your wrist straight in front of you like you’re shaking someones hand.
The change in grip means you stand up much straighter when you hike, your shoulders go down and back, and your pole plants align on the outside of your feet for better support instead of in front of you like normal ski-style poles.
The horizontal grip also gives you the ability to recruit your triceps and back muscles more when you climb elevation resulting in far less leg fatigue and faster overnight recovery. This has been significant for me because I climb a lot of mountains every year on day hikes and backpacking trips. Since I started using Pacer Poles, I can climb 4,000 feet of elevation on a hike and not feel it at all the following day, plus my climbing and hiking pace is a good 0.5 miles per hour faster than with conventional poles.
But the biggest benefit I’ve experienced this year using Pacer Poles has been freedom from IT band syndrome. This is a condition that manifests itself as knee pain caused by tight quads and leg fascia and one that I experience when I hike more than 10 miles or if I carry a pack weighing more than about 20 pounds. Those of you who are long-time readers know it’s something I’ve struggled with for years and that I’ve had to bail part way through several long distance hikes because the pain became to severe to carry on.
Since I’ve started hiking with Pacer Poles, I have not experienced any IT band symptoms on hikes or backpacking trips. I attribute this to the postural changes I’ve experienced using these poles and the better biomechanical advantage they provide. For someone who had previously given up hope of ever being freed from the symptoms of IT band syndrome, the impact that my Pacer Poles have had on my hiking and backpacking experience has been miraculous.
Why aren’t all hiking and trekking poles this good?
For more information about Pacer Poles, visit PacerPole.com
Disclaimer: Pacer Pole provided complementary trekking poles to Section Hiker for testing and review.
Written 2011. Updated 2018.SectionHiker is reader-supported. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.