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?
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.
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.
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.
Usually not, but occasionally helpful on AT for hanging poles on wrists when scrambling.
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.
I leave the straps on but I don’t use them.
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: https://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.
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…
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:
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.
Easy terrain, yes. As someone said, it relieves your having to always grip the thing constantly.
Hard terrain, no.
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.
Yep. I’m never without them. I find them supportive and comfortable.
…but now I’m afraid I may break a wrist! Thanks. ;-)
Oddly enough, I never have. I just never use them nor have I ever found the need to use them.
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.
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.
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.
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 :)
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.
You can find the story of that by clicking
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.
Terrible injury Alan. Gave away your Ardbeg? No way!
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.
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.
Remove the straps and free the phalanges is what I say. I haven’t used straps in…well longer than I can remember.
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.
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.
I do use them because I hate bending over with a full pack to pick up a fumbled pole. I know, totally amatur move.
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
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
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”.
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.
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.
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…..
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
+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.
Because “that’s the way we’ve always done things” is the least sound argument for anything.
Also being able to move your hand up and down the pole depending on the terrain, especially on steep ground, is extremely helpful. It sounds like what you’re doing is just walking along the flat as if you’re xc skiing without the skis. You won’t catch a mountaineer using pole straps ever.
“You won’t catch a mountaineer using pole straps ever.”??? Really? 24 year mountaineer and 14 year as a professional mountain guide with over 100 winter ascents of Mount Washington, along with expeditions to Rockies, Cascades, and elsewhere… I teach my clients how to properly use them and my avalanche students when not to use them. This “pole strap” hate is funny.
It has been rather amusing. I’m not a big fan of straps myself, but then again Pacerpoles don’t have any.
Safety first… Lose the straps…
Nothing unsafe about it unless you’re skiing.
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.
Using poles, even with no pack, provides a much better distribution of weight, reduces fatigue on knees, and makes a huge difference, especially when descending.
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: https://socalhiker.net/2010/05/hiking-with-trekking-poles/
Of course, YMMV.
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.
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.
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
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.
I cut them off. Too risky for a break of the wrist. It also saves a tiny little bit of weight.
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.
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.
Don’t use the straps… but have not removed them as of it.
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.
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)?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
as well as bad videos.
There have been two heavy falls in ourNordic walking group and in both cases the fallers don’t seem to be able to put their hands out or shoulder fall. They had face injuries and suspected concussion. I think I will stop using straps (we all have Leki poles)
Just broke my wrist on a hike in the Shenandoah National Park earlier this week, straps (and my own misstep) to blame: as I fell, the pole, stuck under a root, pulled my hand, strapped at the grip, out from my body.
sorry to hear that.
Accidents happen and it’s unfortunate.
I suspect if surveyed there’s been just as many injuries caused in instances where, had a strap been used, it could have been avoided. Or the whole pole/no pole thing. I can think of at least one instance where having the strap on saved me from what would have been a fall on rocks.
Coincidentally I’m an avid downhill skier and NEVER use my straps on poles for that. I want that equipment as far away from me as possible if/when I fall.
Many years ago, when I was a daredevil on the slopes, a young man introduced me to skiing through the trees. As I was blasting along trying to keep up with him, something suddenly grabbed me and flung me violently to the side. He worked his way back uphill and said, “Oh, I forgot to tell you to take your wrist straps off when in the trees.” Haven’t had them on since when skiing.
When I’m backpacking, I usually keep them on. There’s plenty of places this old NON daredevil would hate to drop a pole–too risky to retrieve it.