One Stick or Two?

That’s my latest conundrum. And like the others before it, this one comes with a heap of personal preference attached.

I’m talking about trekking poles vs. hiking staff, of course (with a tip of my permethrin-treated cap to the small subgroup of “nones” that share their minimalist approach on comment boards). There are definite advantages to using either one, and people are as passionate and loyal about their “side” as the Ford vs. Chevy and iOS vs. Android folks. So, as with most other things related to my exciting new hobby-to-be, I get to read about and ponder the experiences of others, and then choose.

So, do I want to be Gandalf, or Bode Miller? Okay, not the best analogy. But that’s all I can come up with at this moment. Sorry. Anyway, I see definite advantages to both. For the trekking poles, having the ability to achieve equal balance while going up- or downhill or across streams and rocks is a plus, as is the fact that so many hikers speak of their ability to establish and keep a rhythm while hiking with the poles. The downsides I see are that they add calorie burn to your hike, and tie up both hands. And specific to me, as a long-time distance runner, pacing isn’t typically an issue.

The staff, on the other hand, acts as a balance tool itself, while leaving one hand free to snack, grab/move branches, assist on steep uphill climbs, etc. And one very big advantage for this amateur shutterbug: A removable top knob that reveals a threaded camera mount, converting my hiking staff into a monopod lickety-split (people still say lickety-split, don’t they?). Of course, there are attachments being manufactured now that allow you to change out the top of one trekking pole to a monopod, but I’m thinking in terms of speed here. If a bear wanders out onto the trail and I want to grab a quick shot, I’m believing that the staff configuration would come together faster than the pole one, assuming a start from zero. Of course, the other advantage would be the ability to buy a small, light weatherproof camera and just keep it mounted on the staff for sections where I might see something worth shooting. It would be theoretically possible to do that with trekking poles too, I suppose, but balance would be off, and switching hands to eliminate fatigue would be more bothersome with poles, in my sitting-here-at-my-desk opinion.

So it seems like I’m leaning towards the staff (is that a pun? It feels like a pun). And I am. Unless I decide to go for an ultralight shelter where using poles is required to set it up/save weight in the pack.

Then it will be back to square one…

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