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Sticks and poles - what to do....

Hi all...I've seen so may posts/tips in so many sites reccomending the use of walking sticks or hiking poles that I am now determined to have at least one!

My question then is what sticks/poles people have used before and what they thought of them.

My personal preference would be to get a good solid wood stick - and yes I appreciate that means extra weight but to me it "fits" better with the idea of doing the walk in the first place. And I love wood sticks/poles. However, I also appreciate that a long wooden stick isn't going to pack down that easily! And I would be keen to bring it back to the uk afterwards..it will after all, have been a close companion over a long journey.

So what do we all think?
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Sticks and Poles

"A journey of a thousand miles starts with.... reading about 60, 70, 80+ year olds walking to Santiago."

Can't let them beat you...so join them!

Whatever you decide about your stick, how about getting it in Spain? You don't want to carry one on the plane. There are thousands for sale at every town and village. One might even jump out and grab you! So many are left behind - either by accident or by intent. I am sure that there is a stick with your name on it destined for Martin! And, the return flight might let you take it on the plane because by then you will look like Bunyan!

Have a wonderful walk.

THank you for that - I was actually thinking I would go for a stick bought/found in spain. If only because it could be tricky getting it out of the uk! On the other hand a collapsible lightweight pole bought here would be easier to transport between countries. Myself and shell are planning to walk the Inca trail at some point and once again a stick would be worth having.

Really i'm just struggling with this because as happy as I am with modern materials for my boots/pack/clothes etc....something inside me rebels at the idea of anything other than a fine piece of wood for my stick!
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I know what you mean about the authenticity of a good wooden staff and the dilemna there is because the aluminium hiking pole is more convenient. It is possible to transport the wooden staff by plane and some airlines are more understanding than others. I've had different check in staff on the same airline insisting a stick be put in the hold or allowing me to take it on board. My elderly father never has a problem as he needs a stick, perhaps puttting on an act is one way of getting on board with one.

Having made and used a variety of sticks and staffs I am at the moment making some wooden handles for those aluminium poles (Leki - Enzian) as a sort of halfway house. There is nothing like a well finished stick or staff though, but be sure to get or make the lightest one that will still be strong enough for you. A thumb stick can be light weight and still useful but a crook with a buffalo or rams horn head will look the best even if it is not the most suitable.

Buen Camino
Sticks and poles

Visit William's wonderful site to see a few lovely walking poles. http://www.caminolinks.co.uk

I saw a gorgeous pole in France - made of Bamboo, the top thumb rest was a plug for a knot section. Inside was a sewing kit and a little blade.

I have also seen sticks with a mini whiskey bottle attached with a 'U' clamp and an old bicycle bell - one of those round chrome bells where you pull the little trigger to make it ring - attached to the top. Such fun!

I had a lovely old stick with a crook made of three different coloured woods. It had walking stick badges on it from many of my walks. When we were waiting for a ferry at Blaye it slipped away from the guard rails and fell into the river below. I was gutted! My old friend-drowned! I can just imagine in 100 years time if it is found. They might keep looking for the pilgrim!
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Walking stick

I used a stick / pole I picked up in the USA on the Appalachian Trail. To see it you will have to visit my blog (I'm afraid) at http://www.gbwalk.blogspot.com
It is beautifully carved.

A good stick is essential and, if you have one with character, look after it well or it might walk with another!

There is a shop in St Jean Pied de Port where the owner displays some marvellous sticks, carved by himself, but they are expensive and collectors' items.

Definitely poles. They're telescopic, more often than not they can be attached to your sack without too much trouble and they're flippin' brilliant on ascents and decents.
This is resurrecting a very old topic - but my first post asked for advice about whether to bother with trekking poles. Having never used any type of stick (other than for scaring snakes and whacking the heads off dandelions), I suspected that poles were a bit of an affectation - more about image than substance.

Well, I followed several members advice - bought some (no doubt unfashionable and outdated) Leki poles on eBay - and they are brilliant! Yesterday I did a good long stretch of the Dorset Coast Path much faster and more sure-footed than I could even 30 years ago. Absolutely exhilarating - once I had got over an embarassing inability to get my arms in synch, that made me very grateful that there weren't many other hikers around. They made a huge difference on some short but very steep and ascents and descents, made it possible to gallop downhill on scree and other loose surfaces, and gave walking on the flat a pleasant rhythm. I think they improved my posture with a pack on too.

So definitely a convert, and thanks to all those who gave me the advice.

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once I had got over an embarassing inability to get my arms in synch,

Pip, I guess u r talking about "balance," here, right? What was/is, that like? Best, xm 8)
For those who are gadget-crazy, consider this:


If you're into photography, you can take a picture of yourself without being dependent on other pilgrim's photography skills.

If you're into photography, you can take a picture of yourself without being dependent on other pilgrim's photography skills.

:lol: wow, I thought I had seen everything...
The 9th edition the Lightfoot Guide will let you complete the journey your way.
XM - it was much more basic than that - not having used a stick before, and not normally being conscious of what my arms are doing when I walk, I suddenly had to coordinate them in a purposeful way with the opposite leg, rather than just let the normal mechanics of walking do it all for me. For about 100 metres, I felt like one of those hopeless squaddies who can't march - then my body got the point of the whole thing, and I was off in a whirl of dust...

Great fun.

Very best wishes,

I ordered some fantastic pair of walking poles from a company in the UK.
they have been designed by physiotherapists and are scientifically worked out to balance your body and use your arms and legs like a penculum. (hope that makes sense). Instead of leading with your stick you push from the back with them - very weird to begin with but once you get your rhythm they are amazing. Check them out - you can also buy an attachment to make one of the poles into a monopod for your camera too! The people were very helpful with my enquiries so I'd happily recommend them.
Thanks for the tip, Pip, (rhymes :!: ), I should think about doing it, my coordination is terrible, though, had a Kinder teacher that didn't drill us kids much on this, all we did was sing and dance, ah, how the times have changed, nowadays K kids r xpected to emerge from the experience as scholar readers :lol:...Read somewhere that using two poles is not good for reasons/source I can't remember. There comes a moment, this may sound strange, after a lot of walking, and I've heard this a few times on the Caminos, where ur body "takes" and "moves" u, onwards... BTW, have started my "going to bed early" training, waking up at approx 5:30 am, 30" ealier than usual. For some reason am tired more than usual during the day, but that may be the way my excitement re: my forthcoming Camino expresses itself :? Best, xm 8)
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XM, there is a website with quite a bit of detail about technique - of course, I didn't really absorb it until I got home from my walk - my body has to learn for itself, but it makes more sense now. So I'm off to do another bit of the coast path after work.

pjdine, thanks for the website, got it bookmarked to read slowly. There is something to walking with a palo, though, made out of the a tree limb, or a similar one, dunno what it is...Have a good "coast path after work" (btw, ur boss told me u can leave 5" ealier, being for the Camino, and all that-wish mine would). Best, xm 8)
When I walk without sticks the blood pools in my hands and gets very painful. Walking sticks keep my hands up and solves the problem. Ultreya, John
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Good point, papajohn, that happens to me with my left hand when I walk with my palo, holding it with my right hand. Wonder what folks in medieval times did about it? Best, xm 8)

You may have already completed the Camino by now, but I found a stick essential, and yes, they are all over the place along the Camino. Now as for taking it home with you, remember that on the Camino you are frequently following in the footsteps of cows and sheep. While I had a friend whose stick was metal at the tip, mine was in fact a branch from a tree which had been whiddled down to a comfortable shape and size. By the end of the Camino, a large portion of the bottom of my stick was quite infused with the excrement of livestock and was not suitable for home use.
I have plantar fascitiis on both feet so walking with trekking poles was more of a necessity for me.

Last year on the Frances I used a single telescopic trekking pole while walking with a loaded pack. It was easier to handle than the heavier wooden pole, and basically easier to travel with. I couldn't carve on the metal, so instead I covered it with decals from the various towns.... looks cool! :D But my feet DID suffer enough for me to take ibupropfen daily... and I found myself switching grips perodically to avoid arm fatigue.

This year on the Portugues I decided to pay a little more attention to my feet. I used a pair of lightweight carbon poles by Leki, and arranged luggage support so I wouldn't add excess pressure while pounding the trail. The two poles helped a lot -- didn't develop sore knees, hardly any plantar pain (I taped my feet daily), and it added upper body exercise. Great when it came to poking through the mud.

So I guess for me it's lightweight trekking poles over the wooden sticks. And, in my case, a pair of them :D
The one from Galicia (the round) and the one from Castilla & Leon. Individually numbered and made by the same people that make the ones you see on your walk.
I too developed plantar fascitis. I have found that Smart Wool socks are woven so that the arch is supported and lifted by the sock. This helps me and I wear them every day. I am curious how you tape your feet. Thanks and ultreya, John
Single Pole

I have used a single pole for years, mostly for balance going up or down inclines, descents, crossing streams, talus, scree or ice fields on other trails, used as end post for a tarp, as a snake flicker, etc. I tried two of them but jst could not get the hang of it. It really did not feel natural for me so I quickly went back to one.

I suspect that whatever one's ultimate choice is will do nicely for them-whether one or two. I doubt I would ever go without my one though. It has become like another appendage.
I saw many people whilst walking the Camino Frances using Nordic poles but only one person using them correctly.I have walked long distances a great many times and have never been tempted to use poles.They usually end up being carried so become a nuisance.
Unless you have a problem that requires you to use poles I believe that you would be better off without them.
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I walked from St. Jean to Santiago with two Leki trekking poles, and I liked them a lot. I bought them in Bordeaux at an outdoor store, and one of the clerks showed me how to use them.

I found them to be very helpful going up hills because I could use my upper body to assist with the climb. Going down hills was easier and safer, since they kept me balanced and prevented me from falling. I also liked the rhythm they provided on straight-aways - they gave my upper body something to do during those times :) They were a godsend on any terrain that was rocky, wet, and slippery.

In addition, like a previous poster I also have plantar fascitis (plus I had other foot pains that came and went, along with the usual blisters). When the pain flared up, I was able to divert some weight to the poles, which helped relieve the pain. And I was able to lean on them for a rest as needed.

I never had to fight off any dogs, although that possibility was one reason I got the poles. Better safe than sorry, I suppose... But overall, I'm glad I brought them along. :arrow:
I personally believe that hiking poles are proof that people are gullible and it's proof that a salesman can sell snow to Eskimos.When next you are out walking just watch and you will notice that the vast majority of folk can actually walk pretty well without the aid of poles.If they were really effective you would see soldiers using them to aid marching.Most people can walk on rough terrain,slippery surfaces included, without too much difficulty.
The correct name for these poles is Nordic Hiking Poles.They are used in Norway as an aid to power-walking across frozen,rough terrain.
The incorrect use of poles(and that includes the vast majority) can actually cause accidents leading to injury.
I read someone say that they like the rhythm they help you get into---this rhythm is called walking.
For a full explaination of the correct usage of poles plus the pros and cons Google, Peter Clinch's Hiking Poles Page.
I accept that there will be a small minority of people who due to some physical problem might benefit from some sort of walking aid.
Try Googling-Peter Clinch's Hiking Poles Page.
I personally think that hiking poles are a fad and are pointless.Read what Peter Clinch's information says and make up your own mind.
The 9th edition the Lightfoot Guide will let you complete the journey your way.
rafferty said:
Someone commented about "blood pooling in their hands".I suspect that this is caused by not carrying their backpack correctly.quote]

I have had trouble with 'blood pooling in my hands' - this is even when not carrying a backpack. It is a problem with lymph drainage and the hands being an extremity, the lymph causes the hands to become puffy and become redder (extra blood). And the hand is hanging down whilst you walk. If I use poles, my hands are not hanging and the problem is much better. For some it might be how their backpack is positioned but for me, and I suspect others, it's due to this other reason.
Like janeh, I too have purchased a pair of pacer poles (see a previous post above) and used them walking from Le puy to SdC. They are used in a different way to the nordic poles and I found that they were an enormous help going up hill, and of course saved me from injury on the steep descents (I had a a bad dose of tendonitis due to this on my first Camino). I used them even when walking on flatter areas with great benefit - I found I could go much faster with them - not that it is a race, but somehow they "pushed" me along. With the rubber stoppers on the end, I was able to move quietly and not disturb the peace - unlike the clicking that goes with the metal tipped ones. I needed to replace the rubber stopper after about 700kms, but a small price to pay for the assistance that these poles gave me.

I might add that I have always been very anti poles and sticks and so, as an experienced bushwalker (the Australian name for hiking / tramping), this attitude is a complete about face! The design of these poles is different to other walking poles and they are used in a different way. I found that I had no soreness in my wrists and arms, and there was no alteration to my walking style - other than the fact that there was a pole "attached" to each hand. They have my vote!

regards, Janet
St James' Way - Self-guided 4-7 day Walking Packages, Reading to Southampton, 110 kms
I tend to agree with Rafferty.
I used a stick purchased in St. Jean (or anywhere along the way) and it was lovely!
When I go again, I'll do the same.

I think it may depend on when you are walking?
I went in September, so not a huge amount of rain.
The trails were not slippery.
Some folks walking in the rainy season seem to think a set of trekking poles work best if you're walking in the slippery mud to help you keep your balance.

On my Camino I saw maybe 10 people with trekking poles.
The rest had no poles at all or carried the "palos" sold in Spain.
Some pilgrims find them useful; more than 10 just at this one albergue.


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St James' Way - Self-guided 4-7 day Walking Packages, Reading to Southampton, 110 kms
Yes, and sometimes you see this.
I found this online - did not take it - but it was more my experience.
It's sort of like the discussion between hiking boots and trail shoes... all a matter of personal opinion. Like I said, just depends on what time of year you go :D :

The shot is at the Santiago Pilgrim's office where pilgrims have left their homemade sticks at the end of their walk. Only one trekking poles here! It would be good firewood if it were winter! Ivar may be the photographer.
I´ve been told that the best aid you could get from trekking pole would be when going downhill with a load on. I know that nordic walking with two sticks will increase the pace and you start to take longer steps. They are not to be used with a load on your back. Originally they are for cross country skiers summer time training, not meant for long distance walking such as camino. I´ve been training with them about 9 years and they are built for speed not comfort.
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