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Sticks or no sticks, that is the question

Tio Huero

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
SJPDP to Pamplona 2011
Pamplona to Longrono 2012
Sarria to Santiago 2018
Hola,
The plan for Tio is to walk about seven or eight days of the Camino in September, not sure of the dates as yet. Going to start in St Jean and see where it takes me.

I've done a lot of hiking in Colorado and only recently started using hiking poles. I used them on Mt. Killi and a fourteener here near home; they were quite handy then. My question is: since I'll be crossing the mountains the first day, do I want to have them for the rest of the trip?

Lest I sound arrogant, I'm only looking at about 4500 feet of elevation gain the first day, but an apparently tricky descent (altitude won't be a problem since I live above 5280 in Denver). Also, I don't want to take anything that I absolutely, positively don't need for the entire walk.

Your comments will be most appreciated.
Tio Huero, aka, Dan
 
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gregdedman

Active Member
Hi Tio/Dan :)

If you've hiked Kili and in the Rockies then the Pyrenees at 1430m aren't going to cause you any real problems and the descent is fine along wooded pathways.
I find the adrenaline of that first day enough to propel me over the pass and onto Roncesvalles but sure, the poles are useful for those who may be a little unsteady on there feet or for those bad weather moments of slippery leaves/pathways or flash floods and stream crossings.

Hikers tend to fall into one of two categories, pole users and non pole users. I dislike them mainly because of the noise they make, so I don't take them but when I get shin splints then a walking stick fashioned from branches at the side of the trail get me through the worst of it.

The fact that you are asking the question means that you're not sure. My advise would be to leave them at home, see how you go and if you REALLY need some, Pamplona is only 3 days in and you can pick some up there.
If you take poles and they prove to be a hinderance you'll have to leave them at an albergue saying goodbye to the money you spent on them (but some fellow pilgrim would warmly welcome the gift!).

On final note, you DEFINATELY wont need them the entire of your trip.

I hope this helps :)
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2014, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011, 2019. CP (tbc)
There are pole-users, those that have them and don't use them, and a few that don't have them. I walk with poles consistently, and wouldn't walk without them. I used them every day on the Camino. They took some weight off my knees all the time, and were a stability aid from time to time.

If the latter is all you want them for, then you won't need them regularly.

Remember that you cross two other mountain ranges if you are travelling the Camino Frances, and they offer similar challenges to the Pyrenees, although perhaps not as sustained as the downhill stretches between Roncevalles and Zubiri as an example.

What I observed was that most people might have their high tech poles in their hands, but aren't really using them for anything much. They might as well be using any old fairly straight bit of wood for all the use they are making of the handgrip and wrist loop.

My view is that if you are going to take them, take the time to learn how to use them before you go and use them all the time. Find Pete's pole page on the web for advice on how to use the poles.

Second, get rubber tips for the poles. There are a couple of different types, and I use a 'walking tip' when I when I train locally, but will also use the other variety when I am bush walking.

Whether you take them or not, all the best for your Camino.
 
Time of past OR future Camino
CF 2006,08,09,11,12(2),13(2),14,16(2),18(2) Aragones 11,12,VDLP 11,13,Lourdes 12,Malaga 16,Port 06
I've done it with trekking poles, with the palo you can buy along the way, and without any stick.
It was nice all ways.
It's really up to you.

Times the poles came in handy were in wet slippery muddy conditions.
Otherwise, I think the pacer poles I used really did help my knees.

On the other hand, it was a pain in the kazoo to keep up with and worry about them, especially in places where they required you to leave them at the door. In those cases, I would have preferred the cheap but great stick you can buy in any village along the way.

Flip a coin?
 

ricksca

New Member
I infer from your post that you use your poles primarily for climbing. I would like to offer another perspective. I use my poles exactly the same way they would be used for cross-country skiing. That is, I use them extended long and push off with them on every step. This does 2 things: it gives me a boost on every step, a little like walking with a nice tail wind so I move faster with less leg effort. The second thing is that it involves the upper body in the walk providing a more balanced workout. Once you establish a rhythm, the miles seem to fly by and I arrive less fatigued than I might otherwise. I don't mind the noise, but I have sometimes annoyed others I was hiking with, so the rubber tip idea seems pretty good.
 
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marian55

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
camino de madrif
I love using them for walking and drying my laundry (two shoelaces and poles and anything to connect... :D )
 

mmm042

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
VDLP 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014
I've done the Camino with and without trekking poles and agree with the comments below. You won't need them, even on super-steep climbs, if you're in good shape. That being said, they come in handy on steep spots, where there's water and as a defense against aggressive dogs. I never minded walking with them, even if I never really needed them, although it was nice not to worry about keeping track of them when I didn't have them.

Melanie
 
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jeploss

Member
As you can see, the opinions on this question are all over the place. I think your age, weight and fitness level are all important variables. I'd say that if you are 45 or older and carrying some extra weight, then definitely take poles to take pressure off of your knees on descents. There are some places where the footing is tricky or with rain and mud, slippery - poles really help then. I think the possible hassle of having them and not needing or not using them is outweighed by the benefit of having them if you do end up needing them. In other words, consider this: What's worse: having them and not using them or not having them and regretting that decision?

Buen Camino!
Janet
 

jeploss

Member
As you can see, the opinions on this question are all over the place. I think your age, weight and fitness level are all important variables. I'd say that if you are 45 or older and carrying some extra weight, then definitely take poles to take pressure off of your knees on descents. There are some places where the footing is tricky or with rain and mud, slippery - poles really help then. I think the possible hassle of having them and not needing or not using them is outweighed by the benefit of having them if you do end up needing them. In other words, consider this: What's worse: having them and not using them or not having them and regretting that decision?

Buen Camino!
Janet
 

camino-david

RIP 2020
Time of past OR future Camino
Caminos Frances (x4), Finisterre, Aragon, Via de la Plata, Portuguese 2011 -2015. Hospitalero 2015
I think Janet says it all. Last year I used poles/sticks for the first time in my life, and I don't think I could have done the Camino without them, and although very fit, I am well into my seventies. I found them of most help in going downhill as it helped reduce the impact on my knees. Unlike most people however, on the level I held them balanced horizontal in my hands which seemed to give me added momentum in my step. My poles, like most, can be dismantled into 3 parts just by pulling them apart and just as easily put back together. Thus I was able to pack them inside my backpack, which is a 35 litre so quite small, and fly Ryanair to and from London without extra payment other then the standard charge for unaccompanied baggage. Camino-David
 
S

Sojourner47

Guest
No sticks. I started the CI with my sooperdooper homemade bamboo stick, left it behind at Betanzos by mistake, and , to my surprise, got on better without it. I really thought it would be an asset beforehand; learn from experience???
 

Kialoa3

Active Member
Sticks. I used Pacer poles every day from SJPP to Muxia and loved them. The problem as I see it is that many people do not know how to use them. As a result they just become outriggers for balance on the uneven terrain. But if you figure out (read the manufacturers instructions) how to use them they do indeed allow you to walk faster using less energy and you have the balance bit as well when needed. Practice is required to find your stride and pole placement. Once you are able to do that you will be rewarded for your efforts. I am 64 and would admit that maybe there is an age bias thing here as younger people have many physical advantages that overcome some of the issues we more seasoned pilgs have.

Buen camino (with or without)
 
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Kialoa3

Active Member
Forgot to mention the rubber tips. Please use them as I cannot imagine anything more maddening then the tympanic tap of dozens of poles marking time along the camino. The only time I ever took them off was when walking along a long stretch of icy pathway.
 

Rebekah Scott

Camino Busybody
Time of past OR future Camino
Many, various, and continuing.
Why not split the difference and walk with one stick? A single stick is part of the classic pilgrim image. The trail is littered with them, they cost just about nothing. A simple stick is easy to find and keep track of, it does not require training or instructions, and it provides all the protection and balance benefits listed above, and your heart won´t be broken if it is stolen or left behind in Betanzos. If you get tired of it, you just leave it behind.

I do not usually use a stick, but when I "sprang" my knee on the Invierno in March I was glad to borrow one, especially for downhills. One stick. Low tech.

Keep it simple.
Reb.
 

+@^^

Active Member
omhi
when the debate moves around whether to use stix or a pole, then the user has not mastered the correct usage of stix
and then i m in agreement - stix wrongly used can be tiring and a nuisance
however
.
if you hang in there long enough on your training
and really get to make the stix work with you
its entirely another proposition
.
if the stix are bandied about like Charlie Chaplin on a Sunday afternoon drum-majorette exhibition, youd be better off without
.
like any decent equipment, you gotta use it propper-like, and train with it and get used to it
 

Cmeckley

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
SJPP-SdC (2011),Porto-SdC, Variante Espiritual (2016), SJPP- Santiago (2017), Porto-SdC (2019)
I am taking REI brand, Titanal, telescoping poles with rubber tips. I find 2 poles annoying, but one pole is just perfect. They retract enough to fit entirely in my pack if necessary, or hook conveniently through a loop on the exterior.
 

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