Make your trekking poles last forever

Try these easy cleaning tricks to keep using your hiking poles out on the trail longer.

More hikers are toting trekking poles, and with good reason: They absorb shock with each step, improve your balance, and help you cross streams and snowfields. But have you ever planted an adjustable pole only to stumble or fall when it collapsed? Few things are more unnerving-and so easily avoided. That's because a pole usually slides or sticks due to poor maintenance. These few simple steps can keep your locking mechanisms working smoothly.

Expander Poles

Most adjustable poles use an internal expander to adjust length. When you twist the pole sections, a screw inside the joint threads up into a plastic plug, making it expand against the inside of the next pole section. Expanders fail when the pole's interior gets dirty, wet, or oxidized, or when the screw threads get gummed up. Here's how to avoid trouble.

> Regularly disassemble poles, especially after wet trips. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions. After drying, inspect the components for wear or breakage.

> Clean the interior of the female pole ends with a coarse gun-barrel brush, or a damp rag attached to a coat-hanger wire. Be gentle with poles that have anodized interiors, because scratches create areas where ice or contamination can settle. Never use lubricants to clean the pole's interior.

> If dirt has infiltrated the inner mechanisms, remove the retainer clip and plug, and clean the central screw threads.

> To increase friction, sand the plug's surface using fine, grit-free sandpaper. Thoroughly clean the components before reassembling.

> Replace the inexpensive expanders if slipping persists after a cleaning.

Push-Button Poles

> Cleaning methods are similar to the expander models. However, the absence of expander plugs means you can use lubricants, both for cleaning and oiling the push buttons.

> Check shafts regularly for cracks that can appear around the adjustment holes. If you find a crack, contact the manufacturer for a replacement section immediately.

Snap-Lock Poles

> Clean these as you would other poles, sans the lube.

> Check the screw and pin on the snap-lock for excessive wear or rust. Replace the locking mechanism if it becomes loose in the locked position.