I am planning a thru-hike on the AT. Can you give me insight into the pros & cons of ultralight poles vs the old standbys? How necessary are shock absorbing poles for the AT?
Submitted by - Scott - Grosse Ile, MI
Well, it’s pretty simple, Scott. Lighter poles mean a lighter load, which is a good thing when you’ve got 2100+ miles till you reach the finish line. If I were you, I’d be weighing every single thing that goes into my pack, always opting for the items that shave ounces.
In terms of poles, you will save a few ounces (and dollars) by going with non-shock absorbing poles. Personally, I don’t really see or feel the benefit of shock absorbers in poles. Now, if I could install shock absorbers in my knees, that would be worth the extra money and weight!
For the AT, you’ll definitely want three-section poles that collapse down nice and small, because odds are you’ll stash them in your pack for certain sections. Non-collapsible poles just don’t make sense for thru-hikers because when you don’t want to carry them, they’re awkward to lash onto your pack and could cause you to get hung up while traipsing through tree-tunnels.
Here are a couple of good bets: the first is ultralight (and ultraexpensive) the second is a great bargain.
Black Diamond Z-Poles: Check out our video review.