Choosing Nordic Walking poles – a useful guide!
Choosing Nordic Walking poles can be daunting, there are so many diffent brands and models. Don’t worry, we are here to help!
Nordic Walking poles are different from trekking or ski poles, mainly because they connect differently to your hands. Ski or trekking poles usually have a simple loop, which means that you loose your hand position on the pole if you let go of the handle. Nordic Walking pole straps envelope your hand, and give much better support. This is important as it allows us to use the proper Nordic Walking technique. Many shops have -unfortunately- no idea what Nordic Walking is, and often sell trekking poles as ski poles. So beware!
You can sometimes find very cheap poles online. These might be genuine Nordic Walking poles, but in my experience they are usually very heavy or come with straps that don’t detach from the pole. As I want you to have fun Nordic Walking, I would recommend spending maybe five or ten pounds more for a nice, good quality pair of poles. You are going to enjoy them so much more. Feel free to ask me for advice during my classes, I am always happy to help and to give you my honest advice.
The poles we are selling through our shop come from Nordic Walking UK. All poles are tried and tested by Nordic Walkers for Nordic Walkers. And they have great customer service and warranty if something ever goes wrong with your poles.
So which Nordic Walking poles should you choose?
When you are choosing your Nordic Walking poles, then there are a couple of questions to ask yourself:
- How you usually travel to your walks?
- What length do you usually set your poles? (100cm? 105cm? 110cm? 115cm? Or somewhere in between?
- Are you the only one using your poles, or will a friend or family member borrow them sometimes?
- What material would you prefer for your poles?
- Which straps do you prefer?
- How much money are you willing to spend?
Fixed length poles
The cheapest option is, in general, to choose for a fixed length pole. These poles don’t collapse, but this option could work well for you if you leave them in your car, or if you walk to the park. You buy these poles in the length you normally use for walking, but they only come in lengths with 5 cm increments. (so 105, 110, 115 cm, etc). The cheapest fixed lenght pole we sell is a Gabel Aluminium NCS, currently on sale for £29.50 (minimum length 105cm).
If you usually set your poles on 102.5 or 107.5cm, a fixed length pole is not an option, but you could choose either a fully adjustable pole -which comes in two parts like the ones we use for teaching-, or a traveller pole (see below). Adjustable poles don’t collapse as small as traveller poles and traveller poles aren’t that much more expensive, so at Fit and Happy Outdoors we normally don’t recommend these. The only time I would recommend these is if you don’t care about collapsing them (some people never do), but really would like to use them at an odd length.
If you usually travel to your walks on public transport or even on your bicycle, you might want to consider a telescopic pole, also known as a traveller pole. These are poles that usually come in 3 parts, which slide into each other. You can set these poles in any length you like to use when you are walking with them (up to 130 cm). Collapsed they are only 62 cm, so you can easily carry them on your back pack or in a handy pole bag. If you take them apart they are even smaller, and they will fit in a little carry-on suitcase*(1 This is probably why most of our walkers choose traveller poles
Both Leki and Gabel have Traveller poles and they come in Aluminium as well as in full Carbon.
An even smaller option is the Leki trail stick. These poles have a system similar to modern tent poles. They collapse into four pieces, so they fold away so small (from 34 cm), that they easily fit inside a small back pack. These poles are also super light weight. If money is not an object, these are the creme the la creme of Nordic Walking poles. Only downside is that they only come in increments of 5 cm, starting at 105cm. These poles are not as strong as the fixed length or traveller poles so for large and/or heavy people and for extreme use I would still recommend using the classic 3-section LEKI trekking poles. Trail sticks currently cost around £125
Aluminium is a great value choice. The poles are good quality and not too heavy, but they vibrate slightly more than the more expensive poles. Also, aluminium reacts more to temperature. This is not a problem in fixed length poles, but I would recommend always storing collapsible poles with the fastening loosened up. (I have collapse them on a cool evening and fastened them, then couldn’t open them when I next wanted to use them on a warm sunny day. No problem when I cooled the poles down again, and easily avoidable, but it can be a bit of a nasty surprise if you are not aware of this).
Both Leki and Gabel have straps that can be ‘clicked’ onto the pole. Which system you prefer is a matter of taste (and your wallet). I slightly prefer Leki myself, mainly because the Leki Shark system (with the little loop) allows your hand to be closer to the pole, which gives me slightly better control of the pole. I have noticed that this allows some of our walkers to have a loser grip on the pole, which in turn leads to a better technique. Having said that, Leki is also more expensive, so if money is an issue, it is better to choose for Gabel.
Some people prefer the Gabel straps as they are slightly softer around the hand, but Leki now also come with soft straps (please ask for these when you order, to make sure you get the ones you want)
Straps come in different sizes. If you don’t say anything you will get the medium straps (which we use in our classes), but you can ask for small or large straps too.
Leki Poles come with a choice of smart tips and regular paws. Smart tips have a retractable rubber paw, which reveals a hard tip when retracted. The two main advantages of these smart tips are that you can never lose your paws, and that you never have to put mucky paws in your pocket. It does have some disadvantages too. They can be quite stiff to operate, which can be a problem if your hands are not so strong.
To view our full range of Nordic Walking poles visit our online store or call Nordic Walking UK at any time on 0333 1234 540 for expert advice. Don’t forget to mention your Freedom card Registration code to use your member discount!