Still, poles would be useful—for Nordic walking and plain ol' garden-variety hiking. I used to dismiss pole users as effete girlie men (oh dear, too much Ahnold!). But then I used some poles on a Rainier climb, almost by accident (the poles, that is, not the climb), and quickly became enamored. Now I don't hike without them. They help with pacing and balance, ease slippery log crossings, lessen the impact on my knees, and help protect my ankles from roll-overs.
One discussion I don't get much into, though, is which pole is "better" than another. Come on—they're all just glorified sticks. REI's Summit poles ($60; www.rei.com) are just fine—light, sturdy, and easily adjusted. Or you can spend a bunch of dough and get a pair of Leki Ultralite Ti Air Ergo poles ($150; www.leki.com), which feature a shock absorber and extra padding on the upper part of the pole. OK, they're slightly lighter than the REI poles, and maybe have better grips. But otherwise, not a huge amount of difference. I've used shock-absorbing poles and find them more distracting than useful.
Just about any pole will also prop up a tarp, so no worries there. Just go into a store, try a few, and get the poles that feel most comfortable to your hands.
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