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Gear Guy
Q:

Is it overkill to use two trekking poles?

Thanks to a little bicycling accident last fall—which resulted in four brain surgeries—I've decided to take up hiking. I'm considering a staff or trekking poles to help with my balance. I believe trekking poles would be overkill for me, and that a single staff would be fine, particularly since I'll be sticking pretty closely to trails. Do you agree, and if so, which staffs would you recommend? Roley Davidson, North Carolina

A: I'm not going to recommend any staffs, as I don't think they'll do you much good. Well, one would work fine, if you really want to go that route: Cascade Designs' Sherlock Staff ($65; www.cascadedesigns.com). It's a high-tech take on the venerable walking stick, with a padded grip, adjustable shaft, and even a universal camera mount.

But really, a twin pole setup is much more versatile. Using twin poles gives you better rhythm when hiking, and provides much better balance when crossing streams or log bridges. Even for trails, I like using twin poles. And you don't need to spend much more than you would for a single pole. REI, for instance, sells its very adequate Summit Trekking Poles for $60 (www.rei.com). A step up, with lighter poles and more comfortable grips, would be the Komperdell Titanal Trekking Poles ($90; www.rei.com). And some people swear by shock-absorbing poles such as the Leki Ultralite Ti Air Ergo PA AS trekking poles ($150; www.rei.com). But, my gut is that inexpensive poles will work just fine.

Very sorry to hear about your cycling accident, by the way. Four years ago I peeled off the bike and likely would have come off a lot worse had it not been for my helmet.

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