The Basics

What the outdoor retailer offers is personal expertise which is something the web cannot deliver. In a world awash with product and competing claims, the informed sales person comes into his or her own. On these pages and in concert with individual sponsors we offer a series of bullet point guides to the basics of the key outdoor product categories. Our aim is to provide inexperienced sales staff a guide to what to remember and for more experienced ones a reminder of things they might have forgotten. The Basics has been produced so as to make it simple to download – in most cases each takes up no more than single sheet of paper.

The Basics of Walking Poles

Sponsored by Leki

The walking pole is an essential bit of kit, especially for those planning any kind of journey involving travel over uneven ground. The additional stability and support they provide is immediately clear to those who have not used them before and the good sales person should always take the opportunity to suggest the purchase of a pair to newcomers especially.

Everybody will benefit from using  poles, right?

Yes. The benefits are very clear, but explaining them to customers is important. In no particular order those benefits are: 

Stability: Instead of two points of balance (the feet) the user has four

Reduced impact: The impact of walking is distributed more evenly and as result it will be less tiring and the chances of tripping are reduced

Helping hand (or foot): When going uphill the sticks provide extra forward drive and they provide extra security downhill

Timing: It improves even the most eye catching gait

Are they made of the right stuff?
There are three basic materials used in the construction of poles. All of them are up to doing the job, with the main difference being in the amount that each weighs and thereby the cost. The three materials are aluminum, aluminum-titanium alloys and carbon fibre. Of the three carbon fibre is the lightest and consequently the most expensive.

Go to any lengths to get it right
A walking pole that is not adjusted to the correct height for the user can do more harm than good. Getting it right is very simple. Holding the pole so that your elbow is at a right angle and your forearm parallel to the ground, then adjust the pole length so that the tip touches the ground. That is the right height.

Shock absorption
This is usually provided by a spring or dampener in the shaft helping to minimise the impact when the pole hits the ground. 

Straps and handles
Poles use plastic, soft rubber, cork or foam handles usually shaped to suit the hand. This is worth pointing out because when used for long periods it helps to prevent sore hands or even blisters. And don’t forget the straps, which will allow free use of the hands, for map reading say, without the need to put the poles down.  Some poles have straps that release when you fall for extra safety.

Pole ends
Very important these. They can be made from a variety of materials, but all need to be exceptionally tough as the constant ground strike will wear out anything flimsy in no time.  And point out the ‘basket’; that’s the rubber or plastic shield that protects the shaft and stops the pole sinking in soft ground. 

What else do I need to point out?
Ensure that the pole you are selling is suitable for the height and weight of the customer.  If someone is very tall and / or heavy they should choose a stronger shaft than someone who is small and light.  Women’s poles usually have smaller grips to suit their hands.

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