Snowshoe Poles: Everything You Need to Know

When most people think of snowshoeing, they think about strapping on a pair of snowshoes and hitting the trail. While this is certainly the main equipment that you need, a good set of snowshoe poles can make your experience much more enjoyable.

Trekking poles for snowshoeing provide additional support, power, and balance, which can help reduce fatigue and make your trekking easier. If you are looking to take your winter adventures to the next level, be sure to pack a good pair of poles!

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snowshoe poles

How do snowshoe poles improve your hike?

There are a few key ways that trekking poles can improve your snowshoeing experience.

First of all, they provide added stability. If you are carrying a heavy backpack or are hiking over technical terrain, having a set of poles can make a big difference in your comfort level.

Additionally, trekking poles can help you generate more power with each step. This is especially beneficial if you are hiking in deep powder or are trying to avoid post-holing.

Finally, snowshoe poles can help improve your balance on slippery surfaces. This is especially important when crossing frozen lakes or traveling over uneven obstacles like logs – two obstacles you may encounter when snowshoeing in the backcountry.

Things to consider when buying snowshoe poles

While there are many advantages to using trekking poles while snowshoeing, there are also a few things to keep in mind.

First of all, make sure that you purchase poles that are specifically designed for use in the snow. These poles will have larger snow baskets that help prevent them from sinking too deeply into the powder.

Additionally, it is important to be able to adjust the length of your poles based on the terrain. For example, you will want your poles shorter when climbing uphill and longer when descending steep hills.

snowshoe poles

Adjustable or fixed length snowshoe poles?

Fixed length poles

Poles that are a fixed length only come in one size, similar to ski poles. Because their size is permanent, you must choose a pole that would be the right height for you. Normally, these types of poles come in 10 cm units from 100 cm to 130 cm.

You will have to adjust your grip position while on different terrains as you won’t be able to adjust the length of the pole. Furthermore, the fixed length will make it difficult to stow them when not in use.

Fixed poles have fewer parts so they cost and weigh less, but they aren’t ideal for snowshoeing.

Telescoping/Adjustable poles

Black Diamond Women's Trail Trek Poles

These Black Diamond women’s trekking poles offer the FlickLock locking mechanism.

They are collapsible, so their length can be changed. Although they don’t collapse as small as folding poles and take a little longer to extend, they are typically more durable and heavier.

You may replace single segments of adjustable trekking poles rather than the entire pole if it breaks.

Z-style or folding poles 

Black Diamond Distance Z Z-Poles, Ice, 130 cm

These Black Diamond collapsible Z style poles are lightweight and feature cork grips.

They’re composed of two to three sections and can be folded like a tent pole. They are often used because they’re lightweight and easy to pack, as well as being relatively simple to use.

Also note that with Z-style Poles, you’ll have to pick an appropriate size based on your height as they only offer minimal adjustability (around 20cm).

Two sections

If you choose a telescoping/folding pole, it will likely have two or three sections.

Tubbs Trail Walking Poles- 2 PC, Black

Two-section poles are easier to use and more durable than three-section poles. They also weigh less and cost less.

Three section poles

Atlas U2002001010 All Mountain Poles 3 Piece Snowshoe Pole, Black, Adjustable

Three-section poles offer the advantage of being more packable; however, they are heavier and have more parts that can break.

snowshoe poles

What type of locking mechanism?

When choosing telescoping poles for snowshoeing, you’ll want to pay attention to the type of locking mechanism that is used. There are three main types of locking mechanisms: twist locks, lever locks, and push-button locks. Each one has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Lever locks

External levers or flick locks clamp down in the locked position with a lever. They are reliable and easy to adjust and stay locked in place. They can be released with one hand, which is convenient when you’re on the go.

Twist locks

Twist locks employ a twisting mechanism to keep the pole sections together. You will need both hands and good grip strength to adjust. The twist locking mechanism is more susceptible to failure than lever locks. If it fails, unlocking or tightening your poles will be difficult.

Push-button locks

Push-button locks have a metal button on them that you push down to unlock the poles. Sometimes, the button can become jammed with snow or ice, and then it becomes difficult to use.

snowshoe poles

Snow baskets

It’s important to look at the size of the snow basket as you don’t want your poles sinking too deeply into the snow, which will make them difficult to use. The size of the basket will be dependent on the type of snow that you’re expecting to encounter.

For example, a smaller basket is better for packed snow, while a larger basket is better for powdery snow.

You can also buy replaceable baskets so that you can change them out depending on the conditions.

snowshoe poles

Snowshoe poles shaft material

The weight of your snowshoeing pole is important to consider because a lighter pole will be easier to carry. The shaft should be made from a lightweight yet durable material.

Aluminum 

The most popular pick for the average snowshoer, aluminum poles are more durable but are a little heavier than carbon fiber. This type of pole is strong yet flexible, it will bend before it breaks. You can usually bend them back without breaking them. And they are less sensitive to cold temperatures.

Carbon fiber

These poles weigh less than aluminum poles. However, they are less durable because of that. Best for longer hiking distances, they’ll allow you to move quicker with less energy. Carbon fiber poles are more expensive than aluminum.

snowshoe poles

The grip

Choose a material that offers a comfortable grip that is also easy to hold onto, even when you’re wearing gloves.

Foam grips

Foam is a cheaper and softer option, but it quickly absorbs and retains sweat. Which may not be too much of a problem in the wintertime, depending on your location. It is more durable than some other materials, although it will eventually break down.

It does offer good shock protection, which is great on those long winter day hikes. Although, the foam grips have the disadvantage of freezing in cold winter temperatures.

Cork grips

Cork is both comfy and long-lasting. It’s also permeable, so it allows sweat to evaporate effectively. Cork grips absorb shock and mold to your grip over time, making it an excellent shock-absorbing material. Although, when wearing gloves, the sweat-wicking quality of cork is less effective.

Rubber grips

Rubber grips are budget-friendly and long-lasting. They are, however, less comfy than the other two materials. When your hands are sweaty, the rubber can cause chafing, resulting in blisters. Wearing gloves may help alleviate this problem.

You may choose any grip material you like; however, we suggest opting for snowshoe poles with cork grips, which provide optimal comfort and durability. If you’re snowshoeing with gloves on, the grip material may not be as noticeable.

However, if you snowshoe without gloves, it’s nice to have the most comfortable grip available.

Shock absorbent

When you’re out on the trails, you’ll want a set of poles that can absorb some shock. If your snowshoeing poles are too stiff, they will transfer all the shock to your arms and shoulders, which can lead to fatigue.

On the other hand, if your poles are too flexible, they may bend too much and be difficult to handle. You’ll want a pair of snowshoeing poles that have just the right amount of give.

Snowshoe pole size

The snowshoe pole length is important for both comfort and efficiency. If the snowshoe poles are too short, you’ll have to hunch over to use them, which can lead to back pain. And if the pole is too long, you’ll have to put in extra effort to control it.

If you’re transversing a hill, shorten the pole on the uphill side and lengthen it on the downhill side. The amount of adjustment you’ll need depends on the grade of the slope.

To set your pole length stand with your snowshoes on and with the pole upside down grasp the pole right under the snow basket and adjust the length until the bend in your elbow is at a right angle.

snowshoe poles

Snowshoe pole price

Snowshoe hiking poles can range in price from around $30 to $200. It’s important to find a pair of poles that fit your budget but also provide the features and durability that you need. Before purchasing any snowshoeing poles check the brands return policy and warranty.

When selecting trekking poles for snowshoeing, it is important to keep the above factors in mind. By doing so, you will be sure to purchase a quality pair of poles that will improve your winter adventures!

How to use snowshoe poles: techniques and tips

gloved hand gripping snowshoe pole

Now that you know the main features to look for when selecting snowshoeing poles, it’s time to learn how to use them!

Here are some tips on using your snowshoe poles with the proper techniques.

Correct grip: 

You’ll want to make sure you’re holding the pole correctly before you start trekking. The proper grip position is with your palm facing inward and your thumb wrapped around the outside of the pole. You should be holding the pole in the “V” between your thumb and first two fingers.

Extend your arms: 

When using your snowshoe poles, you’ll want to extend your arms so that there is a slight bend in your elbow. This will give you the most power and also help reduce fatigue in your arms and shoulders.

Use your whole body: 

As you walk with your snowshoe poles, be sure to use your whole body. Lean into the poles as you push off with each step. This will help you move more efficiently and also help reduce fatigue.

You can also hold the snowshoe poles without using the straps; however, we don’t recommend this grip as it can be more tiring on your arms.

Pole placement: 

When placing your snowshoe poles in the snow, you’ll want to make sure they are in front of you and not too far to the side.

If you place your poles too far to the side, they may get caught on things as you walk. Placing your poles in front of you will help you maintain a good rhythm while walking and help you move more efficiently.

Pushing off: 

As you walk, you’ll want to make sure you’re pushing off with your poles. This will help you move forward more easily and save energy.

To push off correctly, plant your pole in the snow in front of you and lean into it as you straighten your leg. You should feel like you’re pushing off with your poles, not pulling yourself forward with them.

When you’re first starting out, it may take some time to get used to using your snowshoeing poles correctly. However, once you get the hang of it, you’ll be surprised at how much easier it is to walk with snowshoe trekking poles!

Are two poles better than one?

While using two snowshoeing poles is the most common way to trek, as it provides the most balance and support. Some people prefer to use only one. It’s all about personal preference.

If you decide to use only one pole, we recommend using your stronger hand to hold the pole. This will help you maintain balance and keep yourself from getting too tired.

Some people find that using one pole is enough for shorter walks or hikes. However, if you’re planning on trekking for a long period of time, we recommend using two poles.

snowshoeing with one pole in BC
Snowshoeing in B.C.

How to use the wrist straps properly on snowshoe poles

One of the most important aspects of using snowshoe trekking poles correctly is using the wrist straps properly. The wrist straps are there to help you grip the poles more easily and prevent them from slipping out of your hands.

To use the wrist strap correctly, you’ll want to put them on so that they are snug but not too tight. You should be able to fit one or two fingers between the strap and your wrist.

Next, you’ll want to have a relaxed grip on the pole, which will make it easier to move and not tire your hands from holding on too tightly.

Now, you’re ready to hit the trails! Just make sure to adjust the straps if they start to feel too loose.

Snowshoe poles

Walk naturally with a neutral arm position

One of the most important things to remember when using snowshoeing poles is to keep a neutral arm position.

As you walk, keep your hands close to your body and bring the opposite side’s pole forward with each stride. Your arms should remain in a neutral position and you should use your shoulders to propel yourself forward. Make sure that the arm and leg on the opposite side are moving together; for example, as your right leg moves forward, so should your left arm (with the pole in it).

If you walk with your right arm and leg forward at the same time, then do the same with your left side, you will have a swaying gait. Walk naturally, without exaggerated movement in your arms. Let them swing forwards and backward freely. Keeping your arms close to your body will help you maintain balance and move more efficiently. It may feel strange at first, but give it a few minutes – you’ll get used to it soon enough!

If you start to feel tired, make sure to take breaks often and adjust your arm position if necessary. It’s important to listen to your body when you’re trekking and not push yourself too hard.

Final thoughts

Poles aren’t just for skiing!

In fact, using a good pair of snowshoeing poles can significantly improve your snowshoeing experience. Whether you are looking for additional support or trying to avoid post-holing in deep powder, winter hiking poles provide extra balance and power with each step.

So don’t forget to pack a pair on your next backcountry adventure and check out our article on Snowshoeing For Beginners: The Complete Guide for more tips before you head out.

And if you’re wondering where to store your snowshoes this spring, check out these 7 ways to store snowshoes.

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