Great Geo-Stuff: Walking Poles

Today It’s Not About The Numbers unearths our irregular ode to something geocaching related that we may take for granted but which helps make our sport awesome.

Yes, it’s just a pole with a handle on top but I’ve lost track of the times my walking stick has saved my bacon – and my arse.

As regular It’s Not About The Numbers readers will know, I often slide down slopes I find visually taxing – a habit which quickly wore out the backside of my jeans.

Since getting a flash, new pole for my birthday – a gift which resulted in my parents joking to their friends that I’d become elderly and infirm – I’ve spent far less time sitting on the trail and much more actually ambulating along it.

Whether you prefer a metal or wooden version, one stick or two, the end result is the same – more stable footing.

And while walking poles are not solely the domain of geocachers, in this big screen-addicted, morbidly obese world, anything that gets people outside and moving while reducing the stress on their joints has to be a good thing. Apparently you even burn more kilojoules per hour whilst using such poles.

Most examples come with anti-shock reduction and collapse into smaller models of themselves; some even offer extra bells and whistles such as water bottle-holders, a torch, compass, camera attachments or a flat surface on which to support your frame or cuppa tea.

Unfortunately, this product market is definitely one in which you get what you pay for – and considering what you’re actually getting, there’s a substantial cost involved. Your basic metal stick can cost upward of NZ$70.

My first pole cost a whopping $8 from a discount store and soon broke. However, this just led to another positive discovery – broken poles can be easily converted into a handy-dandy CITO tool by attaching a nail to the end with which to pick up rubbish.

Also on the con side is the argument that walking poles are damaging to our environment. According to a 2011 Conservation Department study, the unprotected carbide tip of one walking pole exerts some 3000 kilopascals (kPa) of force every time it contacts the ground.

Worse still, the problem is compounded by the popularity of sites such as the world heritage-recognised Tongariro National Park’s Alpine Crossing Track, which suffers more than 400 million tip ‘jabs’ each year.

However, I believe this impact can be greatly reduced by choosing a non-pointed foot for your preferred mobility device. And surely the money saved on medical treatment for injured outdoor buffs goes along way toward negating this perceived planetary plight.

Ahh, walking poles … Keeping players like me upright since geocaching began.

*If you have an item of great geo-gear you’d like to honour here, tell us about it via our Contact Us page.


  1. professorbenson

    I use a wooden pole myself. One I found while trying to get out a swamp.

    1. kjwx

      Snap! My first walking pole incarnations were sturdy, fallen tree branches I sourced on the way to GZ but they never lasted long – either broke at inopportune moments or, more commonly, they were usurped by my first geodog as makeshift toys. She’d latch on at the bottom of each stick as I walked and pull until I surrendered them. Had forgotten all about that till I read your comment.

  2. professorbenson

    It’s the same swamp that is on my blog profile. Even in April that thing was wicked. And only 500 feet from a housing zone.

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