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What Are Different Trekking Pole Tips For?

Trekking poles are a popular tool for providing extra stability and grip on the trail, and they also provide support for the knees. Trekking pole tips are the key to reaping these benefits, but there are so many different types of tips available, you may be wondering what each type is for.

Different trekking pole tips are designed for extra support in various underfoot conditions experienced when hiking. Carbide tips work well on softer ground where the hardened tips can dig in for extra stability, while rubber tips are more suited to harder ground and slippery conditions.

Before hitting the trails with your trekking poles, you want to consider the type of pole tips to use. There are a few things to consider before you decide on the best pole tips for your hike. Below, we will look at the different types of trekking pole tips and when it is suitable to use each type.

Different Types Of Trekking Pole Tips

The tips of your trekking poles will constantly come into contact with the ground, therefore it is important to choose the pole tip that is best suited for that type of trail. There are two main types of trekking pole tips: carbide and rubber.

Carbide Trekking Pole Tips

Most trekking poles will come with carbide, hardened steel tips. Carbide tips are largely designed for softer, natural surfaces and are very durable. However, the tips will wear down over time through the constant impact with the ground, especially if used on hard surfaces. Therefore, it is a good idea to buy trekking poles with removable tips so that they can be replaced easily.

PROS:

  • Durable
  • Good traction on soft surfaces
  • Digs into rock when hiking on more rugged terrain

CONS:

  • Wears down over time
  • Noise from hardened tip striking the ground
  • Vibration from tip striking the ground
  • Can cause damage to trails
  • May puncture a hole in your backpack if not properly stored

Personal preference will play a major role in the style of trekking pole tip you use. Some of the disadvantages listed for carbide tips, such as the noise the tips make, will not be an issue for some people. Whereas it could be an important factor in the choice of tip for those who want a quiet, peaceful hike.

Rubber Trekking Pole Tips

Rubber trekking pole tips are a popular choice for many hikers as they offer versatility and do not wear down as quickly as carbide tips. These pole tips are good for reducing shock and providing extra traction on hard surfaces. A major attraction of rubber tips is absence of the click-clack sound that carbide tips make when striking the ground.

PROS:

  • Less wear on hard surfaces
  • Easier and cheaper to replace
  • Quieter than carbide tips
  • Absorbs shock and reduces vibration
  • Less damage caused to the trail
  • Less chance of damage to backpack when stored
  • Good grip on harder surfaces

CONS:

  • Less durable
  • Reduced traction on softer surfaces

The rubber tips fit over the carbide tips that trekking poles usually come with. This offers protection to the carbide tips and allows you to remove the rubber tips when hiking on surfaces not suited for them, such as softer ground where rubber would slide.

When Should You Use Carbide Trekking Pole Tips?

You should use carbide trekking pole tips when hiking on softer, natural trail surfaces. The hard tips are designed to dig into the ground for extra traction, providing stability. They can be used year-round on muddy trails as well as on snow and ice.

Carbide tips can also be useful on more rugged terrain as they can dig into the rock to give your trekking poles more grip and stability. Carbide trekking pole tips are disadvantageous on harder surfaces such as asphalt where they can slip, particularly in wet conditions.

When Should You Use Rubber Trekking Pole Tips?

You should use rubber trekking pole tips when hiking on hard surfaces such as paved trails as they offer more grip. They are also useful for providing traction in wet, slippery conditions. Rubber is a versatile material suited for most hiking conditions.

As well as traction, rubber tips are used to protect the carbide tips that trekking poles tend to come with from the factory. Rubber tips are less costly to replace, less noisy, and protect the trail more than the abrasive carbide tip. Rubber tips are easy to fit over the carbide tips and are a popular choice among hikers.

You may choose to remove rubber tips on very soft ground, where the carbide tip will offer better grip and do little damage to the trail. Rubber tips are at risk of being lost through suction when hiking through mud, while the harder material of a carbide tip will dig into the softer ground more easily for better stability.

Are Trekking Pole Rubber Tips Universal?

Trekking pole rubber tips are typically universal as they are designed to fit over most trekking pole tips. There will be an advertised diameter for checking compatibility. As with baskets, you should always check that the rubber tips fit prior to buying it.

What Are Trekking Pole Baskets For?

Trekking pole baskets are for preventing the pole tips from sinking too deep into softer surfaces. It is a small disk or ring located towards the tip of the pole. The basket spreads the surface area of the trekking pole base to provide more stability when hiking on softer ground.

A basket on the trekking pole is also a handy tool for gauging how deep patches of mud and snow are to prevent yourself from sinking in too deep. They can also prevent your tip from getting wedged between rocks, branches, and roots. Baskets that are designed for mud and snow differ in size.

Mud Baskets

Mud is a common occurrence on trails and makes baskets on trekking poles a necessity. Mud baskets are quite small, usually no more than 4 cm in diameter. Not only do they prevent you from sinking too deep in the mud, but they also guard against mud splatter flying up towards you.

They usually have a dome shape to boost stiffness and are solid in design to aid support. These baskets are useful on any soft ground, not only mud. By preventing the pole tips from sinking too far mud baskets save you time and energy on the trail.

Snow Baskets

Snow baskets are wider than mud baskets, with a larger surface area helping to stop you from sinking into soft snow. A snow basket is usually around 10 cm in diameter as they tend to be designed with snow of at least a few feet in mind. To prevent the snow from clinging to the tip, the basket has cut-out sections rather than being completely solid.

The soft nature of snow, as well as the unpredictability of depth, makes for challenging hiking conditions. However, if you intend to hike in winter, using trekking poles equipped with a snow basket will help prevent the pole tips and yourself from sinking too deep. Without them you risk slowing progress or snapping the trekking pole.

Are Trekking Pole Baskets Universal?

Trekking pole baskets are not universal as some manufacturers’ baskets are not compatible with their competitors’ poles. Most trekking poles are made for standard, small baskets, but other brands use baskets in different sizes or styles for various conditions.

Therefore, you need to ensure the baskets you are looking at will fit your brand of trekking poles before you buy it and head out on your hike. If the trail will have soft mud or sand underfoot, or if you are expecting a covering of snow, you do not want to be out on the trail before realizing your pole baskets are not the right fit.

When Should You Use Trekking Pole Baskets?

Trekking pole baskets should be used when hiking on soft ground such as mud, sand, or snow. Mud will be the most common scenario hikers face. Using trekking poles without baskets can cause them to sink into the ground, making them less effective and reducing stability.

The baskets that come with trekking poles are often small and can be ineffective on soft ground. Mud baskets are slightly wider to prevent sinking. When hiking on snow and sand, you will need baskets with a wide diameter. Some hikers use wider baskets all year round to avoid switching between different sizes. The extra weight of the larger baskets is more than offset by the stability they provide.

Trekking pole baskets are also beneficial for hiking on more challenging or rough terrain. Baskets can prevent your pole tips from becoming stuck between rocks, slipping in holes, or getting snagged on roots. They can potentially save your poles from breaking, which also prevents injury by providing additional stability.

When You Might Remove Your Trekking Pole Baskets

If the weather is set fair and you are hiking on comfortable, even terrainyou may decide to leave the trekking pole baskets off as they will not provide much benefit in these circumstances. There are instances where the baskets may do more harm than good when hiking.

Another reason you may remove baskets is when you are walking through tall grass and vegetation where the baskets would only get entangled and slow you down. You may remove baskets to reduce the weight of the poles, particularly if you are using ultralight poles. When you are crossing shallow rivers, creeks, or streams the basket can increase the drag on the trekking poles.

Other Types Of Trekking Pole Tips

1. Rubber Feet

This type of rubber tip is designed with speed and forward propulsion in mind. They look like a small boot with a heavy grip on the sole and, like standard rubber tips, are best for hard surfaces. If you are a hiker looking to cover a hard trail as quickly as you can, or a backpacker trying to cover miles on a paved road, then these may be the tips for you.

Power walkers will also see benefits from these tips. The rounded ends of the tips provide the additional propulsion, as well as comfort. The increased momentum of your hike will likely mean you need to replace rubber feet style tips more often than standard rubber tips. However, if speed and propulsion are priorities in your hike, the benefits outweigh the disadvantage of frequent replacements.

2. Extra Durable Tips

Rubber tips that are sturdier and built for extra durability may be the best option for serious hikers. Standard rubber tips work well for casual hikers, but if you spend most of your free time hiking you will want extra durable tips that will last you longer.

This style of tip tends to be made from vulcanized rubber and can last through hundreds of miles, depending on the terrain. They work best on the same terrain as standard rubber tips, losing some of their stability on very soft terrain such as mud.

3. Studded Tips

Studded tips offer a combination of rubber and carbide. The integrated carbide studs provide the grip over softer ground that rubber can lack, while still offering all the benefits of rubber tips. The outcome is a tip that has traction on all surfaces, while reducing some of the noise normally associated with carbide tips.

However, a tip that offers the best of both worlds is not cheap. This style of tip is a relatively new addition to the market and tends to be expensive. However, it is a price more serious hikers may be willing to pay as their longevity could make them a worthwhile investment.

Final Thoughts

Different trekking pole tips are for providing traction and stability on different terrains. The harder, more durable carbide tip is made for softer terrain, such as dirt and sand. The softer, rubber tips fit over the carbide tips and are made for harder and more slippery surfaces.