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Pacer poles - a review
There is a wrong way to use hiking poles and then there are Pacer poles
As someone with questionable knees, I rely heavily on hiking poles. I have lost a whole bunch of weight and that has definitely helped (and gained a good portion of that lost weight during the the pandemic :(), but hiking poles always help. I don’t even attempt to hike my neighborhood peaks at Pleasanton Ridge without the poles.
For the longest time, I used Alpine Carbon Cork poles from Black Diamond. I still have them. They are fine poles. Once you understand how to use them, they can immensely help both going up and going down.
Even when used properly, at the end of the day, my wrists used to hurt. Particularly when hiking in the rocky terrain of Sierra Nevada where going down rocky terrain is hard, I rely on hiking poles to take my load going downhill and my wrists and palm was not all that happy.
I heard about pacer poles at www.aarnpacks.com website. As a professional programmer, I am cognizant of RSI and wrist position and immediately the design resonated with me. My primary keyboard is a Kinesis Advantage 2 and my primary mouse is a Logitech Vertical Mouse.
A pacer pole is designed, manufactured, sold and supported by Heather Rhodes, a Physiotherapist out of England. What makes the pacer poles unique are the moulded thermo-plastic rubber that is uniquely designed for left hands and right hands and is at an angle to the pole section.
Because of the unique design of the handles of the pole, it is impossible to use them incorrectly, both while going up and going down.
Heather does not just sell these poles, she sells a system of how to use these poles correctly. When I ordered these poles, she followed up with emails on tutorials to read and videos to watch. These are documented in her website quite clearly and she tells us that we need to read those instructions carefully before we receive the product.
After I got the poles, she sent follow up emails to make sure I was comfortable using the product and aligning my body to reduce stress (primarily on my back) when I use the poles.
I have now used the pacer poles for about 200 miles and in backpacking trips, in conjunction with Aarn body packs. Between the Aarn body packs and pacer poles, I don’t lean forward during my hikes anymore or hunch over.
I definitely felt more power from these poles going uphill and much better braking going downhill. It is quite possible that you can achieve similar results using the traditional hiking poles, but the wrist position eventually will tire you out at the end of a long day.
Just by design, the poles offer better biomechanics when you use them, but with a little bit of careful thought, you can further optimize the results you get out of these poles, as Philip Werner writes in this SectionHiker review.
I definitely felt that I was using more of my shoulder muscles (lats) and triceps to hike when using pacer poles. As a result, my legs were less sore and my knees much better at the end of the day.
I am used to cork handles on hiking poles. They absorb sweat and do not slip. Pacer poles are made of hard plastic and sweat does not play well with them. I had to buy UV gloves, which is a good thing at high altitude and that solved the issues I had with sweating.
I should also point out that these poles are very different. I have hiked over 200 miles with them, but it is a learning process every day I use them. I notice I am getting efficient in my hand movements (the piston movement as Heather talks about in her videos) and my general hiking is becoming a bit more effortless.
They are competitively priced as well. At $149 for the carbon fiber poles, they cost almost the same as Black Diamond poles and in my mind, are a better tool than the traditional hiking poles. I highly recommend you look at these if you are in the market for new hiking poles.