POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Mar 24, 2013
» What is it: Aluminum walking poles made by Black Diamond, one of the nation's leading makers of outdoor and adventure gear. Among the fastest-growing sellers in its business are trekking poles, which speaks to the appeal of poles for both extreme and less extreme hikers and travelers.
» How it works: The poles are constructed as three-section foldable shafts; to assemble, fit the bottom section into the middle and the middle into the top. The top section slides up until snapping into place; the height can then be adjusted with a flip lock.
» The good: Walking poles take pressure off the legs, allowing walkers to use their hands more actively while navigating a landscape. Poles are particularly helpful when gaining or losing elevation, but walkers who might want a little extra support also would find them useful. The Distance FL poles are most everything walking poles should be: strong, durable and light. I gave mine a tough workout while gaining more than 10,000 feet of elevation across rough terrain, and they never faltered. A fellow hiker with a different set of poles snapped one at an inopportune moment, but I was never concerned about my Distance FL poles.
» The bad: The new models are expensive, which means they had better last.
» Cost: The 2012 versions are available online for as low as $65, which is a fine deal; the 2013 versions, which will be released in the coming weeks with a slightly redesigned (and supposedly stronger) flip lock, will cost $129.95.
» Available from: blackdiamondequipment.com, as well as other online retailers
--Josh Noel / Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com