Considering how valuable they are for long hikes, hiking poles are surprisingly simple tools. They consist of only a few parts, and though they are designed with materials that make them more valuable than simply picking up a stick off the ground, the fact that a stick serves as a not-ineffective alternative simply shows you how simple the design of a good hiking pole is.
One of the few parts that isn’t clear for people, however, is the hiking pole basket. These “baskets” are not baskets at all in the traditional sense. Instead, they are small, round pieces of plastic at the bottom of the pole (just above the tip) that are designed to help you with your walk, hike, or trek.
Purpose of the Pole Baskets
Hiking pole baskets are specifically designed to ensure that the pole does not sink deep into the ground that you are hiking in. When you are walking across muddy, wet, snowy, sandy or generally unstable terrain, a straight pole without a basket has a tendency to sink very deeply. A sinking pole will disrupt your walking flow (if your pole sinks too deeply, it may get stuck), reduces the risk of your pole breaking (when your pole is deeply sunk into the ground, pushing your pole forward could destroy the shaft), and ensures that it is able to stay in place and maneuver easily with each step. Poles also provide a very small barrier for reducing the risk of slamming the tip into your foot or off your ankle.
Pole baskets experience a great deal of abuse because they are so low to the ground, often scraping against rocks and other objects. But these baskets are also a vital tool for helping you use your hiking pole correctly and ensuring that it doesn’t break.
Types of Pole Baskets
Pole baskets generally come in two sizes:
The small baskets are designed for regular terrain, rather than heavy snow. Their smaller sizes makes it easier to carry them through large brush, rocks, and other areas where a basket represents a minor inconvenience, since when not protecting you from sinking the baskets can get caught on nearby objects.
In snow (and very muddy/slippery terrain), the larger baskets do a better job of helping reduce sinking, because they are able to gather more surface area and help prevent the pole from going deep within the snow and ice. Although larger baskets may run the risk of getting caught on various items, those that are travelling in deep snow benefit from the extra support.
Baskets Play an Important Role
Many people that use hiking poles for less rough terrain may find pole baskets to be generally superfluous. But at any time on your hike you may come across a loose or sinking area, and the basket will be right there to make sure your stick does not sink into the dirt. They are an important part of any hiking pole.