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Being an avid skier I have ski poles lying around, so I've always used those.

Do proper trekking poles offer any advantages for snowshoeing?

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  • Trekking poles can telescope down and pack away.
  • If you happen to have a shelter that uses trekking poles to hold it up, sometimes you need to be able to set your poles to a different height.
  • Some people also like to lengthen/shorten their poles depending on whether they are going down or up hill.

If your shelter doesn't require them, I think the answer is "Ski poles are fine". Then, in the rare case where you want to walk without poles, you can tuck them horizontally in the small of your back (through your pack straps). If you like to go up or down with different length poles, just grasp the ski pole at a different spot on it's body.

  • I'd also note that there are lots of ski poles that telescope away. Generally if you're already using backcountry-style poles they will be the adjustable kind. – Greg.Ley Mar 5 '12 at 22:41
  • I'd add that basket size is a consideration- my X/C skating pole baskets wouldn't work, they'd sink in. I'd use a pair with bigger, more "snowshoey" baskets. I've changed/replaced baskets with a heat gun. – michael Jan 14 '16 at 14:06
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Trekking poles are lighter and sometimes easier to break than ski poles. Some have the advantage of folding up into a short package.

If you use trekking poles, you may want some with changeable baskets so you can put on some larger baskets that won't sink into the powder so easily.

  • Oddly enough I have aluminium ski poles that I've bent by falling on them, but my carbon trekking poles have never bent. – furtive Feb 5 '12 at 18:59
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    I've broken a carbon pole before -- does that count as bending? – xpda Feb 11 '12 at 21:32
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I have used both and it isn't really a difference to me. I would even prefer the ski poles, because they have baskets at the bottom, so that they can't sink deep into the snow. Trekking poles usually don't have this feature. So I would chose ski poles. But there are also two advantages if you're using trekking poles: Usually these poles you can adjust the length. This is very comfortable if you're wont to lend the poles, or if you cross a steep flank of a hill. In this case you can shorten one of the poles and increase the length of the other poles. Additionally, it is easier to carry them in your backpack because you can make them very short.

Definitively, I wouldn't use cross country ski poles, because they're usually just too long.

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    Most trekking poles have baskets as well. The leki poles I have also have replaceable baskets, so you can change the size based on the terrain. They also, as you mentioned, collapse for storage and adjust height for going up vs down hill. – Timothy Strimple Jan 24 '12 at 21:41
  • trekking poles without snow basket would be pretty useless for snowshoeing... – njzk2 Nov 9 '15 at 23:08
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Yes, always use poles with baskets. Trekking poles allow adjustability which I find useful in changing snow conditions. ...but to snowshoe without poles? You can do it but it's so much more work and I cover much more distance with. JIMO.

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In my experience, you really don't need either trekking poles or ski poles when snowshoeing. On flat ground or at low angles, I don't find them necessary or useful at all.

On very steep stuff, I find that an ice ax is more helpful (along with those mini-crampon things built into some snowshoes).

The only time when I've felt like poles would have been at all helpful was in certain very rare situations such as struggling up a steep gully into deep powder.

I've heard that you can get attachments to put on an ice ax that lengthen it somewhat and add a basket. This seems like it would be very handy, but I haven't been able to find anything like that for sale.

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