The Art of Trekking Pole Maintenance

I bought carbon fiber trekking poles for my Colorado Trail thru hike for two reasons. I tried to cut as much weight from my gear as possible, and I figured I'd rather carry carbon trekking poles instead of aluminum lighting rods, especially while hiking extended distances high in the San Juan Mountains. After the CT my parents met me in Durango and we backpacked into Chicago Basin to climb several fourteeners. Near the top of Sunlight Peak I cached my poles before scrambling up the final few pitches. When I returned I found marmots had chewed up my wrist straps and handle grips. Apparently marmots enjoy the salt found in sweaty trekking poles. I was bummed at first, but then I realized the marmots were simply helping me cut more weight.

When I decided to hike the PCT I cut off the marmot-mangled wrist straps (which I never used anyways) and I used tennis racket tape to replace the old foam grips. My modified carbon fiber trekking poles performed well for the first thousand miles of the PCT, but then something unexpected happened. I completely wore through the tungsten carbide tips. Before my trip I think I read somewhere that trekking pole tips wear out after 1500 to 2000 miles, but who really keeps track of their trekking pole mileage? 

Over the course of the next 600 miles I neglected replacing the trekking pole tips in the field, but it became apparent that I had to take action. With continued use I had worn down all of the metal and rather quickly the plastic began to disintegrate. I had worn down more than an inch of length. I ordered new tungsten carbide tips and at the Hiker Hut Hostel in Etna, California I performed the operation.

I found some instructions online which stated the old tips required submersion in boiling water in order to separate the old tips from the trekking pole, which is obviously easier said than done when using a small backpacking pot and stove. Very awkwardly, I boiled my trekking poles like the recipe called for, but I couldn't remove the deteriorated tips. I borrowed some pliers from the hostel owner and I repeated the process and with the added leverage I succeeded. I mixed the two part epoxy that my dad had sent in my Etna resupply box and slapped on the new tips; good as new except for the millions of scratches and the filthy decomposing tennis tape handles.

After more than three months on the PCT a lot of my gear has some ware and tear, but luckily duct tape, super glue, and nylon button tread go a long way for minor gear repair. My body also shows signs of ware and tear, but I don't think duct tape will help my aches and minor pains.


trekking pole tips