Have you noticed your trekking or hiking poles are becoming harder to collapse? Perhaps your quick locks are no longer holding your poles at the correct height? These both can be common problems with collapsible trekking poles, especially if they aren’t regularly cleaned. It’s important to make sure that at the end of a hike, you are wiping off any dirt or debris from the poles themselves (preferably with a damp cloth or handkerchief), and then allowing the poles to fully dry before collapsing them. This will help keep mud and debris from clogging the quick locks of your poles, as well as preventing rust on the metal components.
But what if your trekking poles have been sitting in your garage over the winter, still encrusted with mud from that November hike in the Cascades? A little cleaning and a bit of WD-40 can help bring your stiff, gunk-covered trekking poles back to life.
First, fully extend your poles. With a damp cloth, wipe clean any residual mud or debris. Next, take some WD-40 or any similar lubricant, and apply a small amount to a cleaning rag. Rub the lubricant over the trekking poles. Then spray a small amount of lubricant onto the quick locks themselves. Open and close the quick locks to work the lubricant over the mechanism. Then, extend and retract the trekking poles several times to further work the lubricant into the joint where the quick locks close around the pole. You should feel that the poles are now able to slide freely. Extend the poles one more time and wipe away any excess lubricant from both the poles and the quick locks.
Note that if your trekking poles are expanding poles – if you twist the pole itself to tighten or loosen the pole – you should avoid using lubricant on the inside of the pole tips – use a toothbrush or dry cloth to gently clean the inside of the pole tips instead.
If you notice rust building up on any of the metal parts – or any cracks or chips in the plastic parts of the locking mechanism – you may want to replace these parts with items from your local hardware store, before they have a chance to break on the trail. I would recommend removing the troublesome parts and bringing them with you to the hardware store so you can be sure you’re buying the correct size for your particular pole.
Another common issue with trekking poles is when the locks are no longer closing tightly enough around the poles to keep them at the position you’ve set. There’s nothing worse than having your perfectly adjusted trekking poles suddenly collapsing down to the height of a two-year-old the first time you put weight onto them.
With many models of trekking poles, there is a screw built into the back of the quick locks that allow you to adjust how tightly or loosely the quick lock grabs the pole itself. If your trekking pole is slipping, loosen the quick lock, slightly tighten the nut, then re-tighten the quick lock and carefully apply weight to the pole. (You may need a screwdriver or Allen wrench to keep the screw from turning while you tighten the nut.) If the pole is still slipping, repeat this process, tightening the nut slowly until the pole can confidently hold weight. (Conversely, if your pole has slipped entirely out of the quick lock and the lock is too tight to get the pole back in, try loosening this nut until you can reinsert the pole.)
If the nut on the back of the quick lock is a Phillips or flat-headed screw, these repair can sometimes be accomplished in the field with a pocketknife (just mind your fingers, please!) or multi-tool. If the nut needs an Allen wrench (as my Black Diamond trekking poles do), this is better done in the comfort of your basement or garage.