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How to Use Trekking Pole Baskets and Why They Fail

Ever look at your trekking poles and wonder the baskets were even necessary? Backpackers all over the country have been ditching their trekking pole baskets trying to shed some weight.

Do trekking pole baskets really make a difference? It all depends on where you’re hiking and whether or not you know how to use them. Don’t just stick on the all-season baskets that came with your poles.

Trekking pole baskets are cheap, so you might as well buy the right baskets for your hiking style. So how do you use trekking pole baskets?

How to Use Trekking Pole Baskets

Using trekking pole baskets really isn’t all that complicated. Just push them on and screw them down tight. Unfortunately, installing your baskets is only half the battle. People seem to have a really hard time choosing the right trekking pole baskets.

You have to first choose the trekking pole baskets that match the terrain you will be hiking. All your really need is one good set of snow or mud baskets depending on the time of year. Bigger baskets will help stop you from sinking down into the snow/mud and help prevent breakage.

If you plan on hiking through well-manicured trails and gravel/cement walkways you really don’t need trekking pole baskets. Don’t even bother adding all season baskets to your poles. They add additional weight to your poles and they’re so small that they’re basically worthless.

Different Types of Trekking Pole Baskets

Don’t let the trekking pole manufacturers fool you. It really doesn’t matter how much you spend on baskets they’re all basically the same. Expensive Leki baskets might be stronger, prettier, and lighter, but you won’t be able to tell the difference.

Just buy one cheap set of mud baskets(these are great) and you’re good to go all year long. They work great in both mud and snow. Just try to find a cheap set of trekking pole baskets that have a notch/cutout. Surprisingly, your trekking pole basket notch does have a legitimate purpose.

Most trekking pole baskets are universal, but unfortunately some manufacturers didn’t get the memo. I know some of the older Black Diamond poles use special sized baskets, but the new ones have universal screw on terminals. Just look up your poles online and check the product specs.

Use Big Baskets in The Mud/Snow/Sand

Bigger basket help keep your poles sturdy in unstable ground. They work really well in mud, snow, sand, slush, etc. You’re almost always better off with big baskets regardless of where you’re hiking.

Big baskets are a definite improvement in snow and mud and they don’t detract from your hike on dry solid ground. Instead of pushing into the ground and wedging in the wide basket catches and holds the poles stable. You won’t have to worry about losing rubber pole tips and getting your poles jammed up.

Don’t Bother With All Purpose/Season Baskets

Trekking poles usually come with all-purpose summer baskets and large snow/mud baskets. Don’t bother with the tiny summer baskets that come with most trekking poles.

They’re too small to keep your poles out of cracks, rocks and roots so they don’t offer any protection for your poles. You might get a slight improvement in the mud, but the difference is negligible.

Either ditch the baskets altogether if you’re a fair weather hiker or replace them with snow baskets which can be used all year round. Snow baskets will definitely help in the mud and the wide base will stop your poles from getting caught in cracks.

You Can Use Snow Baskets All Year Long

Personally, I don’t even bother taking off my snow baskets in the summer time. There’s really no advantage to using specially designed mud baskets.

My Leki Snow Baskets work just as well in the spring/summer mud as any dedicated snow basket I’ve ever tried. It’s gonna be hard to beat them for the price.

Big Baskets Protect Your Poles

Summer baskets are designed to prevent the tip of your basket from falling into cracks and getting snagged between rocks and roots. Unfortunately, they just aren’t big enough to prevent most trekking pole trip entrapments. You’re much better off using a snow basket all year long.

Bigger baskets will help protect your poles. If you go hiking and backpacking long enough you’ll eventually bend or break a pole. With a bigger basket, your poles won’t be able to fit in those tiny cracks. No more snags, bends and cracked poles.

You might look like a bit of a newb walking around with snow baskets in the summer. Friends might even try to correct you and say they aren’t needed in warm weather. Just smile, say thanks for the tip and go along with your day!

When they later complain about all their broken poles you can let them in on why your poles have lasted way longer than theirs. Maybe they’ll listen, maybe they won’t. You can’t argue with somebody that isn’t receptive to change.

Installing and Removing Trekking Pole Baskets

Most of the time installing your new trekking pole basket is surprisingly easy. You just slightly push down on the old basket and unscrew it from your trekking poles.

Once the old basket is off you’ll want to clean off the threads on the pole. Just use a damp paper towel to get off all the grit and grime. Never lubricate the threads on the tip of your pole. Lubricating the screw might cause your basket to unscrew and eventually start to wobble.

Once the tip of your pole is clean just screw on the new basket and you’re good to go. I recommend using a snow basket all year round.

What if The Basket Doesn’t Want to Come Off?

Sometimes the threads of your pole get gunked up making it hard to remove your basket. It just doesn’t want to come off no matter what you try.

Don’t worry! It’s really not all that hard to get off a stuck basket. Start off by pushing down hard as you try to unscrew the basket. It shouldn’t take all that much. Pushing/pulling hard and stepping on the basket can damage your pole so be careful.

If you still can’t get the basket off heat up a pot of boiling water and soak the tip of your pole for 5-10 minutes. This should cause the threads to shrink and loosen up the grip 99% of the time. Just unscrew the basket and you’re good to go.

Sometimes nothing you try works, leaving you more or less screwed. You can either accept the trekking poles with the baskets they have or try to grind off the old poles which can very easily destroy the poles. Personally, I would learn to live with the baskets I have before risking permanent damage.