Monday, August 3, 2020

My Hiking Stick had a Blowout!

I've been using hiking sticks ever since I tried to fall off an Alaskan cliff back in the 80's.

I started with a hickory stick I cut right there on the spot of that minor incident (Did you know the sound of rocks falling down a cliff-face draws in eagles hoping for fresh meat?!) and have gone through a few other versions since, first singles, then I moved on, not only in dottering age, but to the even greater stability of a pair of cliff-hugging sticks.

My current sticks are a rather pricey ($60) set of Foxelli carbon-fiber trekking poles. Yes, that was a lot of money but fortunately they have performed very well and the pain of opening my wallet has faded so I am happy with them, but at the time I bought them in early 2017 I expressed some concern about the durability of the rubber(?) tips.

Well somewhere in the late fall of 2019, up in the Guadalupe Mountains, one of the sticks started to tick when it hit the ground. The only way to shut it up was to turn the stick so the tip landed just right. Which was a bit of a pain in the ass and would only last just so long before the tick started up again. Sort of the equivalent of a slow leak in a tire I guess.

Two weeks and two mountain ranges later, somewhere in the Dragoons, I had a bonafide blowout on my hands as one of the rubber tips completely failed

and no amount of twisting the stick could prevent exposing the aggressive tungsten-carbide tip - which is actually what I'm supposed to be hiking on by the way.

These tungsten-carbide tips, besides being very hard and durable, grip even the smoothest, slickest rock at ridiculously acute angles with amazing tenacity, making them well suited to the job, but they also make a lot of racket, clicking loudly every time they hit the ground, and loud is just not in my nature.

I've had a couple shit-your-pants bear encounters but still just can't bring myself to make a racket on the trail.

 - - Slow learner I guess - -

But enough about me and my shortcomings.

The sticks came with a variety of tips, which they should at that price, all but one of which have remained in the equally unused carry-bag since the day they were delivered.

After all, I left snow-country 40 years ago, so what do I need with those big snow baskets? And those so-called asphalt tips, those things in the top left, are heavy, clumsy looking, and apparently something to be avoided, at least by me. And I suppose one day I might conceivably find a use for the sand/mud baskets on the bottom left, but that hasn't happened so far.

The other tips, the ones actually on the sticks up there, are actually called storage and transportation tips, but obviously I've been abusing them as hiking tips.

With past sticks, when I've worn out a tip I've trolled through pharmacies until I found a replacement cane-tip that I could epoxy on in its place, but apparently I'm not the only one using storage tips on these Foxelli's for actual hiking because I was able to buy a couple sets of exact replacements online. (~$8)

So now I'm all set for round two.

In fact I've already got more than a few (quiet) miles on the new tips, which clearly could benefit from being rotated a quarter-turn every now and then - if I can remember.

But if I can't I have a spare set waiting in the wings for round three.

And one final note, as long as we're on the subject.

When I first got these sticks I expressed some concern about the durability of the molded cork hand-grips and speculated that I might have to eventually wrap them with grip-tape.

Well as you can see, they've held up very well so far. A little staining from who knows how many hours of sweaty palms and a chip here and there, but still going strong.


  1. That's a good ~$8 investment.

    1. And I just got back from putting a few more miles on those tips