I’m on record as a huge fan of trekking poles. I can’t count how many stumbles I’ve avoided on the John Muir Trail because of them. That doesn’t mean that they don’t have certain disadvantages.
One of those disadvantages is that they take a toll on your hands, particularly if you use them properly (i.e., if you slip your hands up through the loops so that the pressure applied to the poles is transferred to the meaty part of your hands and your wrists, not your fingers). The straps can rub against bare skin, the fore-and-aft swing of the poles can irritate the inside of your palm, and your hands will be horizontal—thus exposing them to sunburn.
The solution to all of those problems is a pair of gloves. For years, I used a pair lightweight, fingerless, cloth gloves. They did the job fairly well, although the parts of my fingers that were exposed would still get too much sun from time to time and my hands would get dirty. They also didn’t do a very good job of protecting my skin from abrasions when I moved through vegetation.
Enter PalmFlex Atlas TrueTip hiking gloves. These gloves are my new constant hiking companions, stored with my hiking gear, to be slipped on whenever I intend to use the poles.
I have to admit: this was not love at first sight. When I first opened the package I was afraid I’d received the wrong pair. They looked more like something a SCUBA diver might wear! The backs are a very light weight, breathable fabric, but the inside of the palm and fingers appear to be black rubber. Who wants that on a hot hike?
It turns out that they are not rubber, but nitrile—the same material they use to make latex-free gloves for hospitals. The material is durable (for protection), breathable (to keep your hands from overheating), and have a natural stickiness (which means you don’t have to take them off to manipulate small objects).
After a few months of using them, I really can’t imagine being without them. Here’s why:
- They cover the wrist up to the point where my long-sleeved sun shirt covers the gloves. That’s a very nice feature, since sun-protection is one of the reasons I wear gloves.
- They prevent the trekking poles handles and straps from irritating my hands.
- One of my favorite trails near my home is a steep one, with loose dirt and small pebbles on rock. In other words, I rarely hike it without slipping once or twice. When I put my hand out onto a dusty, dirty rock, the glove holds up fine: no rips, no tears, and the dirt can be brushed off quickly. Also, my hand doesn’t get dirty. (Not insignificant, in my book.)
- On my day hikes, I often carry an iPod so that I can listen to podcasts; the missing fingertips work exactly as intended.
I do my “local” hiking in Hawai‘i , where the days are frequently warm. If I’m perspiring heavily, the feel of the dark part of the fabric can be a little different, but I’ll gladly trade that for clean, protected hands. I guess that means there’s a trade-off, but that concept is hardly new to hikers.
Good hiking, Ray