Arnie makes a pair of bamboo trekking poles

Article by Arnie P

Arnie makes a pair of bamboo trekking poles

There is a lot written about DIY trekking poles and in particular using bamboo.  This article is more on the obtaining of the materials than the actual construction.

My interest got piqued when I was researching light weight backpacking equipment.  I have very nice Leki adjustable poles with shocks.  They do weigh over 20 oz and I wanted to try something lighter.  The carbon fiber looked good but they weighed about 14 oz and were in the $100-$200 range.    I then started seeing articles about bamboo poles.  I searched the web and found I could buy them online, but the minimum order was 25 ten-foot poles.  That was enough for 25 pair of hiking poles.  I also saw bamboo fence.  Then one day while walking through Wally world, I saw Tiki lights that were $2.97 each.  These looked like the last 5 of a lot of about 25 and they were not something I would want to use hiking.  Then I remembered that I had found some that were discarded years ago.  I soon located them in one of my sheds.  I had taken the pots out and all that remained were the poles.  They were in much better shape than the ones I had seen in the store.

They look like they might be a couple inches too long, but I decided I would not cut them.  The larger end of bamboo poles were split to accommodate  the fire pot.  I had some Scotch filament tape that I had hanging around since the late sixties.  I taped over the split end in a spiral manner until the split part was covered.  Turns out this made a decent grip, which if it does not work out with use, I can change in the future.  I had read that someone had put an eye screw at the top end and held it in place with Goop.  My thought was to cut a plug from a discarded broom handle.  I found my supply of 3 discarded handles.  They were different diameters and the smallest one was a loose fit.  I had recently bought some Gorilla glue for a repair job.  I cut about one inch off the handle.  Then I found an eye screw among my hardware that I had organized about 2 years ago.  I put the eye screw into the end of the short piece of round stock.  I had lightly sanded the wood.  If I were to do this again I would put the handle in a vise, sandpaper the wood, insert the screw into one end, and lastly cut off the desired length of 1 inch.  I followed the instructions on the Gorilla glue package — I got the wood damp where I was putting the glue, put the glue on and inserted it into the open end of the bamboo pole.  I put a small bead of glue along the seam between the bamboo pole and my round stock.

Since the bottom end of the pole was cut diagonally, I trimmed in evenly.  Before I used commercially made hiking poles, I used small trees which would last varying amounts of time.  One day while hiking with a small group of hikers a fellow hiker found a rubber foot for a cane which fit on the end of my stick perfectly.  Since then I had gathered 3 of these.  Turns out 2 of them worked for the bamboo poles I was constructing.  My guess is that even if I had to buy all the items I used,  the cost would be less than $10 for the pair.

Design considerations

I may add straps to the handle to make them more like commercial poles.  I wanted to re-experience what it was like without straps.  I added the eyelet at the top of the pole to use when using the pole with my backpacking tent.  I also could use it to attach a rope to the eyelet that could be used as a guy rope or that could be wrapped around the top of the pole and serve as a gripping area for my hands.  The rubber foot at the bottom helps prevent the pole from splitting at the bottom due to trail impact on rocks.  Before using the rubber foot my original hiking sticks were always splitting at the bottom.  After I started using the rubber foot that problem disappeared.  The pole is also a convenient place to carry spare duct tape or other tape.  Tape can be added at desired distances to use for measuring.  Since the natural finish on the bamboo is very smooth it is hard to attach a rope to it and not have it slide.  Adding friction tape provides a better surface to attach a rope.

bamboo poles

bamboo poles

rubber feet on bamboo poles

rubber feet on bamboo poles

top end of bamboo poles

top end of bamboo poles

Tent pole use

I was not successful in using my DIY poles as a substitute for adjustable hiking poles.  The tent was designed to fit the tip of a hiking pole into a metal ring on the tent.  Sometime I may make a second pair of poles and try to design them so they can be used as tent poles.

using bamboo pole for a tent

using bamboo pole for a tent

Straps for my trekking poles

A few months have passed since I started this report and in the meanwhile I found a way to have hand straps.  When I attend seminars I sometimes get a neck strap to hold my name badge.  I found I had 2 of these from Oracle seminars I attended.  They are too long but I have coped by wrapping the strap around my hand twice.  This makes for an almost perfect fit.  In the winter when I will be wearing either gloves or mittens the extra length will be needed.  I may tie off part of the extra loop if I think they are too long.Weight of poles

straps for bamboo poles

straps for bamboo poles

Weight of poles

The poles weighed in at 8 and 7.3 oz.  The poles before adding anything were about  10 oz for the pair.  The straps I added were 1 oz for the pair.  The rubber feet are about 1.5 oz for the pair.  The plugs and eye screws are about 2 oz for the pair.  I recently discovered a local fast growing plant that I will be trying out in the next few months.  I did use a lot of tape because of the splits in my bamboo poles.  There is still more I can do on this project.

bamboo poles in water

bamboo poles in water

going up hill with bamboo poles

going up hill with bamboo poles

This concludes my discussion on my bamboo hiking poles.  Sometime after I have used the poles I may be writing a review on my home made hiking poles.  Please check back in a few months when I may have more to say about these or a revised version of my DIY bamboo trekking poles.

Update

4-5-2012

Since I have been using my homemade poles for about 6 months, I have decided to give you an update.  These poles are about half the weight of my store bought poles yet they don’t feel that light.  I guess I was expecting to feel more of a difference.  I started looking for an explanation.  This lead me to thinking about the center of gravity for the poles.

Center of gravity

I decided to compare the center of gravity for my bamboo poles with that of  my commercial poles.  I balanced the poles on the top edge of the back of one of my wooden kitchen chairs.  Then I measured the distance from the handle end to the balance point.  The measurements for my bamboo poles was 21 in to center of gravity and a total of 46 inches.  I divided the 21 by 46 I got 0.46 which is very close to the 0.5 that I was expecting.  Bamboo is very consistent from end to end.  For the commercial poles, I took two measurements: one for the fully extended length and one for the length equal to that of my bamboo poles.  At full length, the measurements were 21 inches to center of gravity and 54 in total.  This calculation was 21 divided by 54 or about 0.39.  This means the center of gravity is about 10% closer to my hand.  The closer the center of gravity is to your hand the easier it is to control the movement of your pole.  I shortened the commercial poles to the length of my bamboo poles and came up with the following set of figures.  The center of gravity was now 19 inches and the total was 46.  The ratio was now about 0.41.  My commercial poles have 3 sections.  I did this last measurements with the center section fully extended.  I now retried the measurements with the end section fully extended.  The measurements were 16.5 inches from the center of gravity.  This calculated to be 16.5 divided by 46 of about 0.36.  This shows that as the weigh of the pole is shifted closer to the hand the center of gravity moves closer to my hand,  To get a better understanding of this I figured that if the center of gravity is moved  away from the hand then it would become harder to maneuver.  I tried this with a hammer with a long handle.  It takes effort to move the hammer head.  However if I hold the hammer head in my hand and try the same thing it is easy.

Conclusions

I have concluded that it is difficult to make a device that is best for all occasions.  Consequently, I will use the bamboo poles for my shorter hikes, but will use the collapsible poles for longer hikes and for backpacking.  I will continue to try things and will report back anything that I think may be of interest.

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