Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Spring Cleaning Your Gear: Trekking Poles

So how many of you actually clean your trekking poles after every use? *insert oooopsy look here* Yeah, neither does Tim. I don't have trekking poles, but Tim uses two Leki Makalu Ultralite Titaniums (discontinued now). I use one of his occasionally, but I usually just deem anything extra in my hands as unnecessary. I am a photographer after all, and a camera is a permanently attached appendage. That doesn't leave much room for a pole or stick.

After last weekend's hike, Tim decided that the filthy things needed a good cleaning. So yesterday, during the gloomy, cold weather we were having (as opposed to the weekend's near 90's), Tim embarked on the retractable-pole-cleaning-quest. I thought it best to sit back and enjoy watching him clean something for once, then attempt to describe to you what I observed.

First things first: gather all the things you'll need one item at a time. This includes a pole cleaning kit, a towel, a thin old rag, a piece of fine grit sandpaper, a large bowl, water, fabric softener, and some mild detergent and a sponge (or go the quick route and use baby wipes). Make sure when you're fetching these items that you become engrossed in a rerun of SNL and promptly forget what you were after, twice per item. Add a few miscellaneous items into the mix to confuse anyone looking at the pictures.

After being reminded four times, put the towel down so your wife doesn't kill you to catch the mess and protect the table surface. Better yet, have her give up and do that part for you. Next, wait for the pizza to be ready. A man needs fuel, and this is going to be a half-evening job. After that, be a hero and disassemble your poles.

Once you've accomplished this daunting task - which I'm sure is easier if they're not as filthy as Tim's - you'll need to remove each retainer clip from the plug and screw. Fiddle with this about six times just because it's a neat little contraption.

If your poles are like Tim's, they'll be four screw sets total, and each will be two separate parts. It could be one piece on yours, in which you will remove it from the screw and treat it the same way. Clean the threads of the screw thoroughly in between ginormous bites of pizza.

Next, sand the top of the clip (or your one piece plug/clip) a bit with some fine grit sandpaper and place it back on the screw. Realize you were supposed to sand the plug instead, and sand it too. This provides a better seat for the screw - so says Tim. It also improves friction and the performance - so says Leki. Honestly, I can't see how it made that much of a difference.

The next step will require the trekking pole cleaning kit, but a gun cleaning kit may work just as well if you happen to have one. You'll want to use this to clean the insides of the shafts after you've smeared more pizza on your cheeks.

Notes on this: If you have titanium poles like Tim, then it's probable that the insides have been anodized for anti-corrosion and wear-resistance properties. The cleaning kit came with brass cleaning brushes, but I wouldn't recommend using them on anything. They will damage the anodized surface of titanium, and will shred carbon fiber. I would suggest you use the loop attachments that come with the cleaning kit and a soft piece of fabric, like a handkerchief.

So, cut a small piece of fabric to fit the shaft cleaner loop attachment that took you ten minutes to find the adapter for, then run the cleaner up into the shaft. Realize that you may have cut the fabric a bit too large, and ascertain that the cleaning wand and the pole have now become fused as one. Point the metal tip at your belly, and puppy-eye your wife into a tug-o-war to get the wand out. Let her remind you that you're going to stab yourself in the gut, move the pole to your side, then laugh hardily when she nearly topples over from having to put all her weight into pulling the cleaning wand out.

Cut the fabric into a smaller piece, rethread it into the loop attachment and then clean throughout the shaft making sure to "dump" any dirt out that has become loose. Repeat this step a few times because it's just too darn fun not too. Grin at your wife in the middle of the pumping motion. Give her the eye. She'll love it.

By the way, never use a lubricant on your poles - inside or out. I have seen some people recommend using WD-40 to wipe down rust, but it would be better to call the manufacturer and discuss replacing the section that has rusted.

Next, clean the entire pole with the mild detergent and sponge - or do like Tim did and use baby wipes. They are mild, easy to use, disposable, and we have a ton of them lying around because Q likes to sleep in baby wipe boxes houses.

Make sure to wipe the grip, too. Then, eat more pizza (is this humanly possible?!) while you allow the sections to dry.

While the bottom sections are drying, soak the straps in a bowl of warm water with about 1/4 cap full of fabric softener. Put the Hercules-death-grip on the cap of the softener so wifey can't get it open on laundry day. Let them sit for 10-20 minutes while you finish off the pizza.

Then rinse well, squeeze out the remaining water, and hang to dry on your wife's kitchen curtains which has become a catchall for anything outdoorsy that needs to dry out.

Wipe down all the parts in their entirety once more with a dry, soft rag, then reassemble the poles. Stand back and be proud. You may have cleaned some poles, but be real - you just devoured a whole pizza!

Now get out there and work it off with a long walk in the woods.

Happy Cleaning!
Robin & Tim