Trekking poles, like any good piece of gear, require some regular care and maintenance. If you’ve been a long-time user of internal lock trekking poles, you probably know that every once in a while your trekking pole may stick or not lock in. It’s not typically a big problem and it’s something you can fix in a few easy steps.
It’s good to understand what’s going on inside your trekking poles so that you understand what you’re fixing or what the issue is. An internal locking trekking pole has a mechanism on the inside. This mechanism basically expands out to put pressure on the inside of the pole wall to lock the pole in place and keep it from sliding.
If your trekking pole is not locking in as you turn it, the easiest thing to do first is to pull the section out that isn’t locking all the way. You’ll see a stop mark on many poles made by the most popular trekking pole brands, and you’ll just need to go a little bit beyond that. What you’re doing is pulling the locking mechanism down to the thinnest part of the pole. That way the locking mechanism is making as much contact with the pole wall as possible. From there you can start to turn your pole, just like you were locking it in. You’re going to feel it start to tighten up and you can simply back your pole off and lock it in where you want to.
In very, very rare cases, if your pole doesn’t lock in after trying the technique above, you might have some debris or dirt caught in the pole. In those very rare instances, the easiest thing to do is actually separate the two parts of the trekking pole. When your pole sections are apart, you want to clean the locking mechanisms and clean the threads at the top of the post with a damp paper towel. If you detect corrosion on the metal threads that go into the plastic expansion plug, then it’s time to dismantle and clean. Do not use a wire brush for this task, since it will remove whatever corrosion-protecting finish remains on the threads. Instead, wipe the threads with a soft cloth lightly moistened with WD-40 or alcohol.
Warning: Do not get lubricants like WD-40 or oil onto the plastic expansion plug itself, or on the inside of the tubes. Put a trace of oil or, better, silicone grease on the threads to prevent additional corrosion. Reassemble your pole following this cleaning and test the locking mechanism again.
No matter what your locking mechanism type (internal or external), it’s important to remember to never lubricate the pole behind the locking mechanism. This will only cause slippage inside the pole.