Why use trekking poles?

Why use trekking poles?

January 28, 2017

Trekking poles are an incredible tool for anyone looking to maximize the efficiency, effectiveness, and comfort of their hiking or walking experience. Trekking poles increase the user's balance and stability, and allow for a safer and more manageable navigation of difficult terrain. They are crucial tools when climbing or descending elevation, and on flat surfaces, they can enable a faster pace of travel.

  • 1. Navigate Difficult Surfaces: Trekking poles allow hikers to safely test the stability of the surfaces around them. Like the antennas of a bug, trekking poles are the feelers that help us determine how to best navigate difficult, questionable, or downright dangerous terrain. They are the scouting party, the canary, and the minesweeper. Trekking poles allow us to proactively test the stability of rocks, the fragility of ice, and the depth of mud, water, or snow. Ideally, trekking poles grant us the knowledge to predict the security of each step. 
  • Trekking pole accessories also allow hikers to better traverse these difficult surfaces:
    • Mud Baskets: The small amount of flotation that mud baskets add help keep your poles from sinking into deep mud. They also protect the user from some of the splash back associated with muddy hiking.
    • Snow Baskets: Similarly to mud baskets, snow baskets keep your poles from sinking into deep snow.
    • Rubber Caps: Ideal for rocks, cement or boardwalks. Rubber caps are great for gripping hard surfaces.

     2. Navigating Difficult Terrain & Balance and Stability: Trekkings poles help hikers move up hills, down hills, across rivers, and over ice, snow, rocks, and mud! The additional 2 points of contact greatly increase stability, reducing the number of falls, tumbles and accidents that can unexpectedly happen on trail. When going up hill, your trekking poles should be shortened to increase your leverage. When going down hill, your trekking poles should be extended to take weight off your knees, keep your weight centers over your feet, and ultimately reduce the risk of tumbling forward. 

  • 3. Reduce Impact & Risk of Injury: One of the major reasons why individuals choose to start using trekking poles is to reduce the physical impact of hiking and the risk of injury. Hiking is a highly repetitive and grinding activity, and trekking poles can help alleviate some of the weight placed on one’s knees, legs, ankles, and feet. When utilizing trekking poles, one's arms and shoulder muscles engage in activity, helping to absorb some of the workload typically performed by the lower body.

    For day, hikers trekking poles help contain pre existing conditions and prevent against acute injuries. For long distance hikers, trekking poles help prevent overuse injuries caused by hundreds of miles of walkings.

  • 4. Support & Structure: Trekking poles can be incredibly useful support structures when tarp or tent camping. When tarping, trekking poles can provide height, stability, and structure to your tarp shelter. There are a multitude of ways to utilize your trekking poles when creating tarp structures, and more information can be found here. There are also specific tents designed to incorporate trekking pole into their structure. These trekking pole supported tents are very popular with in the ultralight backpacking community, and are designed to utilize 1 or 2 poles to reduce or eliminate the need of tent poles. This ultimately cuts down on the extra weight associated with carrying extra equipment, maximizing the utility of gear you already bring. Trekking poles are also stronger than tent poles, reducing your chance of braking important structural pieces.

    5. Defense: Trekking poles are essentially a less dangerous, less aerodynamic version of a spear. Because of this, they can do most things a spear can do (just less effectively). While it is important to be familiar with the proper ways to handle encounters with bears, moose, wolves, or any other wildlife, trekking poles can often help assist in keeping you safe. Some examples:

    • Waving trekking poles in the air makes you look bigger and can deter bears from charging. Banging your trekking poles together as you move through low visibility areas can also alert animals of your presence - scaring animals off and preventing surprise encounters.
    • Similarly, the clicking sound produced by simply using your trekking poles will often scare off snakes and other critters, alerting them to scamper off and avoid contact!
    • Throwing trekking poles towards a campsite invader can often scare them off, and it has the potential to prevent a closer (potentially more dangerous) encounter, damage to your gear, or the consumption or theft of your food.