Recently I've been considering buying Trekking (Hiking) poles. I’ve been weighing up the pros and cons of them and I have decided that they are definitely a good investment.
In this post I wanted to take a look at the top 5 reasons why I have come to this conclusion and why I think they’re a great addition to your hiking kit.
Pictured below are the Black Diamond Ergo Cork Trekking Poles.
My Use of Trekking Poles
First off, I thought I’d start by explaining my history with using trekking poles. I have never actually owned a pair but I have used them on occasion and I will be getting myself a set in the not too distant future.
Every time I did use them I found them to be very handy and useful. Listed below are the top 5 advantages I found with using them.
Great on Steep Downhill
When you’re out on the trail, at some point you will have to negotiate a steep downhill. Even if this is on a well-worn trail, it can still be tricky to descend, especially if you have to do it several times in a row on a day hike. That is, a lot of steep uphill followed by steep downhill.
Where this is even more relevant is when you’re hiking down over open mountain, where there is little or no marked trail.
This is where hiking poles can be really beneficial. A key thing to look for when getting hiking poles is that they’re extendable and retractable. That is, you can make them longer or shorter. This should be standard with most good modern hiking poles.
When you’re on a steep downhill it can be a great help to extend your hiking poles that little bit longer. That gives you that little bit more stability as you hike downwards.
On a personal note, on hard hikes, I have found my knees can get a little sore and wobbly after lots of steep descent. Using hiking poles helps counter this as it enables me to spread the pressure into my arms as well as my legs and so alleviating the load my knees have to take.
Overall, trekking poles ease the weight on your joints and spread it more efficiently making you less tired. Definitely a plus!
Great on the Uphill
As with steep downhill, the same principle applies for steep uphill, albeit somewhat reversed. When you’re heading up very steep uphill, it can be useful to make your poles a little shorter. You can then use them as a kind of pivot to help pull yourself up the trail.
Now I don’t want to give the impression that you drag yourself up a mountain, it’s not that extreme. On the uphill it’s more like an extra bit of stability that can again take a bit of pressure off your legs. It all helps!
Even on gradual uphill with your hiking poles at their normal extension, they will still add a bit of extra support as you ascend. This all goes towards taking pressure off your legs which should keep them from getting too tired too soon.
Stability on Tricky Spots
Hiking poles really come in useful when you need to cross a tricky spot on the trail. For example, say you need to cross some stepping stones to get across a river. Being able to extend your hiking poles and stick them into the water to get a bit more stability is really useful.
Now, I want to add a caveat to that last statement. I am referring to crossing over stones on a very small river. As a general rule, try and avoid crossing rivers but if the river is shallow, say up to the tops of your feet or just below your ankles, you should be fine to cross it.
Any higher, I advise that you don’t cross it. Rivers can be very hard to judge with currents and so on. You can easily be taken off your feet with a relatively small amount of water and get swept downstream into faster currents. Good judgment and experience is crucial!
Some other tricky spots where a hiking pole can be useful is hiking in snow or where there are patches of ice. Again, they can come in very handy for a little bit of extra stability when you come to a tricky spot.
Finally, if you’re fond of trekking into the wilderness for a few days camping, hiking poles can really be a great addition to your kit. With a fully loaded backpack on your back, you are of course less stable.
A wrong movement or minor slip and you can very easily lose your balance and topple over.
Hiking poles again can provide that bit of stability if you have a slight slip. This also applies on a day hike with a small daypack. If you slip or walk over a tricky part of terrain, the poles are there to enable you to steady yourself.
Walking over bush and heather is one I regularly experience. The odd time you can easily step into a deeper hole.
As its not visible you can’t see it to avoid it and you also won’t know how deep it is. Most importantly you won’t be expecting it!
Having a hiking pole handy to lean on to steady yourself can be really good for situations like that.
Hiking poles also have carry loops, see the picture to the right, so even if you lose your balance and your hand comes off the handle, they will stay attached to your arm so you can easily get them back into your hands to use them to get yourself back on your feet.
Lightweight and Easy to Carry
Next thing worth mentioning is that hiking poles are designed to be lightweight. Also, most good backpacks have the loops to hold them while they’re not in use.
I also recommend you look for retractable trekking poles too. This means they can be retracted up into a smaller pole which can be more easily put away in your pack when not in use.
For example, walking through the forest with two big poles sticking out of your pack will be a pain for sure as they will catch and get tangled in things. So, look for good retractable length for storage purposes.
The overall point in this being that if you don’t want to use them or need them on a particular stretch of trail, you can easily attach them onto your pack and they won’t add a lot of weight or cause you any bother.
This is more a bit of fun here but I have seen hiking poles being used very creatively before, especially on longer multi-day treks. I’ve seen them used as an extra tent support pole, where one was missing.
My favorite was as a way to fashion a clothes line to dry gear in the sun after it got wet. Two poles on two ends with, what I think was, some tent cord between them. Very clever I thought and it worked well.
Also, you can get poles that also act as a camera mount, that is you can attach your camera to the top of the pole handle. Very handy to have if you want to get that all important group photo at the summit, with everyone in it, after a long day's hike!
Finally, it's worth adding that you don't always need to have two hiking poles. I know many folks who only ever use the one and you can buy them individually in some cases.
As mentioned at the start of this, in all my years of hiking, for some reason I never thought to buy a set of trekking poles. No real reason I can identify as to why.
I used them on occasion and I always found them useful when I did so I’m not 100% sure why it has taken me so long to finally get around to buying a set of my own lol 🙂
I have started my research and I will be sure to add up onto the site some good options that I find, including the ones I actually end up purchasing.
I’ll add a short guide on what to look for when buying hiking poles soon too but if you’re in the market for a pair today, I suggest looking for a pair that are lightweight, durable and extendable / retractable.
There will be a bit more in the buying guide but they’re the fundamentals I am currently looking for myself.
In this post I wanted to review the top 5 reasons as to why I think adding trekking poles to your hiking kit is a really good idea. I hope you found it useful.
Finally, if you do use hiking poles, please always be conscious of other hikers and watch where you point them!
So that's it for today. Do you use trekking poles on your hikes? Are you a fan of them? Do you find them useful?