In recent months, I’ve been receiving a lot of enquiries from outdoor sports enthusiasts to write an article on the actual need of utilising trekking poles while hiking. There is a lot of debate around this topic and to be completely honest, we have found that unfortunately there is plenty of misinformation out there, so people end up getting really confused on what to actually do.
This is always a big debate but I will get straight into it and provide my personal view whilst I walk you through all the relevant information there is around trekking poles so I can help you determine if they are worth it or not.
So, to quickly answer the question “Do I need trekking Poles?”, my answer is that trekking poles are always worth bringing along, especially if you are a beginner as research shows that they do help reduce the forces placed on the body. They are also quite beneficial for people that had prior knee or hips injuries as they provide that extra balance and support. But again, that’s my personal choice, therefore let´s now dive together into the actual facts and understand the pros and cons of trekking poles.
Excited to learn more? Let’s get to it!
What Are Trekking Poles?
Trekking poles (also known as walking poles, hiking sticks or hiking poles) are commonly used by hikers to assist them on their walks/hikes in order to gain stability and improve their rhythm on the trails whilst facing rough terrains.
There is a close similarity to ski poles, so if you are also a skier you will find them quite easy and comfortable to use.
Their design varies a lot but they are mainly made of either aluminium or carbon composite and they also feature a rubber handle.
Also, a lot of the trekking poles in the market can easily fold (which makes them really handy when carrying them), and feature a wrist strap when you have an uphill trail to go through.
Why Should We Use Trekking Poles?
Ok, let’s now discover together some of the actual benefits of using trekking poles. In some cases, people will utilise them based on some scientific evidence that supports their use whereas in other cases it will just be a personal preference.
Below are some of the main reasons why people utilise hiking poles:
One of their main attributes is that it improves the balance when hiking/walking around rough terrain and stream crossing. In general, they will be really useful for any slippery surface such as ice, mudd hill or snow as they provide that extra support and point of contact with the ground.
I personally find that my hikes are more stable when utilising these poles in certain terrains. Overall, if you tend to feel uncomfortable or unbalanced on steep terrain, hiking poles can be the perfect solution for you.
Having two poles to anchor you and offer an extra point of contact with the ground is just invaluable when you’re across a series of slippery and wet rocks. I also use them to test the depth of a river and determine if it’s too muddy at the bottom before I proceed.
Reduce Strain On Knees During Descents:
Recent studies have shown that using trekking poles may take up to 20% of the strain in your knees. Personally, I have knee problems and I have found the poles to actually dramatically reduce the pain of my knees while hiking. So if you want to help your knees, I strongly recommend them.
Help You Keep Your Rhythm:
Poles will allow you to keep a constant rhythm on your hiking which can make the whole journey more enjoyable and smoother. In return, this can also increase your overall speed, hence you will be able to walk longer trails.
Big Bushes, Spider Webs And Branches Out Of Your Way:
The trekking poles are great to deflect any of these nuisances which will make your travel more enjoyable and safer.
Pitching A Tent:
Apart from all the different hiking uses we´ve just described above, trekking poles can also be utilised to pitch a shelter or tent which will save you some extra pounds. The trekking poles tend to be stronger than typical tent poles, hence your shelter/tent will be able to resist stronger winds.
Also, you can use them to set up a tarp and hang and dry some of your wet clothes if you don’t have some trees nearby.
Alleviate Some Of The Weight You Carry:
The poles will help you to alleviate some of your hiking gear. For instance, if you are carrying a big backup they can be handy to take a short brake and just lean on them in order to relax a bit and stay more comfortable
In the unlikely event that either you or someone in your group suffers a big injury, they can end up being extremely handy and useful piece of gear in these extreme situations. Ultimately, you can utilise them as “liters¨to carry someone for a short distance.
Why Do Some People Avoid Using Trekking Poles?
Well as you may have seen in the specific list we just covered above, there are plenty of reasons to utilise trekking poles while hiking. However, you will also find that a lot of people don´t like to use them at all and they also have their reasons and rationale behind it. Let´s explore it together!
Increase Energy Expenditure:
Let´s be clear on this point, you will have to utilise your arms more than you would normally do, therefore this would create an extra energy expenditure on your hike. You may be thinking that this is not a huge deal on a small trail, but if you are up for longer trail I can guarantee you that you will end up feeling it.
This one is not that popular but for a lot of people, it creates an extra hassle to have to think about the trekking poles on top of all of their camping gear. Therefore, they just take it out of their equation for any outdoor sports adventure
They Can Get Easily Tangled:
Trekking poles can easily catch on trees or rocks while hiking making it quite annoying and time consuming to take them out. Even worst, they can sometimes end up breaking in half because of this (I have rarely seen this happen).
A lot of these trekking poles come with steel carbide tips which can be very harmful to rocks and fragile plants. Furthermore, they can also impact hiking trails, especially on the muddy sections along a footpath.
So, Should I Get Trekking Poles?
Look at the end of the day, it becomes quite a personal choice. I´ve shown you above the pros and cons of using trekking poles.
I just personally love hiking with trekking poles all the time. I have a backpack that allows me to attach my trekking poles, so I find it quite handy and useful. On the other hand, if by any chance I don´t feel like using them I can always put them back in my backpack.
Trekking poles offer a lot of benefits to hikers, particularly as they reduce the strain and knee pain when hiking downhill. But as reinforced throughout this article, it ends up being quite a personal choice.
Therefore I suggest you give it a shot and try them and let us know what you think about them.
We hope that this article has been useful and that it helped to take out some of the confusion there is around the usage or not of trekking poles.