“Why do I need trekking poles?” is a question that new hikers and backpackers ask all the time. We admit it – from the surface, walking poles can look a bit silly but tell you what, these tools are incredibly versatile and can help with many tasks along the trail.
Many hikers swear by them, but of course, those who don’t want to keep their hands occupied on the trail find them a nuisance. Trekking poles, therefore, seem to divide the backcountry traveling community, but nowadays, a notable number of walkers are embracing the pole and reaping its benefits.
But why use trekking poles when I can just pick some sticks along the trail? – You may ask. Well, it’s a good question, since some believe that this could be a wiser way to save money. However, once you have invested in a good pair and started enjoying the benefits, you might never ask that question again. Here are reasons why you shouldn’t head out in the woods without hiking poles.
1. Redistributes Your Weight
Hiking poles are an essential item to include in your hiking checklist and for a good reason; they offer stability over rugged terrain, reduce stress on the ankles and knees, and help you move faster. Probably the most substantial reason for using poles in a hike is to minimize stress on your back and knees.
When you first get started, you may feel like the poles are not doing as much as you had hoped to reduce the strain, but think for a moment the amount of walking you do in a single day hike. If hiking with poles cuts the weight through your ankles and knees just by 2 lbs in every step, don’t you think this could add up to something at the end of the day? Moreover, if you will be bringing a weighted backpack, then this will be even more important.
2. Makes You Feel Less Tired
Since weight will be redistributed on your steps, your joints and muscles will take a little longer to wear down, which means you will be able to walk those extra miles before taking a rest. This will be much helpful especially when walking down a slope where your leg muscles are almost in constant contraction. These muscles never get to rest fully or depend on other body muscles.
Using poles during downhill hiking will help relieve some of the weight off your knees and squads, delaying the onset of exhaustion. This will also prevent any tumbles and falls from enfeebled muscles.
3. Betters Your Stance
The more you fatigue, the more your posture deteriorates, as you will be forced to hunch or lean forward on the trail. If you are less tired, however, you will be able to maintain a good posture until the end of the hike.
Humping your body puts extra stress on your back particularly when carrying a backpack. This can lead to sore back muscles, shortened hiking days, or even worse, an internal injury. Bringing a walking pole can greatly help you maintain a good posture.
4. Enhances Breathing
Forget what you have heard, but trekking poles will get you breathing better. With a good upright stance also comes enhanced lung capacity, meaning, you will be taking in more oxygen. As such, the supply of oxygen to your muscles will be more efficient, which will help them to remain stronger and keep pushing you forward for longer.
5. Improves Balance And Stability
You will be having more than two points of contact with the ground, which will make navigating tough landscape more stress-free, safer, and enjoyable. Even on smooth terrain, sometimes walking with a backpack alters the normal center of gravity, so having some walking poles will help you maintain stability and keep you more balanced on the trail.
Add in a comfy pair of hiking shoes and river or creek crossings and you will negotiate those slippery rocks or strong currents like a pro.
6. Increases Your Pace
While hiking, you want to maintain a good pace so you can be able to complete your walk successfully. Once you get used to walking with poles and maintaining a reliable rhythm, you will be able to move much faster.
The trekking poles help with propelling you forward, forcing you to increase your strides so that your legs and arms can coordinate with each other. If you are on a tight schedule or want to cover the most miles, then you will benefit enormously from trekking poles.
7. You Can Lean On It To Rest
Trekking with a pack full of gear on your back can be really tiresome. The extra stress on your body will make you feel fatigued and you may need to keep stopping to rest. Having a walking pole can greatly help to reduce tiredness. Just lean on it for a few minutes and you will be surprised how relieved your back and knees will feel.
8. Protects You From Your Surroundings
Hopefully, the possibility of having to scare away a monster lion or bear will be close to nil, but walking with a pair of poles may just make you look bigger and more frightening to those wild animals that may be drooling at you.
But you may wonder, “Why to use trekking poles when I can just throw stones at the predators?”
You see, the poles are already with you so you won’t have to start looking for rocks, and if you are on a terrain that is covered with pure vegetation, you may not be lucky enough to find some. So invest in trekking poles and stay safe.
You can also use your poles to clear any branches, shrubbery, and spider webs that may have eaten into the trail making it impassable. Certainly, even an old stick will do this just fine, but what if you can’t find one? Bringing a pair of trekking poles and using them for bush bashing will not slow you down much.
9. Can Be Used As Tent Poles
When hiking, you want your load to be as light as possible. If you have gear that can serve more than one purpose, then it would be worth considering.
Your hiking poles can be a great alternative to tent poles and will save you some space since you won’t have to carry them in your pack. Any weight shaved off your backpack is a huge saving, plus walking poles are sturdier and have more stability than the regular tent poles.
10. Can Be Used To Test Sketchy Rocks
If you are hiking on rocky terrain, chances are good you will sometimes come across steps that look a little sketchy. You need to place your foot on top of these but something tells you that you can’t trust them with your weight.
Placing your pole on such steps and exerting some pressure on them will help you determine if they are strong enough to support your body weight. Just make sure not to apply too much compression especially if the steps appear to have some cracks on or don’t seem stable.
11. Useful If You Twist An Ankle Or Get Injured
Outdoor trips are meant to be fun. Unfortunately, not all of these will go as planned. Sometimes you will stumble and fall or have a nasty encounter with a scorpion. Other times you will slide on slippery rocks and sprain your ankle or break a bone.
Trekking poles will come in handy in emergencies like these. You can use them to splint a broken bone or support strained joints.
Well, you may not end up with a serious injury but poles will make great temporary crutches if you are bitten by a poisonous crawler and need to shed some weight off the wounded leg to continue with the hiking.
How To Choose The Right Hiking Poles
Now that you understand how important hiking poles are on your outdoor trips, let’s find out what factors you need to consider before making a purchase.
1. Two Are Better Than One
Although no rule governs how many poles you should bring on a trip, two will be much comfortable than one. However, this will depend on the terrain you are going to encounter. For instance, if you will be walking on easy terrain or your hike is only going to take a few hours, then one pole will be enough.
However, for rough trails that are expected to take longer, and especially those that get you hutching your back like climbing a hill, you will need more help to get you to the top and two poles will be your best bet.
2. Get Something Adjustable
Forget about those cheap hiking poles that don’t allow for any alterations. Get something that lets you adjust the length to what feels most comfortable.
Telescopic poles are a great place to get started. They are easy to use and come with twist locks that allow you to make adjustments on the go.
If these don’t work for you, there are collapsible poles that you extend and lock the parts into place. These are lightweight and easy to use by both beginner and experienced hikers and backpackers.
3. Carbon Or Aluminum
Carbon trekking poles are lighter and much cooler than aluminum ones but they come with a higher price tag and are not as long-lasting. Aluminum poles on the other hand are much stronger and reasonably priced. Though a little heavier, they are more durable and work perfectly.
Other features to consider include:
- Shock-absorbing material: Not quite necessary but if you lay your eyes on a pair that has absorbers, take it.
- Foam or cork grips: Consider hiking poles with foam or cork grips. Plastic grips suck and will just make you hate your walk.
- Your height: This will determine how long you are going to adjust your pole. While it is no biggie for short people, those who are really blessed with height need to get something longer. Some hiking poles will only extend to 125 centimeters or even less. To be on the safe side, make sure your hiking stick can extend up to around 135 centimeters.
Globo Surf Overview
Still wondering, “Why to use trekking poles?” Well, there you got it! Poles will make your hiking more fun and comfy. They will reduce the pressure exerted on your back, knees, and ankles and make you more stable on the trail.
But just like any hiking and backpacking gear, the efficiency of your trekking pole will highly depend on the adjusting and locking mechanism. It would be nice to try a few poles before you finally make your decision so you can understand how a good pair looks like, to have an amazing trekking experience.
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