#TrailTip Tuesday: Do You Need Trekking Poles?

13 comments

Trekking poles are not just for old people, women, or people with weak knees. There are many benefits to using trekking poles when you hike. These are some of the advantages I personally enjoy.

1. Total body workout

Your lower body has to carry your weight plus the weight of the backpack. Why not put the upper body to work and share the load? Do your fingers get tingly and swollen during a long hike? That’s because all the blood is going to your lower body muscles that you are using and leaving your hands numb and tingly. Hiking with trekking poles will end that issue. Another trick is to raise your elbows to your heart level and bend your forearms so the hands are above the heart. It supports better circulation.

Generally, you hike faster because the trekking poles help push you forward and you can hike longer because your legs stay strong longer since they are not doing all the work.

2. Better weight distribution

Using trekking poles distributes weight away from your hips, knees, and ankles. That means you are putting less pressure on these joints. By doing so, it reduces the risk of injury.

Did you know on a decent, trekking poles can reduce the force of impact by up to 30%, making long hikes more comfortable? It would be wise to use trekking poles on a downhill especially on hikes that have a big elevation gain. Be nice to your body now so it will be nice to you in later years.

3. Increased stability

Have you seen a four-legged animal tripping over something or slipping and fall? Ok, one time, Xena wasn’t paying attention to where she was going and tripped over a branch. It was pretty funny. But the point is, she didn’t fall.

You should always pay attention to your steps but when you don’t, trekking poles just might help you from falling flat on your face. They help you regain your balance if you misstep on a slippery rock or on muddy terrain. On an uphill or a downhill, they help you trek with less energy and more stability.

Walking with poles also helps you with posture so you don’t bend forward too much when you are carrying a heavy backpack.

4. Protective gear

If you ever run into a wildlife, trekking poles can act as protective gear. You can use them to fight back or use them to make you look bigger. Hopefully, we won’t have to execute this in real life but we should be prepared nonetheless. On solo hikes, having them with me definitely makes me feel safer.


 

I don’t use trekking poles on hikes with a little elevation gain but they go with me anyway on most of the hikes. If you get the poles that are collapsible, you can just carry them on your backpack and they would be there when you need them. Most backpacks come with the straps or loops for the trekking poles like in this photo.

benefits of trekking poles

At first, Xena was not sure about the trekking poles. She looked at me as if I grew my arms. She is naturally a cautious pup. If your dog is cautious like Xena, introduce the new trekking poles to her at home by letting her sniff them. Leave them out until she is no longer fearful of the new gear. By accident, the poles touched her while hiking. Since then, she learned to hike in a safe distance away from me so she is out of the reach when I let go of them to take photos.

benefits of trekking poles

What are your experiences with trekking poles?
How did your dog handle the trekking poles the first time?Β 

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13 comments on “#TrailTip Tuesday: Do You Need Trekking Poles?”

  1. I don’t have any but after a couple recent precarious water crossings I’m definitely considering investing. Thanks for outlining these pros and cons, very useful info!

  2. I was backpacking w/ a friend in the Sieras and we were crossing some lowlands about to start climbing again. Someone had decided to cut a bunch of brush along the trail, but only cut the branches down, until they remained several inches high. My friend tripped and fell, landing full-force on one outstretched hand planted firmly on the ground. I was only a few feet away and when I looked down I saw a 1″diameter stump sticking up between his fingers -another 2-3 inches and it would have gone right through the middle of his hand… breaking bones, tearing ligament and nerves… creating real havac on the trail. it was a miracle he wasn’t injured. If he had been using hiking poles, he wouldn’t have tripped and lost his balance -he was just very lucky.

    I’ve hiked on boulders ranging from the size of a football to 2′ in diameter… a deep boulder field… there was no trail along the ground… just cairns place 50-100 yds apart to mark the trail across the boulders. You literally stepped from one boulder to another all day long. Sometimes gusts of wind (maybe 50 mph or more) would almost blow you off your feet and you’d miss stepping on the rock you intended to, struggling to land your foot on a different nearby rock and maintain your balance. Your hiking poles could get stuck between rocks, but they provided balance with nearly every step you took. If you lost balance and fell you risked breaking an arm, wrist or fingers, maybe a fall -hitting your head, etc. Very difficult hiking. I saw people with broken poles, bent poles, but you needed the poles for safety reasons.

    Hiking in wet, slippery mud, trying to skirt deeper puddles along the trail, stretching with long strides, losing your balance and falling in the mud, getting all wet and muddy several times maybe… you need hiking poled just to hike safely in such conditions.

    If you injure a knee or ankle, you can soften the pressure on your knee or ankle, by using the hiking poles to keep weight off the bad knee, etc. Use your upper body strength to carry the increased load, keeping the load off the bad leg.

    Hiking on wet rocks is always dangerous… hiking poles make it safer.

    You can use hiking poles as splints for a broken arm or leg, or to hold your tent up in the wind,

    Cross a swift stream maintaining balance with your hiking poles! This can be dangerous, but you have better chance of not falling.

    The list just keeps getting longer! Use hiking poles.

    Sometimes you can be days from medical help and hiking poles could save your life!

    *Also always carry a small first-aid kit w/ some pain meds (acetaminophen/ibuprofen, etc.), bandages, gauze, etc. to stop heavy bleeding, antihistamines for bee stings and bug bites, emergency chemical water treatment, tweezers to get ticks and splinters out of your body, snake bite kit in rattle-snake areas, etc.and a couple feet of paracord.
    * Take a wilderness first-aid course… see NOLS

    sorry, I got carried away πŸ˜‰ ha!

    1. Oh, no!! Thanks for sharing these awesome examples, Mike! Your friend was super lucky that day, indeed. I couldn’t agree more. You reminded me of the times when I relied on my trekking poles on downhills after my IT bands flared up. I was so glad I had them. They alleviated the pain and helped me greatly with the balance on the way down. Painful memories, literally and figuratively! Haha.

  3. I have been using trekking poles for many years now and I love them. I have ultra light carbon ones and they are great for helping me up a steep trail as well as for balance on the way down. They have saved me from so many falls!! My dog, Zealand always weaves her way between my poles and legs, not keeping that safe distance that Xena keeps!!

    1. Zealand makes her own obstacle course and practices agility! Ha! Pups make a great hiking buddy, don’t they? πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing your experience, Katie!

  4. I ran a long race in some mountains without poles and I will admit I thought about swiping some after about 20 km because of my wrecked legs. I spent my recovery time researching and ordering a pair. Love them.

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