The debate out there among hikers and trekkers is… why use trekking pole for hiking? Trekking poles for hiking are used to enhance your stability and support on all types of terrain.
They are also referred to as hiking sticks, walking poles or hiking poles. They are designed in maximum length of 54 inches. Mostly, they are made in two or three sections that can easily be drawn in or out as need be.
When you buy a pair of hiking boots for men or women, you will realize that one of the chief consideration is whether it has enough ankle support. This is because you need the shoe to support you should you trip on a rock, stump or something. However, no matter how much ankle support your hiking shoes have, you would still need a hiking pole.
Why Use Trekking Pole – 10 Reasons
Helps you to maintain balance – In difficult terrains such as slippery bridges, river fording, steep trails and others, the poles will help you to maintain balance. You can bring one or carry two with you, you will be glad you did. The poles prevent one from slipping over or using hands to climb mountains, hills, walking on slippery rocks or uneven terrain. Staying balance helps one move more easily and quickly.
Takes off the shock from the knees on downhill trek – Trekking downhill can be quite tasking to the knees. It is very easy to get sore on the knees and ankles when you are not using a pole because the knees have to absorb all the shock. When using a hiking pole, it is easy to cut down on your weight using your hands so that all the weight is not transferred to the knees.
Helps you to make a consistent walking rhythm – when you are using a walking stick, you are able to walk in a natural rhythm and as a result, you can walk faster. While the walking pole does not really take off the burden of having to trek, it actually makes you feel confident and thus, you do not get as tired. You see, it is all in the mind.
Boosts you on your uphill treks – When the going gets tough, the tough get going and a tough trekker carries a hiking pole. When you are facing a long uphill trail, the body naturally stoops low. Having a trekking pole to dig in and pull yourself up with your arms helps a lot. You will be able to take some stress off the leg muscles. It helps you to stay fresher for longer.
Helps when crossing rivers – The seemingly shallow and slow moving water can make crossing the river very difficult. It is easy to fall should you make just one bad step. Using poles gives you an extra grip and support in the water, and it enables you to keep upright if something shifts underfoot.
Use the hiking pole for defense – It feels darn good to carry something in your hand, doesn’t it? In Africa, there is a saying that a stick that is too far will not help you kill a snake. Of course, your intention is not to kill, but you have to defend yourself. America has many types of snakes and because some trails pass through brush, you could invade their territory without knowing. Animal attacks can also come from bears, dogs or other wild animals. You can make yourself bigger by swinging the pole overhead or throwing it like a spear.
You can clear obstacles – Some of the distractions that you can find on the way include branches, rocks and bushes. You can use your hiking pole to push such away, not necessarily for you, but for the good of other trekkers as well.
You can fend off small animals like rodents or snakes – You should never make camp anywhere without striking about to scatter rodents and snakes away. No one fancies sitting down on a Colorado rattler! A scorpion sting can send you into untold agony. Do not take the risk of sitting on one.
Helps you to manage the weight on your back – To make the hike easier for your kids and the weight of the kid hiking backpack feel lesser, give them a walking pole. This is important especially when going uphill where one stoops and the weight on the back makes the going harder. The walking pole can offer more support.
Test unsure ground – Quicksand… not possible to find on the trekking trail though, but … just think about it. You may also want to test whether the snow has melted or whether a muddy patch on the trail is too deep.
How to use walking poles
General hiking pole
For the general use of the trekking poles, the pole height is set so that when the tip is at the foot, the elbow makes a roughly 90 degree bend. That means that the pole is longer than your waist length but does not actually get to your armpits.
In this case, general hiking is when you are hiking on level terrains, when you can uphold a straight posture just as you would when walking in your yard.
For long uphill sections, the walking pole can be shortened by about 5 to10 cm from the length set for general hiking to get more force exerted and pole plants which are more secure. The pole should be shortened as the slope gets steeper.
You have to remember that when you are hiking on a steep trail, you will stoop forward, and that is why you will need a shorter trekking pole. Thankfully, walking poles are adjustable.
Trekking poles should help in moving uphill without causing fatigue or strain to the shoulders. If you feel strained by the walking pole when going uphill, you need to shorten yours much further.
For long downhill sections, you should make the hiking pole longer by about 10 cm from the length set for general hiking. By so doing, the body will be better balanced and more upright. On the long traversing sections, the pole can be shortened on the uphill side and lengthened on the downhill side to improve stability and comfort.
Trekking pole tips for holding angle
Holding the hiking stick a positive angle is the best walking pole grip because it relieves stress and overuse of the wrist joint. As you walk with the pole, make sure your lefty foot moves in tandem with your right arm and vice versa.
Hiking pole grip
Pole grips are made from different materials. Foam is one of the materials used. It is soft to the touch and it absorbs moisture from your hands. Some grips are made with cork, which decreases vibrations and conforms best to the shape of the hands, especially if the grip is ergonomic in design and it decreases vibrations.
Rubber grips are best for cold weather trekking poles. It insulates the hands from cold. It also insulates them from vibrations and shock. For warm weather hiking, rubber would be less suitable since it causes blisters as the hands sweat.
Best trekking poles – Why use trekking pole
Adjustable trekking poles
These ones are very popular and they are adjustable from about 24 to 55 inches. Many of the trekking poles adjust in length to increase stability on different terrain. For example, when going uphill you will want to shorten the pole and when going downhill, you will want to lengthen them.
One thing you will notice with the adjustable hiking poles is that they collapse into themselves, like one narrower sections collapses into a wider section.
Non-adjustable trekking poles
These poles do not adjust in length. They usually have a fixed length. Due to their operation with fewer parts, they are lighter in weight as compared to the adjustable poles. In terrains where only a certain length is required, they are usually great.
Ultralight hiking poles
Ultralight hiking poles weigh less than 1 pound. They have the advantage of less swing weight that makes them easier and quicker to move. In case of a long hike, you will feel less fatigued because as much as these are trekking poles, you will still be carrying their weight along. These poles are easier to pack. The best ultralight hiking poles are made of carbon and the handle grip is made of foam. That makes them super light!
Foldable trekking poles
These poles do not collapse into themselves like the adjustable poles but they function like the camping tent poles. They are light in weight, and they are easy to fold and unfold when need be. With such poles for trekking, you can pack them into your backpack when you are not using them. They are mostly popular among the fast hikers and ultra runners.
Anti-shock poles – Shock absorbing poles
These hiking poles have internal springs that act as shock absorbers when one walks downhill or uphill. With most of the poles, the internal springs can be turned off when they are not needed like when a person is walking uphill.
If you have inflamed joints and you love hiking, use an anti-shock hiking pole that will absorb the shock as it hits the ground. This way, your wrist is not jolted and there is no pain. By the way, the shock getting to your wrists can also end up leaving you with joint pains. Not to worry though because such pain goes away on its own.
Standard trekking poles – non-shock absorbing poles
These poles are lighter and less expensive since they do not have a shock absorbing feature. They thus do not absorb as much impact when going downhill as compared to the anti-shock absorbing ones. They provide a similar level of support and balance as the shock absorbing poles.
Camera mount poles – trekking pole tripod
This is simply a hiking pole that has a camera mount. Of course, hiking with your travel camera is a good idea as you can take awesome shots along the way. Some trekking poles also have an inbuilt camera under the handle. Fancy the idea of shooting photos incognito, like James Bond, eh? Do not worry as there is not too much extra weight to carry.
To the question of why use trekking pole for your hiking and trekking adventure, you have seen a few reasons. It is just a little extra weight to bring a long and besides, you will be truly glad you did.