Trekking poles can be a tremendous help during a hike but not all the time. Some terrains need trekking poles and some do not. Knowing when you need a trekking pole is important for getting the right assistance and safety during the hike.
Years ago the use of a sturdy branch for a pole during the hike is common, but now with poles being widely used, there are more sturdy materials used that you can rely on.
Owning a trekking pole made by a trusted manufacturer gives a sense of security of stability, and sturdiness, especially on dangerous trails.
Whether you have just started hiking or have been hiking for a long time, understanding about using trekking poles can help a lot for the success of your hike.
We have compiled all the needed information about using trekking poles to help you on your journey to becoming a better hiker.
- Should I Use a Trekking Pole?
- When not to Use a Trekking Pole
- Different Types of Trekking Poles
- Trekking Pole Parts
- How to Choose the Right Trekking Pole
- Tips on How to Use Trekking Poles Properly
- Should I Use Two Poles or One Pole?
- Conclusion: Do I Need Trekking Poles?
Should I Use a Trekking Pole?
To know if you should use a trekking pole or not, first, you should look at the benefits that they bring on the trail. Trekking poles have been widely used during hikes because of the stability, support, and extra safety for the user. But there’s more to just these reasons.
Trails Where Trekking Poles Work Best
Before we get to the benefits of trekking poles to help you decide whether to use trekking poles or not, when to use hiking sticks are commonly seen on the following types of trails:
Using a trekking pole on rocky terrain provides more stability. The uneven surface of the rocks can make it difficult to keep your balance, but with a trekking pole, you can have extra support to help you maintain your balance.
In muddy terrain, it is important to be extra careful in order not to fall and hurt yourself. A trekking pole can help you keep your balance and prevent you from slipping.
Trekking poles are also a big help when going uphills. They can help you maintain your balance and provide extra support for your legs.
Going downhill can be just as difficult as going uphill, if not more. Trekking poles can help you control your speed and prevent you from slipping or falling.
Using trekking poles on uneven terrains just like on a rocky terrain provides better stability and balance. Uneven terrains can be a bit more challenging because of the different levels on the ground, but trekking poles can help you keep your footing.
Advantages of Using Trekking Poles
Let’s go ahead and take a look at the advantages of using trekking poles for you to decide if the use of trekking poles is necessary for your next hike. The following are the hiking pole benefits:
Trekking Poles Help Absorb Shock from Your Joints
Trekking Poles are known to absorb the shock from our joints on the knees as we walk. This is extremely beneficial for people with joint pains, arthritis, or any other condition that might be aggravated by the impact of walking.
The poles can reduce the stress on our knees, hips, and ankles as they act as an extension to our arms. This way, we can apply more pressure on the trekking poles instead of our joints to move forward.
Trekking Poles Help Maintain Balance and Stability
As we walk on uneven terrains, it is easy to lose our balance and stability. Going downhill and going uphill can be a challenge even for seasoned hikers, especially on slippery trails. This is where hiking sticks’ purpose come in handy as they can help us maintain our balance and stability on the trail.
The poles provide extra support to our knees and body, which helps us to keep our balance and stability even on the most uneven terrains.
Trekking Poles Help Reduce Fatigue
Trekking poles help to reduce fatigue by taking some of the weight off your upper body, arms, knees, and legs. This is extremely beneficial when we are hiking for long hours or carrying a heavy backpack.
Trekking Poles Engages your Arms For Better Blood Circulation When Hiking
Trekking poles engage your arms as you walk because some of the weight of your body and the hiking gear inside your pack is transferred over to the poles.
With the pumping action, the grip of your arms, and the elevation from the trekking poles as you walk, your arms get better blood circulation compared to just letting them dangle without doing anything.
Trekking Poles Help with Hill Climbing
Trekking poles can be a great help when climbing hills. They help to take some of the pressure off your legs and also act as extra support to your body.
Trekking Poles can be Used To Discourage Wild Animals from Approaching You or Used to Gently Push Plants out of the Way
The trekking poles in your hand, can scare off animals or defend yourself in case of unwanted animal attacks. The pointed pole tips can become an instant weapon.
There are plants that you want to avoid being in contact with like nettles and poison ivy.
Trekking Poles Can be Used to Test the Stability of the Terrain
Using poles when hiking to help test out the stability of the terrain, especially on steep terrain and narrow trails, is a good practice for hikers. Expect loose soil in areas where it rains frequently and be extra cautious when stepping on paths near ravines.
You can use your pole to check if the path is stable and can hold your weight before actually stepping on the trail.
Trekking Poles Can be Used as Support for Emergency Shelter or Your Tent
In cases of emergency, trekking poles can be turned into support for your ultralight emergency shelter or tent by hikers. This can be extremely helpful in case you need to set up a shelter in a hurry or if some of your tent poles break in the middle of your trip. But of course, it is important to prepare everything you need to bring when going on a hike.
Trekking Poles Can Help You Save Energy
Trekking poles can help you save energy when hiking as they act as extra support to your body. This way, you don’t have to use all your energy to hike up the trail.
Trekking Poles Can Help You Avoid Injuries
Trekking poles can make you avoid injuries as they help to take some of the pressure off your joints and muscles than hiking without poles. This is extremely beneficial, especially if you are hiking on rough terrains.
When not to Use a Trekking Pole
The use of trekking poles may sound like a must because of the many benefits they bring but there are instances when you should refrain from using a trekking pole.
Trails Where Trekking Poles are Unnecessary
There are trails where the use of a walking pole can get cumbersome. It is not advisable to use trekking poles on the following types of trails:
Trails that Require More Climbing
There are trails where you have to grip on roots of trees to push yourself forward or grab rocks to pull yourself up. The use of trekking poles can be more of a hindrance than help as you need both your hands to grip and pull yourself up.
Heavily Crowded Trails
On heavily crowded trails, the use of trekking poles can be disruptive for hikers. Imagine if everyone is using a trekking pole and there isn’t enough space for everyone.
Or if you accidentally hit someone with your trekking pole while walking side by side. It is best to just refrain from using one in these situations.
Trails Where the Weather is Too Hot
On days when the weather is too hot, it is advised not to use trekking poles as they can add to the heat that your body is already feeling. The use of trekking poles can also make you sweat more, which can lead to dehydration.
In these situations, it is best to just carry your trekking poles in your hand instead of using them, and you should have prepared enough water for your entire trip to keep yourself from getting dehydrated.
Trails Near Ravines
Trails near ravines are dangerous and require you to have full use of your hands to prevent you from slipping and falling. You can still use the poles to test the stability of the path but it’s not advisable to walk the path with both hands using poles.
Disadvantages of Using Trekking Poles
Aside from the types of trails where the use of trekking poles are unnecessary, there are several disadvantages of using trekking poles as follows:
Trekking Poles Can Use more Energy
Using trekking poles means you have to exert more energy through the use of your hands. Some do not want to expend more energy on the use of poles and prefer to have their arms experience less stress when walking.
Trekking Poles can add Extra Weight or Take Extra Space on Your Daypack
Trekking Poles as an additional trekking gear adds to the weight and takes space in your day pack. For those who want to avoid this, just opt not to use trekking poles.
For those who still need trekking poles but want lighter and easy-to-carry options, there are ultralight poles and folding ones that are easy to keep. We will discuss further on this the types of poles in the next sections.
Trekking Poles can be a Distraction or Get in the Way
Carrying and using trekking poles can be a distraction to hikers as you need to pay attention to where you put them down and how you carry them. They can also get in the way especially when you need to take them out and put them away.
Trekking Poles can be Expensive
Using a hiking stick that you pick up along the way costs nothing but buying trekking poles in the market can be costly, especially for those poles that are made from high-end material.
Trekking Poles are not LNT-friendly
The points of contact made by trekking poles along the trail are not in line with the Leave no Trace principle that suggests that you should leave the terrain as it is.
Different Types of Trekking Poles
Trekking poles come in different designs and materials as follows:
Trekking Poles by Design
Different types of hiking poles are worth knowing in case you decide to get one. You will know which one you prefer the most by knowing how they function on the trail. So, here are the different types of trekking poles by design:
Telescopic hiking poles are the most common and popular type among hikers. They are made from aluminum or carbon fiber that can be adjusted to different lengths.
The advantage of using telescopic poles is that it has adjustable length controlled by a locking mechanism that you can adjust according to your needs and preferences on the trail. You can make them longer when going downhill and shorter when going uphill.
Another advantage is that they are the most lightweight and compact type that is easy to pack.
The disadvantage of using telescopic poles is that they are not as strong as fixed-length poles. They are also more expensive than other types of trekking poles.
Fixed-length hiking poles are made from aluminum, carbon fiber, or a combination of both materials. As the name suggests, they come in a fixed length that is not adjustable.
The advantage of using fixed-length poles is that they are stronger than telescopic poles because there are no moving parts that can break easily. They are also cheaper than telescopic poles.
The disadvantage of using fixed-length poles is that you cannot adjust their lengths according to your needs and preferences. This means that they might be too long or too short for you depending on the terrain.
Folding hiking poles are made from aluminum, carbon fiber, or a combination of both materials. They are similar to fixed-length poles but they can be folded into a shorter length for easy packing.
The advantage of using folding poles is that they are lightweight and compact, making them easy to pack. They are also adjustable, so you can adjust their lengths according to your needs.
The disadvantage of using folding poles when hiking is that they are not as strong as fixed-length or telescopic poles. They are also more expensive than other types of trekking poles.
Trekking Poles by Material
Trekking poles can be made from different types of materials as follows:
Carbon Fiber Poles
Carbon fiber poles in hiking are considered the best trekking pole material because they are lightweight, sturdy, and durable.
The carbon fiber material does not bend easily with high water and UV resistance. Because carbon fiber poles are lightweight, your arms can move better without too much stress and you don’t have to worry about that extra unnecessary weight added to your camping gear load.
The disadvantage of carbon fiber poles when hiking is that they are more expensive than aluminum ones. But despite the price, many would still choose trekking poles made from this material because they last for a long time.
Aluminum poles are the most common type of hiking poles because they are cheaper than carbon fiber poles.
Aluminum is a strong material that can withstand different types of weather and terrain but it is not as lightweight as carbon fiber. This means that your arms can get tired easily when using aluminum poles for a long time.
The advantage of using aluminum poles is that they are cheaper than carbon fiber poles. The disadvantage is that they are not as lightweight and durable as carbon fiber poles.
Trekking Pole Parts
Your trekking pole parts are also worth knowing as each has its specific function to support you on the trail when hiking.
The following are the different trekking pole parts:
The most common materials used for the grip of the trekking pole are foam, rubber, plastic, and cork. Cork and foam grips are best for warm conditions environments. Foam and rubber are recommended for winter, foam for its warmth in cold temperatures, and rubber for its durability and water resistance.
Straps are attached to the top of the pole, some are detachable while some are not.
The shaft of the pole is what supports your weight. The three materials used for the shaft are aluminum, carbon fiber, and composite.
The locking mechanism is what secures the pole at its desired length. The three types of locking mechanisms are twist locks, push buttons, and flip locks. Baskets
Baskets are attached to the bottom of the pole and they help keep the pole from sinking too deep into soft surfaces such as mud or snow. Tips – Tips are
The tip of the trekking pole is what comes in contact with the ground. There are different types of tips such as rubber, carbide, steel, and tungsten.
How to Choose the Right Trekking Pole
Since you know about poles, looking into getting one is just right around the corner. We have added a few items that you might want to take into consideration when choosing a trekking pole.
The weight of a trekking pole is important as you don’t want to add too much weight to your camping gear load.
The weight of the pole also affects the amount of shock absorption. The lighter the pole, the less shock it can absorb.
The height of the pole is crucial as you want a pole that is the right height for you. If the pole is too short, you will hunch over when using it and if it’s too tall, you will have to reach up too high which can cause muscle strain.
Some of the top manufacturers of trekking poles are Black Diamond, Mountain Safety Research, Gossamer Gear, and Leki. You can also check out other brands and make sure to check the product specifications and reviews.
The portability of the trekking pole when not in use can be an issue for you. If you want trekking poles that can be easily kept, then you should look for foldable ones.
More expensive does not always mean better quality. Do your research to see if you can find a good price for a pole with all the features that you are looking for.
Tips on How to Use Trekking Poles Properly
Here are the best tips to follow for the proper use of a trekking pole on your next hike:
- Choose which type and material will work best for you. Take note of the pole parts too, some do not want to have pole straps but it might be important to you.
- Adjust your pole length depending on your height. You can use the Trekking Poles & Walking Poles Sizing Chart to know which is the recommended trekking pole height for you.
- When you use the poles your elbows should be close to your sides. It is recommended that the height of your trekking pole puts your elbows at a 90-degree angle.
- Use the pole with a relaxed grip. Squeezing too hard on the grip can exhaust your hands and wrists.
- Practice walking naturally with your poles. As you walk in sync with your poles, you might notice the opposite arm and leg pattern. So, it’ll be like, left pole with right leg and vice versa.
- Plant the pole lightly but you can add a bit of a thrust when going on steep terrains or downhill sections.
- Be extra careful when planting your pole on rocky, loose-sand, or slippery trails.
Should I Use Two Poles or One Pole?
You might have noticed that there are people who use a single pole and there are two who use two poles. So when should you use two poles and when to use one pole?
Most of the time, it is recommended that you use two trekking poles for stability and added support. If you are carrying a heavy backpack, using two poles can help lighten your load as they act as support for your upper body.
If you have an injury or a weak spot on one side of your body, using two poles can also help distribute your weight more evenly and help with your balance.
There are situations where using one pole is better than using two. If you do not have an injury or a weak spot on your body, then there is no need to use two poles. If the trail is mostly level with no obstacles, then a single pole is also fine.
Conclusion: Do I Need Trekking Poles?
Using trekking poles and wearing outfits appropriately can make your hike more enjoyable and safe. They provide support and stability, especially on uneven and slippery terrain. When used properly, they can also help relieve stress on your joints and muscles.
Some use trekking poles only when necessary such as on difficult or slippery trails. Others find that the disadvantages of using trekking poles outweigh the advantages and just avoid using them altogether. It all boils down to personal preferences in the end.