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hiking poles

Many of my friends are reluctant to use hiking poles, so I thought I would state many of the reasons that poles are useful to me.  Do you have any more?  I use them to:

  1. save knees on the downhill
  2. tap upper body strength to save leg muscles on uphills
  3. increase balance during unstable conditions, whether rocky trail or stream crossing
  4. push plants out of the way that I don't want to touch, e.g. poison oak
  5. keep arms moving so that blood doesn't pool in fingers, i.e. reduce hand swelling on long days
  6. plant in front of me as dogs pass, so that dogs can't rub against me---I'm allergic
  7. knock some of the water off plants that hang over the trail after rain--keeps me drier!
  8. help to build emergency shelter, to hold tarps or other
  9. create an emergency splint for arm or leg--can be taped to a limb
  10. use as a drying rod for hand-washed clothes on multi day lodge-to-lodge trips--place fully extended poles in room rafters or between furniture items




5 Replies

I think they are absolutuely  unnessesary and I have backpacked since I was 13. Maybe it was my old school scoutmaster but he wouldn't allow us to even use sticks.  The belief that they also create a false sense of security is pretty strong. 

Maybe in ultra distance races or through hiking I could see it as it can double as tent poles and people in the Leadville 100 use them but I think they are dangerous and not needed.  I think it's cheating a little bit too.


@NWhiker1 -- great list!

I like to use them to knock down any spiderwebs across the trail in the early morning...a big problem here in Okinawa, with massive spiders that love creating massive webs. 

If you carry a small tarp with you, they can be pressed into service as corner supports for a quick rain shelter. 

There are a ton of benefits and few drawbacks to bringing hiking poles. I don't always use them, but when I do, I am glad they're with me. 

Like @bananaface I too was a die-hard traditionalist and viewed trekking poles as weenie gear. As a youth Boy Scout I easily hiked and backpacked without them. But then I got older. I especially agree with @NWhiker1 #1, 3 and 8. Could I have stronger legs and more limber joints? Of course. But having first used trekking poles when I was 46 y.o. with my son on our first Philmont trip made our 90 mi trek much more enjoyable for me. The young'uns bounded along the Tooth of Time ridge like gazelles, but I had to watch my step and not twist an ankle - very thankful for my poles. I'm not overweight, but my knees also always seem to take a pounding on long downhills, esp with a heavy pack. I'm now a trekking pole convert and recommend them. Would definitely add the spider web defense from @Sweet-Tater to your list!

I’m 66 years old and have been using poles for years. I use them both on flat surface walks and mountain hikes. My poles are Leki, I believe. I recommend the model with shock absorbers. Besides giving my arms more of a workout on hikes it really does help save on the knees. Especially downhill. As mentioned, downhill on uneven surfaces can be tricky and I believe I’ve avoided ankle twisting  by using the poles. When walking for exercise on flat surfaces I use the rubber pads designed for that purpose. They look like tire treads. These are used by cross country skiers in the off-season to stay in shape, or so I hear. I use them to help lessen the impact on my knees, I also find walking with them helps elevate my heart rate and burn more calories. 


Great points! I agree with all of them! I am a big fan of trekking poles; they saved me from literally falling off of Mt. Whitney. I stumbled to my knees while descending, and if it weren’t for me having the poles out in front of me to stop my forward momentum, I would have just toppled off the mountain (seriously). Sometimes you be as careful as you can, but accidents will happen and sometimes it’s the gear you choose to bring with you that can mean the difference between enjoying an experience or being miserable; or in the most extreme case, life or death. Everyone has their skillsets and comfort levels for different types of activities, and I don’t think there’s anything such as a ‘false sense of security’ if you are using the gear properly. It’s when you are misusing gear or going out into the wilderness unprepared when you can say that a piece of equipment can give you a false sense of security. For example, solely relying on a GPS device for navigation through the backcountry; that’s using a piece of equipment in a way that will give you a false sense of security since it is a rule of thumb always to carry printed maps in addition to any electronic devices.

So in my case, I would add:

  1. Slow descent to keep from building up too much momentum on the downhill
  2. Self-arrest to keep from falling off a mountain! Smiley Wink (this is a joke, but in my case not)


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