Hiking Poles: Are They Worth the Expense?
During a weekend hiking trip in college, an old man I met on a trail near Carter Caves, Kentucky gave me my first hiking staff, a length of branch he had carved by hand. It is beautiful and currently leans by our fireplace. But I have never used it.
Hiking canes, sticks, poles (whatever you call them) have always seemed awkward and unnecessary to me. Lately, however, after reading about the numerous benefits of hiking poles, I’ve begun to think they’re not such a bad idea after all, especially for people who hike a lot.
Of course, good hiking poles have to be durable and sturdy and of an appropriate length for the user. They should also be shock absorbent as well as lightweight. And in my opinion, they should be reasonably priced as well. (If your hiking poles cost so much you fret about scratching them or getting them dirty, they’re probably not worth buying!)
And, of course, once you get them, you must use your hiking poles correctly in order to reap their benefits, which, according to various sources,are primarily twofold.
Hiking poles take the load off
As you walk, hiking poles take some of the stress and weight off your legs, particularly your knees. They’re especially helpful for this on a steep downhill hike, when the force of impact as you hit the ground can be quite jarring to your joints—even with good hiking socks and boots.
During a steep uphill climb, hiking poles shift the weight from your lower body to your upper body, giving you more staying power for the journey.
Hiking help you balance
Hiking poles also improve your stability, giving you support and improving your balance when you’re hiking over rough terrain. Slippery rocks along the lake shore, icy patches, snowy banks, rocky streams all become a little less dangerous when you’re using hiking poles.
Hiking poles have additional benefits
You can also use hiking poles to beat back brush, vines, and limbs along the trail. And if you’re unsure of the terrain ahead, you can use your poles to probe the ground for holes and soft spots that could cause a nasty fall, a sprain or even broken bones.
Recently, I bought a pair of lightweight hiking poles with cork grips from Cabela’s and am looking forward to using them when we hike by the lake this weekend. If all goes as promised, the poles should make the trip easier, safer and more enjoyable.