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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.

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Comments

  • Asfandyar
    Asfandyar Saturday, 27 July 2013

    I've never used hiking poles before. This is a good piece on hiking poles. However, I am good without them .

  • Scott
    Scott Saturday, 27 July 2013

    I agree with Asfandyar, I will be fine without them poles as well !

  • Guest
    Jomas Tuesday, 30 July 2013

    I used to laugh at people who used poles. 20 years and two knee surgeries later, I would not be able to hike any steep downhill without them.

  • Guest
    Dan Tuesday, 30 July 2013

    Trekking Poles are for me one of the essentials especially if you are carrying a load. The benefits include the above plus they can increase your hiking efficiency especially when climbing significantly. One thing to note: Shorten the poles when climbing and lengthen them with ascending. Poles have also saved me when I had snow slide out from under me and was able to use them to self arrest like you would with an ice axe. Cheap poles are just that. It is worth it to pay a little more for more secure and light weight poles.

  • Asfandyar
    Asfandyar Thursday, 29 August 2013

    Good comments Dan. I will give them a shot next time I go hiking, any specific brand people prefer on here?

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Guest Monday, 22 May 2017