Anybody hike with trekking poles?

I went hiking in the mountains yesterday (had a snowball fight with my son at about 12,500 feet) and noticed that a preponderance of the hikers, no matter their age, had walking sticks of one sort or another. A lot of them had what looked like ski poles. That’s right–two of them.

I did a bit of googling when I got home and learned that these are known as “trekking poles” and that the standard thing is to use two of them rather than just one.

Now I have encountered walking sticks on the trails before but I really haven’t done a lot of hiking for the last few years so apparently I’ve missed out. And it used to be only older hikers I saw with these things.

So, if anybody’s used them I’d like to know if they help. I believe I now qualify as an older hiker myself so I’m entitled, but I’m wondering if there is a down side, other than just having to carry them.

Yup, I carry them on pretty much all my hikes, and I hike nearly every weekend. I sometimes bring one, sometimes two, it depends on the terrain. And I just call them ski poles. :slight_smile:

They can be very useful for balance with an overnight pack, they are great for stream crossings, but their main use is to take a load off your legs, especially knees, on long descents. I find my knees feel better after I use them.

You don’t need to buy anything fancy, any old ski pole will do. I have a pair of collapsables because in the rough terrain of the Northeast I frequently need to stow the poles on my pack when scrambling. Try them and you may find that you really like them. But others use a single wooden hiking staff, or just a stick found in the woods and are fine with that. There’s no single right answer.

What Telemark said plus many more benefits. They can save you from a fall coming down difficult steep trails or where there are a lot of loose rocks. They help in building upper body stength. They are helpful in pushing aside branches, cactus pads and other obstructions.

They help in nudging a snake in the trail who does not want to move and in AZ I’ve done that a lot.

They might even help in thwarting a charging mountain lion, who knows? :smiley:

They will definitely help prevent knee injuries when descending steep tricky terrain or crossing streams, as well as assisting in ascents of difficult slopes.

I agree tht any old pair of ski poles will work, but if you do a lot of hiking/climbing, it is worth getting a good pair of trekking poles, even if they are way too expensive. The are adjustable in length (shorter for climbing up, longer for going down), have good wrist straps, so you won’t lose one if it drops, and have removable “baskets” for use in snow. The good ones have titanium or other strong tips that never wear out. It’s a good investment.

I’ve been backpacking, hiking and climbing for more than 50 years and never used them much until the past ten years or so, and now realiaze how valuable and helpful they are.

Ditto what others said. I have a set of the collapsible Leki trekking poles and love 'em. They telescope for easy storage, they are lightweight, I have large baskets for when I go snowshoeing and snowcamping. Great on both up and downhills, have saved me a nasty slip (and potential twisted ankle) a few times, keep your arms in action and your hands from dangling at your sides (which always gives me stiff fingers after a long hike), etc. Can’t say enough about them.

If you want to see the benefits, get a pair of cheap aluminum ski poles or a couple hunks of broomstick at the local hardware store (which you can burn for heat in an emergency and not a big deal if you lose one off the side of a cliff).

I don’t use them. I like to keep my hands free.

For taking weight off your legs, the paired trekking poles might well be superior, but for either of those two uses? I’ll stick with six feet of good, solid oak, thank you, rather than a couple of short little aluminum or composite things.

I like to use my kid’s old hockey stick shafts…especially the Kevlar shafts that are very lightweight and extremely durable. I even re-tape the handle for a nice comfortable grasp. Got about quite a few of them over the years.

Yep, and you’re welcome to schlep that 6 feet of good solid oak up and down mountains. I don’t mind. But I’ve encountered a lot more steep trails than snakes or bob cats, so I’ll stick with the light aluminium, thanks.

I’m pretty sure my walking stick has saved me from at least a couple of nasty ankle injuries over the years. The White Mountains are steep and slippery and it’s good to have a third support when plunging down a trail in the gathering gloom at the end of a day. Very useful for crossing streams on slippery logs or rocks.

Also makes a handy monopod for the camera.

Apart from the uses mentioned above in walking downhill, over slippery stones etc. I have found hiking poles very useful in the following situations (I don’t hike in real wilderness (we don’t have any in Germany) just in the Swabian Jura/Black Forest hills)

  • long ascending paths up hills where without poles I’d have to resort to take one step to a stable point, step up pulling the other leg after me, repeat - with poles I can walk continuously, putting one foot before the other and getting up the hillside much quicker.

  • walking down a leaf covered path in autumn, when has rained the days before - without poles I’d have to progress in steps of a few centimeters (or land on my posterior every few meters); with poles I can walk down at a fairly normal speed.

In fact, I did take it with me up and down a mountain last week. Admittedly I got awfully tired, but I think that probably has more to do with me being just plain out of shape. And we didn’t meet any snakes or mountain lions, either (nor bears nor wolves nor…) The main reason I prefer a wooden staff is that you can’t carve the high-tech ones like you can with wood.

Once you get the hang of them they’re very natural, and if you doubt how much load they take off your knees, make yoru first hike an ambitious one, and see how you arms feel the next day

Nope. I have never had any need for them. I’ve trekked all over the country without them, and I’m happy. If they float your boat, though, hey. :shrug:

I use them as well. I like them because I can get my upper body into the action. They do help some in balance, but what I particularly like is that they give me something extra that involves my whole body in the walking experience. The feel and experience is different from using a single walking stick.

I have seen people use old ski poles, which is fine, but the Leki poles I have do better when you don’t have gloves on.

I’ve been using them all my life, wouldn’t hike without them!
Some things that haven’t been covered,

The way to measure for the minimum length is to play with a broomstick. Your elbow should be naturally bent, your forearm should be roughly parallel to the ground, and there should be no tension in your wrist. Measure the distance from top of your hand to the floor (usually you need centimeters :().
Too short a pole will straighten your arm and flex your wrist.
Try to get a pole(s) longer than you need, both for adjusting for hills and for “baskets” (you’ll lose a couple of inches before the basket hits the ground).

There’s 3 basic styles of handle,
straight (like a ski pole)
multi-grip (like a cane)
knob (like a ball at the end of the pole)

With an adjustable pole, the cane & ball style have a couple of big advantages.
You can change the way you hold the pole, long with your arm at a right angle to it like a ski pole or, short with your arm in line with it like a cane.
If your wearin’ a backpack you can put a split-ring (larger than the shaft, smaller than the handle) on the bottom of the shoulder strap and stow your pole like cops carry their nightsticks.
You can buy/make a pole bag for straight handles when you don’t need them.
Wrist straps are a must, they let you drop the pole(s) and use your hands, without losing them. Properly adjusted they also let you have a looser grip on the handle while keeping it in your hand.

The business end
Look for carbide tips, my Leki Lightwalk is 20+ years old, and the carbide looks the same as the day I bought it!
Rubber tip covers are also nice to have, better on rock and paved trails.
Baskets ain’t just for snow, there great in spring when the trails are muddy, and for crossing streams.

Something clever
A couple of yards of cord, a rain poncho, and 1 or 2 poles make an emergency shelter that can be put up anywhere.

CMC fnord!

Great, thanks for all the info. I think I want some of these. They go on the list after new boots.