I haven’t always used trekking poles. Like a lot of people, I thought they were only for people without good balance or those that were, in general, fairly inactive. Boy, was I wrong! The first time I used them was on a 17-mile trek in the Grand Canyon. As many of you know, it is essentially 5,000 feet down and then 5,000 feet up. Everything that I read said that I would be foolish not to bring poles. They were right. It made the hike much less taxing on my legs. Once I got comfortable with a rhythm, I can honestly say they became an extension of my steps. I have pretty lousy ankles and a number of times when the ground was uneven the poles saved me from an ankle turn. Now, all of the benefits of trekking poles with a light pack are amplified with a 40 pound pack. When you decide to zig and your pack decides to zag, a pole can be the difference between a slight stumble or a face-plant disaster.
There are a lot of great hiking poles on the market. When you are looking to buy new trekking poles, these are a few things to look for:
Comfort – Make sure the handles and straps fit comfortably. If the fit isn’t great, you just won’t use them.
Good, sturdy adjustment mechanisms – You want something that is fairly easy to adjust and doesn’t slide or collapse with use. There is nothing more annoying than having to stop and readjust your poles all the time because they keep getting shorter.
Packability – I tend to like something that compacts down pretty small because it stores in my pack well and I can easily fit it in my carry-on if I am travelling somewhere and plan to get out and do a little hiking. This is strictly personal preference. I know a lot of people that forgo the more compact poles for ones that have a greater range of extension in the event they want to use them in conjunction with a light shelter.
Durability – Check out the reviews on-line and stick with brands that are known to withstand substantial wear and tear. Black Diamond and Leki are a couple of examples.
Trekking Poles have improved my hiking distance with less fatigue and soreness afterwards. But don’t take my word for it. Give them a try and your body will thank you.
by Pat Wiederhold