Hiking Gear Guide
Trekking Poles

Trekking Poles

Glad I have my trekking pole for this crossing!
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I enjoy breaking my leg or twisting an ankle when out hiking. Don't you?

Well, if you don't, then I would strongly consider investing in something that is aghast to many hikers - a trekking pole, also known as a hiking staff.

A hiking staff or trekking pole is, to many hikers (including me), an indispensable piece of equipment. Other hikers think trekking poles are just an irritation and yet another thing to carry around (or as one old Montana hiker put it, something yuppies use) - even though they've never used them before. Whether a hiking staff or a trekking pole is an irritation or a benefit really depends on your personality and what types of hiking you enjoy doing.

For me, at least, a trekking pole is indispensable. Once I started using one, I feel awkward now hiking without one. I like them so much, in fact, that on even short day hikes I take mine with me. Basically, I think for most hikers, that once you start using one, you will quickly see the benefits of using a hiking staff and will always take it with you from there on out.

Trekking Poles - What to Get and Where to Get It

Benefits of Trekking Poles & Hiking Staffs

A hiking staff provides many, many benefits for the hiker who can get over the initial stigma about hiking with them. Benefits of hiking staffs and trekking poles include:

Pacing - There is no better way to pace yourself, especially when climbing uphill, than with a trekking pole or hiking staff. A trekking pole will easily allow you to set and maintain a nice, steady pace. As a result, I've found I can cover greater distances and am less tired on my hikes due to the steady pace I set when I hike.

River Crossings - Ever crossed a river carrying a backpack on slippery rocks or over fallen logs? It's a dicey situation, especially if you have a heavy pack. A trekking pole, in these types of situations, acts as a "third leg", allowing substantially improved balance. Instead of being precariously balanced on one leg during crossings, you now have two legs, so to speak, to safely balance on.

Off Trail - When heading off trail, a trekking pole or hiking staff always comes in handy. When hiking off trail, you frequently end up clamoring over downed timber, traversing rock gardens and pounding through dense brush. A hiking staff gives you substantially better balance when going over hazards such as rock gardens and downed timber, and works as a nice club to beat away thick timber.

Safety - A hiking staff acts as a third leg, helping you keep your balance over numerous on-trail and off-trail obstacles. I can verifiably say that my own hiking staff has prevented many fall-downs, sprained ankles and one potentially sprained knee. A hiking staff, due to its better balance it provides the hiker, reduces the possibilities of injuries due to falls, bad steps and sometimes bad judgment!

Weight - Hiking staffs are light, very light, but still they do weigh something. However, the small extra weight gained by carrying a hiking staff is completely offset by the reduction in weight on your feet and legs. It is estimated that a hiking staff can reduce by up to 15% the total load on your feet, since part of your weight is transferred to the trekking pole instead of your feet. When going steeply uphill, this percentage can rise even further. In short, using a hiking staff adds a few ounces in total weight to your backpacking outfit but reduces substantially the load actually carried on your feet - something that is very noticeable on long hikes.


In summary, I highly recommend that any hiker who hikes outside of their local park use a hiking staff of trekking pole. They have numerous benefits, and always seem to have other strange uses around the camp. Best of all, the new trekking poles are extremely light and collapse down into a pole scarcely a foot long when not in use - allowing them to be tucked away in any backpack when you don't need them. So, if you plan on hiking in the mountains somewhere, do yourself a favor and get yourself a hiking staff or trekking pole. If you're like most people who have finally gotten around to trying one, you'll soon wonder how you hiked so many miles without one.

Trekking Poles - What to Get and Where to Get It

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