While trekking poles are not mandatory equipment to have with you, many hikers have made them part of their standard practice due to their several benefits.
Trekking poles can be used in a lot of different circumstances, but their primary purpose is to add stability to the hiker. They are not essential for all, but the people that use them can assure you that they play a big part in the quality of their hikes.
Perhaps, once you use a pair, you might not be able to hike again without them. Let’s take a look at how to use a trekking pole effectively and why they are important.
When to Use Trekking Poles
Trekking poles give balance to a hiker, so the best use for them is on anomalous surfaces and uneven terrain, like country roads, mountain trails, hills, etc. These hiking poles are extremely helpful if you are hiking through a trail in the woods. The trekking pole can help you overcome obstacles or more challenging weather conditions, maintaining your stability no matter the situation.
For example, it is much easier to go over or maneuver around obstacles that happen to be on your path, like large rocks and logs, mud, and puddles. Moreover, they are very handy when crossing a river.
Usually, river’s bottom is covered with rocks, which makes it slippery once you add in the river’s current. Ultimately these together make it is easy for a hiker to lose their balance. The trekking poles allow you to cross the river easily by standing stable on the ground, withstanding the river’s current.
Moreover, their adjustable height also allows you to cross rivers of various depths. Another helpful way to use trekking poles in a river is to use them for extra stability to jump from one rock onto the next without having to set foot into the water.
Trekking poles are beneficial when ascending or descending a rocky mountain or a steep hill. On your way up, the trekking poles can help you pull yourself up by planting them on the ground and pushing them downwards. On your way down, they help you slow your descent by setting you deeper onto the ground and giving you a steadier step to move ahead.
Trekking Poles vs Nordic Walking Poles
You should note that trekking poles are not the same as Nordic walking poles. Nordic walking poles are meant to be used on even surfaces, like roads, sidewalks, and for recreational purposes—not rough terrain.
Their main difference is that while trekking poles support a hiker, adding better balance and saving energy. However, Nordic walking poles add an extra level of difficulty to the user because it helps to burn extra calories.
Nordic walking poles would not be a good fit for a hiker because they lack the rubber tips found in trekking poles. What’s more, these can easily slide on uneven terrain.
The Benefits of Using Trekking Poles
There are a lot of benefits to using trekking poles. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Maintain Better Balance on Uneven Terrain
The primary benefit that one gets with a pair of trekking poles is better balance. They provide you with much better support, which you would not have otherwise. Also, they improve your hiking pace, allowing you to move faster than usual.
They Take the Stress Out of Your Lower Body
One of the main benefits of trekking poles is that they distribute the impact of your weight through your movement, from the lower body to your arms. They relieve some of the pressure off of your knees, minimizing the expected pain that hikers feel in their joints after a long hike.
Help You Hike in Various Terrains
Trekking poles make it easier to hike on terrain that would otherwise be more challenging. They better your form, speed, and durability in environments that usually require more out of you. They can also be adapted to several environments thanks to the adjustments on the poles themselves and the grips.
Prevent Hands From Swelling
Even though you apply more pressure to your hands, your action with the trekking poles keeps your hands from swelling. Thus, allowing you to have better circulation in that area of your body. Moreover, trekking poles are very lightweight, so they still do not overtire your hands.
How to Use Trekking Poles
When using the trekking poles, keep your grip relaxed. Use just your thumb and index finger to move the pole back and forth in your hand. The more you get used to this movement, the less effort you exert as it becomes muscle memory to you.
If you learn how to hold them properly, then you will be able to better move with them. All in all, you avoid injuries or swelling in your hands and fingers. Also, make sure to hold the poles by your side.
Then adjust the pole length according to your body. Most are adjustable poles, but some still have fixed height. People over six feet tall should get a pole length of at least 50 inches. The height of your trekking poles must be at a point where your elbows are at a 90-degree angle.
Now that you have established the pole length and grip, it is time to learn how to synchronize your movement with them. To learn how to use trekking poles correctly, imagine them like an extension of your body.
Naturally swinging one trekking pole forward while the opposite leg does the same. Right arm and the left leg goes forward, repeat with left arm, and right leg. While this may seem awkward, moving your limbs along in an opposite arm/leg motion, this takes practice before it feels natural.
To perform the correct movement, you need to keep your elbows to your sides and push the opposite hand to the leg that makes the first step forward. If you require even more extra support in your hike, you can also try to use both poles simultaneously. Place both poles forward and push backward to propel you in the front.
As you move, the tips of the poles should lightly touch the ground close to where your back foot is. Do not try to plant the poles’ tips into the ground to propel yourself forward, as your movement will be more forced than natural.
Make sure your elbow is angled, and maintain a loose grip on the handle so that your movements are natural. All of these together allow for better blood circulation into your hands.
Choosing the Right Trekking Pole
Finally, follow these steps when choosing the best trekking pole or hiking staff.
- Choose between a single pole or double pole hiking staff
- Find the right length—adjustable poles or telescoping poles are good choices
- Choose features you want, such as adjustability, foldability, foam grip, and a locking mechanism for adjustable poles
- Follow our tips above for using trekking poles correctly, especially on rough terrain.
With the right trekking pole or walking staff, you can traverse rough terrain more easily while keeping better balance, even during uphill climbs. They are definitely something to consider adding to your other hiking gear.
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