Why do hikers carry sticks?

Why Do Hikers Carry Sticks? 7 Reasons Why Trekking Poles Are Useful

Why Do Hikers Carry Sticks?

The main reason that hikers carry sticks is to give themselves maximum grip and balance whilst walking across rough or uneven terrain. There are however many other instances that hiking poles can be useful whilst out on a hike.

From modern lightweight carbon poles to a simple stick that has been picked up in the forest.  Carrying handheld aids whilst out hiking is not just a fashion statement and can help hikers in a large range of circumstances.

If you are new to hiking or have noticed hikers carrying trekking poles out on a walk. You may have wondered if you could benefit from buying yourself a set.  In this article, we look at why hiking poles (AKA trekking poles, walking sticks, walking poles) can be useful and why you might want some for your next adventure. Let’s dive in! 




1. Hiking/Trekking Poles Offer Stability Over Uneven and Slippy Terrain


The condition of natural hiking trails can be very changeable.  When out in the wild, Mother Nature always has the last word, but that’s one of the many reasons that we love hiking!

Factors such as weather, wild animals, and changing seasons can cause trails to change by the hour,. This can keep a hiker on their toes whilst out on their adventure (excuse the pun). The challenges that are overcome can sometimes be the highlights of the hike, but staying safe when out in the wild is of peak importance. Carrying hiking poles on your person can come in very handy in a huge variety of circumstances.




Along with some good footwear. Hiking/trekking poles bring some extra safety to a hike as they add more points of contact with the ground. This increases a hiker’s balance on uneven or slippy terrain.  When used correctly they can vastly improve balance and reduce the chances of a slip, trip, or fall. They also keep a hiker from having to grip branches or rocks whilst trying to clamber over objects or difficult sections of the trail.

The poles can also be used to check factors such as the depth of puddles, streams, rivers, or mud.

Modern hiking poles are usually telescopic. They are made of extremely light material and most hiking backpacks have special attachments to carry the poles when not in use.


2. Hiking/Trekking Poles Take Some Strain From Your Legs


Hiking poles activate the upper body muscles and can assist the legs on a hike.

Ascending, descending, and moving across uneven, undulating pathways can be very hard on your leg muscles. Without the assistance of poles, they are left to do all the work themselves which over time can lead to unwanted fatigue.

Once a hiker’s legs are fatigued, they are at risk of injury as strength is lost which is important for balance.

Hiking/trekking poles allow hikers to use their upper body whilst walking. Sharing the physical load with the legs and allowing a hiker to walk safely for longer periods of time. This will reduce fatigue.

This upper-body movement can also make for a fantastic workout!

3. Hiking/Trekking Poles Are Great For Clearing Trail Debris


It is not uncommon for trees, sticks, leaves, rocks, and vegetation to fall or grow across a trail. This can make the trail unsafe for hikers to pass, anyone who had had a low-hanging stick to the face or gone over their ankle on a loose rock will testify to this!

Carrying a hiking pole can be ideal for walkers to safely clear such blockages. Using a pole can reduce the risk of potential cutting or stinging injuries on a sharp thorn or nettle, or getting bitten by wildlife hiding in the obstruction.

Some poles even come with small tools such as knives and small saws. these can be used to clear debris and make safe passage for others





4. Hiking/Trekking Poles Can Be Used To Assist Other Hikers


When crossing rivers, climbing up hard sections of the trail, or even just lending out to tired members of the group, trekking poles can be a very useful tool when it comes to assisting other hikers.

Hikers can assist their friends or partners by holding out their poles. The poles can be grabbed to assist hikers over obstacles such as large steps or loose sections of the trail. It has also been known for hikers to make a chain by holding each other’s poles in adverse weather conditions or darkness to ensure that the group stays together.

Trekking poles also make fantastic pointers! They are often used to warn others of dangerous sections of trail, flowers & fauna, distant wildlife, or just animal poop. The end of the pole can also be used to draw arrows in the soil, or rocks. Guiding those lagging behind in the direction to take.





5. Hiking/Trekking Poles Can Scare Away Predators


In the unlikely event of coming across some dangerous wildlife. Hiking/trekking poles can be waved around or tapped together to make the hiker seem bigger and scarier. This can be enough to scare some predators off. If the s*#t really hits the fan, the sharp ends of the poles can be used as a spear and a form of self-defense.

Most dangerous wildlife such as snakes, bears, and wild boars will actively try to avoid humans, only attacking when taken by surprise. The gentle tapping of the poles on the ground as a hiker walks along has been known to warn wildlife of human presence. Allowing them to make an exit before any issue may arise.

Trekking poles are also a great way to safely destroy poisonous plants, spider webs, and their potentially venomous occupants.

6. Hiking/Trekking Poles Can Be Helpful In An Emergency


In many recorded incidents trekking poles have been helpful in emergency situations. They can be used as crutches for sprained ankles or in serious cases, a splint to stabilize injured hikers. Assisting them back to safety when they have broken bones. Some sturdy trekking poles and a coat can even be fashioned into a stretcher or a makeshift tent. This can offer warmth from the elements whilst waiting for emergency services.

7. Hiking/Trekking Poles Make you Hike Faster


With arms and legs working together and with confidence in foot placement, trekking poles allow hikers to move quickly across rough ground. This optimizes their energy which also allows them to go further.

It is no wonder that this simple invention is an extremely popular choice for competitive hikers, trail runners, and skiers alike.





The History Of Hiking/ Trekking Poles

Hikers and walkers have been using sticks to help them cover ground since before records began. Although technology has come on a long way since the Romans conquered Europe and the first person walked the Appalachian trail, the principles of this simple invention remain the same.

Although the use of walking sticks has been noted since records began. The use of 2-sticks and the invention of modern trekking poles was not introduced until the late 1970s by Scandinavians. Looking for a way in which they could train for Nordic Skiing competitions in the summer off-season they took skiing poles out on speed hikes. They soon found the poles helped them walk quickly and safely. Working similar muscles required for Nordic Skiing. Eventually coining a new sport -“Nordic Walking”

Once introduced to the sports market these poles were quickly adopted by hikers. Further developing them to suit their requirements. Lighting poles with new materials and making them telescopic for easy transport and ease of packing when not in use.


Other Helpful Articles

If you found this article helpful you will love these too!

What Is The Best Season For Hiking (Explained)

Not Just For Mountains! 14 Every Day Uses for Hiking Boots

Can Hiking Boots Be Stretched? How and Why? (Explained)

Written With Help From

Engineered For Adventure

YMCA Rockies