Trekking poles are the Swiss Army knife of hiking gear. They usually come in pairs and are designed to give you extra stability and balance while crossing rough and uneven terrain, but what many people don´t know is that they are useful in lots of other ways!
In this article, we will look into common questions about trekking poles.
- Explaining more about one of the most popular pieces of gear in hiking
- Helping you to choose the perfect setup
- Showing you how to use them.
Let´s Dive in
What Is The Point Of Trekking Poles?
There are many reasons that trekking poles can be helpful whilst out on a hike, here are some of the main reasons:
- Support and Stability: Trekking poles provide additional support, stability, and balance while hiking, particularly on uneven or challenging terrain.
- Reduced Strain: They help distribute the weight and impact of each step, reducing strain on the knees, ankles, and leg muscles, especially when going downhill.
- Fall Prevention: Trekking poles act as extra “legs,” improving balance and preventing falls on slippery or unstable surfaces.
- Rhythm and Cadence: They provide a sense of rhythm and help establish a steady pace during hikes.
- Increased Confidence: Trekking poles offer a sense of security and confidence, particularly on steep ascents or descents.
- Joint Protection: They can alleviate stress on joints, making them beneficial for individuals with knee or joint issues.
- Versatility and Adaptability: Trekking poles are adjustable, allowing hikers to customize their length to suit their height and the terrain they are traversing.
- Multi-Purpose Use: Besides hiking, trekking poles can also be utilized for snowshoeing, backpacking, or other outdoor activities. They can even be used as tent poles or pegs!
Is It Better To Hike With One Or Two Poles?
When it comes to hiking with poles, whether they are trekking poles or walking sticks, the decision of using one or two ultimately depends on personal preference and specific needs.
Using two trekking poles offers increased stability, balance, and symmetry in arm movement. They can be particularly advantageous on challenging terrains or when carrying heavy loads.
On the other hand, hiking with one pole provides more flexibility, allowing for better maneuverability, easier navigation through obstacles, and the option to use your free hand for other tasks. It also reduces weight and saves space.
Ultimately, it’s a matter of preference and finding the approach that feels most comfortable and effective for your hiking style.
Do Trekking Poles Actually Help?
Yes, trekking poles can really help you when hiking.
They provide stability, improve balance, and reduce strain on joints while hiking.
Trekking poles distribute weight, assist in uphill climbs, and control descents, making hiking more comfortable and reducing the risk of slips and falls. They engage the upper body, reducing fatigue and increasing endurance.
What Is The Best Way To Use Trekking Poles?
Trekking poles are very simple to use. 1 simple rule is: If it feels comfortable then you are probably doing it right.
There are however a few tricks and tips to ensure you are getting the best out of your poles.
Here are our favorites:
Proper Length Adjustment
Adjust the length of the poles to fit your bodt and the terrain.
Generally, the ideal length allows your elbow to be at a 90-degree angle when holding the pole with your hand on the grip.
When climbing steep slopes you may want to shorten them a little as the ground will be closer and visa versa for descending.
Grip and Wrist Straps
Hold the pole with a firm but relaxed grip around the handle, ensuring your wrist straps are adjusted to be loose around your wrists.
To enter the wrist straps in the correct way. Simply put the pole upright with the strap hanging and put your hand through the loop to grab the grip.
The straps should loop around your wrists, allowing you to release your grip on the poles without dropping them.
You know you are on the right path if when you try to lift the pole without holding the grip, the strap lifts the pole between your thumb and index finger.
Planting and Swinging Motion
As you walk, plant the poles slightly ahead of you, aiming for a 45-degree angle to the ground. Apply downward pressure on the poles as you push off, engaging your arm and shoulder muscles. Swing your arms naturally in coordination with your stride, ensuring the opposite pole is planted when stepping with each leg.
Shorten the poles and plant them slightly in front of you as you ascend. Use the poles to push yourself upward, providing additional support and propelling your body forward.
Lengthen the poles slightly and plant them in front of you as you descend. This helps with balance and reduces the impact on your joints. Allow the poles to take some weight off your legs as you control your speed and provide stability.
Crossings and Obstacles
In challenging terrains, such as river crossings, ice, or uneven surfaces, use the poles to test stability before stepping. Place the poles diagonally to create a wider base of support.
What´s The Difference Between Hiking Poles And Trekking Poles?
The terms “hiking poles” and “trekking poles” are often used interchangeably, and there is generally no difference between them.
What´s The Difference Between Trekking Poles And Ski Poles?
Trekking poles and ski poles are fairly different in their purpose and design.
Trekking poles provide stability, balance, and support on various terrains. They have adjustable lengths, ergonomic grips, and removable baskets. They can usually be packed up via folding or telescopic rods into a 3rd of their size to be put in a backpack.
Ski poles, on the other hand, are specifically designed for skiing. They assist skiers in propulsion, balance, and maneuvering on the slopes.
Ski poles are longer, sturdier, and made of lightweight yet durable materials. They have comfortable grips, adjustable wrist straps, and larger baskets, often with detachable powder baskets for different snow conditions.
While both poles offer support, trekking poles cater to hiking needs, while ski poles are generally tailored for downhill skiing activities.
Ski tourers or split boarders may use hiking poles for their adventures as the adjustability and packability can be very useful when covering snow-covered mountains.
What´s The Difference Between Trekking Poles And Nordic Walking Poles?
Trekking poles and Nordic walking poles have similar designs but serve different purposes.
Trekking poles are used for hiking, providing stability and support on various terrains. They have adjustable lengths, ergonomic grips, and removable baskets. Nordic walking poles, on the other hand, are designed for a specific walking technique that engages the upper body muscles during Nordic walking.
They have specific wrist straps for pushing motions and are generally shorter in length to accommodate the walking technique.
Do Trekking Poles Help You To Lose Weight?
Trekking poles themselves do not directly contribute to weight loss, but they can indirectly support weight loss efforts.
By engaging the upper body muscles, trekking poles increase energy expenditure, allowing for a longer duration and more intense workout during hiking or trekking. This elevated intensity level can help burn more calories and contribute to weight loss over time.
Additionally, the stability and reduced strain provided by trekking poles make physical activity more enjoyable and comfortable, promoting consistency and motivation in maintaining an active lifestyle.
What Is The Correct Height For A Trekking Pole?
The correct height for a trekking pole is determined by standing upright, bending your elbow at a 90-degree angle, and adjusting the pole until the grip aligns with your wrist.
However, personal preference and terrain should also be considered. Shorten the pole for uphill sections to provide more leverage, and lengthen it for downhill sections to enhance stability.
Once you find that perfect height, remember to take a note or make a mark on the pole so that you know for your next hike.
Are Trekking Poles Allowed On Airplanes As Carry-On Luggage?
The regulations can vary depending on the airline and country but in general, trekking poles are not allowed as carry-on items due to their length and potentially sharp tips.
They may be considered restricted items and could be confiscated by airport security during the security screening process.
It´s best to stick them in your hold luggage or buy/rent a new pair at your destination.
Do Trekking Poles Have A Left And Right?
No, trekking poles do not have a specific left or right designation.
Trekking poles are generally designed to be interchangeable and can be used with either hand. The grip and strap on the pole are typically designed to accommodate a variety of hand sizes and can be adjusted for comfort.
Folding VS Telescopic Trekking Poles
Both options are great for hiking and modern technology has come a long way in making poles lighter and pack smaller than ever before!
Here are a few points in the raging battle between Folding and Telescopic Hiking Poles
- Price: Telescopic win this one, they are generally cheaper as the technology is very simple
- Weight: Folding Poles are usually a bit lighter
- Packability: Folding poles take another win, they pack smaller and will fit into most backpacks. Telecopics often have to go on the outside or stick out the top.
- Availability: Telescopic poles are more available and there is usually more choice of colors and grips etc
- Adjustability: Telescopic generally poles have more adjustability
- Durability: It´s a draw on this one, both are durable. We would say telescopic poles are a bit easier to repair and easier to find parts for.
- Ease of Use: Another draw, both are really easy to erect, pack away, and use
Ultimately, if you are looking for packability and weight, folding poles are amazing, but for price and adjustability, it´s telescopic all the way. We have tested both and honestly don’t have a clear favorite.
Do You Burn More Calories Hiking With Poles?
Yes, using trekking poles while hiking can help you burn more calories compared to hiking without poles.
Trekking poles engage your upper body muscles, adding an additional workout component to your hiking activity. This increased muscle engagement leads to higher energy expenditure, resulting in more calories burned.
By actively using trekking poles, you involve your arms, shoulders, and core muscles in addition to the lower body muscles used during hiking. This simultaneous engagement of both upper and lower body muscle groups increases the overall intensity of your hike, elevating your heart rate and caloric burn.
Furthermore, trekking poles can enhance your hiking performance by providing stability, reducing fatigue, and allowing you to maintain a faster pace or tackle more challenging terrains. These factors can contribute to extended duration and higher-intensity hikes, Increasing calorie expenditure.
Do Trekking Poles Save Your Knees?
Yes, trekking poles can help save your knees by reducing the impact and strain on them during hiking or trekking.
Here are some examples of how trekking poles contribute to knee protection:
Trekking poles help distribute the weight and load more evenly throughout your body.
They do this by engaging your upper body muscles and transferring some of the weight from your legs to your arms and shoulders.
When walking or descending on uneven terrain or hard surfaces, the poles act as shock absorbers. They absorb a portion of the impact and vibrations that would otherwise be absorbed by your knees and joints.
Stability and Balance
Trekking poles provide additional points of contact with the ground, enhancing your stability and balance. This stability helps prevent missteps, slips, or falls that could potentially injure your knees.
Uphill and Downhill Assistance
When hiking uphill, trekking poles provide support and help propel you forward, reducing the strain on your knees as you climb. Similarly, on downhill sections, the poles act as brakes, allowing you to control your descent and minimize the impact on your knees.
Knee Alignment and Posture
The use of trekking poles promotes proper posture and alignment while hiking. By engaging your upper body and encouraging an upright posture, they help maintain proper knee alignment, reducing the risk of knee strain or injury.
Can Trekking Poles Be Effectively Used For Other Activities?
Absolutely! Trekking poles are really useful for a wide range of activities, here are some of the most common:
- Mountaineering and Alpine Climbing
- Trail Running and Ultra Running
- Cross-Country And Alpine Skiing
- Ski Touring
- Orienteering and Geocaching
- Hunting and Wildlife Observation
- Urban Walking and Fitness Walking
- Bushwhacking and Off-Trail Hiking
- Rehabilitation and Mobility Aid
Cork, Foam, Or Rubber Grips – What´s Best?
When it comes to trekking pole grips materials, there are three main contenders: Cork, Foam and Rubber.
All are popular choices and come in a range of widths, lengths, and shapes. But what to choose?
Here is a list of advantages of all types of grips. Helping you to choose what fits your preference best:
- Lightweight: Foam grips are generally lighter in weight compared to cork or rubber grips, making them a popular choice for hikers who prioritize a lightweight gear setup.
- Shock Absorption: Foam grips excel at absorbing shock and vibrations, providing a cushioned feel during hikes. This can be particularly beneficial when traversing rugged or uneven terrains.
- Quick Drying: Foam grips are resistant to moisture and tend to dry quickly. They are less likely to retain water, making them suitable for wet environments or activities that involve water crossings.
- Soft and Cushioned: Foam grips offer a softer and more comfortable feel, which can be appreciated during long hikes or when you prefer a softer touch on your hands.
- Durability: While foam grips are generally durable, they may be more susceptible to wear and tear over time compared to cork or rubber grips. Extensive use or rough handling may cause the foam to deteriorate or tear.
- Grip Maintenance: Foam grips can accumulate dirt, sweat, or oils from your hands more easily. Regular cleaning and maintenance may be required to prevent them from becoming slippery or losing their effectiveness.
- Comfortable Grip: Cork grips tend to mold and conform to the shape of your hand over time, providing a comfortable and ergonomic grip that many hikers find enjoyable.
- Moisture Absorption: Cork has a natural ability to absorb moisture, which can be advantageous in sweaty or wet conditions. It helps maintain a dry grip and prevents hands from slipping.
- Insulation: Cork grips offer better insulation against cold temperatures compared to other materials. They can help keep your hands warmer during chilly hikes.
- Durability: Cork grips are generally more durable and can withstand rough handling and prolonged use. They are less likely to wear out quickly or show signs of wear and tear.
- Heavier: Cork grips tend to be slightly heavier compared to other grip materials, such as foam. This extra weight might be a consideration for hikers who prioritize a lightweight gear setup.
- Limited Moisture Resistance: While cork absorbs moisture, it also means that it can retain some moisture. In very wet conditions, the grip may become damp and take longer to dry compared to grips made of other materials.
- Grip Texture: The texture of cork grips may not be as soft or cushioned as foam grips. Some hikers may find the feel of cork less appealing or slightly rougher on their hands.
- Excellent Grip: Rubber grips provide a firm and reliable grip, even in wet or slippery conditions. They offer a high level of traction, reducing the chances of the poles slipping out of your hands.
- Durable: Rubber grips are known for their durability and resilience. They can withstand rough handling, abrasion, and prolonged use without showing signs of wear and tear.
- Easy to Clean: Rubber grips are generally easy to clean. They can be wiped down with a damp cloth or rinsed off, making maintenance and upkeep a breeze.
- All-Season Performance: Rubber grips perform well in various weather conditions, including cold temperatures. They remain pliable and maintain their grip even in freezing temperatures.
- Less Cushioning: Rubber grips typically offer less cushioning compared to other materials like foam or cork. This may result in slightly less comfort, especially during long hikes or when encountering rough terrain.
- Less Moisture Absorption: Rubber grips do not absorb moisture like cork grips do. While this means they won’t become damp or waterlogged, they may not provide the same level of grip in sweaty or wet conditions.
- Grip Hardness: Some hikers may find rubber grips to be harder and less comfortable compared to softer grip materials like foam. The firmness of rubber may not be as forgiving on the hands during extended use.
Accessories For Trekking Poles
Trekking poles are simple yet effective for so many activities, especially when you make small adaptations to them. There are many accessories out there to slightly change the function of trekking poles, making them ideal for your chosen activity.
Let’s look into some of the most popular accessories available:
Rubber tips are useful accessories that can be added to the ends of trekking poles. They provide better traction and grip on hard surfaces like pavement or rocky terrain, reduce noise, and prevent the poles from sinking too deeply into soft ground.
Snow baskets AKA powder baskets are larger circular attachments that can be added to the trekking pole tips. They are specifically designed for hiking in snowy or soft ground conditions, providing better flotation and preventing the poles from sinking too deep into the snow.
Trekking Pole Caps
Trekking pole caps are protective covers that fit over the trekking pole tips when not in use. They help prevent damage to the pole tips and also protect your gear and other items from being punctured or scratched by the sharp tips.
Some trekking pole models offer camera mounts or adapters that allow you to attach your camera or action camera to the pole, providing stability for capturing steady shots while on the move.
Trekking Pole Carry Bags
Carry bags or stuff sacks designed specifically for trekking poles can help protect the poles during transport and storage. They often feature a drawstring closure and are lightweight and compact for easy packing.
Trekking Pole Straps
Replacement or upgraded wrist straps can be purchased separately. Some straps are padded or adjustable, providing extra comfort and a better fit for your hands and wrists.
Trekking Pole Tips and Carbide Tips
If the tips of your trekking poles become worn out or damaged, replacement tips are available. You can also opt for carbide tips, which provide better traction on rocky surfaces and tend to last longer than standard tips.
Waters Bottle Mounts
There are mounts available for trekking poles that allow you to carry water. These usually connect to the handle and are useful but do add a lot of weight.
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