The Pros and Cons of Hiking with Trekking Poles


Pros and Cons of Hiking with Trekking Poles

If you hike often, you might see some hikers using trekking poles. Basically, trekking poles are the lightweight and durable alternative to the good, old walking stick. The hiking community is split on the need for trekking poles; the decision truly depends on the hiker. However, I must say that I love my trekking poles and I do believe my poles make me a more efficient hiker. In my eyes, trekking poles are my second pair of legs.Like every great discussion, there are pros and cons regarding the subject. Check out the lists below to determine if hiking with trekking poles is right for you.summit of mt.moosilauke with trekking poles.jpg

Cons of Trekking Poles

First, let’s tackle the disadvantages of trekking poles.

  • Expensive
    • Like every great piece of hiking gear, trekking poles can be a bit pricey. There are always low-end options for budget hikers but don’t expect the best quality. If you are an occasional hiker, however, poles with a low price tag will do just fine.
  • Extra weight
    • According to my minimalist and ultralight backpacker friends, trekking poles are just additional weight to carry. This is nothing but the truth. However, if you are still interested in poles but are worried about extra weight, there are great lightweight trekking poles on the market.
  • Can leave a trace on the trail
    • Leave No Trace policies are very important and trekking poles can put unnecessary holes in the soil and scratches on rocks in which do leave a trace. If you are interested in trekking poles but are concerned about the trail damage by using them, consider investing in plastic tips and baskets to put on your poles.
  • Can get in the way during scrambling/climbing
    • If you are hiking on a difficult trail that requires the use of your arms and hands to climb, then trekking poles could really get in your way. However, invest in trekking poles with straps.

    poles on my pack

climbing rocks with ploes

I occasionally ditch my poles when things get tough but most of the time I hold them around my wrists by the straps.

 

  • “Poles are a hindrance” (you don’t know trekking pole technique)
    • This isn’t technically a con of trekking poles but I hear many hikers say they dislike trekking poles because they are “pointless” but this just means you don’t know proper technique. You might have tried them out for a day hike or on one multi-day trek. Believe it or not, there is a technique when it comes to using trekking poles. They assist in uphill, flat, and downhill trails and the strap is a handy tool when used properly. Some technique will be explained below but check out this source for a full explanation of how to hike with trekking poles on various terrain.
    hiking with trekking poles

    As you can see, my hands are through the straps that are attached to my trekking poles. The straps are a great way to load weight on the poles without having to grip the pole.

Pros of Trekking Poles

Now that we have discussed the cons of trekking poles, its time for the pros.

  • Double as tent poles
    • Now, this an overlooked pro of trekking poles but they can double as tent poles for certain tents. If you are a lightweight hiker, consider purchasing a tent that uses your trekking sticks as the tent’s poles.
  • Blood circulation is improved
    • By utilizing your arms, the use of trekking poles improves blood circulation. If you don’t use poles, have you ever noticed hand swelling while hiking with a full pack? Using poles will reduce that swelling by keeping blood circulating in your arms.
  • Reduce the impact on knee and ankle joints and leg muscles
    • If you have sensitive knee or ankle joints, then you could greatly benefit from using trekking poles while hiking. If used correctly, trekking poles reduce the impact on joints and leg muscles.
  • Extra help on uphills
    • Probably the most common pro of using trekking poles is the poles’ aid while hiking uphill. By putting weight on the pole while trekking uphill, there is less strain on your legs. Shorten your poles so you can load on your poles more efficiently when they are planted up high.
    using poles to hike uphill

    Leading with one pole and pushing back on the other pole while hiking uphill.

  • Reduces impact on downhills
    • Beginners using trekking poles will sometimes find them pointless on downhills. However, if you use the poles to soften the blow on your legs, your joints will thank you. Lead with your poles. Put your poles down first and then walk down. Extend your poles longer so there is less need for you to bend down to plant your pole downhill.hiking downhill with ploes

     

  • Helps you accelerate on straight paths
    • Instead of leading with your poles in front of you, try using the poles at an angle behind you while walking on flat paths. This will give you a little push and make you a quicker hiker.
  • Aid in balance
    • Trekking poles are great as a balance aid when the terrain gets a little rough. If you are walking through a boulder field or snow field or swampy area, you can rely on your trekking poles to stay steady. Also, trekking poles are great tools to have while crossing rivers.
    snow hiking with poles

    Depending on where you are hiking, snow can be a real reality in any season. We didn’t have crampons for this hike but were glad that we had our poles to use as an aid for balance because this melting snow sure is slippery!

    crossing stream using hiking poles

  • Can aid in first aid as stabilization
    • If you or your hiking partner endures a serious injury while out on the trail, a trekking pole (or part of one) can aid in stabilizing a broken or injured arm or leg or even back.

Trekking poles are becoming more popular on the trail because of the increase in gear companies and gear technology. I’m definitely a fan of hiking poles but I know that they aren’t for everybody. No matter if you decide to hold two, one, or none, don’t dismiss poles until you try them and you try them with correct technique. Happy Trails!

View best deals on Trekking Poles or folding hiking poles

Do you use trekking poles while out on the trail? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

Madison Dragna

Madison is a long distance hiker and devoted yogi. She completed the Appalachian Trail in 2013 and Corsica's treacherous GR 20 in 2014. When she's not traveling, she enjoys life as a freelance writer in Fort Collins, Colorado.
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