You’ve have probably wondered and seen people using these things, walking with “hiking poles” or “trekking poles” through the mountains or hiking trail. What are they for? They are trekking poles and they add support, stability and speed to your hiking. Lets see how below.
So what are trekking poles? Trekking poles are essentially a modern version of the traditional walking stick. Hiking poles are either telescoping, folding or collapsible. Collapsible poles lack adjustable lengths, but they are often lighter than their telescoping counterparts. Collapsible poles either use twisting locks or flip locks. Flip locks are preferred by most pros as they are more secure. Folding poles fold, hence the name. They usually fold into three sections and are very easy to travel with and carry. Telescoping poles offer adjustable lengths, which is useful when climbing or descending (which is all the time). Some poles feature built-in shock absorbers. Those don’t really help a lot and they tend to add extra weight and mechanical parts – just more pieces to break.
Trekking poles are usually made from either carbon fiber or aluminum with rubber, cork handles or EVA foam. Aluminum poles are sturdier than carbon fiber ones, but they’re also heavier. Carbon fiber poles are stronger and lighter than aluminum poles, but they’re more expensive and have a tendency to break more easily. Rubber handles are more durable than cork ones, but they’re not as comfortable as cork hand or EVA foam. Cork handles and EVA foam handles mold to your hands.
Many trekking pole brands, such as Montem, Leki and Black Diamond, offer accessories and replacements such as snow baskets and mud baskets (the parts that prevents the pole from stabbing too far into snow or soft ground) – there are small round baskets for general hiking, or much larger ones for snowshoeing and skiing.
Why do people like using trekking poles? Trekking poles provide stability when walking or traveling over rough or uneven terrain. Trekking poles can also act as extra legs and can make large rocks, tree trunks, or any other obstacles easier to navigate. They provide extra points of contact when crossing rivers or streams, allowing for more confident foot placement. If you have a misstep on your hike your trekking poles will be there to make sure you don’t fall.
Trekking poles help distribute weight from your legs to your arms, making heavy loads easier to haul.
Trekking poles can be used to pitch lightweight shelters. Shelter pitches using trekking poles instead of tent poles is a great idea if you don’t have the space to carry both. Trekking poles are stronger than tent poles; since you’re already carrying them you don’t have any added weight from tent poles.
Trekking poles can help you hike faster: Trekking poles help you create rhythm while hiking by allowing your hands to move in tandem with your feet. With each swing, your arms push back on the ground, propelling you forward with every step.
The cheap aluminum ones will get the job done, but they’re relatively heavy and the hard plastic grips are uncomfortable. The carbon fiber shafts are lightweight and strong. The cork grips have perfectly molded to fit my hands after hundreds of miles of trekking. Holding them feels like wearing a good, broken-in glove — an important factor when considering that I hold them for hours every day.