Trekking poles have become extremely common among people who are enjoying walking or hiking at a faster pace. This is because of their excellent utility, and the fact that they can provide incredible support to your muscles and the lumbar spine.
However, some people don’t use trekking poles, and there are even those who advocate against the use of them for some ethical reasons.
Hiking is an engaging and enjoyable hobby that may outdoor enthusiasts do to enjoy the warm or cold climate while climbing a hill or going deep into the woods. The activity is done by groups or individuals in the day or night time. Some trekkers like camping out and carry camping gear in their backpacks. There are also hikers who enjoy trekking the snow and ski.
Thus, we will talk about when you should and shouldn’t use these helpful tools, and determine whether are trekking poles necessary or not if you decide to become a regular hiker.
What Are Trekking Poles?
Trekking poles are the evolved form of walking sticks, and they have undergone many upgrades as the humankind progressed. Throughout history, they were known to be used by ancient humans to help them walk vast distances when discovering new territories or looking for resources like water, food, and shelter.
At first, they were made out of wood, but for increased durability and stability, some civilizations started casting metal walking sticks. This practice has proven extremely useful, and over time people experimented with and combining different materials with the goal of creating the perfect support tool for hiking.
At this time and age, trekking poles are made out of either aluminum or carbon fiber, and they have a wide variety of additional features. Some of them include wrist straps for better stability, different endings for various terrain types, and ergonomic handles that make holding them for extended periods much less uncomfortable.
Depending on the way you’re planning to hike, and mainly if you want to implement some of the walking techniques, you might need a pair of trekking poles.
Why Use a Hiking Pole? Are Trekking Poles Really Necessary?
There are two primary cases when you should definitely have a trekking pole in your “arsenal” as they can prove very beneficial, and improve your overall hiking experience by a lot.
The first one is when you’re traversing hard types of terrain that can’t quickly be passed without some additional support or the help of a friend. For example, climbing an extraordinarily rocky and uncomfortable slope becomes astonishingly more comfortable when you can count on your dependable trekking poles.
Likewise, going through mud, sand, and similar ground can be unpleasant. By using trekking poles, this becomes so easy than walking without any tools.
To suit the trekker’s needs and for them to reach their destination faster, a trekking pole is used. A trekking pole is similar to a ski pole but is more versatile in rugged terrain. These poles are made with aluminum or carbon and are very light.
The weight of a pole averages from six to 10 ounces. They are very sturdy and are built to support the user in walking, climbing or going downhill.
The second reason why you might be required to carry a pair of trekking poles is your health issues. It’s well known that walking at faster paces can improve and even help manage some of the existing health conditions. These include problems with your heart, lungs, and blood pressure.
The support of a pole absorbs the burden of the user’s weight and gear while walking. There is added speed while pacing because the poles will absorb the energy of the user. The weight of the user is lighter. The poles render support when walking on uneven surfaces and will provide balance if the user loses a step or slips on muddy paths.
There are hiking styles made for resolving these problems in an even better way, like the Nordic walking techniques which are extremely popular these days. By combining these with the help of walking sticks, you will be able to walk for more extended periods and at an even faster pace. Not only will you get more exercise this way, but you will also improve your resting heart rate considerably.
Trekking poles are retractable. They can be extended or shortened to adapt to the user’s height. The pole should be longer when tackling uphill terrain and should be shorter when going downhill. Most poles come with mud or snow baskets, or attachments that act as a stopper to prevent the pole from sinking.
The tips of the pole are mostly pointed and made of tungsten. The tips are designed this way so that the pole can pierce through the soil and serve as an anchor to firmly hold onto the surface.
Poles are helpful to hikers who have back injuries or arthritic hands and knees. The weight of the user is transferred to the pole and the body tends to be lighter as it exerts force when going uphill and far distances.
How is a Hiking Pole Used?
Before proceeding with the trek, a user must adjust the pole length. To know the right length, the user’s elbow and arm should be flexed in a way that a 90-degree angle is created. The pole’s handle should fit right into the user’s hand.
The 90-degree angle is made so that there is no pressure or strain on the arms when using the pole. If the handle is set higher, then the arms will feel sore soon after the trek has started. The pole will also provide instability.
To create the proper angle, fully extend the second shaft layer of the pole. Then the lowest shaft should be adjusted to the proper height.
All hiking poles have wrist handles. The hand should be slipped through the wrist handle in an upward motion before gripping the handle. This is to ensure that the pole is securely in the user’s hand.
In the event that the pole slips from the user’s grip, the wrist will still hold the pole around the user’s arm. The wrist also takes the pole away if the user falls forward and falls on the pole.
Walking with the Trekking Pole
After securing the pole, the user can start walking. The poles are not to be held all the time as this will cause strain in the hands. The user can walk with arms at the side and the wristband will let the pole dangle around the user’s arm. If the user finds it comfortable to hold on the handles, the grip should be held loosely.
The user’s arms should remain at the side because this conserves energy. Keeping the arms raised will not only cause soreness but will make the body exert more energy on a path that is manageable and smooth.
When walking on an uphill trail, the pole’s handle should face the direction in front while the tips of the pole should be near the user’s foot. This is so the body will get an additional push when going upwards. The opposite principle is applied when going downhill because the user needs more support as the body is going downward.
Users should also make use of the pole to keep rocks, sharp twigs and tree branches out of the way. It can also be used to touch poison ivy and other harmful plants that cannot be moved with direct skin contact.
When Can You Go Without Trekking Poles?
It’s safe to say that you can be a professional hiker and become a true master of the outdoor arts, even without using supportive tools like trekking poles. However, they don’t have any disadvantages to them, so deciding on whether you want them or not is more of a personal choice than an actual question with a definitive answer.
If you like exploring nature and accomplishing great deeds in the form of walking distances without any help, then it’s definitely possible to do so without using trekking poles. But, no one will think of your achievements as less worthy even if you support yourself with this great contraption.
When Shouldn’t You Use Trekking Poles?
In some rare cases, you shouldn’t use trekking poles as there are some ethical rules about saving the environment. These only apply to places where their physical impact can harm the rocks, ground, and vegetation.
Make sure to have the proper endings attached to your trekking poles when climbing rocks, so you don’t scratch them. Similarly, don’t press them too hard when you see that doing so will leave a mark on the ground or destroy some of the local flora.
Trekking poles have been around for a long time, and no one can precisely answer whether are trekking poles necessary. However, we have tried to bring this concept closer to you by explaining some benefits, as well as the rules about using this accessory.
If you want to walk longer and improve your health, you should definitely use trekking poles. On the contrary, if you care about the environment, then you should sometimes put them away while on your hiking trail. The final verdict is that you can traverse long distances without their help, but doing so is not really necessary.