Picture your favorite trail: You're walking along, talking to your hiking partner or listening to a podcast, when you slip on a muddy patch and go flying. You reach out to break your fall and wind up breaking your wrist, or worse, your leg. Now it's "bye-bye, favorite trail." You'll have a long recovery before you're ready to take your next steps. Trekking poles can make all the difference in this and similar scenarios. They're not just useful for seniors or people with balance problems; they're genuinely useful for anyone to use on any trail. These poles, sometimes called hiking sticks or hiking poles, help walkers and hikers stay safe and turn adventures into a full-body workout. Plus, quite frankly, they're just fun to use.
Trekking Pole Benefits
Using trekking poles improves your stability and balance. They help you stay on your feet and on the trail, which is especially important if you're by yourself or in an isolated area where help might not be quick to arrive.
Think of the obstacles you could face while out walking or hiking. Recent rain or snow can leave trails covered in slippery muck, and fallen leaves can obscure holes or other uneven areas of the terrain. Even if you start a hike in dry weather, you might discover that sudden rain can soak the trails quickly.
Weather isn't the only obstacle to overcome. From small hills to steep mountains, descending is one of the most dangerous parts of hiking: one slip can send you tumbling. With the increased stability that trekking poles provide, you can navigate downhill safely. Just plant your poles firmly on the ground; even if your feet slip, you'll still be anchored in place.
Use them to help you balance as you cross slippery fallen logs, or push them down to check the depth of a stream before you cross.
Sure, trekking poles look like fancy sticks. Did you know, however, that these simple accessories have major health benefits?
Walking with trekking poles lets you distribute your weight across your whole body rather than just your legs; even distribution puts less stress on your joints, especially your knees. Going downhill puts three to four times more stress on the knees than walking on level ground does, but trekking poles help remove a lot of that extra stress. Walking with extra support helps the hips and ankles as well, and using these poles improves your posture while you walk.
Unless you take hand weights out on the trail with you (and who does that?), your arms probably don't get much of a workout while you walk. Trekking poles change that fact because they keep your whole body engaged. Translation: after a hike, you can skip the gym without feeling any guilt.
The benefits don't end when the hike does. Researchers at Northumbria University did one small study of hikers climbing the highest peaks in Wales. Climbers who used poles had less muscle soreness 24 and 48 hours after the hike than the climbers who didn't use poles. The researchers also concluded that using poles reduced the users' risk of muscle damage and future muscle injury.
In a pinch, trekking poles can help you protect yourself from a nuisance or harm. Use one to push aside a patch of poison ivy or gently nudge a snake off the trail. These poles can be life-saving, too. One Canadian man used ski poles, which serve the same purpose as trekking poles, to first distract and then knock down a bear that attacked his wife on their hike. Hopefully, you'll never need to fight off an animal or human attacker; if you find yourself in that situation, though, you'll be grateful to have sturdy poles in your hands.
Trekking poles can help you move more quickly, and they're useful in other ways, too: create a shelter using trekking poles in place of tent poles, use them to paddle a raft, or hang wet laundry over them on a camping trip.
How to Choose Trekking Poles
You're not alone if shopping seems more daunting than mountain climbing. The variety of trekking poles on the market can maki choose the right ones downright confusing.
Trekking poles aren't helpful if they're too long or not long enough, which makes the right length crucial. Choose poles that are adjustable in length to suit your height. They should be easy to adjust and have a fast-lock mechanism so they can be securely locked into place.
Carrying heavy poles is fatiguing, so look for those made out of 100 percent carbon fiber. It's lightweight and shock absorbing. You should also look for travel-friendly collapsible poles, which can fit inside a backpack or carrying case when you're not on the trails. Since you won't want to use your poles if they're uncomfortable or awkward to hold, you'll want poles that come with adjustable hand straps and natural cork grips. This material won't slip around in sweaty or wet hands.
Your ancestors probably used sticks as their versions of trekking poles, but you're lucky to have more options. Carrying trekking poles made by a leader in the outdoor gear industry, like Foxelli, gives you the confidence to take on any trail without worry. Think of poles the way you might think of a trusty dog: you don't have to take them with you on the trails, but they sure do make it a better experience.
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