Trekking poles provide many health benefits, whether you're traversing an alpine meadow in the Rockies or strolling along a favorite riverfront trail near home.
Many of the most experienced adventurers endorse the use of trekking poles. In 2007, National Geographic named backpacker Andrew Skurka its "Adventurer of the Year." After more than 10,000 miles hiked on trails of every type, he offered this ringing endorsement, "I hike nowhere without my two trekking poles."
Preparedness Is Key
Whatever your destination, you've undoubtedly dreamed about your trip for some time. Now, you've embarked on the most memorable of journeys. You know trail conditions may be daunting at times, but the adventure's rewards will be unsurpassed.
With the journey barely underway, the unthinkable happens. It all starts with a seemingly innocuous slip. Hiking without poles, you can't catch yourself, and off the precarious trail you go. The injuries are serious enough that you're airlifted off the mountain. Medical expenses mount, and your dream trip turned into the nightmare. When you return home from experience, you lament, "If only I had been prepared."
Trekking poles are subject to some serious demands, so sub-standard designs are not worth the injury risk. You just don't want to be on the receiving end of a snapped pole. One enthusiast tells of his father grabbing a cheap pair of poles before a trip to Nepal. Sure enough, he suffers a forehead gash and a broken fibula when he tumbles off a wet, steep trail. The cost of airlifting to Kathmandu and subsequent medical costs quickly exceeded $10,000.
Be Kind to Your Knees
Acute injuries are not the only threat. A good set of trekking poles will help you limit long-term wear-and-tear on your joints.
A series of studies reported in Trail Walker and posted on the website of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference highlight how trekking poles decrease knee stress in both uphill and downhill hiking:
• The International Journal of Sports Medicine published the results of a 2000 study of walking uphill. Twenty volunteers ascended a 25-percent grade carrying 30 pounds in an internal-frame backpack. Researchers detected no increased expenditure of energy, even when hefty 24-ounce poles were used. Subjects confirmed that the greater the incline, the more they counted on their poles.
• In a 2001 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, volunteers wore backpacks weighing 30 percent of their body weight. They walked for one hour on a treadmill inclined five percent. Those that used trekking poles demonstrated a longer, less frequent stride, and they experienced less fatigue than those that those without poles.
• Another study, reported in the Journal of Sports Sciences in 1999, concluded that "ground force reaction" on the knee was as much as 20 percent less when study participants used trekking poles. Each one walked at a constant rate down a 25-degree decline while carrying a 17-pound backpack.
The unique ability of carbon fiber to absorb shock further decreases stress on the joints. The consequences of undue stress on joints are often substantial. For example, if you wear out your knee cartilage, bone-on-bone pain will quickly sideline you. Don't let the prospect of a full knee replacement stand between you and your next adventure.
More on Health and Safety
If you're not interested in adding hypothermia to your list of backcountry adventures, staying dry is an important priority. Using trekking poles to vault over small streams can keep you high and dry. Another way to stave off hypothermia is to use tent poles to fashion an impromptu high-country shelter.
Avoid cuts and scrapes by pushing away blackberry branches and other thorny obstacles found along the trail. Should you encounter a bear, trekking poles at least give you a shot at keeping the animal at bay, as adventurer Eric Larsen discovered during an abbreviated North Pole expedition.
Carbon Fiber and Trekking Poles
Carbon is one of the most common elements in the universe. In fact, there are only five elements that are more common - hydrogen, helium, oxygen, neon, and nitrogen. Carbon is everywhere. ; and, lest we forget, like a diamond it's great to propose with. Fashioned into carbon fiber trekking poles, it's great to go hiking with!
In the form of charcoal and graphite, carbon is downright soft. As graphite, carbon is great to write with; as charcoal, it's great to grill out with. However, in the form of carbon fiber, it is tough - very tough. It also absorbs shock far better than competing materials.
Foxelli Trekking Poles are among the most versatile and compact poles in their class. Consider these key features:
Super lightweight, shock-absorbent carbon fiber construction
Fast adjustments from 24 to 55 inches using Quick Lock technology
Indestructible tungsten carbide tips
Natural cork grips absorb sweat to keep hands dry and cool on long treks
Soft, ridged EVA foam sleeves cope with extreme switchbacks and other dramatic elevation changes.
Secure, adjustable wrist straps for hours of comfort
Year-round use - Rubber tips, securely attached, deal with mud, snow, and snags.
Trekking poles are an indispensable addition to your gear whether you're taking on the Inca Trail or the Appalachian Trail or just taking a stroll along a local route through wooded glens and across windswept meadows. Enjoy the enhanced cardiovascular benefits with a true full body workout that incorporates active arm movements. Use the good technique to improve posture and limit those chiropractic visits.
Ultimately, an investment in high-quality trekking poles decreases anxiety and increases confidence on the trail. Limit that fear of a nasty fall in muddy or icy conditions. Invest in ultralight trekking poles, and you'll venture forth on new trails without hesitation.