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Trekking poles-who uses them?
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Ed Neudorf
(xxclaro) - F
Trekking poles-who uses them? on 05/23/2010 19:13:38 MDT Print View

I have never used treking poles before,in fact I've never met anyone using them either. However, I know they are pretty popular so there must be a reason. Also,I see lots of people us them for tarp tent,which looks useful.
I'm just not sure I need them.What is the benefit of them? Do you use one or two?
I am not an ultralight backpacker, but I would like to pare down the weight of my packs as much as possible. Is it worth the extra weight/bulk to have these poles? I see some are rediculously expensive,but some are cheap enough I might give them a try if they are actually useful.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Trekking poles-who uses them? on 05/23/2010 19:26:34 MDT Print View

I've used trekking poles for 6 years now and wonder how I ever got along without them. I even use them for exercise walking around home (nordic walking), where they turn walking into a whole-body exercise that works the core muscles as well as arms and legs. I find they considerably aid balance, especially over rough places, and they've saved me from some potentially serious falls. They also really aid my knees (one of which had serious surgery about 22 years ago), especially on the downhills. They are also very useful for fording streams. Before I went to the poles, I used a single walking stick to support my bum knee. Once I went to the two poles, I never looked back!

I've never had any comments (even from the neighborhood) about "where are your skis?" Most hikers I've met here in the Pacific NW and in the Rockies use them. Every year I see more and more trekking pole users.

They are not essential for tents because you can get lightweight poles for any of the tents that use trekking poles. In other words, don't get trekking poles only because you want a tent that uses them! Get trekking poles only if they aid your hiking!

I suggest you look for a pair of secondhand cheap ski poles (you want them a little shorter than ski poles would be, since you won't be using them in snow) to try out before you consider buying a pair of real trekking poles. Or even grab a couple of sticks. You may decide they're not for you. Poles aren't for everyone! Like me, you may find them more useful as you get older. is an excellent site for learning how to use your poles properly.

Jason Knecht
(distortedaxis) - F

Locale: Earth
Love em on 05/23/2010 19:33:01 MDT Print View

I've been using trekking poles for about 4-5 years now. I to don't know how I got around without them. They make everything easier.

James McDaniel
+1 on 05/23/2010 20:21:23 MDT Print View

When you're ascending with a loaded pack, it's night and day to me. And yes, great for tricky spots when an extra leg is helpful.

Randall Spratt

Locale: Minnesota
Trekking poles-who uses them? on 05/23/2010 20:27:43 MDT Print View

Used them for the first time last year. I'll never hike again on any trail that has significant elevation changes without them. Uphill they allow a partial shift of the load to your upper body, and allow me to walk in a more upright position, which saves my lower back. Downhill they provide stability and control. I have a bad knee and using poles allowed me to traverse the downhill sections without having to laterally twist my knee. I'm a convert! And yes, I also used them in my Tarptent Contrail, but that was just a bonus!

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Don't leave home without 'em. on 05/23/2010 20:42:39 MDT Print View

I like them. Better for the knees and ankles, rock-hopping stream and mud hole crossings with dry feet, power assist on high steps up roots and rock ladders and gentle descents on the same. Good for pushing aside wet brush, nettles and stickers too.

I was using one staff-style pole this Spring, letting my wife use my regular pair and the staff has a tripod screw to steady my camera. I found some odd aches from using one pole-- you are putting unequal stress on shoulder and back. Two poles are much more stable and going up tall steps is better with two. One is better than nothing at all. My wife has some knee issues and has her own pair now. My only complaint is that she goes too fast using the poles :)

I did try some old ski poles from a garage sale for $5 to try the idea out and they worked just fine. There is some advantage to adjustable poles-- shorter going up and longer going down and for using inside a tent or tarp designed for them. Fixed poles are light and no hassles with locks. I'm using Black Diamond poles with flick locks and no shock absorbing features. I much prefer flick locks over the twist types.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Trekking poles-who uses them? on 05/23/2010 20:56:59 MDT Print View

I started using poles around 10 years ago. I would use two poles. At the time they were a total godsent. I was having serious problems with my knees the the added stability and load shifting were very enabling. They also where useful when pitching my tarptent.

In the last 4 years the combination of lighter pack, strengthening exercises for my knees, and most significant, inov-8 flyroc shoes greatly lessened my need for poles. These days I typically carry 1 pole attached to the outside of my pack. It comes out for river crossings, particularly difficult traverses, and at night when I set up my tarptent. I take 2 poles when I expect especially difficult routes.


Kimberly Wersal
(kwersal) - MLife

Locale: Western Colorado
Re: Re: Trekking poles-who uses them? on 05/23/2010 21:22:53 MDT Print View

Okay, someone from the other side better chime in. I don't use poles. I just don't like to have any extra stuff and particularly don't like to have anything in my hands. I have no problem with my knees, have good balance, no problem with steep up and downhills-- and I just don't won't to bother with them. Give me a few years, maybe.

(onthecouchagain) - MLife

Locale: Sunny SoCal
don't leave home without 'em on 05/23/2010 21:35:08 MDT Print View

Love them...saved my butt multiple times in the Sierra. I tend to get into a rhythm with them. Love to push off up hill and flats and you can really fly downhill with the extra balance and confidence of rugged descents.

Once you've tried them, doubtful you will stop using them. Not to mention they are dual purpose on tarps and shelters.


Dont Wantto
(longhiker) - F
especially great for heavy loads on 05/23/2010 22:00:28 MDT Print View

Until recently, my pack was above 30 lbs. I can't imagine carrying such a load without trekking poles (my weight is ~140 lbs).

The best way to understand what they do is to use them and hike with a heavy backpack for even 30 mins - 1 hr. Then put them away and take 2 steps -- it'll hit you! To me, it feels like suddenly walking under water. The strain on my legs is so enormous.

Caveat -- the poles are useless deadweight unless you know how to use them (i.e really transfer weight to it and take it off your legs). I read somewhere that expert use of the poles (with straps) can take 15 - 20% of your total weight (body + backpack) off your knees. If you can really do that, you are effectively going pack-less (as far as your knees are concerned).

On the other hand, your arm muscles do more work and actually you spend MORE energy when you hike with poles since the arm muscles are not as efficient as your leg muscles per calorie consumed.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Many Reasons on 05/23/2010 22:05:22 MDT Print View

Top 10 reasons why I carry trekking poles
1) Saved me from countless falls.
2) Stream Crossings
3) Ascents and Descents in Snow.
4) Help with Uphill.
5) Poles for Tarps.
6) Holds up Bivy when not using tarp.
7) Reduces blisters.
8) Speads up downhills
9) Helps push up food bag when hanging.
10) Helps me fight off bears.

William Johnson
I use them, too on 05/23/2010 22:06:59 MDT Print View

I use them, too - love them.

However, in case I am justifying my new ownership (I am a very recent pole convert) let me tell you what I do not like.

I bought my pair here at BPL when they were on super discount. They are a fixed length. If you do buy yours, I think getting a cheap pair is a great way to go. However, getting an adjustable pair is outstanding for compact travel, and pitching tarps - if this is something you are likely to do much of, spend enough to get a pair like that. I am happy with mine own, but do consider getting an adjustable pair as well, and I am not much of a fan of having a "large kit."

I practiced with mine for some time walking around the college grounds, too. It helped my form.

Good luck!

Dirk Rabdau
(dirk9827) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
I like 'em on 05/23/2010 22:09:28 MDT Print View

I will never go back to the days without poles. They are a great multifunction tool, between helping up and down tricky ascents/descents, acting as a tent pole, and of course, assisting with difficult water crossings. I have to agree with Mary, the vast majority of hikers you meet in the Pacific Northwest use them.

All that said, some people prefer to go without. Scott Williamson, the current PCT record holder and ├╝ber-thruhiker, doesn't use trekking poles, as he said he couldn't ever get into a comfortable rhythm.

So I think borrowing a pair and seeing if they are to your liking is the best bet. A good pair will last a long time, and have replaceable tips.


Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: Trekking poles-who uses them? on 05/23/2010 22:17:14 MDT Print View

I like a single pole. I've been using walking sticks since the Olden Days - like the early 70's. Staarted with old golf club shafts, then switched to 1$ thrift store ski poles, and now I have GG Lightrek 4's - which I use one at a time. I've tried two poles, but I only like two for steep ascents, so I find I'm happier with one. If you want to try the idea out, get some old ski poles cheap at a thrift store and give it a whirl.

Marc Penansky
(MarcPen) - F

Locale: Western NC
Trekking Poles on 05/24/2010 06:28:59 MDT Print View

I also use trekking/hiking poles and wouldn't go out hiking without them. I have often wondered what the percentage of hikers who use 2 hiking poles is? Based on this small (and non-statistically significant) sampling of responders, I think you would put it at 80 - 90%. Do you think that is at all representative?

James McDaniel
pole straps on 05/24/2010 08:26:08 MDT Print View

One thing I want to add.

I know a lot of UL guys don't like the straps.

Something worth mentioning is, there is a right way of using them and if you use them correctly, they make using them much more beneficial(just like they tell you how to use ski poles).

Up through the hoop from the bottom then close your palm over the strap and the grip. This transfers the weight to the whole bottom of your first, you don't even need to firmly grip the pool which is a waste of energy.

FYI: I use one pole, two seems too busy. If doing an intense ascend I'll use two.

Mark Regalia
(markr) - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz
Tried them, don't use them on 05/24/2010 08:44:49 MDT Print View

They seemed like a good idea, especially considering the amount of knee problems I have had in the past. But I hated them, clank-clank-clank-clank. I felt like some sort of low budget mechanical man. My nice natural free walking style was completely disrupted. You have to force yourself to conform to a walking style that is unnatural, at least for me. For me it ended being a situation where the tail was wagging the dog. And that noise, that tannoying, disturbing clank-clank. One of the things I love about walking is absorbing the ambient sounds. Try doing that while having to hear the steady clanking of metal tips on granite.

I did try one pole to use for support. That was better, but on my last trip I forgot to unstrap the pole from my pack and ended up carrying it the whole day without realizing it. That pretty much sums up the value I have found in hiking poles.

Not for me. Others obviously had much more positive experiences.

John McAlpine
(HairlessApe) - M

Locale: PNW
Two Poles Always - 20 years + on 05/24/2010 09:00:29 MDT Print View

About 25 years ago I went to Europe after College and saw hiking poles all over the Swiss Alps. I'd never seen them before. The locals loved them. I used my ski poles when I got home and have never stopped. They've caught me from twisting my ankle, saved my back, and aided my knees when going down a steep travers.

Dont Wantto
(longhiker) - F
no straps on hiking poles on 05/24/2010 09:18:58 MDT Print View

I can't imagine how I would be able to get good use out of poles without the straps. With straps, you only lightly grip the handle and use the straps to transfer your weight to the poles.

Using your grip to transfer 10 - 15% of your weight + backpack weight sounds painful!

On the other hand, having your hands in the straps in a rocky spot with a high likelihood of a fall is a bad idea.. your hand might stay stuck in the pole while you fall and dislocate your shoulder.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Two Poles Always - 20 years + on 05/24/2010 09:20:50 MDT Print View

use mine all the time. Helps with ascents and climbs. Placing your pole in front of you when you are navigating those big granite steps in the Sierra's really help with balance. Plus they keep my tent up