Hiker(129649)Credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

The hiking staff or “walking stick” has been around for millennia.  Aaron and Moses are mentioned as each having carried one on their quest for the holy land and blackthorn staff of Irish legend was reported to have special powers.  The walking stick has gone through a few changes in the past century but in its most modern form is the set of trekking poles now carried by many hikers.  These poles resemble ski poles and one is held in each hand effectively doubling the benefits of the single hiking staff.  The debate rages on, especially in long-distance hiking circles, over the necessity of carrying trekking poles.  Ultimately the decision is left up to the hiker as a personal choice, but a list of advantages and disadvantages of hiking with trekking poles can be found below. 

The Advantages of Hiking with Trekking Poles

Probably the most cited reason for hiking with trekking poles is that they prevent falls.  When a person carries a load on their back they become more unstable than they are when walking with no burden.  Hiking with trekking poles effectively doubles the number of supports that a person has to rely on.  If one foot should slip the two poles and second foot provide three points of contact turning the hiker into a stable tripod.  Trekking poles are especially effective in this function when hiking on wet, muddy, or uneven ground.

Stability is probably the most recognized reason for hiking with trekking poles; however the best reason to use them is the benefit to your knees and legs.  When using trekking poles each time you place a pole on the ground you are removing weight from your legs and allowing your knees to bend with less pressure.  Since hiking is a leg intensive activity the more help you can give your legs the better.  Trekking poles can significantly reduce the odds of suffering an injury caused by overusing certain muscles and joints in your legs.

Many Nemo%20Equipment%20Meta%20Ultralight%20Trekking%20Tent<img%20src="http:/www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=vagabfinan03-20&l=as2&o=1&a=B0035EJMSO"%20width="1"%20height="1"%20border="0"%20alt=""%20style="border:none%20!important;%20margin:0px%20!important;"%20/>">new tent models incorporate trekking poles as part of their support systems.  The benefit of such a shelter is that the hiker saves the weight of the traditional tent poles.  Such a support system enables one part of the hiker’s gear to serve two purposes, much like a Swiss army knife.

The Disadvantages of Hiking with Trekking Poles

The most obvious disadvantage of hiking with trekking poles is that they can be viewed as extra weight.  Most hikers today tend to prefer having the least amount of weight possible.  Ultra-light hikers are particularly picky about the weight of the equipment they carry.  Trekking poles do add extra ounces to your base-weight.  This can be partially negated if you use a tent that utilizes your trekking poles for support.

Hiking with trekking poles can also lead to cold hands and fingers in cooler weather.  Because your hands are constantly occupied with a piece of equipment you do not have the opportunity to place them in your pockets to keep them warm.

Trekking poles can also be expensive.  Top of the line models can run several hundred dollars for a set.  Replacing tips or broken pieces can also cost quite a bit of money.  The hiker with trekking poles may also run into issues with replacing or repairing a broken pole while traveling in remote areas.

Are Trekking Poles Right for You?

The choice of whether or not to use trekking poles is a personal decision.  Most modern long-distance hikers tend to use them if they are available.  However, for a short day-hike they are probably not necessary.  Most folks who have never used trekking poles are instant converts after the first time they use them.  The best option if you aren’t sure whether or not you need trekking poles is to borrow a pair from a fellow hiker for a trip or to try an inexpensive set for a couple of days.  If you decide that trekking poles are for you then you always have the option of picking up a nicer set in the future.


Recommended Trekking Pole Set:

Leki Corklite Trekking Pole (Black)
Amazon Price: $139.95 Buy Now
(price as of May 21, 2016)
If you do decide to give trekking poles a try the author highly recommends the Leki Corklite Trekking Poles. Leki has been a leader in trekking pole manufacture for years. These poles are adjustable to any height and will stay at your set extension in any weather. At just under 17 ounces these poles some of the lightest that you'll find on the market.

Recommended Trekking Pole Tent

Nemo Equipment Meta Ultralight Trekking Tent
Amazon Price: Buy Now
(price as of May 21, 2016)
If you are interested in a trekking pole tent system, the Nemo Meta Ultralight tent is the way to go. This tent weighs under two pounds putting it in the ultra-light equipment category. It also has a floor and bug netting which you won't find in all trekking pole tent but will do you a world of good when the bugs come out at night.