Casual day hikers don’t commonly use trekking poles here in the US…and least not yet.
I understand they’ve been common in Europe for many years, though. Why? What are we missing?
To help us understand how they help us, I contacted Bigfoot. Yes, Bigfoot!
Follow Bigfoot is a hiking blog operated by a fellow Minnesotan who calls himself, simply, Bigfoot. He’s a through-hiker who’s completed the entire Appalachian Trail, the John Muir Trail, the Tour Du Mont Blanc Trail in Europe, and others.
Needless to say, he’s got lots of advice for hikers and backpackers!
He gave me permission to share this 9-minute video with you: 10 Reasons Why You need Trekking Poles:
1. Trekking poles give you stability, balance and traction
This is especially important, of course, on trails that are rocky, full of tree roots, have lots of ups and downs, in mud and muck, or on snow and ice.
2. Trekking poles transfer your energy to your full body
Instead of using only your legs and hips for your energy, trekking poles help distribute your energy to your upper body, too. Your torso, arms, shoulders and back are all involved when you use poles, which gives your lower body a break.
3. Trekking poles help alleviate pressure from your feet, ankles and knees
This is especially important on long hikes and multi-day hikes. And for those of us not training for marathon through-hikes, even more reason to give our feet, ankles and knees as much support as we can!
The added balance we get from trekking poles can help prevent injuries, too—falling, a twisted or turned ankle.
4. Trekking poles make great bush-whacking tools
It’s not uncommon for thorny bushes and other natural hazards—like spider webs—to hang over trails. Trekking poles make great tools for pushing these out of the way as your hike along.
5. You can use trekking poles to probe in unknown terrain
If we always stay on well-used trails during the busy summer months, this may not be an issue. But on more out-of-the-way trails, less maintained areas and backcountry situations the ability to probe ahead is invaluable. Mud, swamp, streams and rivers, snow, deep puddles—we encounter these often.
6. Trekking poles are multi-function tools
For serious long-distance hikers like Bigfoot, apparently there are tents designed to use trekking poles as the tent poles in order to keep pack weight down. Brilliant!
7. Banging your trekking poles together makes an unnatural sound in the backcountry
This alerts creatures—namely, bears—of your presence. We don’t want to sneak up on them or surprise them. So in bear country, knocking your poles together every few strides will alert any nearby.
Plus it knocks mud and dirt off your poles!
8. Trekking poles can aid in self-defense
Hopefully you won’t need them for this reason! But if you do encounter a bear or other large animal, your poles become an extension of your arms and will make you look bigger.
(In grizzly territory, practice pulling out your bear spray quickly with poles in your hands.)
9. Trekking poles come in handy when you’re resting on the trail
Poles help get the pressure off your upper body on your rest breaks—especially when carrying a heavy pack. Lean over with your weight on your poles every once in awhile.
10. You can use your trekking pole as a selfie-stick
Since necessity is the mother of invention, a California backpacker came up with the idea for the Stick Pic. This little device attaches to the end of your trekking pole to turn it into a selfie-stick. Because trekking poles have adjustable lengths, it’s even more versatile.
For documenting, videos and photos… another brilliant idea!
Well, Bigfoot has convinced me to use trekking poles! I have the adjustable poles that came with my LL Bean Snowshoes, so I’ll be trying those on my up-coming summer hikes.
You’ll like these, too…
- The Best Hiking Trails on the North Shore
- The Many Health Benefits of Walking
- Snowshoe Your Favorite Summer Hiking Trails (because poles work great when snowshoeing, too!)
Sharon is the founder and publisher of Active Outdoor Women. She loves getting outside in beautiful places to hike, paddle, camp, snowshoe, ski, ride—and encouraging others to come along! Besides maintaining AOW and her other website, Twin Cities Outdoors, Sharon writes and designs websites, newsletters, blogs, emails, books and other marketing tools for clients.