Hiking and trekking are great for escaping “reality” and getting some exercise in the outdoors, however, they also lead to sore bodies. While trekking is a more rigorous and challenging activity than hiking, they both test your endurance, physical activity, and even your mentality to make it through. This can put strains on your body if you aren’t careful, and trekking poles can help a tremendous amount.
Trekking poles help reduce the impact and fatigue on leg muscles and joints, as well as your lower back. They also act as a support system and can be used for balance during your hike or trek to and from the summit to reduce your risk of tripping or falling.
Trekking poles have become increasingly popular among hikers and backpackers and there are so many advantages to using them on the trails.
Benefits and Advantages of Trekking Poles
- Increase your stability when you’re traveling with a heavy load and help you balance on sketchy terrain
- Can make you faster, as they help propel you forward as you’re moving
- Keep you upright, which gives you a better posture (fewer strains and soreness on your back)
- Can come in handy when pitching a tent (some trekking poles have the ability to double as tent poles)
- More comfortable and safer when you’re out there
Everything You Need to Know About Trekking Poles
Trekking poles are typically made from aluminum or carbon. Carbon is a lighter, more expensive material, but it's also more prone to breakage. Aluminum is heavier, making it more durable, and it's also the more economical option because it’s 100% recyclable.
One or Two Poles?
Using one or two poles on your hike is based on your personal preference. Most hikers and backpackers like to use one pole for shorter hikes and two for longer, more strenuous hikes. If you're using a single pole, they typically have wider grips to help with support.
Flick or Twist Locks?
There are two ways of locking down your adjustable poles: flick locks and twist locks.
- Flick locks are best in winter and colder climates because they are easy to adjust with gloves. However, if the locks become loose, you'll need a Phillips head screwdriver to tighten them. You'll want to use these kinds of poles with caution unless you're packing a screwdriver in your load for possible repairs.
- Twist locks are ideal for summer and warmer climates. If they come in contact with cold weather they will typically fail faster than flick flocks would. They are also much easier to adjust on the fly if the tension is off because you can take them apart and adjust them without any tools.
Shock-absorbing poles soak up the impact on your trek so your knees and joints don't have to. They offer internal springs that absorb shock when you walk downhill. With most poles, this feature can be turned off when it's not needed, like when you're walking uphill.
Telescoping poles have been around the longest and are the easiest to adjust. There are two options: 2-section poles and 3-section poles.
- 2-section poles are more durable so they are best for people who are Tough on their poles. They are also the tallest and heaviest option.
- 3-section poles are what you'll mostly see out on the trails. While they aren't as durable as the 2-section poles, they are much lighter. 3-section poles are also tougher than folding poles with more adjustability.
Folding poles have the same kind of design as a tent pole with a shock cord in the middle. They can fold up even smaller than the 3-section telescoping poles and are typically lighter. Folding poles are durable for most users and they come in either a fixed height or with one flicklock adjustment.
Grips on trekking poles are strictly about comfort. They are typically made from one of three materials: foam, cork or rubber.
- Foam is the softest and most comfortable option, however, it will absorb water and break down faster.
- Cork is more moisture resistant and tends to mold to your hands. Cork is also naturally anti-microbial and it's much heavier than foam.
- Rubber is the heaviest in weight and it's not as comfortable as foam or cork, however, it is the most water resistant, making it best for winter or cold or wet conditions.
Wrist straps are a feature you’ll likely see on most, if not all trekking poles, and it’s actually pretty common to see hikers using their trekking pole wrist straps incorrectly. To use them the right way, put your hand up through the bottom of the strap and then pull down and grab the grip of the pole. This helps support your wrist and allows you to keep your hand relaxed on the grip.