Over the last decade, trekking poles have become a popular piece of hiking gear. But are they really necessary, or are they just another gimmick designed to suck money out of gullible newbies?
While I personally rarely use them — and if I do, I only use a single hiking stick — let’s look at some of the benefits of using trekking poles.
They can help with Stability
The real benefit of trekking poles comes in their ability to absorb shock and boost stability when out on sketchy terrain. Trekking poles add two more points of contact to the ground, which helps to prevent falls on rough terrain. Trekking poles can help a hiker navigate over tricky obstacles, and can help reduce shock on old tired knees.
They can Lessen Shock and Stress on Joints
In addition to helping you make it over and through rough terrain, trekking poles can also take some of the strain off your legs. Hiking can place a tremendous amount of strain on your legs; hiking sticks and poles can help transfer some of that weight and reduce the strain that would normally be absorbed by the joints and muscles in your legs.
A 1999 study in The Journal of Sports Medicine found that trekking poles can reduce compressive force on the knees by up to 25 percent.
They can be used in Self Defense
While I usually travel with some sort of firearm, in a pinch a trekking pole can be used to fend off a wild animal, an unleashed dog, or even an attack from some psychopath out on the trail. They can also be used to push away thorny braches and anything that becomes an obstacle on your path.
They can be a great way to make an Emergency Shelter
When I’m light hiking, the only thing I usually carry for a shelter is a light-weight tarp. With a single trekking pole, a bit of paracord and my tarp, I can string up an emergency shelter in seconds. A good hiking tarp can usually give you as much protection as most three season tents