I’ve never been a huge trekking pole hiker. A couple of times I’ve used a broken tree limb to help me along, something similar to what Gandalf used in Lord of the Rings. But nothing high-tech. I gave it a try on my last hike, however. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, feebler and having balance issues. Whatever the reason, I’m sold on it. I should have been packing poles on my hikes years ago.
I ordered myself a good pair: High Stream Gear’s TX Foldable Trekking Poles. I knew little about them, except they had a solid review online, folded up nicely, were lightweight, had a comfortable cork handle grip and were an affordable price ($40).
I chose a good day to try them out. The temperature had dropped to -10 C and the forest trail had gained patches of snow and ice overnight. The hills and dales had become treacherous to walk, and a Gandalf stick wouldn’t do me much good in such conditions.
Literally minutes into the walk I realized three major things trekking poles give you: balance, stability and traction. Going down a steep incline, especially covered in crusty snow layered over slippery black ice, can be a good way to crack your head open. But with two trekking poles positioned ahead of you, your not-so-limber two legs now become three or four. It makes a huge difference. You have more control with your decent, and your confidence is boosted immensely.
Going uphill is also easier. Placing the poles ahead helps to push your body weight up, redistributing the weight, taking stress off of the knees and back.
Poles transfer your energy from all legs and lower back to your torso to your upper body (this means a lot). It also gives you an all-around workout then just putting pressure on your legs, knees and ankles all day. It greatly reduced the impact of your lower body and greatly prevents injuries.
Using poles also promotes more upright posture rather than a hunchback look—reducing fatigue and opening up lung capacity.
By mid-day I also realized I had gained a better sense of rhythm and more speed (I’m talking 20-30 per cent faster) and far more agility.
The poles also became my probe once I moved off trail. I used them to push brush aside, check frozen mud patties and the ice conditions of a newly frozen creek while crossing it. I even used it as a selfie stick for my camera. Just by taking a break now and then by simply leaning forward and placing my weight down on the poles, my body felt better.
Check out my latest KCHappyCamper video on my pole trek for more positive point on why hiking poles make good sense.