Look at almost any picture or illustration of a hiker, and you’re likely to see a trekking pole in his hands. There’s good reason for that – a trekking pole simply offers too many benefits to be left at home.
First and foremost, a trekking pole helps you maintain your balance when walking. Think of a chair. A three-legged stool always is more stable than a two-legged one. As you move over rough terrain – up and down a hill, across streams or rivers, over scree and rock – a trekking pole provides that third leg. Even if walking on a flat surface, a trekking pole is vital when carrying a backpack, as heavy loads make maintaining your normal, two-legged gait difficult.
Maintaining your balance reduces stress on your back, legs, knees and feet as your cross rough terrain and haul a backpack. The trekking pole always will take pressure off your back and hips, which is particularly important when going uphill. When descending, it greatly reduces shock to your knees and feet.
A trekking pole also can help you maneuver. It’s especially useful in pushing aside brush, spider webs, and other minor obstacles. You can use it to feel the stability of a stream-laden rock before stepping on it. It also can serve as a brace to break your fall.
There are a number of creative uses for a trekking pole as well. For example, if lost and forced to stay a night in the woods, it might be used as a pole to keep up your tarp. You also might employ it in self-defense; while it’s not strong enough to stop an animal, it can be used as a stick to keep the creature at bay.
Learn about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.