Monday, September 21, 2009

Hiking poles: yes or no

I am stumped.

I just received an emailed question about trekking poles and whether or not hikers should invest in them and take them on long-distance or day hikes. The questioner told me that she has some old crappy ones and never got the utility out of them.

I will ask around about this, but meanwhile, if you have any experiences you wish to report about hiking poles -- or a particular kind that you like or don't like -- let me know, and I will incorporate your ideas into my answer, which I will post right here on

Personally, I've never used the retractable, shock-proof, store-bought hiking poles, although I've always been curious about them; I usually improvise with ski poles or twigs or something like that. Also -- I often hike in forbidding terrain that requires two free hands for scrambling up and down slopes (making it impossible for me to hold poles in my hand.)


Anonymous said...

We have 2 hiking stick sets for each of us, Leki and McKinley.

Leki is more traditional and has an optional rubber attachment to protect surfaces you're hiking on, i.e.. Machu Pichu, and Pompeii ruins..

McKinley is nice in that it has a shock absorbing tip.

I personally prefer using one, primarily for balance, and assistance in going up steep inclines. I have run across people using two (skiing style), but that has never appealed to me. Besides, I like to have one hand free, when I fall.

Hope this helps.

Embrace the Outdoors said...

I have used hiking poles for a couple of years. Only use them for longer hikes, and usually only use one. I like to have one hand free at all times. It saves the knees from a little wear and tear. And helps with balance when crossing on rocks over a creek. I have REI poles, purchased them because of the lifetime guarantee. If they ever break just return them.

cactuseaters said...

thanks -- maybe I'll have to try it after all

Anonymous said...

I use them on steep downhill sections only and they help with the knees. The rest of the time I carry them collapsed in my hands or they're resting in the car. Most of the time I find them to be a burden.

Anonymous said...

Personally I don't like having something in my hands (and the extra weight) especially on long hikes)

Sam E (Burlington VT)

Paul said...

I have one, that I made from bamboo. I'm working on making a slightly stouter one, though.

Where I hike tends to get very swampy in places, slippery in others, and it helps for me to get around in those spots if I have something to check where I'm stepping and keep my footing. Also, it comes in really handy when the black muck won't let go of one of my boots.

I've never used a store-bought hiking poles, nor have I ever found using more than one pole to be useful in my area, as I like to have a hand free for stuff.

cactuseaters said...

hi Paul -- thanks for writing in, and this sounds like a novel solution to a common problem