by Kara "Sunflower" Shellhamer
Posted at 10:30 am
In your recent hiking endeavors you’ve most likely seen people hiking along with two fancy-looking poles. These are more than your average hiking sticks picked up off the side of the trail. While they may look odd at first, trekking poles are not just for those wanting to seem high-tech! They are extremely useful and can benefit all hikers in one way or another. For backpackers and people with knee problems in particular, trekking poles are one of most important pieces of gear to own.
One of the biggest and most obvious benefits of using trekking poles is that they reduce stress on the knee joints. One study found that using poles can reduce compressive force on the knees by up to 25%. This is especially apparent when descending steep and/or rocky terrain. That being said, trekking poles are not solely for people with weak knees. They offer better balance and stability on all types of terrain, and help better distribute the weight of a pack. Below is a list of ways I’ve found my poles to be helpful in the past.
*Ascending/descending (While ascending, plant poles ahead of you and pull up -this takes some of the work load off your leg muscles, and while descending steep terrain, plant poles below and lower yourself down, taking much stress off of knees and leg muscles.)
*Stability on stream/river/log crossings or uneven terrain (EXTREMELY useful for this!)
*Clearing spider webs/ plants from the trail
*Tarp or ultralight tent setup
*Traction on slippery rocks/ice/snow
*Makeshift weapon if needed (Okay, not really recommended but it may make you feel better!)
Most trekking poles have three sections that adjust to fit any height and collapse down to a small pole for travel or stowing while not in use. Here are some tips on adjusting your poles properly:
-Adjust both pole sections so they are about equal. Make sure that you do not expand beyond the indicated stop line, as this may prevent your poles from working properly.
-With your hand on the grip, elbow by your side, and tip of the pole on the ground, your bent elbow should form about a 90 degree angle. On sustained climbs or descents, you can adjust up or down if necessary.
-Hold the poles on the grip with the strap secured around your hand. To use the strap properly (this is extremely important) have your hand below the loop, bring it up through the bottom of the strap and wrap hand around the grip.
Quest Outdoors carries trekking poles from Leki and Black Diamond, offering several models to fit every need. There are many different feature options ranging from grip type to anti-shock to locking mechanism, so I recommend checking them out in person to see which features best meet your needs!