Western Traveler

Hiking Poles

This article was co-authored by Steven Grimes and Chester M. Guy

Hiking poles are one of the most underutilized accessories in hiking. Not only do they reduce the fatigue on your knees and back, they balance out your weight distribution. This puts your balance at 4 points (or 3 with a single staff) rather than 2. This way when you take a step, you still have extra ground contact should you slip.

Unless finances are such that $15-20 difference is a purchase factor, opt for the spring loaded trekking poles. Similar to ski poles, they have shock absorbers in the shafts. This aids in absorbing the energy transfer from stepping on the ground. Instead of all that energy transferring up through the knees and legs, to the lower back, the shock absorbers literally absorb a good deal of the stress. An additional feature that is valuable is that when a slip does occur, properly places poles can keep you from falling the rest of the way over. When hiking with a pack in hazardous terrain, this could easily be the deciding factor in a slip that jars your body or produces a scrape or bruise, and becoming a back country evacuation for a broken leg or back injuries. . .or worse.

Old School hikers sometimes prefer a single, hiking pole or staff. While the two-pole system is considered preferable for many hikers, some like the ability to have a hand free for other uses. Steve is a big fan of the two-pole system, while Chester prefers using a single pole. Like the trekking poles (2), there are options with a single pole as well. One can purchase high-end, expensive, collapsible poles which are perfect for airline travel as they fit into luggage, or you can use a regular wooden pole. Chester’s preference is his Colorado hickory staff, strong, yet comfortable to hold on to.

Last modified on: March 15th 2012.
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