Hiking and Trekking with Poles is really a personal preference. Poles can offer many benefits, and a few drawbacks. Review the Pros and Cons below and determine if you can benefit from using poles on your next distance walk. Then review the questions to try and narrow down what functions the poles need to fill. Head to your local outdoors or sporting goods store with your answers and start looking at options. Ask questions!
If your primary activity is Nordic Walking, your technique can be adapted to Nordic Trail Walking safely with your Nordic Walking poles. Request a training session to review technique modifications and give yourself time to practice!
- Reduces impact on lower body (hips, knees, ankles), especially during downhill trekking
- Can reduce swelling of the hands by engaging them in a “squeeze-release” technique
- Encourages proper upper body posture, allowing for better breathing – which can increase endurance. This proper posture is also beneficial to walking with a backpack
- Provides for balance and stability assistance when terrain or footing is challenging, potentially reducing the risk of falls and injury
- The right set of poles will last for many years with proper care and maintenance
- Poles can be selected for 3-season or 4-season use with the proper accessories – snowshoeing anyone?
- Take time to learn proper technique and some practice to identify when to switch technique or pole length in response to your current conditions
- Increased risk of injury in the case of a fall if your hand is strapped to the pole
- Significant upper body engagement with poles may increase total energy expenditure, potentially reducing endurance and/or the ability to maintain for longer distances. (one good reason to have a coach watch and critique your walking technique and use of poles!)
- Does not leave hands free for photography (although trekking poles are typically easy to dangle from the strap and re-grip again)
- Can get tangled in underbrush or caught in between rocks, so requires more attention to use in certain environments
- So many choices in pole types and features that it can be overwhelming for new users
Questions when selecting poles:
- Is your primary activity Nordic Walking with some trail walking? You may prefer Nordic Walking poles in lieu of trekking poles
- Are the poles only for trekking, or do you want the ability to do Nordic Walking with your poles? Not all manufacturer’s have Nordic Walking tips available!
- Cork, foam or rubber grip preferences? Is this for summer, year-round? Do your hands tend to sweat? Different materials are better in different weather
- Grip shape preferences? Hand size? – many poles are shaped differently or sized for men or women, you need to try the grip for yourself.
- Shock-absorbing? May poles have the ability to turn this feature off and on, but shock absorbing features may increase the pole weight.
- Pole weight – standard or ultra-light? Folding poles are typically lighter in weight but also less durable than 2 or 3 piece poles
- Locking Mechanism – easy to adjust on the fly for varied terrain? Secure? Weight bearing capacity? Replacement parts readily available?
- Stored Length? Not all poles collapse down small enough to fit in your travel bags.
- Replacement parts – how easy is it to get new tips, grips, and locking mechanisms?
- Shaft material – aluminum, carbon, or combination?
- Wrist Strap or glove system – padded or not? Do you need bicycle gloves for long walks or frequent use?
- Snow Baskets? – not all manufacturer’s have snow baskets available
Please leave questions in the comments section below and I can help you narrow down your choices in trekking poles. I do not typically keep trekking poles in stock because of the wide variety in pole types, but I can give you purchasing advice and coach you on pole technique.