Why Should You Use Hiking Poles?by Mats Lundkvist
Why should you use hiking poles is perhaps the first question that may strike in your mind especially when you are a beginner. To get the right answer for this question you need to consider two things i.e. Safety and Comfort. Hiking poles are just balancing sticks which help you maintain good balance that is closely related to your overall safety and comfort. When you use two poles you move as you have four legs which allow you better comfort and safety. Experts say that by using hiking poles you switch to 4x4 mode of driving, using your two legs and two hands.
As far as safety is concerned, a pair of hiking poles helps you prevent frequent fall downs on uncertain tracks, avoiding aches in ankle or knee or even back; and here comfort is pointing towards the convenience in walking such as maintaining right walking posture and pacing using two extra legs.
Although it is personal preference and an individual decision to use hiking poles but they can prove to be very helpful for you during your hiking. You must use hiking poles especially when you are on your first hike. And, I think next time you will yourself carry these sticks with you by seeing their countless benefits.
Thousands of people who have already used (or still using!) hiking poles for years could not be wrong and this is the reason that poles are considered the traditional way to move on uncertain tracks while maintaining good stability. Although, hiking poles have countless benefits but below given are some significant benefits which enforce us to use them every time we go on hiking and trekking:
Safety- Safety is the main reason of using hiking poles. Hiking poles, in reality allow you the extra pair of legs to maintain good stability on the uncertain trails and when crossing fast streams or difficult terrains. Without having hiking poles you may fall down that may end up in injuries and accidents, and if you don't fall even then ache in knees or ankles is a common mishappening you may face. When you have hiking poles with you, they keep you safe by preventing fall downs, bad steps which may cause of sprained ankle or knee.
Indeed, safety and convenience are the main reasons of using these hiking and trekking poles. Let's see some other benefits/advantages of using them.
Weight Distribution- Hiking poles or staffs help us to reduce weight on our feet and legs. The modern design of the hiking pole distributes the weight evenly on the whole body instead of legs. According to one estimate poles can reduce 15% of weight from your legs by spreading it on the arms and other parts of body. As they act like your legs so they also bear some of the weight. Especially when you are climbing on a steep hill, the poles bear much weight than in normal walking so the percentage of weight may rise even further.
Pacing- When climbing on a steep hill, you will find your hiking poles more helpful for pacing yourself. I have personally seen their advantages to pace my steps. No doubt, hiking poles can easily speed you up by acquiring your weight and by allowing you to maintain good stability. You can maintain your speed without having so much huff and puff (needless to say more sweat!). And finally you will find that you have won over the trail without so much effort that really hurts. Certainly you will not feel pain in your back because poles allow you to walk in your natural position.
Comfort- Hiking with poles feels comfortable because you can walk in your natural posture while climbing on a hill or coming down. Your hands also remain in comfortable position; another better thing is that your hands remain above the heart which is also comfortable and beneficial as it improves the blood circulation that ensure less stressed body after the hiking. Many research studies and findings have clearly shown their cardiovascular, orthopaedic and other health benefits, as a result they advocate that not only circulation is improved but heart rate is also said to be reduced. A landmark study in this regard was published by Dr. G. Neureuther in 1981. Therefore, almost every seasoned and experienced hiker or trekker actually uses them and advises others to use them.
At last but not least using hiking poles for trail riding is not a wrong decision at all as they have countless benefits and uses, but that doesn't mean that they don't have any disadvantages. Experts believe that using poles may increase your total energy expenditure as your hands are no longer hands but will become two extra legs when you use them. Basically, your arms are not designed to prop up your body, nor to distribute weight, but to do certain other things that are expected to use your hands such as to open up the map, carry your drinks, eat a snack, wipe off your sweat, to grab branches of a tree to pull yourself ahead, to take a photograph, or occasionally to carry the hand of your partner. Undoubtedly, these things are not possible or comfortable when you have hiking poles in your hands and it will become relatively clumsy, time consuming, and sometimes even frustrating to carry them.
Well these were certain limitations of using hiking poles, but only an experienced hiker knows that these limitations in themselves are very limited. Of course these can be easily overcome as you grow and matured with them. However, most of the time it is generally seen that many people don't actually know how to use them correctly and how to carry them properly. When they buy these hiking poles, they go for most stylish, fashionable and feature filled poles, but failed to recognize how to use them properly to reap their true benefits. For example, they buy adjustable hiking poles with compass fitted and with a camera mount, but don't even know how to adjust them to a right length. As a result the majority of the people get little or no benefit from them except adding few extra pound of weight in their backpack to put more weight on their back.
But in actual sense, you must educate and familiarize yourself with your hiking poles and right techniques to use them. Then you will find that it only adds few extra pounds of weight to your packing but helps you in many ways. Actually pole less hiking is great for the slack packers who walks very short and come back their home in sunlight. But the hikers those who walk very long on the trails in day light as well in the night must use hiking poles. They are perhaps your best companions while climbing or walking on relatively difficult, snowy or muddy terrains. Specially when walking in after hours you should use poles to discover holes, stones and bushes in the absence of light.
I sincerely believe, by now, you may have understood yourself why we should use hiking poles.
All the best!!
About the Author
Mats Lundkvist - Trek Lightly! http://www.mytrekkingpoles.com