If you are just starting out in the world of hiking, or are an avid hiker who has been doing the sport for years, including hiking poles in your routine may be a smart move. Hiking poles are used for several reasons: safety, comfort, weight distribution and pacing. Look at hiking poles like a vehicle, without them you have rear wheel drive, with them, you have four wheel drive, and all the benefits that go along with it.
Hiking can be a dangerous sport if precautions are not taken. You are walking and climbing over uneven and sometimes treacherous terrain. You will find yourself crossing through shallow bodies of water as well as encountering many obstacles in the road. In order to handle everything that may come at you, you need to maintain good balance and stability. Hiking poles help you with both of these. They give you almost a second pair of legs which will help you as you handle the sometimes unforgiving terrain.
In terms of comfort, hiking poles allow you to keep your body in the upright position no matter what type of terrain you are traversing. In addition to maintaining your body’s alignment, it also keeps your hands above your heart. This increases circulation and reduces heart rate.
Weight distribution is changed when you utilize hiking poles. As they are functioning as two extra legs, they take a great deal of weight off of your legs and transfer it to your arms (as much as 15%). This allows you to go up steeper hills easier and often to hike for longer periods of time before your feet and legs become tired.
Your pace can be improved by the use of hiking poles as well. As they make the stress on your body (back and legs) much less, you will be able to hike faster and with more ease. You may even reach the end of the trail and be rather impressed with yourself, it wasn’t that hard after all.
While there are many great reasons to use hiking poles, and most seasoned hikers swear by them, like anything else, there are disadvantages as well. One of these disadvantages is energy expenditure. Because your hands are now acting as legs, the totally energy you are using may be greater. This can be avoided however by knowing how to use the poles and selecting the right poles to begin with. You may become frustrated as you do not have your hands free (something that you are most likely used to) and must put your poles down in order to take a drink, wipe your forehead or do other such things. As you get used to them, this will bother you less and you will learn different ways to deal with them. You can check with more experienced hikers to see how they deal with them.
If you haven’t already tried them, give hiking poles a chance. With all of the benefits that they offer, they may just become your best friend out on the trail.
Sydney Garrison is an avid cyclist and sports enthusiast. She is also a partner in an online bike rack store.