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: Safety and Comfort. Hiking poles help you maintain good balance for your safety and comfort. When you use two poles you move as if you have the added stability of four legs. Experts say that by using hiking poles you switch to 4×4 mode of driving, using your two legs and two arms.
As far as safety is concerned, a pair of hiking poles helps you prevent frequent falls on uncertain tracks, avoiding aches in ankles, knees or back.
Although it is personal preference and an individual decision to use hiking poles, they can prove to be very helpful. After you try hiking poles, you’ll never go without when you see their countless benefits.
Although hiking poles have countless pluses, here are some significant benefits:
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 terrain. Without hiking poles you may end up with injuries and accidents or at least aches and pains.
Weight Distribution- Hiking poles or staffs help reduce weight on feet and legs. The modern design of the hiking pole distributes the weight evenly. According to one estimate poles can reduce 15% of weight from your legs by spreading it on the arms and other parts of body. Especially when you are climbing on a steep hill, poles can help even more in this area.
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.
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. Your hands remain above the heart which improves the blood circulation. 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.
There are a few hiking pole naysayers. Some experts believe using poles may increase your total energy expenditure as your hands become two extra legs. Basically, your arms are not designed to prop up your body, nor to distribute weight, but to do certain other things such as carry the map, carry your drinks or eat a snack, these things are not possible or comfortable when you have hiking poles in your hands.
With these minimal limitations, experienced hikers know these limitations don’t outweigh the benefits. Any negatives usually dwindle as you grow and mature with hiking poles. 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. Some go for most stylish, fashionable and feature filled poles, but fail 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 some 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.
You must educate and familiarize yourself with your hiking poles and right techniques to use them. Then you will find the few extra pounds of weight help you in many ways.
All the best!!
Mats Lundkvist – Trek Lightly!