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Are hiking poles a waste of money?

pole-200x148Q. I’m going on a backpacking trip and am wondering if I should get hiking poles or not. I think they would help with balance, but my dad says they are a waste of money. What do you think?
— Curious LeRoy, Dubuque, Iowa

A. I never used to be a trekking pole kind of guy, but I just got back from a backpacking trip down in Patagonia, Chile, and I’m so glad I brought them along.

As you mentioned, trekking poles are indeed helpful for boosting your balance, especially when crossing streams or stepping on unstable rocks or loose ground. They are also handy for steep uphills — you can plant the pole in the dirt and use your arm strength to help pull you up. Most of all, I find they help when going down steep downhill sections because you can use the poles to catch yourself and reduce the pounding on your knees from the added weight of a full backpack.

While some of my friends like using two trekking poles, I prefer just a single pole. Though aluminum or carbon fiber poles are lighter in weight and stronger, a good solid wooden hiking stick is cheaper and will definitely do the trick too.


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26 Comments on Are hiking poles a waste of money?

  1. GtheSwimmer007 // May 18, 2015 at 9:17 pm // Reply

    Tall branch + knife = perfect walking stick

  2. MachuPeachu // March 26, 2015 at 2:45 pm // Reply

    I never use hiking poles and I hike a lot. Generally I hike up slowly and sprint downhill. Please don’t run down a hill unless you have the correct footwear or you will get hurt. Anyway I think they are a wast of money.

  3. Being young and nimble you won’t use them, it’s just not cool, but as you get older they will certainly save your knees and back.

  4. Grateful Dan'l // March 11, 2015 at 5:42 am // Reply

    I was a skeptic in my younger days, and now wish I hadn’t been. While balance is important, the poles are extremely important for easing pressure – wear and tear – on knees. Use two poles as the right pole helps your left knee and the left pole your right knee, and you get into a rhythm as you hike. Go for the telescoping type – if you want a break, they can be folded to a size that fits along your pack with cords.

  5. “Most of all, I find they help when going down steep downhill sections because you can use the poles to catch yourself and reduce the pounding on your knees from the added weight of a full backpack.”

    AMEN!

  6. Thrifty Hiker // March 10, 2015 at 8:15 am // Reply

    I bought a set of old ski poles to take on my hike in Scotland and it was really worth it. I did get a lot of funny looks because they were ski poles but I was glad to have them on the rocky terrain. I purchase some rubber end caps and they were just as good as the expensive hiking poles. It would have been easier to travel with nice collapsible poles but at the time I did not have the money to spend.

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