Ask the Gear Guy

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.

Comments about “Are hiking poles a waste of money?”

  1. tourist grammy says:

    They are nice for even everyday walking when you’re on a trip that involves a lot of walking around due to lack of nearby parking, (example: Gatlinburg, TN) it sure saves my knees!! YES-they are worth the money!

  2. EagleScoutDad says:

    I was skeptical about them too, but I found a good article called “Is it time to take trekking poles seriously” that made me give them another try. I found it much easier to hike on steep or rocky trails with them — they really helped take pressure off my knees and helped with balance.

    The article is here in case anyone else is interested:

  3. Buckley says:

    Hiking poles really help if you are hiking in the mountains.

  4. Ukathiker says:

    I never used poles and thought them pretentious and potentially hazardous on steep ground. Now my only question is do I want to use just the one or both of the poles that I have been using for the past year.

    Buy them!!

  5. Madman says:

    Yup, waste of money!

  6. yellow snow says:

    I just got back from a 5 day backpacking trip in Monterrey and I didnt bring trekking poles. I didnt think I would need them, but then we had a day where we went beside a river and ended up having to cross it 22 times. I fell in half the time. I would really advise having them if you plan on doing any sort of water crossing.

  7. Old Goat says:

    Definitely make a difference. On my first two Philmont treks I did not use poles, third I did and much easier going on an older hiker. YES use them.

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