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What are Trekking Poles?

Treks often take place over varied terrain, as opposed to established hiking trails.
Trekking poles help trekkers to navigate steep slopes and maintain balance on rocky terrain.
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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2014
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There are two schools of thought when it comes to trekking poles. One opinion is they are worthless at best and may even be nothing more than dangerous crutches. The other view is that trekking poles encourage people to get out in the fresh air and enjoy a good old-fashioned cardiovascular workout. Regardless of the point of view held, it is a good idea to understand what trekking poles actually are and what they are meant to do.

Also known as hiking poles or walking sticks, the trekking pole is meant to allow persons to evenly distribute their body weight and the shock to the joints while walking on uneven ground. Along with providing additional means of balance when going up or down rocky terrain, trekking poles are great for including the entire body in the process of walking. Because of this, trekking pole users claim that there are fewer incidences of straining a knee or overworking the back. The simple act of using trekking poles will allow the user to cover more ground quickly and efficiently and with less trauma to the body.

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Many people consider trekking poles to be an essential component of outdoor gear. Certainly, manufacturers of hiking and camping equipment have made it very easy to take the poles along, allowing them to be handy for even short walks in the woods and other sites. Trekking sticks or poles often come in telescopic models, which allows the user to adjust the length of the poles to suit the height of the user. This feature also allows the trekking poles to be easily stored in a knapsack or backpack when not in use. Typically, the poles will include soft grips that fit the hand comfortably. The softer grips allow holding the pole to remain somewhat comfortable even if the hike is a long one.

There are several other features to consider when purchasing trekking poles. Some models come with small shock absorbing equipment embedded in one end of the poles. The more comprehensive models come with adjustable settings so that the user can select the most comfortable setting for the terrain to be covered. These shock absorbers can be helpful when going downhill, as they help to absorb some of the jostling to the neck and shoulders that are natural when walking in a downward direction.

There are a variety of tips on the end of the trekking poles. The three common tips are chiseled, single point, and rubber coated. The chiseled point is the more versatile of the three, although the rubber tips excel on hard ground and the single point is best suited for hard packed snow and ice. While aluminum is used frequently for both the single and the chiseled tips, carbide has become more popular the last few years and may soon be the most common choice for metal tips.

Other features, such as a mounted directional compass and padding just above the tips, usually are not considered essential by trekking pole purists, who insist that the purpose of the pole is to help with balance and maximize the use of body strength. Anything that does not directly impact those goals is thought to be unnecessary additions. Whatever the opinion, trekking poles can be found at many sporting goods stores, especially those that specialize in camping and hiking equipment.

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