5+ Uses for Trekking Poles (why you need them on your hikes)

Trekking poles (aka hiking poles) are one of the most underrated pieces of hiking gear! In this blog post, we dive deep into the benefits of trekking poles, and why you need a pair for your next hike.

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclaimer here. 

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When I first started hiking, I never used trekking poles. I thought they looked lame and were just for ‘old’ people.

In fact, when my boyfriend Nick started using them, I made fun of him… until… we were on a tough hike and he shared one of his trekking poles with me.

I quickly realized how nice even just one trekking pole was, and for over a year, we shared his set. Finally, Nick told me he was tired of sharing with me all the time and that I needed to get my own pair.

Needless to say, I no longer think trekking poles are lame. Now, I don’t know how I ever hiked without them!

Let’s dive into the reasons trekking poles are so awesome.

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Uses for Trekking Poles on a Hike

1) They make your hikes easier

Trekking poles will make your hikes so much easier. Especially if your hike has a lot of elevation gain and loss.

Trekking poles get your arms involved in the hike, which reduces some of the weight and strain on your legs and the stress on your knees and hips.

Who wouldn’t want that?

Trekking Poles on the Uphill:

Believe me, when you’re tired climbing up a hill, being able to use your arms is so helpful. Without trekking poles, your legs are doing all the work and when people get tired, they tend to hunch over.

This can strain the back and make it harder to take deep breaths. Going uphill with trekking poles keeps you upright and able to use your arms to assist in every step.

Trekking Poles on the Downhill:

I hope to be hiking for many years to come, so I need to protect my knees. Trekking poles do just that.

If you’ve hiked a lot, you know that the downhills can sometimes be the hardest part of the hike. Knee pain is common going downhill, and when your legs get tired, injuries can easily occur.

Trekking poles give you that extra level of stability and take a lot of the strain off the hips and knees.

DIVE DEEPER >> How to Train for a Hike (The Ultimate Guide)

crossing water with trekking poles

#2 They reduce falls and injuries

Staying safe and injury-free on the trail should be a top priority. When you’re day hiking or on a backpacking trip, advanced medical care is not quickly or easily available.

You have to be proactive about keeping yourself safe on the trail.

I think trekking poles are a great way to do that.

As we talked about above, trekking poles provide that extra level of stability and therefore reduce falls and injuries, especially as you’re hiking up and over uneven terrain in varied conditions.

Further Reading >> How I prepare for a day hike.

using trekking poles for a tarp tent setup

#3 First Aid and Emergencies

Trekking poles also have tons of potential emergency and first aid uses.

For example, you can use extra hiking clothing to pad the top of the trekking pole and use them as improvised crutches.

You can even use them to make a splint or a stretcher in the backcountry.

Trekking poles can also be used as part of an emergency shelter if you get creative in using some of the resources around you. In fact, I intentionally use trekking poles in the backcountry sometimes with my tarp tent setup.

This setup reduces the weight I have to carry in my backpack because I’m not carrying tent poles. (See photo above.) Instead, I have a system that just utilizes gear I’m already carrying.

backpacking with hiking poles in paria canyon

#4 Probe into water or snow

Trekking poles are incredibly valuable for water and snow conditions or obstacles on the trail. Crossing rivers and streams can be really dangerous depending on the depth and flow.

If you attempt to cross water without trekking poles, as you step, you only have one point of contact, and the foot you’re stepping down with is stepping on top of uneven surfaces.

It’s not a good position to put yourself in.

With trekking poles, now you have 4 points of contact. As you move, you can lift one trekking pole or one foot at a time, and maintain 3 points of contact at all times as you cross.

Three points of contact are a lot better than one! (See the video above for an example.)

A few years ago, I backpacked Paria Canyon, and there were a lot of water crossings.

The water was murky and brown. I couldn’t see the bottom and the trekking poles were so helpful to probe into the water to see how deep it was before I stepped in. It would have been a lot harder and more dangerous to do that hike without trekking poles.

backpacking with hiking poles

#5 Ward off animals

Trekking poles can be used to keep animals away.

While I’ve never had to use them for this purpose, I have heard stories of people warding off bears with trekking poles. You can even bang the trekking poles together to make noise and possibly scare away wildlife.

Lastly, there are snakes…

I live in Utah and I’ve seen rattlesnakes on the trail many times. It’s nice to have my trekking poles out front as I’m on the trail. I’d rather my trekking pole encounter a snake than my foot.

A few other trekking pole tips:

  • I like to wrap some duck tape around the pole of my trekking poles. Duck tape is great to have on hand for quick gear repairs, patches, or possible first aid scenarios.
  • Do your hands swell when you hike? Using trekking poles will greatly reduce or even eliminate hand swelling as you hike!
hiking with trekking poles in montana

The trekking poles I use on hikes:

cascade mountain tech trekking poles for hiking

At this point, you’re probably saying to yourself: “I need some trekking poles!”

I use the carbon fiber trekking poles by Cascade Mountain Tech.

One of the main things that deterred me from getting trekking poles was the price. They seemed expensive for something I was getting by fine without (or so I thought).

Luckily, the ones I use now are not too expensive and they’re great quality!

No matter what trekking poles you get, these are the two main features that I like in my trekking poles:

  1. cork handles
  2. carbon fiber poles

I prefer cork handles. Rubber handles will become slippery as your hands sweat, so that’s why I prefer cork. Usually, you’ll see carbon fiber poles or aluminum poles.

While aluminum poles are cheaper, carbon fiber is stronger and lighter, so I think it’s worth the extra money.

To recap… This one piece of hiking gear:

  • reduces the strain on your knees and hips
  • makes going uphill easier
  • reduces falls and injuries
  • assists you up and over obstacles
  • can be used in first aid scenarios
  • can be used to make a shelter or a tarp tent setup
  • gives you 4 points of contact as you cross water and snow
  • can ward off animals
  • reduces hand swelling as you hike

I think that’s some incredible value for a pair of hiking poles!

Now I want to know in the comments below 👇

  • Will you be getting some trekking poles?
  • If you already have them, share what you love most

Chat with me below!

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