Should I Use Trekking Poles?

The Farming Daughter Blog: Should I Use Trekking Poles? (https://thefarmingdaughter.com/2017/02/20/should-i-use-trekking-poles)

Should I use trekking poles?

As I started hiking more frequently I remember asking myself this very question. It seemed like the mark of a thru hiker was a pole in each fist, and if the “professionals” were using them, then I should as well, right?

On the other hand, I’m not a very graceful person so if I couldn’t even walk without tripping over my own feet how would I manage while worrying about two extra sticks? Plus, would the benefits of trekking poles outweigh the hassle of not having my hands free to snack while walking or snap a pic? And I have to admit, I was secretly afraid of projecting a facade of more hiking expertise than I actually possessed.

These concerns, coupled with a reluctance to spend money on something I might end up disliking kept me from buying trekking poles. Thankfully, my sweet mother made the decision for me and bought me a pair for my birthday last year. After using them on almost every hike I’ve gone on since then (including snowshoeing) I’d like to share my reasons I think you should at least give trekking poles a chance.

1. Trekking poles give you stability.

The first 5 minutes of using my trekking poles I doubted I would like them. I seemed to knock them against every root and stone in my path and they felt awkward and cumbersome in my hands. So much for supporting me, I thought. These things trip me up more than they help. Good for me I didn’t quit, because I quickly picked up the rhythm of stepping with my feet and swinging my poles. Once I was in the groove, I soon realized how helpful my poles were at keeping me from stumbling. They provide two extra points of contact with the ground that help to keep my balance. They also work splendidly to help you feel more secure on steep downward descents.

2. Trekking poles put your whole body to work.

Hiking is essentially walking long distances in the woods. It’s great for giving your lower body and cardio a workout, but no so much the rest of your body. That is, unless you use trekking poles. Using trekking poles causes you to engage your arms and upper body, giving you an awesome full body work out.

3. Trekking poles help you to power through challenging parts of the trail.

Because you now have your arms and upper body engaged while hiking it makes it easier hiking through steep or challenging sections of the trail. I have often found my poles are just the extra “boost” I need to assist me up a daunting incline.

4. Trekking poles take stress off your knees and lower joints.

Since your whole body is engaged while using trekking poles the impact is also distributed. Ironically, for being an avid hiker I have problems with feet, leg, and knee pain. Using trekking poles makes my arms and upper body go to work and helps take some of the stress off my knees and lower joints. I really wish I had used trekking poles on my September 2015 backpacking trip when I was hiking on a sprained ankle!

5. Trekking poles are multi-purposed.

Trekking poles aren’t only for helping you to walk! They work great for sounding out the depth of creeks or snow. There are some ultra-light tents that shave weight by using your trekking poles as the poles to hold up your shelter. You can purchase camera mounts that attach and turn your trekking poles into a mono-pod for photography. And lets all admit, who doesn’t feel at least a bit more protected from predators with two sturdy sticks in their hands?

And finally…

6. Trekking poles help you to hike faster.

The combination of stability, a fully engaged body, assistance on precipitous parts of the trail, and decreased hiking pain naturally means you’re going to hike faster. Granted, speed isn’t everything, but sometimes I appreciate being able to maximize my time in the outdoors and cover more ground.

Is there any time when you shouldn’t use trekking poles? If you’re planning on walking at a more leisurely pace trekking poles aren’t always necessary, when you’re going to be doing an activity that requires the use of your hands (such as photography) it might be best to leave them at home, and if you’re in a group walking close together poles might get in the way of others.

If you’re still not fully convinced that you need trekking poles and are hesitant like I was to drop the dough on them, I recommend you start out with a cheaper pair just to give them a try. I was pleasantly surprised with how well my Yukon Charlie’s Trek Lite Anti-Shock Poles worked! So far they’ve proven very durable, it’s relatively easy to adjust the length, and for only $50 they surprisingly still have the high-end feature of cork grips. You can find them here, or search on Amazon.com where certain colors are even cheaper.

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I hope this post has convinced you to at least give trekking poles a chance, but whether you prefer a pole in each hand, your trusty walking stick, or to just let your arms swing free, the important thing is to get out there and go hiking!

What is your experience with trekking poles? Have you ever tried a piece of gear and wondered where it had been all of your previous hiking life?

-Michaela “The Farming Daughter”

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Full Circle

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I went backpacking for the first time about eight years ago. Some friends of our family, the Maybrays, kindly offered to take me along with them on a trip and I enthusiastically accepted.

Looking at photos from that trip I see a lanky, twelve year old version of me smiling a mouthful of braces. I didn’t have hiking boots (still don’t, actually) so I wore a pair of sneakers. My outfit consisted of a pink synthetic shirt and a pair of jogging pants found at Target. My pack was an old external frame thrift store find and didn’t even have a hip belt, so we jerry-rigged a fanny pack and piece of nylon webbing to go around my waist. We didn’t see any animals more exciting than a chipmunk and probably hiked less than five miles, but you know what? I had a blast. And ever since that trip, I’ve been hooked on backpacking.

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Me on my first backpacking trip

I’ve gone on several more trips with the Maybrays, and last year my brother Marcus was able to come along too.

Last week I had the opportunity to bring three of my siblings on a short overnight backpacking trip. This was Mason’s first overnight hike, and just like I was, he is only twelve years old.

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Marcus (14 yrs.), Mason (12 yrs.), and Addison (16 yrs.)

As I was reflecting on the trip I realized that my backpacking adventures have come “full circle”. I started out as the inexperienced novice, hungrily soaking up information. Then, I was knowledgeable enough to give some gear and packing advice to my brother for his first trip. And now, I was able to do what the Maybrays did for me, take an excited twelve year old on their first backpacking trek! It felt wonderful, and a great tribute to what the Maybrays did for me, to take what they had taught me and “pay it forward”. Maybe someday Mason will be able to use what he’s learned from me and introduce another person to backpacking!

We hiked a section of the North Country Trail/Finger Lakes Trail that winds through the Stevenson Forest Preserve, Rieman Woods, and Robert H. Treman State Park. The terrain was fairly easy, with some steep ascents that were moderately challenging. Our biggest obstacle to overcome was the heat that soared into the nineties!

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I told Mom we should take a group picture before we headed out and she thought it was a good idea. “Plus,” I said, “then you can use the photo for identification purposes in case we get lost and don’t come back!” (Note: not the best thing to tell your mother.)

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Mason

We ate a lunch of cheese sticks, beef jerky, crackers, trail mix, and peanut butter cookies in the Rieman Woods camping area. Backpackers can bivouac in this spot, but there is no water nearby.

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About 2.6 miles into our hike we came upon this sign:

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Just take note that if you’re hiking this trail the detour adds almost a mile onto the hike. 

The detour also forced us to walk off the trail and along the roadside more, but since we were out of the woods we also saw some better views:

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While hiking past Hines Road we crossed a field with a beautiful historic barn that has been renovated into an event center known as the Treman Center. (For more info click here.)
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Anybody know what kind of flower this is?

We had to cross Fish Kill Creek, so we stopped for a short break to allow me to soak my still-recovering sprained ankle in the cold water. Marcus entertained himself in the meantime with taking funny pictures on my phone 🙂

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Mason and Marcus

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“Bridge Unsafe”
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Ya’ think?! 😀

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Photo by Addie

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This was my first time using my new Osprey Ariel 65 pack. After I use it some more to thoroughly test it out I’ll do a review post, but so far I’m really loving it 🙂
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Cooking dinner, on a cat food can stove no less.
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Pack explosion while making dinner.
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Me and the boys
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Since it was just one night we left he tents at home and stayed at the Sierra Shelter.

Trail hiked: North Country Trail/Finger Lakes Trail from Stevenson Forest Preserve to Robert H. Treman State Park

Miles hiked: 10

Temperature: 90° F

Maps used: Finger Lakes Trail Conference Map 16 (liked the actual map in this), CNY Hiking trail description (liked the land mark descriptions in this)

Information:

CNY Hiking FLT – Free topo maps of the trail and land mark descriptions

Finger Lakes Trail Conference – They have standard maps for purchase, as well as instant downloads. The one you want is Map 16.

 

-Michaela “The Farming Daughter”