You’re never too old to hike. Just ask Dale Sanders, the octogenarian who broke the record as the oldest person to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. His success, replaced the former record holder, Lee Barry, who set the record in 2004.
Among his hiking essentials, you will find Gore-Tex gloves to keep his hands warm and dry, a SPOT tracker in case of a medical emergency, prescription meds, and two trekking poles to help him maintain balance.
Speaking of trekking poles, you don’t have to be old or on a quest to break a record to use them. Many hikers and mountaineers consider trekking or hiking poles as a must-have. No matter your skill level, trekking poles can make hiking easier and a lot more fun.
Not sure if you should bring trekking poles to your next hike? We’ll give you 5 compelling reasons to do so.
1.They help build strength and fitness.
Fitness may or may not be the reason why you started hiking in the first place. But as all hiking enthusiasts know, going on regular hikes can do wonders for your physical and mental health. It’s especially great if you want to prevent arthritis, lose weight, and manage diabetes symptoms.
As for mental benefits, it can help reduce feelings of depression and is a good way to fight anxiety and stress.
Now, the addition of trekking poles to your hike will take your fitness to the next level. You’ll build muscles, especially in your upper body and you’ll burn a lot of calories.
According to Mayo Clinic, you can turn your daily walk into a full-body workout through trekking or walking poles. You probably know this activity by its name – Nordic walking. Some of the benefits include:
- Added intensity which helps burn more calories
- Improved balance and stability
- Improved posture
- Stronger upper back muscles
2. They help prevent injuries.
You know what’s not fun? Getting hurt on a hike.
Trekking poles not only make you hike faster, they also help people with bad knees. As you know, going downhill puts a lot of stress on knees. Poles reduce the impact on your knees by transferring it from your knees to your upper body.
And it’s not just your knees that could benefit from trekking poles. All-day hiking can also take a toll on your ankles and hips. Using hiking poles can help reduce the strain on your joints and muscles so you can hike better.
Plus, the less stress you put on your body, the more years of hiking you’ll get to enjoy.
3. They can be used as probes and weapons.
Have you ever hiked through an area only to realize later that it’s too muddy? How about misjudging the depth of a puddle?
Well, these things can happen to any hiker. However, with trekking poles, you can reduce the frequency of these events happening by using them as probes.
And they’re not just for muddy roads and puddles. You can also use them on quicksand and snow bridges.
Trekking poles can also push thorny trail blockages out of your way–think protruding spiky plants, tree branches and pesky spider webs.
And if you ever find yourself face to face with an angry dog, bear, or other wildlife, you can use your poles as weapons.
4. They give you balance and stability.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to go on more challenging hikes. It becomes a problem only if you don’t take precautions.
With trekking poles, you don’t have to worry about nasty falls because they help you maintain your balance when you’re moving through wet ground that screams slip hazard.
Think of it like you’re a four-legged animal. Having two more “feet” interacting with the ground will give you more traction, which in turn prevents or reduces the risk of slipping or falling.
If you can’t go on a hike without carrying a backpack, hiking poles can also help you stay upright. Being bent over for long periods of time can wreak havoc on your posture. Plus, staying upright lets more air into your lungs so you breathe better.
5. They’re not just for hiking.
Who needs tent poles when you have hiking poles?
Leave your tent poles at home so you’ll have a lighter load. You can pitch a tent with trekking poles, which are actually stronger and less likely to break in strong wind conditions.
Other creative uses of hiking poles include medical splints and rafting paddles. They can also double as crutches.
Another good use for hiking poles is as a rack for drying your cap, wet socks, and/or bandanna. You can also use them for picking up trash. That way you really leave no trace and keep trails litter-free.
On chilly mornings, you might want to engage in some fun fencing with your mates. Don’t take it seriously, though. You might injure someone if you’re too intense with your hiking pole/rapier.
To Hike or Not to Hike?
There’s no denying how useful trekking poles are to hikers.
They make you walk faster. They keep you from falling and being injured. And they’ve got plenty of other uses aside from being hiking aids.
But there are some concerns, especially when hiking in ecologically sensitive areas. To minimize the impact on the environment, make sure you don’t use poles on vegetation. Also, avoid scratching rocks by making sure your pole tips are rubberized.
If you’ve never used trekking poles, be aware that some don’t take easily to using them. Don’t be discouraged if you try them and you think they’re unwieldy. Just keep using them until you get the hang of it and you’ll soon reap the benefits of hiking with trekking poles.
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