Before each of our treks our customers are provided with a wealth of information to help them plan and prepare for their walking holiday. This includes a kit list in which we recommend the use of trekking poles. For some of our walkers the trekking pole is something that comes on every hike with them and for others it is a completely new piece of kit. In this article you’ll find the reasons why we love trekking poles and exactly why we recommend you use them on our treks.
We specialise in delivering trekking holidays on the UKs long-distance trails. By definition we will be putting in the miles everyday. Using a tool which will reduce the strain on our bodies our walk will then be more comfortable and therefore more enjoyable. By taking some of your body weight through the poles you are redistributing some of the effort from your legs to your upper body. Each step is kinder on the knees and hips, and you will find your legs feel much better at the end of a long day. This can be crucial when you are walking on consecutive days for a week or more.
If you want to see the effect in action just stand on the bathroom scales and place your poles on the floor at either side. Apply a little pressure through your poles and watch the needle move down the scale. Now that you’re a little lighter, help yourself to a big slice of cake. The poles don’t just take some of your weight, however. They are also an extra source of forward momentum and you might find you even begin to walk a little faster. All in the poles will reduce the demand on your feet, knees and hips.
Stability and Balance
Trekking poles give us extra points of contact with the ground. As well as distributing our efforts this does put you in a more stable position. When out on the walking trails of Scotland and the UK you will rarely find yourself on smooth flat ground. The extra stability over the rougher terrain helps you feel more secure and helps to prevent slips and trips.
It is worth noting here that knowing when to put the poles away is also important. If you are on a particularly rocky section of a trail it could be better to stow the poles in your bag and make use of your hands for balance. The same can be said for short steep sections, up and down. Noticing when your poles are more of a hinderance than a help will come with practice.
When walking without trekking poles it is easy to find yourself leaning forward and putting more strain on your back. This is especially obvious when carrying a heavy pack. Using trekking poles spreads that weight and naturally brings you into a more up-right position. As a consequence this puts less pressure on your body as whole.
Ok – I’m convinced. Now what poles should I buy and how do I use them?
When choosing a new set of poles the best thing to do is to head to your local outdoor store and speak to one of the assistants. Try out a few of the options (check the prices) and find what suits your needs and budget. Our preferences for reliability and comfort are clamps over twist lock, and a rubber or cork handle over plastic. As with most outdoor kit the more you spend, the more reliable it should be, but in the end as long as it reaches the ground you will start to see the benefits!
To set up your poles you are aiming to create a right angle at the elbow when standing stationary with your poles at your sides. When walking you are looking to develop a natural rhythm of opposite foot to hand movements, with the pole tilted slightly forward at the handle. It might feel strange at first but persevere and it’ll soon become second nature. Extending your poles for downhill or shortening them for up can also make things easier.
Of course, like with most kit choice, choosing to use trekking poles or not comes down to personal preference. Maybe it’s not for you but we do highly recommend you at least give them a a try. Borrow a pair from a friend and give them a go!