The sophisticated successor of the desi walking stick, trekking poles seem to be gaining ‘momentum’ with the latest generation of trekkers.
So the big dilemma, are trekking (or hiking) poles just a fancy equipment or an actually effective tool? Do you really need to buy one?
The primary role of a trekking pole is to create a new point of contact between your body and the ground, in addition to your two feet. So technically from a bipedal, you turn into a tri-pedal or a quadrupedal, depending upon the pole(s) you choose to use!
Now, this additional point of contact helps you in the following 4 ways:
It helps you find sure and solid footing. Acts as a backup support should your step falter. Hence even if you stumble, you’ll definitely not end up kissing the ground. It improves your body balance and prevents you from swaying due to that heavy backpack on your shoulders. Basically minimizes the chances of you slipping by a huge margin.
This bonus balance is especially useful during the downhill climb. Not only does it provide lateral stability but acts as an anchor against the gravity on steep slopes. In short, your descent will be faster and more efficient.
√ Easy navigation:
In precarious patches, you can move quickly and effortlessly avoiding stepping on any loose rocks or soft soil. Especially while crossing streams, poles are extremely useful. They help you measure the depth of your next step and circumvent any wobbly slippery stones. Yeah, it kind of acts as a non-urban mechanical GPS.
√ Weight distribution:
Without the pole, your entire body weight and the weight of your backpack, is transmitted via your legs into the ground. When you use a pole, a substantial amount gets redirected into your arm, through the pole into the ground. This reduces the work done by the muscles in your legs and also gets the wheels in your arms churning. Well don’t they say, more the merrier!
√ Thrust and momentum:
It acts as a propeller, providing you thrust in your uphill climb. And aid you in gain a steady momentum. Poles also help you in creating a consistent walking rhythm. This uniformity prevents you from getting exhausted because your body tends to adapt easily to a steady walking pattern.
Apart from this, another major merit of using a trekking pole is the sparing effect it has on your knees. Because of the weight distribution, your knees don’t have to singularly bear the brunt. The three S- shock, stress and strain, all of it get equally distributed into your legs and the pole. The wear and tear across the knee joints are minimized. The decreased load will also prevent overworking and over usage of your knees. Hence you become less vulnerable to any severe knee injury.
Moreover, the constant movement of your hand, due to the pole improves the circulation across your upper limbs and makes good use of the muscles in your arms which otherwise would remain idle as compared to your lower limbs!
Also if you are a photographer, a lot of trekking poles can also be used as monopods for your camera, just an added advantage.
At the end of the day, trek pole is definitely a very useful equipment but not imperative. You can probably pick up the more humble and cheaper wooden stick sold by the locals there if you don’t wish to spend on the trekking pole. But here’s a thing, wooden sticks aren’t really a substitute for the poles. Sticks will provide maybe some support and stability but won’t give you all the advantages of a professional pole.
So if you are once in blue moon hiker and if your trek is not that tough and demanding, you can strike it off (the pole) from your list. But that’s not gonna happen. We are addicted to trekking, so much so that we made it into our profession. And once you trek with us, it’s gonna happen again. Well, so if not this time, hoping to see you, with the pole, maybe next time!