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021 Pole Land 2008-12-19

Poles in mountains on train track

In the mid nineties I began using poles to hike, trekking poles. Actually my first pair were sectional ski poles, which I adapted to trekking poles by changing baskets. I am now on my third pair of poles and hardly hike anywhere without them. So should you invest or is it just another gadget?

Advantages of Using Poles

Distribution - Poles can take weight off your feet, knees, and legs distributing it between your arms and legs.

Swelling - Or lack there of! Carrying a pack my hands swell, but using poles eliminates those sausage fingers.

Balance - There is hardly anything better than having two outriggers to help stabilize your movement.

Boost - Got a high step, keep the poles low and push off of them to help you up and over the obstacle.

Fitness - By utilizing your arms during the hike, you get a whole body workout. Oh, you might be surprised as to how sore your arms are after using the poles.

Weight - Or rather savings, you don’t have to wear clunker boots when you use poles. Poles are also versatile using them as tent poles, bear proof food bag hanging aids (or anytime you need extra reach), splints - for injuries, fending off wolverines, and of course camp entertainment such as twirling.

Steady - Saving the best for last, I used to turn my ankles regularly. Nothing debilitating but still hurt, using poles you greatly lessen the ankle twists. Well, the ankle still twists, but you are able to quickly unweight the offending ankle.

Disadvantages of Using Poles

Silly - Okay you do feel silly using them at first but you get over it quickly when you see their worth. Then there is always the smart aleck, "Where’s the snow?" or "Going skiing?" questions or comments. Don’t worry about either.

Price - They can be costly, but no more than a good pair of boots.

Environmental - Pole tips make little holes in the soft ground on the side of the trail - probably contributing to erosion. The pole manufacturers make rubber feet to fit over the pole tips and should lessen impact, if you are concerned with the small holes.

Gadgets - It is just another thing: one more thing to pack - one more thing to carry. True, we all have to decide what is just another gadget or worthwhile equipment - I vote for the latter.

If you are still not convinced, then borrow a pair from a friend or rent a pair from REI or other outdoor store. Soon you will be a pole toting, swashbuckling buccaneer. My only regret with trekking poles is that I did not start using them earlier in my life.

Happy trails.


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