Hiking Tip May 2014 – Hiking with Poles
Why you should hike with poles on every hike
You are on a hike up a local trail, you come to a stream you must cross to get to the trail on the other side. It is a short crossing only 20m (66ft), and you have done many before. The stream is fast moving, only 30cm (6”) deep in most places. You begin to cross using momentum to move from rock to rock. You pause in the middle of the stream as you come to a rock that has water flowing over it, you realize that is the only one to step on. You take the step and as your foot contacts the rock it quickly slips...you lose your balance and you tumble into an icy cold creek pool. You bang your head on a rock, you regain yourself and manage to get to the other side of the stream. You are soaked, your head hurts otherwise you are fine. It is a very hot summer day so you think, no problem this is kind of refreshing. You feel your head it’s just a small bump. You decide to continue the remainder of the hike only another 30min to the viewpoint. Your boots soaked now squishing as you walk. You realize that you made a mistake by not bringing your poles today, you did not think you needed them, it was only a short 2hr hike. You realize that this mishap could have been prevented.
What type of poles should you buy?
There are many brands and prices of hiking/trekking poles available. Personal choice will be up to you. They range in price from $39-$150 they all are adjustable, have spring shock system, come with multiple tips for use depending on terrain traveling on. I am not sure if the more expensive ones are much better than the lower cost ones but I purchased a set for only $39 from Canadian Tire and they work fine. You may also use ski poles the only drawback is they will not have spring shocks built in, be adjustable in length or have multiple tips.
How to use poles when hiking
The proper way to use hiking and trekking poles is to set the height so that when they are in your hands your arms are bent at 90 degree angle to the ground. When using for uphill hiking you may want to shorten the poles to make it easier, and when descending lengthen them so that they will provide stability ahead of your feet. To provide the maximum of balance you should place the pole ahead of you first and then move forward with a step. This will ensure that there is always a pole planted in the ground so in case you are about to slip you will have the pole ready to catch it. If you are travelling over flat areas in between steep sections you may want carry your poles. If you do make sure you carry them with the points forward so that you can control them and don’t accidentally poke a fellow hiker my accident. As an added benefit your poles may be useful to support a shelter in the event that you are caught out. Remember everything you have on your back can be used in a survival situation, so think outside of the box and be inventive with your tools at hand.
Remember bring your poles on every hike, when you get used to using them you will never want to hike without them.
Read my book “Trail Ready” for complete information on how to prepare for your hikes and be ready for any emergencies.