Hiking Poles: Yes, or No?

When the thought of hiking poles comes up when planning for a hike, many people often wonder if they even need them. We break down all your questions about hiking poles.

What exactly is a hiking pole?  Well, it can commonly be referred to as a trekking pole, or hiking stick is a common hiking accessory used to assist hikers by providing some stability on tough terrain.  Generally, they are used as a pair as this helps with providing a little more stability.

Why Do You Need Hiking Poles?

I originally purchased the Black Diamond trekking poles to aid me on a hunting trip.  I knew that having a heavy load on my back was going to take a toll on my body…especially if we had a far distance to travel.  The terrain we would be in would be tough and I knew these poles would help to keep me stable. 

They will help on those steep inclines and down slopes so you can come down in a more controlled manner.  It can also help you get into a rhythm or stride, keeping your arms active and a part of the workout. 

I have personally never had issues with my hands swelling, but oftentimes I find myself grabbing the straps of my pack to keep my hands above my heart for blood flow purposes…trekking poles can also aid in this as they keep your hands around the heart level.

Are you planning to cross any water ways?  If so, trekking poles can be a great piece of gear to help keep you grounded while crossing a steady stream.  You can also use it to help you identify just how deep the water is…the same goes for snow.  I am sure that some of you reading this have been in a lake or river and felt just how slippery some of the rocks on the bottom can be…well trekking poles can help with this.

Need a quick shelter from the rain, or want to minimize the gear you are taking?  Trekking poles have been used to support a quick shelter to keep you out of the elements or perhaps your sleeping quarters for the evening…and this is a great way to shed some weight…or trade off weight for that matter…I only say this if you did not plan on bringing trekking poles and have an extreme lightweight tent.

And let’s not forget that if you are hiking you are in the wilderness.  You know where predators live…the kind that can eat you.  Ok so maybe that is a little extreme, but there are people who have been attacked by a mountain lion, bear, or snake while out hiking or trail running. 

My point is, that you can use trekking poles as a form of protection as well.  Maybe not the best form of protection, but it could be used to sway off an animal that may want to make you into their next meal. While we’re on that awkward subject, I suggest you take a look at our guide to off-grid DIY First Aid Kits.

Reasons To NOT Use Hiking Poles

It is another piece of gear you have to carry around.  It is added weight, and when not in use takes up space on your pack and puts more weight back there.  You also run the risk of them falling from your pack and then you are out of some money and a piece of gear you were relying on. 

A bit of it is a stretch, but you can also forget to grab them as you lay them next to a tree while you stop to take a break or to take in the scenery…I would not mention it if I did not know of an occasion where this occurred to someone I know.  After all, we are humans and we tend to make mistakes…especially on a long day of hiking.

Trekking poles also take away from the challenge of traversing the terrain.  Instead, grab that nearby tree branch or rock for stability…connect with nature…after all, that’s the reason why you are out there right? 

Reliance can cause some bad habits.  When you rely on something too much, it can take away things like proper form/technique and lead to other injuries or lack of strength.  When I would go out for a hike, I would typically bring them with me every third or fourth trip or on those really tough climbs and descents as an added resource for myself or my wife and kids.

 This leads me to my next reason not to use trekking poles…because if you have kids with you they are going to want to use them as well!  And trust me, it will not be for their intended purpose.  Instead, they will poke things and try to sword fight.  And then you run the risk of them either damaging or losing it out on the trail.

Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Grip Hiking Poles Review

Overall, the use of Trekking Poles is a personal preference.  I like having them as an option to take out with me.  And while I used my kids as a reason not to use them, they have come in handy a couple of times on some harder trails where it kept them mentally sane and moving forward. 

They have also assisted me with carrying that heavy load on my back for some miles and I was thankful for them.  And there are times where I want that connection with nature.  Using a tree branch or a rock to help me slide down a hill or climb up one.

If you are in the market for Trekking poles, I highly recommend to head to your local outdoor store and see what they offer and to get a feel for them before buying.  This is exactly what I did.  I researched the web as well, but I wanted to get a feel for how they would fit my hands and the weight associated with them. 

I stumbled upon Black Diamonds Trail Ergo Cork Grip.  I was impressed with the feel of the handle and the 15-degree corrective angle.  The cork has a nice feel and assists with moisture management, and the soft padded wrist straps did not cause any irritation.

Quick Facts:

  • Shaft Construction: Aluminum
  • Grip Material: Cork
  • Adjustable
  • Max Length: 55 in
  • Min Length: 27 in
  • External lever lock mechanism
  • Weight: 1lb, 2oz
  • Get yours here

This is a true four-season trekking pole. The dual Flicklock provides easy and quick adjust-ability as well as securing the poles at the proper length without worry it will slide down.  This is also great if you are with someone who needs a little assistance and you can adjust relatively quickly to fit them.  And while I have not used them to make a quick shelter, I have plans to do so in the future. Check out Our Guide to Hiking Essential Gear.

Wrap Up on Hiking Poles

So far these had held up very well and I would recommend them.  Black Diamond is a strong brand for a reason…they make quality products that hold up to the challenges thrown at them.  Check out their full lineup here. And like always, if something changes I will update this review.

CJ is a Colorado resident, active duty military, and an avid outdoorsman. From hiking, camping, and mountain biking, to river rafting and Overlanding, CJ and his family are constantly adventuring.

Recent Posts