Trekking Poles, love ‘em or hate ‘em?

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, trekking poles are with us to stay and gaining popularity as folk start to realise their benefits.

You’re probably wondering where I stand as to whether I like or dislike trekking poles?

Well I’ll openly tell you, I’m in favour of them 100% plus.

Not only are they a great walking aid, but for me, also part of my first aid kit.

I’m not medically qualified; in fact, I’ve no qualifications with regards to the outdoors, physio, health or medical professions.

After breaking my ankle back in December 2009, I needed to get back to fitness as quickly as possible, but sadly, too late for the snow where I missed some golden opportunities to use ice axe and crampons.

However, I did manage to get a good walk in a few weeks after having the plaster removed and with the use of trekking poles bought for me by my in-laws, managed a good days walking in the Peak District.

Though my ankle did ache a lot at the end of the walk, but without those poles, I doubt very much I would have completed half that days walk.

I’ve always sat on the fence when it came to the pros and cons of trekking poles, reading all that has been said, for and against them and really, never bothered much until February 2010 while out with friends, walking around Flash, Gradbach and Buxton, when I used the poles for the very first time.

I made sure that I read up beforehand, on how to use them correctly, how to set the length and other tips and tricks.

One thing that did come across quite strong, was people found the click clack of the carbide tips on hard surfaces annoying. So do I…..

So I tried mine with the rubber bungs over the carbide tips, hoping that I wouldn’t lose my footing.

I was very pleasantly surprised, especially as there was snow on the ground, how well those bungs kept their grip on hard surfaces, like tarmac, rocks and even lose stones.

I was sold on the benefits of trekking poles from that day on.

But hang on, I have only one pair of hands, two poles, one in each hand, a map and a compass, how do I navigate?

Well, it certainly put my observation skills to the test. I had to make sure I noted each fine bit of detail so when we stopped, I could track the route from our last stop point to where we had arrived.

I’m pleased to say, I was successful.

I then started to get more adventurous with walks and climbs using the poles while my fitness built back up.

But then the real hill walking started, new territory which meant I needed to be hands on with map and compass, my ankle now back to strength, so my poles ended up attached to my pack, sun bathing, getting wet or whatever the weather threw at me.

One day, I was walking through a wooded area and the cork handles were brushing against the low branches. A risk of getting the cork handles scratched, I inverted the poles on the pack to give the cork handles some protection.

However, this is not necessarily a good idea when in a group and crossing a lot of styles, for its easy to poke someone as you negotiate the style.

So I required something to protect the cork handles while out walking and not at risk of poking someone and possibly causing serious injury. While walking through an outdoor store, I stumbled across rock climbers chalk bags, and thought, there's my protection for the cork handles....

So I bought a rock climbers chalk bag, to put over the handles, thus protecting them from low branches.

From then on, my poles spent most of their time, attached to my pack, enjoying whatever weather we were in at the time.

A waste of money you might think?

Not really, they became handy for steep ascents when the going got tough, icy conditions and on one occasion, after I stumbled, bending my knee the wrong way, part of my first aid kit.

That day, coming down from Moel Siabod, was painful, but I wouldn't have done it without my poles to take the strain off the knee.

Yes, I was slower than normal, but it would have been even slower, for I wouldn't have been able to move far for a good while, if I hadn’t got my poles with me.

The following text is from my blog; “Moel Siabod and my old Navigation Training Ground

During our descent, my left foot found a grass hidden hole, causing me to stumble. This in turn tried to bend my knee the wrong way, which nature never intended and it was a little uncomfortable.

This just goes to show, how easy it is to have an accident, no matter how careful you aim to be. Even the most experienced climbers and hill walkers get caught out. The difference is how prepared for it you are and how you handle the situation.

This was very minor and after a couple of minutes to let the pain subside, we continued our descent.

As we continued our descent, using either grassy slopes or rocky areas as we saw fit, we quickly lost height and many of those splendid views from the summit.

We neared to point where our ascent of Moel Siabod started in earnest, but by this time, my knee was starting to get very uncomfortable, with all the jolting that knees often take during a steep descent.

I always carry a pair of trekking poles, mainly as part of my first aid kit, but also, should I, anyone I’m walking with, need them for generally assistance while walking. However, this time, they became useful, somewhere between a walking aid and first aid usage.

Most accidents happen on the hills towards the end of the day, when folk are tired and fatigued, resulting in poorer judgement, or perhaps in a rush to get back.

I have never doubted the benefits of trekking poles, in fact, I’m all for their usage where reasonably feasible. Anything that takes the strain has to be a bonus. However, I’m guilty as charged, in that I don’t use my poles as much as I should.

There are some good budget poles out there, but if you can afford to spare the extra cash and invest in higher quality trekking poles, do so. You will reap the benefits in the long term.

Trekking poles can also make good supports for tarps, bivvies' and other basic camping accessories.

My poles will always be with me, both as a walking aid and part of my first aid kit.

There is of course another very valuable use for trekking poles, testing the depth of any areas of water that you might be about to cross. Not just areas of water, they can help to give you an idea how boggy and spongy an area of boggy ground could be.

If the ground is spongy,
then find an alternative using solid ground,
or you risk becoming bog fast,
which can be fatal!

So in my opinion, a very versatile part of anyone's outdoor kit, a decent pair of trekking poles, which need not cost the earth, or your comfort and safety.

Finally, happy rambling and thank you for reading,
Peak Rambler


  1. I use Black Diamond trekking poles and I really love them :) My spine and my knees are definitely in better condition :)

  2. I'm 100% for the poles. I'm a 31 year old woman and I've been walking for over 20 years very regularly (every weekend and I've walked the C2C and the PW alone). I hardly used poles at all until recently, since I put a lot of weight on. Foot and knee pain became intolerable without using the poles. They also enable me to exercise my arms as well as my legs. I'm now losing weight successfully and probably won't need them for much longer, but I will continue to use them even once I'm back in shape as it will reduce wear and tear on my knees and feet and help me to keep my arms strong. I wouldn't be able to lose weight without hillwalking and I need poles to walk for 6 hours plus comfortably. Using the poles makes hillwalking a full-body work out. I imagine those who complain about them haven't walked with physical problems, whether damaged joints, recovering broken bones, being very overweight or any other physical problems.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to rad and leave a comment.
      I'm pleased to read that you're finding great benefits from using your poles.
      I know once I'm able to walk again, whenever that may be, mine will be more than handy and instrumental in building up my stamina and enabling me to enjoy the outdoors again, one day.
      ATB, PR