Endurance, Safety and Adaptability
Regardless of terrain, trekking poles give you the ability to hike further and stay on the trail longer, especially when hiking with a heavy pack. Distributing some of the added weight and stress to the poles is less fatiguing than making your legs do all the work.
And, don't overlook the importance of safety. A bad fall can end your expedition prematurely or result in a trip to the emergency room. Avoid this by focusing on prevention and packing your trekking poles. As a side benefit, trekking poles will help prevent the common hiker's affliction of finger and hand swelling.
Trekking poles are also adaptable: in a pinch, some hikers have used trekking poles to replace broken tent poles and set up shelter with a tarp. They can also be used for protection against wild animals such as mountain cats.
A Great Workout
Even when not hiking on challenging trails, some people use trekking poles to improve their fitness. Rather than just walking, you can have a "full body" workout by using poles to engage the muscles of your upper body. It may take a short time to develop a rhythm and feel comfortable with your poles, but once you are used to them, they can actually become an important part of your fitness routine.
Selecting the Right Poles
The variety of trekking poles is extensive, so check out the different types before purchasing them. Consider what kind of hikes you expect to take, your fitness level, your height and weight and your tolerance for having to lock and unlock the poles for changes in terrain. Your trekking poles should make your experience more enjoyable and not become a nuisance.
Some key points of comparison are: cost, weight, shaft material (and shock absorption capacity), length (and adjustability), size when collapsed, durability, locking system, grip material and types of tips available.
Get an overview of what's out there before making a purchase—and also read a few product reviews by hikers who have actually used the trekking poles you are considering. Visit your local outdoors store to try different poles for yourself to evaluate their comfort and suitability for your needs. Then let us know how your hiking experiences have improved using your trekking poles.
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