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Person sitting by river with trekking poles

Trekking poles’ biggest benefits are balance and stability, says Heather Balogh Rochfort, author of Backpacking 101 and Women Who Hike. “If you’re carrying a substantial pack, it takes a lot of core strength, and nobody’s perfect in that area — so you’ll pitch around a bit.

“Combine that with trekking on uneven terrain and you’ve got a recipe for injury,” she says. “Trekking poles are a great way to help keep you stable and upright.”

The benefits pertain even with a light pack or no pack at all, especially on uneven ground. And if you’re dealing with an injury, they can be particularly helpful. “My husband tore his ACL playing soccer,” she says. “He’s all healed now, but he always uses trekking poles while hiking, because they give him a boost of confidence.”

Balogh Rochfort admits the hiking community is divided over poles, and she notes that using them can aggravate hand and wrist conditions like carpal tunnel. “They can also be cumbersome, especially if you’re alternating between hiking and scrambling up inclines and you need to put them away in your backpack.”

Collapsible poles are ideal for those situations, but fixed poles are generally less expensive and fine for less challenging terrain.

This originally appeared as “I see more people using trekking poles while they’re hiking. What are their benefits?” in the June 2019 print issue of Experience Life.

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