Trekking poles are a necessity for most hikers and for good reason. They provide stability over technical terrain, reduce the impact on the knees, and can help increase your speed. Nowadays, your trekking poles often go right into your tent in lieu of real poles. So there is a lot of reasons to keep your trekking poles around. Pretty much all of the career hikers use poles, but I expect to see a bit of a switch in the upcoming years as their packs are getting light enough to not warrant them anymore.
I don’t hike with trekking poles anymore. After hiking roughly 1000 miles of the Appalachian Trail with them and loved them. I swore by my poles(Cascade Tech Carbon Poles), they helped me enormously. Just as children grow out of training wheels. Hikers grow out of trekking poles. Adjusting to hiking everyday from only hiking on the weekends was a major transition and without trekking poles I’m not sure it would have went as well as it did.
Should you lose the trekking poles?
Well, I can’t answer that for you. I would ask a few questions and you can see if you are a good candidate to shave an item and almost a pound off your pack. If you’re headed out on a thru hike and haven’t experimented without poles then stick with what you know and bring them. You can always transition away from them as you get stronger. Tendons and ligaments take much longer than muscles to strengthen so transitioning away from poles will likely take some time.
As I got stronger from hiking everyday I started to realize that poles were actually slowing me down. I wasn’t the fastest hiker out there but I could easily average 3 mph over pretty much any terrain. My gait felt more natural. I found that the stronger I got from hiking the more free I felt without poles. Being able to use your hands while hiking lets you swat at bugs more effectively, and that is pretty much it. Breaking out into a light run on downhill and flat sections was a bit easier without poles as well. If you want to lose the poles then I suggest bringing them on your longer hikes but putting them in your pack. That way you have them if you need them but can still experiment without them.
If you use trekking poles as part of your ultralight tent setup then you’re probably asking why would I get rid of my trekking poles for regular tent poles. Well, there are a lot of replacement poles out there. If you have a one pole setup you can get Carbon Fiber poles that weight less than 2 oz like this one. So depending how much your poles weight you could be saving as much as a pound.
But my poles are worn weight and the pole is not!
Ah, yes good point. Even though they are technically worn, you’re using energy to swing them around all day so there is still energy going into it. I can’t get into the efficiency of walking with or without poles as I don’t have the right skill set for that.
Pros to bringing poles
- Add stability
- Reduce impact if you have a heavy pack
- Can be used to move things from the trail that you wouldn’t want to touch.
- Make you look like you’re serious about hiking.
Cons to bringing poles
- May slow you down if you’re a strong hiker
- Adds overall weight
- Keeps your hands full
Try it out.
Just as you didn’t know that you liked backpacking before you tried it. Go out for a weekend trip without your poles and see how you feel. You might just end up liking it as much as I did. Now I have no intentions of going back to using trekking poles. If you have been a long time user it might take some time. At the end of the day being ultralight is as much of simplifying your pack as it is being light.