Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Trekking Poles and other Expert Advice

How To Use Trekking Poles -- powered by

by Joan H. Young

Expert Village has produced a series of videos covering many basic techniques of hiking and backpacking, skiing, and climbing. These are available at

One recent addition is this one on the use of trekking poles. This hiking video covers the importance of using trekking poles, also called hiking poles. Trekking poles have many uses on both day hikes and overnight hikes. They help you stabilize your weight and thrust yourself forward. Hiking poles can help you catch yourself when you start to fall and prevent you from becoming seriously hurt. These poles also give you something to lean on and take a rest. Furthermore trekking poles can be used to reach for something or scare off wildlife, such as dangerous snakes or spiders. Trekking poles are useful on all types of hiking trips.

It's all good advice, but one should always keep a few things in mind when receiving tips from the experts. Experts may not have hiked in all conditions, terrain, and geographic locales. These issues can affect the advice. To believe that a 1-minute video is going to cover all the options is naive.

Experts may be in a different age group from you. Perhaps the best plan for someone in their 20's may not be the best way, or even a possible way, for someone in their 60's to accomplish the same task.

Finally, there is usually more than one way to do anything.

My own comments on this featured video would be: it's so much better for the trails if pointed trekking poles would be used less. The points dislodge soil, and this disturbance can be easily seen on any trail where many hikers with pointed poles have passed by. Of course you may call me a Luddite, but I still like my wooden stick with a rubber crutch tip on the end for traction. I'd also not advise you to be flipping snakes off the trail with a stick. Most importantly, snakes are actually fragile creatures. Unless you are in imminent danger from a snake that you know to be poisonous, just walk around it off the edge of the trail. A whack or even a toss with a stick can break a snake's ribs and injure or kill the snake. Broken ribs can lead to a long slow death. Do you wish this on any creature of the wild? Ditto for spiders and insects... wiping down a web across the trail is one thing. Don't use your pole as a weapon to kill animals, even those with six or eight legs.

On the positive side, a stick can be a good threat to dogs which are prone to run out toward hikers on road-walks. Although I would never strike a dog with the intent of injuring it, I am more than willing to threaten loose dogs with a raised stick to keep them out of the road or from trying to follow me. Most dogs get the message of a harsh voice and raised stick. One of my worst nightmares is that someone's pet will be hit by a car while it is focused on chasing me out of its territory. I've left way too many dogs standing on the pavement even after I am out of what it considered to be its space. I say a prayer and close my eyes.

A hiking stick has saved me from many a fall. It's too easy to lose your balance with a heavy pack on your back, especially when crossing brooks on stones. The stick provides a third leg, so that you can always keep two points on firm ground- well, if you remember to do it that way! And the stick is great for holding back those tenacious berry bushes and greenbrier that grow across eastern trails in sunny areas.

So even if you are young, give a hiking stick or two a try. You may like it!

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Top 10 trekking experiences from around the world may be just what you need.

1. Nepal
2. Kokoda Trail
3. Patagonia
4. Macchu Pichu
5. The Camino
6. Gunung Tahan
7. West Coast Trail
8. Mount Kenya
9. Swiss Alps
10. Ladakh Range

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