cloudhiking - maps and adventure guides

Site Links


Contact Us









Friends' Links

Appalachia & Beyond

Family Wilds


Marking My Territory

Outcast Hikers


792 Summer Stories
Hiking without Poles

HIkers leaving Scouts Lookout without their poles

Since the mid 1990's, I have been using trekking poles while hiking. My first set I used were a pair of collapsible backcountry ski poles. I immediately saw the benefits of using poles. The poles helped soften my steps, aided my balance, and prevented my hands from swelling when carrying heavy loads. From then until now, I have carried poles on most hikes.

I am one of those people who if they like something, they promote it. Seeing the advantages of using poles, I soon had my wife and all my friends using poles.

Then, somewhere along the way, Amy, my wife, and I stopped using the poles on every hike. We started thinking that we were getting too dependent on the supporting sticks and were loosing skills such as balance. Now, I often times carry my sticks in my hand and use them when needed. If the trail is a bit tougher than anticipated, I put the poles into use to help ease the effort.

During the summer ('12) we were hiking/scrambling on the famous Angels Landing trail in Zion National Park. The trail starts at the river and climbs through canyons up tight switchbacks to an outstanding viewpoint and rest at Scouts Lookout. We stopped at the Lookout for a small break before continuing.

Two hikers had arrived at the Lookout just before us and were preparing to leave. Most folks on the route from the Lookout to the summit of Angels Landing want to use their hands gripping the rock or the stanchion chains. The pair were putting away their poles as we were grabbing a snack to eat.

The hikers wore the clothing and carried the gear of experienced hikers. As they were getting ready to continue, they collapsed their trekking poles. One of the hikers commented that they didn't know if they would be able to keep their balance without using the poles on the route.

We all shared in the laugh.

Trekking poles definitely help hikers. However, a few notes on usage ...

One key advantage to trekking poles is they help me maintain pace.

Going uphill you can pull with your upper body as well as push with your legs. It becomes a full body workout.

Crossing creeks, logs, snowfields, boulderfields, etc, are all easier with poles.

Poles help prevent turning or spraining ankles and might catch you on a tripping fall.

Poles may be used for a variety of other purposes such as: raising and retrieving a bear bag, supporting a tarp or tent, for supporting or splinting an injury, etc

It is hard to use you hands for other tasks while you are using poles. For example, when you pause to take a picture (which requires your hands), if you are not careful you are also playing a game of pickup sticks.

Experiment on the best ways to snack, drink, take photos, etc while using poles.

At times on the hike you might need to collapse and stow the poles. Learn how to secure the poles to your pack, before you need to stow them on a hike.

If you "have to" use the poles to help you walk, then you should begin working on leg, core, and balance exercises OR limit your hikes to trails where poles are a help and not a hindrance.

We spoke with the Angels Landing hikers a couple of more times during our hike. They were moving along fine, even if they weren't using their poles. Ha!

Happy Trekking Pole trails




Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Poles

Angels Landing


Name (required):

Comment (required):

Please Introduce Secure Code: