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Why and how do I use hiking poles? (a.k.a. walking sticks or trekking poles)
Let me count the ways!
See? You really should consider poles as essential hiking gear.
But don't just take my word for it!
Read what this hiker has to say about using trekking poles!
You already know my subjective preferences.
Here's what objective research results say:
Hiking with poles may increase the number of calories burned without making you feel more tired.
The weight of the poles plus the involvement of your upper body muscles in each step will burn more fuel (calories).
That means that if you hike for weight control, you will end up burning more calories if you use walking sticks.
SOURCE: Journal of Strength Conditioning Research 2008 Sept; 22(5):1468-74 Trekking poles increase physiological responses to hiking without increased perceived exertion. Saunders MJ et al.
Here's yet another great reason:
Using trekking poles during a hike will cause your heart to pump harder, to support the increased demand for oxygen from your arms (in addition to your legs, which are already screaming for oxygen).
The result is a stronger heart muscle, without increasing your pace or choosing harder terrain. You are getting more benefits from each hike!
SOURCE: Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 2005 Dec; 32(12):2093-101. Muscular and metabolic costs of uphill backpacking: are hiking poles beneficial? Knight CA & Caldwell GE.
In addition, these authors found that your leg muscles don't have to work as hard when you use walking sticks, because they provoke a longer stride length.
If all of this objectivity hasn't convinced you yet, what about having a little fun?
And I would be remiss if I left out this vital fact:
Hiking sticks make really handy perches for gray jays (also called camp robbers or whiskey jays).
I've owned four different brands of poles:
And the first thing I can say unequivocally is that all of them were better than the hiking sticks I made for myself out of fallen tree limbs!
If you're looking for the perfect trekking poles, you've got to be sure they will fit your hands and not cause fatigue.
That's why you need to buy hiking poles specifically made for women.
This is especially true for women like me who are "petite", meaning short - we need shorter poles and smaller grips.
Features you absolutely need to pay attention to:
As I've mentioned earlier, I've used every reputable brand on the market and tried out every feature.
I've leaned on my poles on steep rocky or icy descents, used them to probe swiftly flowing streams, defended myself against overly curious mountain goats (rest assured, no goats were harmed), and used them to prop up shelters.
Here are my top 3 "must have" features:
I've used Black Diamond poles over five years (hiking in all 4 seasons in mountainous terrain), and they've taken everything I've dished out.
They might be just what you're looking for!
I'll leave you with perhaps the best reason of all to use hiking poles:
trail spider relocation
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