Ever since I started hiking regularly I’ve been tempted by the idea of getting a trekking pole. During an adventure in Newlands forest, a few old branches have been commandeered as temporary solutions and worked wonders – especially for somebody with balance deficiencies.
In the early days of my hiking adventures, I’d only seen trekking poles brandished by the more veteran hikers. The people who look like they knew how to create a functional hydraulic system out of rocks and branches and can read a compass through their own magnetic field.
Shamefully, I thought the benefits of using a trekking pole were reserved only for the veteran hikers who had passed the half-century of existence mark. Whew, how wrong that assumption was.
This weekend, my brand new trekking pole got its first workout – and I cannot believe I have hiked this long without one. If you are a rookie hiker and wondering whether a trekking pole is worth getting, the answer is yes, absolutely, especially if you plan on tackling extended hikes on uneven terrain.
They are a relatively inexpensive piece of kit which will not only make your hikes a little smoother, but also give you additional options to gesticulate if you need to make a point to your fellow hikers.
Benefits of using a trekking pole on hikes
Let’s start with the most obvious reason. As any hiker will tell you, the descend is often worse than the ascend. Your knee joints take a serious impact beating on downhills – a trekking pole can make a massive difference in minimising some of that.
If you’re going on extended hikes, you also know that you’re totally knackered by the time you’re descending, meaning you’re more likely to let your concentration, and subsequently your whole self, slip. Not great.
The additional support from a trekking pole when descending is a sort of early signal to your brain that you’re supposed to be using your legs next. Often, (and it might just be me…) I’ve found that my brain moves faster than my body and I am thinking about a step when my legs are still stuck, leading to a less than graceful stumble…or splat.
When hiking on uneven terrain – especially areas with loose rocks like some sections of the Pipe Track around Table Mountain – not even the best trail shoes can save you from the occasional misstep. Using a trekking pole isn’t going to eliminate all of the risks of potentially twisting your ankle on one of those rebellious rocks, but it can help poke them out of the way before they attack.
In general, if balance is not your strong point, you can think of a hiking trekking pole as your Inspector Gadget balancing device.
When you feel yourself falling victim to gravity, having a sturdy pole to poke into the ground is a far better option than impersonating a very ambitious ostrich to not familiarise yourself with mother earth. That in itself is worth the price of the pole, especially if one of your superpowers include the ability to walk straight into a couch in your living room.