We often hear discussions between experienced hikers or simple enthusiasts about the importance and necessity of using trekking poles, some do not believe them useful, despising their characteristics, others indispensable for good performance.
These tools can be very useful during a trekking route as they help the sportsman to move with more safety, stability and balance. Having to support the body while walking, the key features to take into consideration are the lightness and strength of the trekking poles.
There are various reasons why you should think about starting to use them; They guarantee greater stability while walking. Balance is a fundamental factor when trekking, especially when tackling complex routes with a lot of slope. Furthermore, the presence of a very heavy backpack could shift the center of gravity depriving the body of stability and the presence of trekking poles are absolutely an effective tool for maintaining balance.
Using trekking poles transforms us into quadrupeds giving us another 2 supports to rely on, giving us agility and benefit to the bones and ligaments, preventing the much feared sprains.
In fact, they are very useful for protecting the joints as the weight is discharged on the arms instead of on the legs, the blood circulation improves and the body assumes a more correct posture with an enlargement of the rib cage and therefore a better respiratory capacity.
The important thing is to know how and when to use trekking poles
When to use trekking poles
Trekking poles are therefore an excellent help while trekking as they increase balance and stability, guaranteeing a harmonious and dynamic step. However, it is important to use them only when necessary as they can be cumbersome on some stretches of the road such as during climbing on rocks where it is good to have your arms free to protect yourself in the event of a slip. Instead, they are excellent tools when walking in unobstructed or sloping roads.
How to use trekking poles
In order to reap the maximum benefits from using trekking poles, you need to know how to use them.
First of all, it is good to always use them in pairs because using only one could cause only damage such as back pain or loss of balance resulting in a fall.
Another tip is to use trekking poles both when stationary and when moving to get the body used to maintaining correct posture.
It is important to correctly adjust the length of the poles so that the forearms are parallel to the ground when gripping. If you have to face steep climbs, you have to shorten them slightly while if there are very long and steep descents it is good to lengthen them to make movement and support easier.
The correct way to use them is to place the trekking poles alternately with respect to the legs or to place the stick of the left hand when you have the right leg forward and vice versa. If you have to go up a slope, you have to position your body in an oblique protracted forward so as to give yourself the push, while if you have to go down a slope, the trekking poles must precede the body, thus becoming a good support point. Finally, if you are on the flat, the trekking poles must be positioned perpendicular to the ground, creating an angle of 90 degrees with the elbow.
Pay close attention to the handle
The trekking poles have a strap to be adjusted so as to be short without tightening too much and gripped by passing your hand through the loop. The hands must thus hold the stick firmly while still keeping the hands relaxed.
Some sticks have a more extended handle that falls on the stick for more than 15/20 cm, this allows you to change the handle without changing the height of the stick when necessary.
Trekking poles must be placed at the foot side at about a span so as not to trip and to have an effective point of support.
The use of sticks in detail on different terrains
How to use flat trekking poles
Walking on level ground is the standard situation from which to start using poles. Along paths without slopes, trekking poles are used with the alternating step technique: when we bring the right foot forward, we also bring our hand forward with the left stick, and vice versa. Trekking poles never lean forward on the feet, but touch the ground next to the height corresponding to the tip of the foot, and from here they begin to push backwards thanks to the action of the arms, with the hands that release the grip and rely on the strap as the stick stays behind the body. The recall phase takes place by grasping the handle again and lifting the tip from the ground without sliding it.
How to use trekking poles in technical passages on stones or rivers
When using trekking poles in technical passages on stones or rivers, it is necessary to widen the arms a little and therefore the support points. Here, in fact, the sticks are used to ensure balance and a wide base allows you to leverage with greater comfort and safety. In these situations it will be realized that the arms work more and that part of the effort is placed on them.
How to use trekking poles uphill and downhill
Uphill and downhill the technique with which trekking poles are used changes a bit. In fact, uphill and downhill you do not proceed with the alternating step but first you aim the 2 sticks, making sure one at a time that they have a good grip on the ground, and then you take a complete step to bring the feet and the body between the 2 sticks . At this point the operation is repeated and thus proceeds one step after another. Both uphill and downhill it is essential to never aim the sticks too far, but only at the distance that allows us to keep them vertical. A technique widely used uphill is to remove your hands from the straps in order to vary the grip, even using the grip section located under the main grip in the best quality models.
How to use trekking poles in traverses
In the traverses, with one side downstream and the other upstream, it is necessary to stagger the adjustment height of the poles, shortening the one that will be upstream and lengthening the one downstream. In this case their function is above all of balance and we proceed as if uphill and downhill, first pointing the two sticks slightly forward, one at a time, and then taking a complete step with both feet to bring us between the two sticks.
At first it will be difficult to use them but following these indications and with a lot of practice it will become natural to use them for trekking.