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What Hiking Poles Can Do For You

The first Boundless Journeys tour that I was lucky enough to join was the Tour du Mont Blanc. I had never done a multi-day hiking trip, nor gone on a high with extensive elevation gains and losses. The manager for that trip, Michelle (who has hiked a lot in the Alps), recommended that I get some poles. So, I bought a pair thinking I’d bring them but probably wouldn’t use them. I was wrong. And now, I don’t hike without them. Here’s why:

 

They save your legs and knees.
On uphill terrain, particularly steeper sections that may involve stepping up on small boulders, you use the poles to pull yourself up and push off the ground, greatly reducing the work your legs have to do. Going downhill, relying on poles to bear some of your weight relieves a lot of strain on your knees.

They increase stability.
On loose, uneven terrain or narrow tracks, poles significantly increase your stability. They are useful to test rocks before stepping on them to see if they are set. Even with high-ankle boots, using poles reduces the work that your ankles need to do—a huge benefit over several days of hiking.

They give you a rhythm.
When using poles, you tend to find a more uniform hiking rhythm. This is beneficial because a steady pace can help you hike longer. There’s something very meditative about placing one foot then your pole, then the other foot, then the other pole.

They assist your upper body.
Without poles, my hands swell because they stay down by my side. Using the poles keeps them higher and the blood circulating, so they stay normal. Poles can also help your posture, especially with a day pack. You’ll hike more upright and get a bit of an upper body workout.

Some people find hiking poles get in the way, and it does take a hike or two to get used to the movement, but I honestly love mine. People often underestimate the cumulative effects of hiking all day, several days in a row, but poles definitely help!

 

 

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