It’s a fact that every pound of weight a person loses reduces four pounds of pressure on each knee on every step. In other words, if you lose 10 pounds—either in body weight or from your backpack—it saves the equivalent of 40 pounds of pressure on each knee. Trekking poles won’t help you lose weight, but they have a similar effect by distributing the load into your arms and shoulders while also offering other advantages. Here’s why you should consider a pair for your next backcountry hunt.
Trekking poles have the greatest utility over uneven ground. They help arrest stumbles when navigating narrow or rocky trails, crossing timber blowdowns or creeks, and especially when descending hairpin switchbacks. For ultimate comfort, look for poles that have integrated shock absorption in the handle, which will reduce the impact on your wrist, elbows, and shoulders.
The best trekking poles are adjustable, allowing you to shorten the poles for ascents and lengthen them upon descent. Whether trudging uphill, flying down the mountain, or cruising across level ground, a good pair of trekking poles is literally the equivalent of having four-wheel drive for your body.
A sturdy pair of trekking poles is not limited to hiking. Every ultralight camper knows the value of adjustable poles when it comes time to string up a tarp on open ground—no scrounging around for the right length stick. Many brands also offer interchangeable baskets, one pair for the trail and another for when the snow starts to fly, saving powder hounds the expense of also buying ski poles.