Do I really need trekking poles?

Trekking poles are always an item of contention in our office: some of us swear by them, and some of us can either take them or leave them. So who's right?


If you're signed up to one of our trekking challenges this year, you'll have noticed on your kit list that we mention trekking poles in our Optional Items section. This causes some controversy in our office - some of us think they should be essential items, whereas others aren't fussed about them!

Ultimately, whether you trek with poles is entirely a matter of personal preference. But let's take a look at some of the pros and cons of walking with poles, and hopefully you can make your own informed decision on whether trekking with poles is right for you.

Trekking poles help you keep your balance

Poles can be a great way to steady yourself as you walk. You shouldn't be stabbing them into the ground for stability, but lightly using them as balancing rods to help you keep steady, moving forward, and in the right direction. Many of the paths you will come across on your trek will be dirt roads, rocky, dusty, ragged, or all of the above - and that little extra stability goes a long way.

Trekking poles can save you from injury

If you have ever had knee or ankle issues, trekking poles can be a godsend. They can help you to take some weight off your joints, as well as weight off your sore muscles - especially when walking downhill. The last thing you'll want is to bust your knee while coming down from the summit of Kilimanjaro, or wherever you might be! All of our treks involve a significant portion of downhill walking, so don't think you won't get a chance to use them on the downhill slopes.

Trekking poles will help your posture

Used correctly, poles will help you keep your back straight and your body upright whilst you're walking. There's nothing worse than coming into camp in the evening with terrible aches and pains in your back because you've been slouched over all day. As well as making use of the hip straps on your day pack, you can use your trekking poles to keep your body straight and comfortable, and ensure that you make it to camp without a sore back. This will help improve your trekking endurance, and keep aches and pains from getting you down!

Despite their many benefits, trekking poles do have their downsides - especially if used incorrectly. Here are some final pointers to make sure that you're not going to waste your time and money on poles that won't help you trek:

  • Make sure your poles are the right height. Your arms should be at right angles to your body when walking on flat, and then adjust your pole length dependent on the terrain (either shorter for uphill or longer for downhill).


  • Use proper technique. Your body should be upright, and your poles should be pointing forward. Use the alternate pole to your forward foot. Never use trekking poles to drag yourself forward - that's not what they're for, and you will hurt yourself.

As we said, whether you use poles or not is up to you! But if you do use them (and we recommend you do), make sure you're using them safely and effectively.