10 Essential Uses for Trekking Poles

Many trekkers do not uses poles (“sticks”) or use them sparingly or incorrectly when they do have them. Poles should be an essential part of every Himalayan trekker’s kit and are incredibly versatile. Here are ten ways that you can use your trekking poles, and there are probably others we haven’t considered.

  1. When using poles to help you climb steep slopes you’ll be increasing your overall strength by 25 to 30% while reducing the strain on your legs. When using poles on steep slopes be sire to place them far in front of you and pull yourself up from your shoulders. Your arms should strain as much as your legs.
  2. When using your poles to descend steep slopes extend them about 6 inches (10cm) longer than for climbing up. You can place your palms on the tops of the poles to avoid too much strain on your wrists.
  3. Poles can even be helpful on flat trails, either to help propel you along in the same way that they are used for cross-country skiing, or to give you a little extra support when you are very tired near the end of a long day trekking.
  4. If you find yourself “bushwacking” on a rough trail you can use your poles to shield yourself from foliage that might hit your face or other exposed parts of your body. They are especially useful for keeping thorny branches away.
  5. When crossing a stream, marsh, or area with lots of fallen foliage where a firm trail is not visible, use your poles to test the ground for firmness before stepping forward.
  6. Along with testing for firm ground you can use your poles to navigate across streams and other very uneven, unstable trail surfaces. It’s like having four feet! You can even use them as a sort of pole vault to help you jump across a stream or other obstacles.
  7. If you are confronted on the trail by feral dogs or are uncertain whether a large animal like a yak or pony might kick at you when you are passing on a trail you can use your poles as a shield. With something as large as a pony or yak this is mostly a psychological shield but then yaks are rarely known to kick at anyone (it’s the horns you need to watch out for). Dogs will usually just bark or growl and rarely attack, so only use your poles in self-defense when animals are actually aggressive.
  8. If you need to bury waste beside (away from) the trail, a trekking pole can be used as a shovel.
  9. If you are resting and don’t want your backpack laying in the dirt, rest it on your trekking poles. Poles can also be used as part of makeshift lean-to for a variety of purposes.
  10. If you find yourself on a particularly difficult, steep trail where you can find a way up to the next level, your guide or another trekker can pull you up by extending your poles to him.

242 thoughts on “10 Essential Uses for Trekking Poles

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