Hiking is an excellent way to immerse yourself in the great outdoors. Yet, for many, the pursuit of peak performance remains a perpetual aspiration. There are countless strategies that hikers implement to enhance their experience, with one of the most common being the use of trekking poles. To some, trekking poles may seem like an unnecessary hiking accessory.
However, this initial impression often stems from a lack of understanding regarding the multi-fold benefits that these practical tools bring to the table. Among these advantages is the potential to increase your hiking speed. If that surprises you, read on to learn how the judicious use of trekking poles can indeed enhance your trail performance.
Understanding The Purpose Of Trekking Poles
Firstly, let’s break down the mechanics of hiking. Hiking is not just a lower-body activity; it’s a full-body exercise. Your upper body strength plays a crucial role in maintaining your balance, propelling you forward, and reducing the load on your knees and hips. This is where trekking poles come into play.
By effectively spreading the workload across your body, trekking poles ensure you can maintain a steady pace for a longer duration. Before delving into the speed aspect, it’s important to understand the primary purpose of trekking poles. These handy tools are essentially extensions of our arms, offering an additional point of contact with the ground.
They serve numerous functions, like stability on uneven terrain, reduced strain on lower body joints, and balance during river crossings or steep descents. But how does this all translate to speed?
1. Improved Balance and Stability
The most immediate benefit trekking poles provide is an improvement in balance and stability. They allow you to traverse across a variety of terrains with ease, especially those that are challenging or treacherous. The extra stability can increase your confidence on the trail, allowing you to maintain a consistent pace rather than slowing down on rough patches.
2. Reduced Strain on Lower Body
It’s a known fact that trekking poles help distribute the load more evenly across your body. This means your legs, particularly your knees and ankles, bear less strain. Over long distances, this reduced stress can help prevent fatigue, enabling you to sustain your speed for a longer duration. This advantage is especially apparent on steep climbs and descents, where without poles, your leg muscles would have to work much harder.
3. Rhythm and Momentum
One often overlooked benefit of trekking poles is the rhythm they can help establish. The pole-planting pattern can encourage a consistent walking rhythm, acting almost like a metronome for your steps. This rhythmic pattern can increase your overall speed by helping you maintain a steady pace. Furthermore, by pushing off with your poles, especially on uphill stretches, you can gain forward momentum, effectively boosting your speed.
4. Efficiency Through Upper Body Engagement
Trekking poles aren’t just useful for balance; they also engage your upper body muscles. By using your arm and shoulder muscles to aid movement, you effectively turn hiking into a full-body exercise, thus increasing overall efficiency. More muscle groups sharing the work means less fatigue, allowing you to maintain a higher average speed over long distances.
Choosing The Best Trekking Poles: Top 3 Considerations
Selecting the right trekking poles can significantly impact your overall hiking experience. To make the most of your investment, here are the top three considerations:
1. Material and Weight
Trekking poles are typically made from aluminum or carbon fiber. Aluminum poles are durable, sturdy, and often more affordable, but they are also heavier. On the other hand, carbon fiber poles are lightweight, making them ideal for long-distance hiking or backpacking, but they can be more expensive and potentially less durable. Choose the material that aligns with your budget, hiking style, and the types of terrain you’ll encounter.
2. Adjustability and Locking Mechanism
The ability to adjust pole length can be crucial, especially when traversing varied terrains. For instance, you might want to shorten your poles while going uphill and lengthen them on descents. Therefore, adjustable poles with a reliable locking mechanism are preferable.
There are two primary locking systems: twist locks and lever locks. While twist locks are lighter, lever locks are typically more durable and easier to adjust, especially with gloves on.
3. Comfort and Grip
The grip is your point of contact with the pole, so comfort is paramount. Grips are commonly made from cork, foam, or rubber. Cork grips are popular as they conform to the shape of your hand over time and wick away sweat, providing comfort during hot weather.
Foam grips are the lightest, absorb sweat well, and are comfortable in hot climates. Rubber grips insulate against the cold, making them perfect for winter or high-altitude trekking, but they can chafe or feel sticky in hot weather. Additionally, some poles have an extended grip area, allowing you to adjust your hand position quickly without changing the pole length.
So, can using trekking poles increase your hiking speed? The answer is a resounding yes. While they may not make you a speed demon overnight, they offer a suite of benefits that, when taken together, can undoubtedly enhance your overall hiking speed, particularly over longer distances or more challenging terrains. They require practice to master, but the benefits are well worth the effort.
Remember, hiking is not just about reaching your destination quickly; it’s about enjoying the journey, the scenery, and the exercise. But if you’re keen to up your speed and efficiency on the trails, investing in a pair of trekking poles might just be the step in the right direction. However, if you need help with choosing the right pair of trekking poles, get in touch with Backcountry Gear!
Our website is a great source of information for people looking to learn about the best trekking poles on Amazon, the Best Climbing Helmets reviews, or the best trekking poles on amazon. Whether you want to buy the TrailBuddy Lightweight Trekking Poles or Black Diamond Distance Z Trekking Poles, we can help you make an informed decision. Get in touch with us today to learn all about it!