1. Hiking Stability
Trekking poles supply you with two extra points of contact with the ground, adding stability to your hike. This is especially beneficial when hiking on tricky terrain or with a heavy pack. More stability means more safety on the trail, which is always a win-win situation.
2. Weight Distribution
When hiking with trekking poles, some weight is shifted to your arms, giving relief to your knees, ankles and legs. This is most noticeable when hiking uphill and downhill. Pro tip: Most hiking poles are adjustable. To benefit the most from even weight distribution, shorten your trekking poles when hiking uphill and lengthen them when hiking downhill.
3. Tent Pole Alternative
When backpacking, it's important to keep your pack as light as possible. Some ultralight tents require trekking poles to be used in place of standard tent poles. In other tents, this option is left to the backpacker. Since hiking poles are already on most backpackers' packing lists, using them in place of a few tent poles prevents the need to pack unnecessary weight.
4. Water Crossing Safety
Crossing streams, rivers and other bodies of water puts your balance to the test. These balancing acts are much easier when you can rely on hiking poles to stabilize you. Be sure to check the depth of the water before crossing and adjust your poles if necessary. Trekking poles also make wading through water safer by offering more points of contact with the ground.
5. Pace Assistance
Sometimes it's tempting to rest your arms by holding the straps on your pack as you hike. Using trekking poles forces you to use your arms while hiking, giving you more momentum and making better use of energy. The need to swing your arms and touch your poles to the ground also creates a rhythm, which helps with holding a pace and getting into the hiking zone.
For more information on trekking poles, head to our trekking pole buying guide.