Trekking poles for hunting…wimpy or smart?


Hiking in the backcountry with trekking poles
All photo credits: Josh Kirchner 

As funny as it might sound, the first time I ever saw someone walking through the hills with trekking poles, I was a bit surprised. Why was this person walking around the desert with ski poles? Coincidentally enough, it was an older gentleman, so I just chalked it up to his old age. I told myself that a person at his stage in life would surely need some extra support walking around out here. As time went on, I saw more and more folks using these "ski poles" on their hunts. And, to my surprise, they weren't all seniors either. These were fully capable young adults that shouldn't have any problems hiking these areas. I will admit, that for awhile, I was anti-trekking pole. That was until I started being more successful at filling the freezer. The more heavy packs that I experienced, the more I thought to myself, "Maybe these people are onto something."

Why trekking poles?

Trekking poles helping maneuver through the snow

This question slowly started to answer itself as I grew in my hunting. The more backpacking trips and heavy packouts that I experienced, the more it started to make sense. Why wouldn't you want some extra support, especially with 100 lbs on your back? If you are anything like me, the amount of miles you hike each year is unfathomable. If that is you and you haven't jumped on the trekking pole wagon yet, here are some things to think about.


I will tell you right now that I am absolutely terrified at the thought of getting older and possibly being limited to what I can and can't do in the field. I want to be able to do the things I love for as long as possible. Because of that, trekking poles soon became a no-brainer for me. Hiking up and downhill with heavyweight eats at your joints; your knees in particular. By implementing trekking poles into the mix, you can actually reduce stress on your knees by 25% on a 25-degree slope. I imagine that number only grows with how steep of a hill you are going up or down. I don't know about you, but all of the critters I have been lucky enough to take, haven't ever conveniently passed away in flat country. The way I see it, if you can reduce stress on your joints, you are only extending the life of them. That sounds like a good deal to me.

Better posture

Trekking poles helping with posture on heavy pack out

This is one that I hadn't realized until spending more and more time with my newly beloved trekking poles. As we increase the load in our packs, we tend to bend forward gradually. This is natural and expected. We have a heavy pack that is weighing us down and we naturally want to fight against it. Trekking poles help offset that by giving you more support in front, which will, in turn, straighten you out a bit and give you better posture when hitting the mountains. Not only is this going to be healthier for your back, but it is also going to lessen the impact on your energy. You will be able to hike longer and farther due to less fatigue. You’ll also notice that the next day, you won’t be as sore.

Stay balanced

I wasn’t clumsy before I started using trekking poles, but thanks to them I have definitely taken way fewer tumbles. The advantage of having three to four points of contact when traversing through nasty terrain is huge. By doing this, I have saved myself from falling more than a few times. The poles especially come in handy during creek crossings. Stepping on slippery rocks with heavy weight is a recipe for not only getting wet but also rolling your ankle. That is not something you want on your glory hike back to your truck. You will avoid most injuries simply by being more balanced.

Cut weight

Using trekking poles for setting up a tent

This idea is specifically geared towards backpack hunting. How can you cut weight by adding weight? There are quite a few shelters available that can be set up using trekking poles. These shelters tend to be super lightweight, weighing roughly a pound. If you grab one of these, you will be cutting the weight down in your pack by not having to carry extra tent poles. I recently did this myself and have been pleased with the results. My new shelter weighs in at a whopping 1 lb 5 oz. With a trekking pole, it adds another 6 ounces. Now, I am sub 2 lbs for a shelter in the backcountry due to my use of trekking poles.

If you're interested in trekking pole durability here is a link to a goHUNT trekking pole stress test

Disadvantages of trekking poles

Disadvantages of trekking poles

If you ask me, I will tell you that there are far more advantages than disadvantages by using trekking poles. While there aren't a ton of downsides, there are some. Remember how I just said that you would cut weight by adding trekking poles to your arsenal? Well, if you aren't backpack hunting, you are just adding weight. While there are some pretty lightweight poles out there, it doesn't change the fact that you are adding one or two more things to your pack. With that being said, I still think that trekking poles are worth their weight in gold. You might be adding to your pack, but you are taking away from stress on your joints. That’s a pretty fair trade-off in my opinion.

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Another disadvantage that I have experienced is they have actually almost made me fall when hiking. That isn't something that has happened a lot by any means, but it has happened. While hiking, I have had a pole actually get caught in a rock crevice, which totally threw off my balance and made me nearly fall. As you are intertwining your way through the mountains, pay attention to where you are actually placing your poles in the ground.

Wimpy or smart?

Black Diamond trekking poles

Like I said above, I was one of those anti-trekking pole people for quite awhile. My reasoning was somewhat childish: I thought that they just made whoever was using them look wimpy. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it's the truth. I thought that I was young and strong, leaving me no reason to need help hiking the mountains. That was the sound of ignorance knocking at my door. I was simply unaware of the benefits and thought I would get made fun of for using them. Nowadays, I say let your friends make fun of you. You are going to be the one laughing when they are struggling to keep up with you on future hunts. So, wimpy or smart? I am going to lean on the end of smart all day on this one. There will always be a place in my pack for trekking poles. Not just for what lies ahead today, but more importantly, what lies ahead tomorrow.

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