We got down the hill, very slowly, and thankfully intact. We immediately began to discuss buying some cheap poles to see if they would be helpful.
Checking online we found that there are strong feelings about poles, both pro and con. Some people shared our rather facetious viewpoint about them being a silly prop. There were a few remarks that they scar the trails.
Most of the comments we read were highly complimentary,
with people saying how hiking poles changed their lives enabling them to hike much farther without getting injured. In fact there are huge proponents of using two poles and spreading the weight of the upper body onto the poles rather than on the legs, thereby sparing the knees.
Being unwilling to waste good money, we each bought one of the cheapest poles we could find,
Outdoor Products trekking poles from Wal-Mart. At about $14 they seemed sturdy enough and had most of the features of the more expensive poles. We figured if we liked them we’d splurge on the good ones later. If we hated them then we’d have our answer for less than thirty bucks.
Our first trek using them was a backpacking trip to Devil’s Backbone Wilderness. Gary took to his right away but it took me a bit of time for them to grow on me. But
by the end of the trip I was sold. I became a hiking pole convert.
The advantages of hiking poles
Now I wouldn’t go on even a short day hike without one! Why? Well the obvious answer is that my stability is improved going down hills or where the footing is difficult. They make slippery creek crossings much less dicey.
Perhaps their most common use is moving briars and poison ivy to the side as I hike. I can also flick small branches off the trail and poke logs before stepping over them. Which is useful if you hike in an area with lots of snakes.
I’ve not found using two poles in the traditional trekking pole technique has been particularly good for me. But Gary has tried it and is considering buying another one soon so he has a matched set.
Our hiking poles
We are quite happy with our $14 Outdoor Products poles. They’ve proved to be rugged and sturdy. Gary broke one by falling on it – but no pole could have survived that sort of treatment. They’re lightweight. And they’re inexpensive. We like inexpensive. If you can’t find them at your local Wal-Mart,
After eight years Gary updated to fancy carbon-fiber poles. He also switched to using two poles instead of just one, and his hiking speed over rough terrain picked up noticeably. I kept my Outdoor Products pole until I borrowed Gary’s poles on a hike and I was an instant convert — I didn’t let him have them back! — I was much steadier on the descents, and my knees and feet were much better. When we got home we ordered another pair so Gary could have his back!
We’ve had these hiking poles since 2012 and they are still going strong. The price has increased a bit, but if I needed a new hiking pole tomorrow I’d go out and buy another set of these.