Do You Need Trekking Poles for Hiking?

I know as a beginner hiker I was kind of confused when it came to trekking poles.

Once I saw some hikers with them and immediately thought, “Should I get them? Would the poles make hiking easier? Would I be able to hike faster? What is the purpose of them?”

It seemed like trekking poles would be the final piece of gear needed, in order to look like a legit hiker out there in the Phoenix desert.

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This guy looks legit, right?!

Then the day came when I actually tried them out.

It was my first time at Humphrey’s Peak Summit Trail where I would hike up to the tallest summit in all of Arizona. A week before, I was hiking along Peralta trail in the Superstition Mountains and had injured my ankle. Nothing too serious but it was still bothering me the day of the Humphrey’s hike.

My brother in law let me borrow his trekking poles in the effort to make the hike easier for me. Let me tell you, the first lesson I learned about trekking poles; they are not crutches and will not help you if you have an injured ankle.

In fact, on that hike, I literally wanted to chuck the poles off the mountain! Granted, I’m sure poles are better to have with an injured ankle than not but on that hike I hated them.

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My face throughout the hike

The reason why I hated them? They were too much in my space and I had to think about every step. First, where would I step and where would I then put the poles. I wasn’t able to walk naturally and it made me loss focus on the nature aspect of the hike. Plus, I still had to put most of my weight on the ankle, so it really wasn’t doing much for me.

But, this isn’t to say I won’t use trekking poles in the future or that they won’t work for you.

If you experience knee pains when hiking (especially downhill), trekking poles may be just the thing you need. A lot of hikers with knee problems find the poles useful.

Trekking poles also help improve your balance.

In fact, they can be very useful when backpacking. Due to the unnatural weight of the pack on your back, the poles help balance you out and decrease extra pressure on your body. (I’m backpacking the Grand Canyon in March and I’m debating on giving them another try!)

One thing to also think about is that you use a lot more energy with hiking poles because of increased arm motions. So while they may help with balance on longer hikes, they also deplete your energy quicker.

If you are doing a hike in the snow (which you likely are not hiking in the Phoenix area) or having to cross over streams (again, not in Phoenix) trekking poles can be a great resource to check the deepness of the water and also provide extra balance when crossing.

two man hiking on snow mountain

Other hikers have mentioned that trekking poles helps reduce swelling of the hands. This occurs due to your arms placed higher up and near your chest which prevents them from becoming as swelled.

So do you need trekking poles for hiking? The answer is…it’s up to you. It’s all about your comfort level and how you feel when hiking with them.

With that said, have you ever tried them before? What are your thoughts? I would love to hear them.


  1. I’m going to Israel this summer with my daughter. I had hip-replacement surgery last summer. My daughter said, “I don’t know how this is even possible, but every path in Israel is uphill both coming and going. Will that be a problem for you?” I decided I need to work out on the treadmill at a high incline. But a friend who went to the Holy Land last year said, “How about a trekking pole?” Now I’m thinking an even better workout would be a weekly hike with a pole. Thanks for the article.

    1. Thanks for sharing! I hope hiking with trekking poles helps you out and makes walking around Israel a breeze for you.

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