hiking poles

20 years ago, hiking poles weren’t a thing.

Overseas hikers often use twin, long hiking poles, and now they are commonly used by long-distance hikers.

They have some benefits, in some circumstances.

These are useful when walking on a wide and well-maintained track. Often, there is a well-beaten path where your poles assist to save your knees.


Many New Zealand tracks can’t be described like that. They can be steep, very uneven, semi-overgrown, with rock obstacles or numerous tree roots.

You often need to use your hands to drag yourself up.

Long poles are usually held in a way that can’t readily support your full weight if needed.

All your weight goes on your wrists, which can exacerbate injury if you fall.

How do I know?

It happened to me. I had two long poles and my hands through the loops, so when one pole clipped some tussock, I pitched forward. The loops prevented me from allowing my arms to cushion the fall, and my face smashed into a rock, destroying my glasses in the process and removing skin from my nose.

Following that, I changed to a single, more compact pole that could fully support my weight.

That leaves one hand free to grasp the shrubbery as required, and I can use the solitary pole to triangulate my way over difficult terrain.

That method is more secure with more difficult river crossings.

A single shorter hiking pole makes more sense on the usual South Island terrain, away from the Great Walks.

Give it a go.

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