Hiking Poles: Pro/Con LIST

Hiking poles

I had always thought hiking poles were for Gords (a term I am borrowing from my brother – people who require all the top notch gear to do any activity and in that lose the essence of the activity itself).  In fact I made fun of my mom relentlessly for buying a pair of nordic hiking poles.  Well I still kind of do (I mean using hiking poles in the woods is one thing, but on pavement??  on residential streets???).  But then again I like to wear my vibrams around town, so that basically makes us even on the uncool factor.

However when I googled “should I use hiking poles on the West Coast Trail” the answer was a resounding yes.  My main concern was for the health of my knees – especially since the trail was not advised for people with recurring knee problems (aka me).  Willing to try anything to avoid having to get evacuated along the trail from unbearable knee pain, I decided to invest $30 in a pair of pretty basic hiking poles.  Best Investment Ever.

I think I may have been a bit annoying to my pole-less companion as I continuously praised the poles for every small benefit they provided me.  Over the next 6 days it became a bit of a game for me to keep a tally either for or against the poles and here is my result:

Pro Pole

Anti Pole

Decrease stress on knees

  • Especially on downhill
  • Always have a grip to take weight off when high-stepping


No hands free to:

  • Take pictures
  • Snack relentlessly
  • Wipe spider webs off face
  • Make use of natural hand holds
Better traction (extra 2 limbs on the ground) Extra weight and space

  • Poles can be collapsed (mine decreases to a third its full length)
Dealing with mud/water

  • Balance across logs
  • Check depth
  • Check stability before stepping onto rock/log


Must keep track of poles

  • Dog tried to run off with one
  • Nearly fell off cliff to reach one I dropped
  • Forget them after rest stop
Easier uphills (arm muscles work too) More wear on trails
Seen people drying clothes on them, and using them to set up tarps Get in the way on ladders and cable cars
Fend off animals

  • Visualized fighting cougars/bears with them (psychological comfort)
  • Brandished one at the bear we saw
“I wish I had poles right now”
Knock ticks from long grasses (perhaps psychological benefit)
Knock spider webs down before stick to face
Increase circulation to hands so they don’t feel swollen

Categories: Backpacking, British Columbia, Gear, Hiking, Vancouver Island, West Coast Trail

Tags: , , ,

3 replies

  1. I’ve never been on the West Coast Trail, or even done much hiking at all in Canada. But I’ve done sections of the PCT. And it would be madness to go more than a short distance without trekking poles on that one. Great for balancing on logs across rivers, and for “feeling” the bottom of a knee-high creek that must be crossed. Plus, as you discovered, going down hill is harder work than going up, and they save your knees.

    • So true! I would love to do some of the PCT one day – I will without a doubt bring the poles. Actually I think they will be coming with me on any hike more than just a couple of hours now for my knees sake.


  1. Juan de Fuca Trail – Trip Report « Just Ambling

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: