Trekking poles or hiking sticks are not just for the old or wounded. They significantly reduce the impact and stress on your joints, especially if you are hiking with a heavy pack, and will certainly extend the life of your knees. A simple stick will work perfectly fine on many hikes, however if you plan to hike often, far, on steep slopes or carrying a pack, consider investing in a pair of trekking poles or a single hiking staff. Poles also help with balance and can be crucial in getting across streams or over rocky terrain.
Look for trekking poles that are lightweight, adjustable, and feel nice on your hands (ie. Good grip, no buckle). Hold them and determine whether they will be comfortable for many hours. Most trekking poles are made out of aluminum, carbon fiber, or some combination of the two. Also look for trekking poles with replaceable rubber on the tips. After time, the rubber shock absorber wears out and it’s a quick and easy replacement if they are removable. Trekking poles should have good springs, or shocks, so that the poles, rather than your knees, ankles, and hips, take the brunt of the load. Additionally, collapsible trekking poles are great because they will pack up when you don’t need them. If you do pick adjustable poles, check that they stay in place even when you plant them heavily. Nothing would be more of a nuisance than a trekking pole that collapsed every time you took a step.
Wooden Walking Staffs
Some people prefer one single walking staff and like the sturdiness of a wooden staff. Make sure the wood is treated and is durable. It is nice to still have a handle that feel comfortable on your hand and some sort of cork or rubber at the bottom to help handle the shock. Wooden walking sticks aren’t going to have the internal shock absorbing system that the carbon or aluminum trekking poles do, but using one will most definitely help take the strain off of your knees.
Trekking poles range from about $40 to $200. The $200 pairs are made out of carbon, have stronger locks, and are easily stowable. The $40 pairs are made out of aluminum and may or may not collapse (it’s better to have a pair that doesn’t collapse than a pair that doesn’t stay in place). For about $100, you can buy a set that is lightweight, possibly even with some carbon parts, and is sturdy and comfortable.