Trekking poles for hiking trips: the 4 most common questions

Posted: Thursday, November 21, 2013

We always have hiking poles on the packing list of any hiking trip we offer. Here are the most common questions we get.

Why do you recommend trekking poles so highly?

Trekking poles contribute to your safety by improving your balance and stability, and to your health by saving stress on your knees. In addition they help conserve your energy by transferring some of the work to your arms and chest. As a result, and as an additional bonus, you also get an upper body workout with great triceps training.

What should I look for when I buy poles?

The short answer is to make sure their height can be adjusted, they have an upright (as opposed to cane-like) handle, and have wrist straps that can be adjusted. If you're just starting out, our advice is either to purchase an inexpensive pair (EBay,or some of the big box stores can be a good source) or borrow a pair of poles from a friend. Then go on a hiking trip where you can not only learn what they are all about but the correct way to use them.  You’ll also see what others have chosen. Once you’ve gained a bit of experience and you know that hiking is going to be a regular part of your life, you can make a more informed decision about whether you want to invest in the ‘perfect’ pair of poles. 

Will TSA allow me to carry poles onto an airplane in my carry on?

If you ask TSA, you will most likely be told that carrying on your poles is not legal. However, our experience is that when traveling in the United States, it is very uncommon to be stopped. What we recommend is to pull your poles completely apart and put them in your carry-on luggage; if your luggage is designed to fit the requirements of carry-on baggage, the poles will just fit. Leave enough time at the airport to check your bag if TSA stops you. The advantages of carrying them on are that your hiking poles will definitely get there and it won't cost anything. The downside is that you could get stopped and have to go check your bag.

What are my options if I don’t want to risk a TSA run in?

The easiest is to put them into a checked suitcase. If you pull them apart, they take up very little room. Other options are to package them in rolled cardboard and check them as a second piece of luggage or to mail them ahead to your destination. Both of those can be expensive so another option, depending on where you are going and how long you will be there before you need them, is to buy them once you’re there.

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