Autonomous Motion

Hiking Poles

Four legs

Serious long-distance thru hikers along the Appalachian and Pacific Coast trails use them. Hip continental trekkers use them. Fanatic “nordic walkers” use them. I use them. Hiking poles give you two more legs. They allow you to use your arms to significantly push yourself uphill, and to relieve your legs on killer descents downhill. Two poles add much needed stability on inclined terrain. Instead of being a precarious biped, ready to tumble or slip, you turn into a graceful four-legged gazelle able to hop over the roughest sections. Using poles has eliminated twisted ankles and rubber knees for me. I’ve reclaimed trails that I had given up as too gravelly, steep, slippery, and treacherous. Now I scuttle along, poles extended, adding arm power to my legs. With added confidence I can scramble up and down much faster, and much safer. All these benefits are multiplied when you add the weight and higher center of gravity of a backpack.

A good set of poles weigh about one pound, cost about $100, and will telescope closed to fit in a backpack or trunk. Leki makes ones popular with hikers. I found that a tiny bit of instruction in how to use them helped me get going. This instructional DVD did the trick.

— KK

Poles for Hiking, Trekking & Walking
73 minutes, 2006
$10 (after shipping)
Available from Amazon

DVD updates at the creator’s website

Leki Nordic Walking Traveller Poles
Available from Amazon (currently unavailable)

Leki Trail Enzian Poles (Least expensive)
Available from Amazon (currently unavailable)

Manufactured by Leki



An angled grip is more comfortable.

Setting the poles behind your feet you push, not pull, to ease ascents uphill.

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