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In which I definitvely answer the (recent) question that’s been plaguing my marriage: One trekking pole or two? So…is there a right answer? And why use trekking poles at all?
I mentioned to my husband that I was thinking about getting trekking poles. His response was to walk silently into the garage and return with one pole.
“That’s only one!”
“You only use one.”
I felt the temptation to argue with this rising up within me, but I took a deep breath.
“But don’t we have more?” He pointed out two more mismatched poles that had, apparently materialized in my garage without my knowing, in a bin I can only characterize as the “bin of long cylindrical crap,” consisting of old kayak paddles, poles, various dowels… Sometimes I think my garage has a space-time conduit directly into the REI outlet.
“But don’t we have a matched set?”
His tone of voice started to shift uncomfortably into mansplaining territory. I don’t like that word but…there you go. “It was sold individually because you only use one.”
He went on to explain, in a patient tone, that it was skiers who used two poles and that “normal” people only used one pole for hiking.
I womansplained back that, yes, I knew what ski poles were and that I had, in fact, used them to SKI! One pole had a name: “walking stick.” The REI app materialized to show him that they sold trekking poles in pairs. (To be fair, I found they did sell single “monopods.”)
This type of argument is not new. My spouse and I have been having (friendly) arguments for 30 years over such important and world-changing topics as “Star Wars or Star Trek?” “What was the actual Shakespeare quote?” and “It was so NOT an outer limits episode, it was Twilight Zone!” I expect the trekking pole debate will never be resolved between us; we both believe there is a right answer. We just think the right answers are different ones.
Why Use Trekking Poles?
It used to seem to me like trekking poles would just be another item to carry. But, being a gear junkie, and getting older, I thought it might be a good idea to try them.
I wanted to try poles for some of the reasons people commonly use trekking poles:
- joint protection
- balance assist
- help with hills both with controlling descent and helping with ascent
One or Two Trekking Poles?
So, the big question: one or two? It turned out we were both right. Some people use one; some use two. So I decided to test it for myself and splurged on a nice matched pair of beautiful (not that it matters) light blue Black Diamond trekking poles and tested one, then two, on a steep hike.
Both one or two poles can confer advantages on hikes, but my subjective “research” confirmed (for me, not, apparently for my husband) my opinion that two is best.
The Advantages of One Pole
One pole did confer some advantages vs. no pole:
- It helped with balance and footing when I had to step or climb over obstacles fallen in the path.
- It helped with balance in general.
- It provided a bit of assist with the uphill trek.
- It served as a poking stick to check the ground before I had to step in some bushes.
- It’s fun to use to make emphatic gestures at your spouse when you’re arguing about trekking poles.
- You can draw things in the sand when you reach the beach on your hike.
The Advantages of Two Poles
The only advantages I can see of one pole over two are cost (but there’s not much of a difference there) and the carrying factor (but, hopefully, if you have a backpack it has attachments for your poles).
Here’s what I found when I used two poles: using two confers the advantages of one pole plus:
- I was able to trek up the hill quicker with less fatigue.
- I had more stable footing and was able to control myself better on the downhill, so I didn’t start to slide.
- Even better balance assist, especially when stepping over roots in the trail.
- My old joints felt better after the hike with the poles than without them. Less soreness and, hopefully, less chance of joint damage in the long-term.
It did get some taking used to hiking with them initially, but now there’s no going back, at least for hilly hikes.
Dear husband, you can stick with your monopod if you wish. I’m sold on my “ski poles.”
I’m starting to add some posts about PNW hikes, kayaking, and other activities I’ve done on my outdoor activities page.
One or two hiking poles? What do you prefer? Get involved in our argument! Let me know what you think in the comments.
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