Sure, they're not as essential as food and water, but trekking poles can be a great aid to long-distance hikers, especially in rocky or slippery areas where keeping your balance is both tricky and necessary. Steve Silberberg of Fitpacking says that a wooden staff can work just fine as can old ski poles, especially if you don't want to spend any money. But there are other options that are a little more versatile, such as those that collapse and are easily packed into luggage on a plane. Besides being an extra arm or leg when you need to keep your balance, trekking poles have other uses on a long expedition. "They can be used with a tarp as part of a shelter lowering the weight carried," says Silberberg.
- Alt, Jeff. Hiking expert and author of "A Walk for Sunshine." Personal correspondence. Feb. 2, 2012.
- Appalachian Trail Conservancy Web site. Jan. 23, 2012. http://www.appalachiantrail.org
- Davis, Jennifer. Appalachian Trail speed record holder and author of "Becoming Odyssa." Personal correspondence. Jan. 26, 2012.
- McKinney, John. Hiking expert and author of numerous books. Personal correspondence. Jan. 23, 2012.
- Mount Whitney. Jan. 25, 2012. http://www.peakbagger.com/peak.aspx?pid=2829
- Silberberg, Steve. Owner of Fitpacking. Personal correspondence. Jan. 23, 2012.
HowStuffWorks looks at the popularity of hiking in the U.S.