Do I Need a Walking Pole for My Trip?

1199669_36648502One of the most frequent questions we’re asked prior to embarking on an adventure is, “Do I need a walking pole?” We like to tell people simply, “Yes, if you enjoy walking with one.” But a lot depends on personal preference.

Sometimes called a trekking pole or hiking staff, walking poles are, at their most basic level, a tool to provide support and increase balance while on the trail. They can lessen the impact on your joints and distribute stress to your arms and shoulders so it’s not concentrated solely on your legs.

Walking poles range in price from just a few dollars for the most basic models to hundreds of dollars for ultra-light versions with built-in shock absorption to aid those with weakened knees or ankles. There are compact walking poles with a more slender grip for people with smaller hands and youth poles for the very smallest hands. For travel, many people prefer a lighter pole with telescoping sections; not only are they easier to swing on the trail and therefore gentler on your arm muscles, but they also squeeze into smaller backpacks when space is at a premium.

Our Breakaway Adventures owner, Carol Keskitalo, says that on her more leisurely walks, she’s been known to grab a large branch to use as a makeshift walking pole–whatever can help her gain traction on the path. But sometimes you’ll need more than a branch, and even more than just a single walking pole.

On our more difficult walks with significant changes in elevation, two poles might be useful. Choose any of our independent or guided walking tours, and on the individual page for each getaway, you’ll find a link to download a detailed trip dossier. In the Day by Day Walking Guide at the end of every dossier, there’s an elevation guide and recommendations for walking poles and boots. On the Amalfi to Sorrento Walk, for instance, the dossier strongly recommends walking poles for descending the stone steps along the coastline.

Before you purchase a walking pole, though, it’s a good idea to check with us to see if any will be available when you arrive at your destination. On our Secrets of Andalucia Walk, for example, the hotels keep a supply of items left behind by other vacationers, like walking poles, hats, sunscreen, bug spray, and even walking boots. Owner Carol Keskitalo tells us of a time a few years ago when a Breakaway Adventures staff member left behind like-new boots that she thought were a little tight. Talk about trail magic!