Whether you’re heading to the backcountry on a hunt or out for a weekend excursion camping, there are few gear essentials as necessary as trekking poles. When my excursions take me into the high deserts and forests of New Mexico, one piece of kit that you will always find on my person is a good set of trekking poles. Trekking poles have a myriad of uses, and here are five reasons why you should almost always carry a pair of trekking poles.
Trekking poles are great at probing for venomous critters and moving aside brush.
Depending on the time of year, the possibility of coming in contact with a rattlesnake can be high. An extended trekking pole is ideal for tapping the grass ahead of you and listening to the telltale rattle of a pit viper. Not only will a trekking pole alert you to danger, but the sharp end of a trekking pole is more than capable of killing an aggressive rattlesnake. Trekking poles can also be used to temporarily clear away brush and thorns.
Trekking poles are great when packing heavy loads.
My first exposure to trekking poles was during an endurance race called Survival Trial. The Survival Trial is a 24-hour adventure race that used to take place in Raton, New Mexico, at the NRA Whittington Center. The race required competitors to navigate miles of rugged mountain terrain and achieve points by completing various challenges, all while carrying a 60-pound pack. Though I had not trained with trekking poles, several days before the event I stopped by my local REI and picked up a pair of Black Diamond Trail Pro Trekking Poles. Several days later, my teammate and I found ourselves rucking up the side of a mountain. My trekking poles were in hand and propelling me upward, and I felt as though they were a gift from the heavens. Trekking poles are great for rucking uphill, or when you have to pack an animal off the side of a mountain.
Trekking poles are great for stabilizing on inclines.
When traversing across broken terrain trekking poles will give you additional points of contact. If you have musculoskeletal injuries, trekking poles will reduce wear and offer stability to your joints. Trekking poles are invaluable for going up-hill, by they are also handy when going downhill. This is especially true after a 20+ mile hike, when your body is sore and depleted.
Trekking poles can be used to make a hasty shelter.
In the event of an emergency, a trekking pole, when paired with a tarp can make a decent shelter. The weather in New Mexico can be unpredictable, and I have found myself on numerous occasions setting up a hasty shelter with a tarp and a trekking pole to get out of a rain or hail storm. For my backcountry excursions, I keep a Kelty Upslope Tarp that can be set up in a matter of minutes. The Kelty Upslope weighs a meager 1 pound, 6 ounces, and has multiple attachment points, most which can interface with a trekking pole.
Trekking poles can be used as a shooting platform.
One of my favorite uses for trekking poles is to make a shooting platform while in a sitting position. Earlier this year, I was hunting coyotes, and my shooting sticks fell apart. Fortunately, I had my trekking poles available, and I was able to use them in place of the shooting sticks. After several hours shooting off trekking poles, I found that they were more stable than conventional shooting sticks.
When I shoot off trekking poles, the first thing I will do is connect the poles to each other via the wrist straps. I will rotate the poles to create tension, then place the rifle in the “V” created by the poles. I like to have a bipod on the rifle when I shoot off trekking poles. My left arm will push the poles away from my body, and my right hand will pull the rifle into my shoulder. The bipod anchors the rifle to the trekking poles. If I have a backpack, I will place it on my lap to support my right elbow. This is a very stable position, and I would have no problem hitting a target out to 600 yards.
Trekking poles are lightweight tools that can fill a variety of roles. In my opinion, Leki and Black Diamond make the best trekking poles on the market. Trekking poles usually come with twist locks or external lever locks. From my experience, lever locks are more robust and will last longer. As soon as I finish this article, I will be packing for a Pronghorn antelope hunt in Colorado. You can bet that my Black Diamond trekking poles will be part of my kit.