The image above illustrates how useful they can be. Backpacking up or down steep terrain like this, often on very little or no trail, with a heavy pack on your back is challenging. Surprisingly, harder still, for most folks, is hiking across the side of a hill like this. Having that pole on your side to lean in to the hill is a big help.
A lot of folks hiking in the lower 48 don’t use them, and I understand that, for sure. The trail systems there are (generally) so good that I don’t think trekking poles hold quite the same benefit there, even though still useful. Up here, however, it’s a different matter (so I now provide trekking poles for all backcountry trips if you don’t have them or don’t want to deal with packing yours up here).
We hike across boulder fields, glacier moraines or talus that may well be a mile or more across. We traverse steep terrain that an be slippery, wet, brushy, rocky, or all the above and then some. Hiking across snow fields and glaciers hiking poles are great, as well. I recommend a hiking pole over an ice axe for a lot of alpine travel in fact.
Trekking poles also double as a tent pole for a cooking tent or teepee. A lot of the ultralight backpacking tents use trekking poles for their structural support as well.
I like the cork handled poles. They feel better in my hand. I also prefer one pole over two, but that’s simply personal preference.
I started out using trekking poles the first time I ever had to fly to get to my backpacking destination. The poles shorten down and are then compact and great for travel, unlike a sapling. That’s also a handy feature when you’re backpacking through dense brush here. In those cases, shorter the poles, strap tightly to the side or back of your backpack and carry it; travel through alder and willow is MUCH easier without a trekking pole than with one (or two) in your hands. They catch everything, and strapping them on to your pack leaves your hands free to deal with the brush.
So vote “Yes” on trekking poles. 🙂