Saturday, April 1, 2023

FAQ: Poles for Hiking: Are two poles better than one? Yes!

Using two poles enables you to use your WHOLE BODY while walking or hiking.

Using one pole can give you a little extra stability, but at a cost.   No matter how careful you are, using just one side of your body, can create and even reinforce imbalance.  When going downhill, placing one pole in front of you and twisting at the same time can create torque in your spine.  Going downhill, gravity creates load in your knees.  Using one pole can unilaterally relieve some of this pressure, but adds torque to your spine and potential stress in your shoulder and wrist joints.

With optimal technique using two poles, you strengthen upper body muscles and achieve both spinal rotation and elongation – very healthy for your spine.

On downhill, you’ll bilaterally recruit your upper body muscles, including pectoralis, rectus abdominus and biceps.  You’ll notice better balance and power.  Because you’re using more muscles, you’ll notice you have more endurance BUT will feel LESS exertion – this is SO cool!   Poles facilitate better posture which helps backpackers, hikers and people with balance problems.  Lots more benefits, way too many to blog.

Comprehensive description of the benefits of using two poles.


9 Responses to “FAQ: Poles for Hiking: Are two poles better than one? Yes!”
  1. Cece says:

    As a woman, is it better for me to get a set of women’s poles?

    • Jayah Faye Paley says:

      For many reasons, I have a problem with the term “Women’s Poles.”
      You want to get poles that FIT YOU.
      In order to know what’s best, you want to address those 3 things we consider: Your structure, your issues and your goals. Feel free to fill out the Pole Purchase Consultation Form at (Product Recommendations page) and we’ll be happy to guide you.

  2. Fred says:

    When just hiking down dirt roads will 1 hiking pole be fine, I ask, for have another can be taking up arms use and be clumsy if not needed. So will hiking down dirt roads and in fields will one do?

  3. David says:

    I have done many challenging hikes in the French and Swiss Alps, and find that one pole actually works better for me on such hikes. I find that one pole gives me sufficient stability, and on steep sections where a little scrambling is needed it is useful to have a free hand. I have had no spine problems, but then I do regular core exercises.

    I have encountered a number of other strong hikers who have the same preference, so I think there is more room for individual preference than the original posting suggests.

    • You make an excellent point about individual preferences and I appreciate your comment.
      My sense is that you are a strong, experienced hiker very in tune with your body. If you watch most people who use one pole, it’s not an even, fluid, natural, rhythmic walking pattern.

      Unilateral work is wonderful if it’s goal oriented and done deliberately. For instance, I am a huge fan of unilateral leg work.

      Thanks for joining the discussion!

  4. Hi
    Hiking Poles and Trekking Poles. Two sticks are better than one on the trail. Using a pair of hiking poles for trekking poles gives you balance, Really i like trekking..
    Thank you for the sharing !

  5. Patch says:

    I make walking sticks just as a hobby. Keeps me busy, and helps to keep my hands/fingers limber. I also do a lot of hiking over rugged, desert south west trails, and sometimes I hike cross country where no trailes exist. I have always used poles, one at a time, that are larger than the norm. 2″-3″ in diameter, and 6′ long. Larger works for me because I can do many more different things with the pole when not actually using it as a walking staff. On one over night hike my walking staff served as a chin up bar, which is another story. Never had a problem using just one walking pole. I could switch hands as needed, plus I always had one hand free for what ever reason that might pop up. That said, I tried hiking with two poles, and found that two were indeed better than one. Better balance, and more speed, with less fatigue. If I needed a free hand, it was easy to just drop one. Recovery was easy because I had a longer than average lanyard attached. Only problem was that since my walking poles are not “sticks”, weight is an issue. So, I went looking for, and found two branches that were the same size. Both are 1-1/2 inches in diameter, and 6′ long. Both are with in 2 ounces of each other as far as weight is concerned. However both together weigh less than one of my single walking staffs. I am sold on the benefits of using two walking staffs, but on shorter hikes, I still keep my single walking staff handy.

  6. Patch says:

    Great tool to use when making your own walking stick(s).

  7. Sven says:

    I appreciate this article and the perspective. I, too, like at least two commenters, hike with one pole. I alternate sides of use deliberately, and have never had an issue with twisted spines or imbalanced leg fatigue. I hike in New England, and agree with the commenter about variable altitude climbs with scrambles on rock, and the distinct handicap in using twin poles when I have tried it. One free hand is beneficial for many things (drinking, eating, adjusting belt or sack, etc.) while walking.

    I will add that, since terrain varies not only front to back, but side to side, I can use the single pole on the most effective side. For instance, if I am walking for a few hundred yards sideways along a mountain ridge or simply going on uneven ground with a “down” and an “up” side, I can use the single pole on the appropriate side for me. With twin trekking poles, one always seem to get in the way.

    Certainly, the flatter the terrain, the more adaptable to twin poles, I feel. But, then again, the less the trekking poles are necessary at all.

    Interesting perspectives, all. Thanks for making me think about this. Sven