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Walking poles: to use or not to use

WHY USE WALKING POLES?

Often considered an essential accessory for long distance trekking or walking, poles can be a valuable item to add to your Camino packing checklist. If you are planning a long distance walk of any kind walking poles will help your arms to keep moving forward. They can assist you in many ways but there are a few main advantages; Leaning on the poles can help to increase the speed of your walk, reduce the impact on your legs and support your knees.

In addition to the physical benefits for your body they can also assist with your grip on the terrain especially keeping your balance when you encounter slippery surfaces or muddy paths. Be careful when buying new walking poles for long distance treks that you get the right type; foldable poles are great if you are planning to travel with them.

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HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST WALKING POLES?

The first thing to consider when choosing the type of poles you need is the type of terrain that you are planning to walk. Our Camino travel team can advise you on the various terrains that you will pass over on the Camino routes. Nordic walking poles are generally used for flatter terrain and rolling hills. Trekking poles will help you to balance on more mountainous climbs and varied gradients.

TO USE OR NOT TO USE, THAT IS THE QUESTION

Not all walkers require the assistance of poles to keep them comfortable on the trail. Our best advice is to ask our travel team before you head off on your journey. They know the routes and the terrain that you expect to walk across so they will have a good idea of what extra items are required. Walking poles can be useful but also an annoyance if you don’t need them. If you start to use walking poles for your long distance walks, stick with them for a few walks before you decide that they are not for you.

If you are still finding them uncomfortable after a few long treks then you may be better off without them. Remember that when you use walking poles you won’t have free hands. That may mean adding an extra few minutes to your journey to read your maps and notes, eat your snacks and stop to take a drink of water.

Two of the key benefits to using poles is that they can reduce back strain and overall fatigue. We often hear that walkers find them most useful for assistance when climbing up and getting down from steep hills. Using two poles can reduce the impact on your knees and ankles. It will also allow you to have a steady grip on the surface. You can use the pole for balance, endurance and preserving energy.

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BRINGING YOUR WALKING POLES ON THE CAMINO TRAILS

If you are planning to carry your walking poles on the Camino de Santiago you will need to check the luggage guidelines with your airline. Walking poles can often be considered extra sporting luggage and you may be charged for bringing them with you. If you are buying walking poles for the Camino and you are travelling from afar it would be a good idea to buy a foldable pair that will fit in your suitcase.

Not every pilgrim needs to have walking poles and may find comfort in picking up sticks for some support along the way.

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TOP TIPS

  • Your body needs time to get used of using the walking poles so practice regularly and don’t worry if you feel you are using too much energy the first few times.
  • Get the right length for your height and test the handles to make sure they are comfortable for your grip.
  • When travelling with walking poles ensure that they are foldable (most Leki poles can be folded down).
  • Any outdoor gear shop will help you choose the right set of poles but a good rule to remember is the longer your walk, the lighter your poles.
  • When walking uphill keep the poles close to your body and shorten the poles if you need a better grip.
  • Avoid big steps, short strides work better when using walking poles.

These are just a few travel tips for walkers considering whether or not to bring walking poles on their Camino trip. We also have a Camino Packing eBook you are free to download before your next adventure. If you have any travel tips we are always happy to hear from Camino walkers.

For more information on our Camino de Santiago tours  or to book your trip please contact our travel team.

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