A few years ago, I was descending the Grand Teton and it felt like my heavy pack was in control, pushing me down the mountain. It was a little scary. Then, my friend passed me a pair of trekking poles—and the difference was remarkable. The poles gave me increased stability on the rough, uneven terrain. It was like having an extra pair of legs.
Recently, I started hiking with MSR DynaLock Ascent Carbon Poles. Built of Kevlar-reinforced carbon fiber, they weigh only 18 ounces. They're 14.25 inches long when collapsed, making them easy to pack. But they extend up to 55 inches, thus fitting hikers of any height.
Some tips: proper body mechanics are essential when using trekking poles. Keep your elbows close to your sides, and with each step, flick the pole forward opposite the foot you are stepping with. Make sure they’re the right length. Hold them in your hands, with a 90-degree bend in your elbows; they should just barely touch the ground.
Whether you’re bagging a peak or packing out a bull elk, trekking poles can make your outing a lot less strenuous. The additional points of contact improve stability and control as you maneuver over slippery rocks, tree roots, and creeks.
Available online; $170.