“We didn’t either until we started backpacking in the Wrangells.”
Ask any SEAG guide if they use trekking poles when backpacking in the Wrangells, and their answer will be “yes.” Although we recognize it’s not always an essential item for backpacking elsewhere, trekking poles are a crucial tool for covering the rugged backcountry of Wrangell-St. Elias. So please bring yours with you – otherwise, our guides usually end up giving away their own poles to our clients for the whole trip! Why so?
With our rugged glaciated terrain, trekking poles provide one additional “touchpoint” with the ground – similar to an extra leg, which can be very helpful when a rock shifts unexpectedly under your foot or the tundra is softer than expected. If you have foot, leg, knee, hip, or back injuries, trekking poles are a no-brainer – they help transfer the load away from your painful areas and turn what is typically just a lower body workout into a full-body workout! Another area where trekking poles are essential are during river crossings – they provide much needed additional stability when hopping across slippery rocks and can be leaned into during deeper wading-style crossings. They can also be a useful tool when you’re in camp! Some lightweight tents rely on trekking poles for support, and they work great in a pinch to help splint a broken tent pole if something goes wrong. All in all, they’re just downright helpful.
So now that we’ve convinced you that trekking poles are amazing, here are some tips for using them!
- For most terrain, adjust your trekking pole length so your elbow bends at 90 degrees, although when going uphill, it may be helpful to shorten your poles
- Some trekking poles have multiple grips along the shaft, so you can just slide your hand down to a lower grip when side-hilling or going uphill (instead of fully adjusting them)
- Small snow baskets are especially helpful on our tundra here in the Wrangells – then your tips don’t sink down into the moss!
- Trekking poles come with either a “flick-lock” or a “twist-lock” mechanism. We recommend the “flick-lock” version for extended backcountry trips, as they’re easier to repair in the field.
- For those who plan on traveling with their poles – 3-section poles tend to pack best in a duffel and are smaller for attaching to your backpack when not in use!
Keep on adventuring!
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