Why You Should Use Trekking Poles on Kilimanjaro

You have made your deposit for your Kilimanjaro climb and received our gear list in the trip confirmation email. As you work through the list—purchasing, acquiring, and packing your gear—you notice that trekking poles say Required for all but experienced hikers. So do you need them or not?

We do recommend you use trekking poles on Kilimanjaro unless you are an experienced backpacker that is used to traversing uneven ground, spending several hours hiking downhill, and have good knees.

So what does that mean for those of you who do not fall into one of those categories? It means you should have trekking poles. But why? We recommend using trekking poles for the following reasons.

  1. Poles save a lot of energy.
  2. They provide balance when tired.
  3. Poles absorb the impact on your knees when hiking down.
  4. They also provide stability in slippery situations like scree and ice.

Poles Save Energy

So how do trekking poles save energy? Poles save energy by transferring some of the energy required to hike with a pack on the uneven ground from your legs to your arms. If used correctly, the poles will alleviate some of the strain on your core muscle to keep you upright as you stumble over rocks. They will also improve your walking posture which can help with breathing and therefore alleviate fatigue.

Poles Provide Balance

Furthermore, poles will help you keep your balance while walking over uneven ground. Many of our clients have commented on the rockiness of the trail in some spots or the scree coming down from the Crater Rim. Trekking poles will help you keep your balance while you negotiate these hazards.

Poles Save Your Knees

One of the greatest benefits of using trekking poles is how much they help transfer the weight from your knees to your arms and shoulders. This is especially true on the downhill part of your Kilimanjaro climb. Studies have shown that using trekking poles can reduce the weight on your knees by 11 pounds while walking on level surfaces and as much as 17 pounds on inclines. That is a lot of weight transfer when you are walking for several hours over varied terrain.

Poles Provide Stability

Similarly, trekking poles do provide added stability on uneven surfaces. For example, on the Lemosho, Machame, and Northern Circuit, you will descend 6,845 feet from the summit down to Millenium camp. The trail, especially near the Crater Rim, will be covered in loose scree and rocks. Trekking poles will aid you as you travel down the precarious path.

Once you get used to using them, they also help you hike faster. You can get into a good rhythm with them and cruise right along. However, don’t go too fast or our guides will tell you “Pole, Pole ” which is Swahili for Slowly, Slowly. After all, we want you to make the summit and going too fast can increase your chance of getting an altitude-related illness.

Now that you know why you should use them. Now you should know how to use them. Watch the video below to see the correct way to use trekking poles. It will cover not only how to use them, but how to set them up correctly, and how to properly hold them.

Finally, you can bring your own trekking poles if you are used to them. However, we recommend saving yourself the hassle of trying to pack them in your suitcase or duffel and rent them from us. They are only $20 for the entire trip. We feel it is just easier to rent them from us versus having your poles potentially poke through the side of your luggage or worse get bent or destroyed.

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