NOTE: This article was printed in the August 2011 issue of the Charles River MUD, the newsletter of the Boston Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club.
“En garde!” in El Triunfo, Ecuador
Then, as I raised my hiking poles up to block tree branches from snapping back in the face, it came to me: I’ve used my hiking poles in more ways than any other gear:
- In addition to using them to protect my face, I also use them to knock heavy loads of snow off branches so it won’t go down my back, a constant annoyance when you’re a tall person in a land of short trees.
- I no longer bring a tent outside of bug season, carrying a simple lightweight tarp instead. I use hiking poles to create a peak at either end.
- In winter, I use the poles as tent stakes. Once I’ve buried them and the snow has consolidated, it’s virtually impossible to move them. It usually requires some fancy kicking or ice axe work axe to free them in the morning.
- They provide extra height for raising bear bags or hooking them back down.
- They make a great rudder/brake for glissading (not as good as an ice axe so only useful on short, gentle sections of trail).
- A friend has buried a screw in the top of one of his poles and uses it as a monopod for photography.
- In rural Ecuador where dogs are quite territorial, the poles provided a way of keeping them at bay without risking a bite or having to throw rocks.
And of course, if you’re stuck in a small village in the middle of nowhere waiting for a bus, they make wonderful swords!