What is “Nordic Walking”?

“Nordic Walking” is exactly what you think it is….it’s when you walk around an Ikea! I hope that joke makes sense…if not, click these Wikipedia links then laugh: NordicWalking, Ikea

But more seriously, “Nordic Walking” has nothing to do with Ikea…it just refers to walking with hiking sticks. Incidentally, modern day hiking sticks are small, light, metal sticks that extend and sorta look like they are part of an elaborate Ikea bunk-bed, but are actually just a hardcore ski pole.

Lightweight and packable, these trekking poles fold down for easy storage.

This type of hiking stick is used by hikers, walkers, backpackers, and snowshoers. Also used by people pretending to sword-fight. Although there are different types, 5 minutes browsing the aisles at REI suggest that extendable poles used for snowshoeing are no different than extendable poles used for “trekking”. And each type is able to be used as pretend swords.

And that’s how I will transition into using the term trekking pole instead of hiking stick or hiking pole! Apparently “hiking stick” sounded too 19th century, so the outdoors industry went with the flashy term “trekking pole” to woo customers into buying a collapsible version of something they used to find for free on the sides of trails.

But seriously, they are amazing. Besides having incredible health benefits (click here for scientific course), they also reduce knee pain, and, as one trekking pole brand brags, “increases calories burned by 45%” by engaging arm and core muscles. I am skeptical of the calorie claim, but I agree wholeheartedly that using trekking poles reduces knee pain on hikes. Especially when used on uneven or hilly terrain, trekking poles can save you from falling off a cliff, or into a river, or off a river, or into a cliff.  

Crossing rivers is a breeze!

To use trekking poles, adjust the pole length so that when you stand up straight and grip the handles, your elbow is at a 90 degree angle. Adjust the wrist straps so when you push down, your wrist takes most of the weight off your hand (you barely need to grip the pole at all if you use the wrist straps correctly). Then…just start walking! Or start sword fighting.

Let’s list the top 10 ways that trekking poles can improve your life!

  1. They can be used to traverse streams (finding the depth or steadying your terrified, shaking legs)
  2. They can be used to sword-fight your friends, enemies, or bears
  3. They reduce impact on your joints -especially knees- during downhill hikes
  4. They allow you to easily point out distant objects, or poke short-distant objects
  5. They allow you to push yourself up while ascending
  6. They can be used as tent poles or tent stakes in a pinch (or with specially designed tents)
  7. They can be used to roast marshmallows, I bet
  8. They let people know you are either a serious hiker, or have a knee problem, or have a serious hiking problem
  9. They look like ski poles and probably act like ski poles, so you can save money
  10. It sorta feels like you are assembling a sniper rifle during set-up, so that’s cool

Those are some darn good reasons, right? There are a few cons, though.

Trekking poles can harm nature. The sharp tips can scratch rocks, poke holes in the ground, and squish vegetation. Of course, these things are minor and can be easily guarded against by using rubber tips over the hard tip of the pole, being careful where you stab the ground, and removing the “baskets” (use for muddy, snowy paths only).

They also don’t leave your hands free while hiking, so you will be unable to take pictures, juggle, drink water, eat twizzlers, or wave to friends without losing your pole-footing and dragging a dangling stick wherever your wrist goes. But whatever, that’s what taking frequent hiking breaks is for!

But at the end of the day, I would highly recommend adding trekking poles to your hiking essentials if you are going on any long hikes, plan on being lost for a while, or simply want to increase your health (according to some studies).


Navigating downhill, rocky terrain is no problem with trekking poles!




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