Do I Need Trekking Poles to Climb Kilimanjaro?

Trekking poles are an optional item when it comes to our gear list. However, trekking poles are very helpful when climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. The purpose of using poles is two fold. One, your weight is distributed between four points of contact instead of two, easing the stress on your bones and joints.

Two, your poles assist in balance, reducing the wear on your stabilizer muscles. Studies show that the use of trekking poles can reduce the impact on your joints as much as 30%. And anyone who has used poles knows you save a significant amount of energy as well.

Poles are most beneficial during uphill and downhill sections. On the uphill, use your arm muscles to help you ascend. On the downhill, use your poles to lessen the impact of each step. Most people are unfamiliar with using trekking poles unless they are backpackers who carry heavy loads. But, it’s not difficult to learn how to use them, and it comes pretty quickly and naturally as your body figures out how to hike more efficiently.

What are the best trekking poles for Kilimanjaro? Here are things to consider when shopping for trekking poles.

Pole Design

Nearly all trekking poles fall into these three designs:

  • two section telescoping
  • three section telescoping
  • folding

Telescoping poles consist of two or three sections that slide into one another. Telescoping poles are adjustable. Their length be adjusted to match your height and to adapt to differing terrain. This is an important feature and why we prefer telescoping poles over folding poles.

Folding trekking poles are tent pole-like and usually fixed-length. Fized length poles aren’t as versatile on Kilimanjaro’s differing terrain, where sometimes shorter poles (uphill) and longer poles (downhill) would be advantageous.

Typically these types of poles can be folded down smaller than telescoping poles, taking up less space inside of a pack. An elastic shock cord is attached to the inside of the pole which is loosened when stored away or tightened when in use.

Pole Adjustment Mechanism

The lever lock is the best mechanism and is the industry standard. These locks are easier, more durable and quicker to adjust than the older twist lock products. Both work by applying pressure to the pole sections to hold them in place. But twist locks simple use less force and thus are less secure. Trekking poles with twist locks can collapse unexpectedly during use. Twist locks also malfunction on trails that are especially dusty and cause grit to build up within the locking mechanism.

Pole Material

Most poles made today are made of aluminum or carbon fiber.

Aluminum trekking poles feature durability and light weight performance. Though they are slightly heavier than carbon poles, they are also cheaper. Aluminum poles can bend when put under stress, but do not break as easily as carbon.

Carbon trekking poles are the most high performance and lightest option available. The shaft construction dampens vibration and reduces the weight. However, if a carbon pole gets a dent or a crack, it is bound to snap entirely.

We feel that the price and durability of aluminum poles is superior. Therefore, we recommend aluminum trekking poles on Kilimanjaro.

The grips on trekking poles can be made with cork, rubber or foam. The most comfortable grip style is cork. Cork molds to your hands over time and naturally dampens vibration while hiking. Cork will give you a better grip when your hands sweat and is the lightest option available. It is also an eco-friendly choice.

How Do You Use Trekking Poles to Climb Kilimanjaro?

Be sure you know how to use trekking poles correctly. The first step is to hold them the right way, which most people do not do.

The hand goes through the bottom of the loop, then straight down on top of the strap, so it lays smoothly across the back of your hand. This strap allows the user to put weight into the pole without using forearm and grip strength. Adjust the strap so that the strap lays nicely around the wrist while you are holding the grip. The wrist loop reduces the likelihood of blisters and hand fatigue.

While trekking on even terrain, the arms should generally bend at 90 degrees when holding trekking poles. As you climb uphill, you will want to shorten the length. On downhills, increase the length.

As you walk, place the pole on the ground ahead of your feet. Use the poles to stabilize your body as you move, working to bring them into your hiking cadence. On uphill climbs, dig into the ground and use your arms to help push your body up. On the descent, use the poles to reduce the load from your steps down.

We highly recommend using trekking poles on Kilimanjaro, especially for the summit and descent.

We recommend trekking poles made by Leki.

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See What Should I Wear to Climb Kilimanjaro?

See How Do I Dress for Summit Night on Kilimanjaro?

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