Personally, I don’t always bring trekking poles to day hikes with a light backpack but I do feature them in my post that lists all the clothes and gear you need for a day hike because many hikers consider trekking poles as essential gear. I ALWAYS bring my trekking poles when I plan to stay overnight and have a heavy backpack.
Here’s why you need trekking poles:
Support and safety
The main reason for using trekking poles is of course the support and extra safety and balance they provide. When your hiking with a heavy backpack and the trail is very uneven or rocky, trekking poles are an additional support that will protect you from stumbling and falls.
You need to be able to regulate the height of your trekking poles. For instance, you might need to make them longer when you use them with your tarp or you might need to shorten your poles when going up on trails in the mountains.
Going up and down on mountain trails
With a heavy pack trekking poles offer a lot of support when you are either ascending or descending on mountain trails.
It’s especially more difficult to climb without them. When you don’t have trekking poles your legs will have to do all the heavy lifting and that is not good for your knees.
Trekking poles offer additional grip and push from your hands and will even out the work that your body has to do.
Testing the depth of rivers and streams
A trekking pole is handy to test the depth of rivers and streams you have to cross, before you step in them. Rivers and streams are not always transparent and you can’t see how deep they are.
Sometimes trekking poles can be used to test the ground before you step on it. Especially in wet conditions, you might need to make sure that the ground you are about to step on is hard enough to support your weigh.
Support for tarps
I always bring my trekking poles when I plan to use a tarp. By the way, if you’re interested in tarps then I have a separate post about the pros and cons of tents and tarps here.