Updated September 2019
You probably don’t need to be convinced that trekking poles are a great piece of gear to bring along on a hike or on a backpacking trip, but you might not have thought of these 11 other uses for your trekking poles! They can do so much more than give you support and stability. It took me a LONG time to get on the trekking pole bandwagon. Catherine has been using trekking poles for pretty much as long as I’ve known her. For a long time, she only used one to support her sometimes aching knee. Later she bought a set and more recently she splurged on these babies during the REI semi-annual sale (which I’m totally jealous of).
I used to feel like trekking poles were a sign of weakness, an extra couple of things to carry, and unnecessary to my kind of hiking. BUT the truth is whenever we did a river crossing or came down a steep set of rocks Catherine would go first and then very kindly lend me her poles to help stabilize my balance and provide extra support on the way.
So it turns out I DO use trekking poles…just not my own. Realizing this I purchased my own set on Amazon and have been very happy with my purchase ever since.
There are plenty of blog posts, videos, and tutorials on how to choose and use trekking poles. If you’re looking for that information I suggest you go here, here or here. Instead, I want to share a few non-traditional trekking pole uses.
1. Trekking Pole Chair
There’s a couple of ways you can turn your trekking poles into a comfy seat. If you’re backpacking (every ounce counts) you can prop your pack against your poles to create a nice backrest. It’s a little comfier than leaning against a tree and the likelihood of being bit by ants is much lower.
If you want to get really fancy you can hop on Amazon and buy the Mountainsmith SlingBack Chair. It’s basically a sling with a little pouch in the back that holds your trekking poles in place to create a perfect trekking pole chair. This option is great for longer day hikes when your pack is smaller, but you still want a spot to have a bite of lunch.
One last option if you’re crafty with a sewing machine is to make your own slingback chair. The plus side of this option is you can pick a cute fabric in your favorite color or pattern. Just remember to make sure it’s waterproof, it’s no fun having a soggy bottom on the trails.
2. Trekking Pole Torch
This one could come in handy in very specific situations. Say you arrive at your campsite and it’s already dark. If you need to shed a little light in a faraway place (and your headlamp can’t seem to throw the light far enough) go ahead and tighten the strap as much as possible and wrap it around your trekking pole.
Think of it as a fireless torch that you can use to light up far away places you don’t want to get too close to.
If you’re really committed to lighting up your trekking poles, check out this instructable that teaches you how to add LED lights to your poles.
3. Trekking Pole Tent / Shelter
Shelter is one of the “10 Essentials” and is something you should carry with you at all times when hiking, backpacking or camping. It might seem silly, but it’s always to good to be prepared. Having some form of shelter can protect you from the sun, rain, wind or any other unexpected weather or conditions that arise. REI has a wide range of emergency shelters; everything from a space blanket to a lightweight emergency bivy.
In a bind, you can use your trekking poles to create a tent using a tarp or emergency blanket. Use the poles to hold the tarp up at two ends creating a traditional triangle-shaped shelter. Rocks or logs can be used to hold the tarp close to the ground.
Another option is the River Country Products Trekking Pole Tent. This two man tent is lightweight, all-weather and uses your trekking poles as supports rather than traditional tent poles. The coolest part is when it’s folded up it’s roughly the size of a football so it won’t take too much space in your pack.
REI also has a variety of tent and shelter options that utilize trekking poles as supports.
4. The Perfect Animal Deterrent
I don’t know about you, but I have NO interest in seeing a snake on the trail, especially not a rattlesnake. Of course, the best thing to do when a rattler gives you its warning is to stop, assess the situation and slowly back away.
Trekking poles aren’t really a weapon, but they can be used as an early warning system. Tapping them together or on a tree can warn wildlife that you’re around. Most of the time animals will move on if they hear you coming.
If you do come upon an animal unexpectedly you can use your trekking poles to make yourself look bigger and a little intimidating.
5. Trekking Pole Clothes Line
There’s a couple of ways you can turn your trekking poles into a clothesline. If you’re in a forested area you can extend a pole between two trees like a tension rod. Once in place, you can drape your clothing over the pole to dry.
If you’re in an open area with few trees you can attach a rope or backpack strap to each trekking pole and create a more traditional clothesline by staking the poles in place.
6. Trekking Pole Splint
Hopefully, you never need to use this one on the trail, but it’s a good bit of first aid to have in your arsenal.
Splints help prevent a broken or injured limb from moving around too much. You can turn a trekking pole into a splint with a few extra pieces of equipment you’re probably already carrying. To make one place the trekking pole along the injured arm or leg and tie it in place using shoelaces, straps from your backpack or a belt.
7. Hiking Pole Massage
Thru hikes can really take a toll on your body. It would be lovely for a massage therapist to follow you around, but sadly that could get pretty expensive.
In a pinch, you can use a trekking pole to massage out tight leg muscles. Place the trekking pole perpendicular to your outstretched leg and roll it up and down to help release some tension. If you’re traveling with a partner, friend or in a group you can even recruit someone to massage the backs of your legs or shoulders.
8. Trekking Pole Tape Dispenser
Camping and hiking involve so many moving parts. There are lots of things that can potentially go wrong, but if you’re in a pinch there’s a good chance that a piece duct tape will fix your problem.
Sleeping pad with a hole, a broken tent pole or a busted sandal strap (remember Wild? it happens!) duct tape is your new friend. Instead of carrying around an entire roll of the stuff tear off a few lengths and wrap it around your trekking pole or your water bottle, as REI showed us in this 2014 tweet.
9. Trekking Pole Flag Pole
I’m not sure how much explanation this one needs, but let’s just say that if you want to carry a flag, wave one for help or just celebrate in general you can tie anything ya like to your trekking pole and boom it’s a flag pole.
10. Hiking Pole Path Clear-er
As a southern California resident, many of my hikes involve walking past spiky plants. Rather than being punctured over and over again I often used my trekking poles to hold back branches, overgrown grasses, and other plants that have started creeping into the path.
They can also come in handy when you’re dealing with heavily infested poison ivy or poison oak areas, just make sure you wipe them down afterward.
11. Trekking Pole Selfie Stick
I hate selfie sticks! I cannot stress this enough.
The last time I visited the Grand Canyon I felt like they were everywhere! They were thrust in front of me unexpectedly, they blocked the trails and generally reduced my enjoyment. Luckily most of the selfie stick wielders didn’t venture too far down the trails.
BUT I would be remiss if I didn’t share this easy idea for turning your trekking pole into one. All you need is a clamp mount and a remote shutter. Attach your phone to the clamp mount, attach the clamp mount to your trekking pole and use your remote shutter as you say cheese. You could even forgo the remote shutter for a photo app that has a timer.
There you have it. Eleven alternative uses for your trekking poles. Have you tried out any of these ideas? Or better yet do you have another idea for a clever way to use your trekking poles? If you do drop it in the comments below, I’d love to hear about it.
*This post contains affiliate links which means I make a small commission if you make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
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