Camino Gear

Surprisingly, I Love My Poles

August 13, 2014
Smiling man and woman in front of cathedral in Spain

If you had told me a year ago that I would even consider using trekking poles, I wouldn’t have believed you. I might even have laughed out loud. Not that there is anything wrong with someone else using them, mind you, but they just weren’t for me. However, on the advice from friends who backpack, I began investigating the benefits and drawbacks of using poles and the results of my research lead me to at least try them out.

My friend Steph was happy to let me borrow her hiking poles to experiment with. Although I didn’t love them, they didn’t hinder me in any way, so upon arriving in St. Jean Pied de Port, I went directly to the outdoors equipment store, Boutique du Pelerin, and purchased two poles at 40 Euros each. The woman who worked there gave me a fantastic lesson on using them properly, which I would never have figured out how to do on my own (see REI’s “Using Pole Straps Effectively” video below) and I left St. Jean poles in hand.

“There’s nothing more dangerous on the Camino than Elissa with her trekking poles,” laughed Yeni.

Woman with hiking poles next to pilgrim statue

Leaving Astorga before sunrise happy to have been reunited with my poles!

I used the poles every day of my trip, with the exception of the two days between León and Astorga, when I inadvertently left them at a café in León. I loved them so much that when that happened, I tracked down the cell number of Suc, a pilgrim I had met the night before, because I knew he planned to leave León later in the day. I was overjoyed when he answered and after hearing my tale of woe, told me he was willing to return to the café, find the poles, then carry them with him to Hospital de Orbigo where he would then hand them off to another Camino friend, Ana, who would in turn carry them to Astorga where we would meet up two days later. (Thanks Suc and Ana!)

The poles returned to California with me on July 30 and will be used again on long hikes when I am carrying a heavy backpack. 

Did you/will you use poles on your Camino? Do you use them regularly? Please share your experiences with trekking poles in the comments!

Note: The UIAA medical commission of the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation wrote an interesting consensus statement regarding the use of trekking poles and there is a nice article about using poles on El Camino The Way’s website.

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  • Jerry Wright September 22, 2015 at 06:42

    Did you have any problem getting your poles home on the plane?

    • Sometimes She Travels September 26, 2015 at 08:05

      Returning home from the Camino Francés in 2014, I checked my backpack with poles from Madrid to Chicago. In Chicago, I collected my baggage and had no trouble getting on my plane to California. This year when I flew to Spain to do the Camino del Norte, I strapped my poles onto my pack and had no problem getting them through security either from CA to the east coast or the east coast to Spain. And when I returned home this year, I checked my luggage all the way through so it was a non-issue.

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