Using 1 or 2 poles on the Camino de Santiago
There are many pilgrims who come to us to ask if it is better to take one or two sticks on the Camino de Santiago. It is also common for us to find ourselves on the pilgrim route with many people who carry trekking poles but do not know how to use them.
That is why in Santiago Ways we have decided to dedicate a blog post to talk about the use of poles on the Camino de Santiago. Read on and resolve all your doubts about why you should use sticks on the Camino de Santiago, whether to bring one or two, and how to use them.
But before you start, if you’ve already convinced yourself to make a pilgrimage to Compostela on your next holidays, we recommend you to do the Camino de Santiago from Sarria. Tell us the details of the trip you would like to take, and leave the rest in our hands.
Do we have to take poles on the Camino de Santiago?
Taking poles on the Camino de Santiago is not essential, but it is highly recommended, especially on those pilgrim routes that face steep, uneven slopes. It is also highly advisable for those people who have delicate knees, as their use helps to reduce impact, in addition to reducing a part of the weight in the backpack, if you carry all your equipment.
On the Camino de Santiago, it is common to find pilgrims of all kinds, of those who carry a single pole or a staff, those who use two poles and those who do not use any support. Below we tell you some of the advantages and disadvantages of using one or two poles on the Camino de Santiago.
Advantages of doing the Camino de Santiago using one or two poles
In addition to reducing the impact on the joints and spreading the weight of the backpack, trekking poles are a strong support that provide balance and stability, especially if instead of using a single pole, you use two. They also serve as a support point to take a break during the walk.
Ascents and descents are when trekking poles are most useful. When descending, they provide comfort over stony terrain and keep you well grounded. On climbs, they make it easier for you to move yourself forward, especially if you use two poles on the Camino de Santiago.
Another advantage of using poles on the Camino de Santiago is that the exercise you do during your pilgrimage will be much more complete, since you will use both your legs and arms. Therefore, you will tone the whole body and not just the legs. Plus, they help you keep the rib cage open, so you’ll breathe much better.
To some pilgrims, carrying one or two poles on the most desolate sections of the Camino de Santiago also provides them with safety, since they feel that they have something to defend themselves with in case some animals attack them. Although we would tell you that’s not common.
Disadvantages of poles
The main disadvantage of taking poles on the Camino de Santiago is that there will be sections in which these are not very useful and you will have to carry them. In the case of carrying them with you, one or two hiking or trekking poles is not a very big inconvenience, as these are very light and can be easily folded and stored in the backpack. Pilgrims who, by romanticism, use a staff, find things more complicated, since it cannot be folded and is considerably heavier.
If you stay in public hostels, you will have to leave the poles, along with your boots, at the entrance. This makes it very easy for you to forget about them. If you’re staying in other types of accommodations, this doesn’t happen.
Continuous use of poles can cause chafing or calluses on your hands, especially if you use two poles. It’s also important to note that using trekking poles can make you feel more tired, as you’ll work muscles you’re not used to using.
Using one or two poles on the Camino de Santiago
Ideally, use two poles on the Camino de Santiago, since the exercise is more complete and further reduces impact, however, if the route is not very complicated and you don’t carry a lot of weight, one could be enough.
Some pilgrims in the presence of an injury, use a staff, typical on the Camino de Santiago or a trekking staff in the opposite hand to the joint that is delicate. In fact, this situation generates an imbalance in your body, therefore, it is always better to use two poles on the Camino de Santiago.
Think that for a few seconds, between step and step, your body bears the full weight of your body on one leg. If you use two poles on the Camino de Santiago you will always have two support points, while if you only use one, there will be one leg that can carry all the weight, while the other shares it with the pole.
How to use trekking poles properly
The other big question when you have decided to take one or two poles on the Camino de Santiago is how to use them. One of the most important aspects of its use is posture when walking.
The correct position is one that, with the right body, allows us to keep the forearm at an angle of 90 degrees. This position may vary slightly depending on the type of terrain.
Here’s how to use trekking poles on the Camino de Santiago depending on the terrain you are in. Take note of the tips!
The use of poles in ascent
If you go through lands with hard slopes, such as those you will find on the Camino Primitivo or on the Camino del Norte, as well as in some sections of the Camino Frances, ideally you’ll have two poles to support you. Only then can you move forward properly.
In these sections of the Camino de Santiago, slightly reduce the size of the two poles to support your body forward. Use the upper part, pulling your arms and chest, to propel yourself on the ascent.
On the Plains
Many pilgrims, regardless of whether they take one or two poles on the Camino de Santiago, keep them if they advance over the plains. We recommend that if you don’t have tired arms you continue to use them, as they will allow you to unload weight.
The correct way to walk on flat terrain with trekking poles, if you carry two, is to move the pole contrary to the leg that advances as you step forward. This will allow you to not only use your whole body in each movement, but also advance faster.
The use of trekking poles in descent
Descending is when most benefits are felt, especially with your knees, they suffer much less. To descend, slightly lengthen the two poles, allowing you to move them one step at a time and keep your body straight.
In some steep slopes of the Camino de Santiago, you can use the two poles at the same time and move forward between them. This will reduce the speed of your descent. If the slope is light, you can use them as if it were on flat terrain.
Halfway up the hillside
Numerous sections of the Camino de Santiago run halfway down the hillside. That means your body is tilted at an angle. If you take two poles on the Camino de Santiago, extend one of them, the one which is located at the bottom of the hillside, and shorten the other. That way you’ll be able to keep your body straight and your hands at the same height.
Other tips on trekking poles
If you are going to do the Camino de Santiago in winter, bring two poles, no matter what. These will provide you with stability in sections where you find ice. You should also keep in mind that if you plan to cross areas with snow, your trekking poles must have washers, otherwise they will sink into the snow every time they touch the ground.
Another topic we want to talk to you about is about the fastening straps on the trekking poles. Its function is to help to push you on, for this you must rest your wrist on the strap. On descents, it is not recommended to use them because in case of a fall, it is more difficult to detach yourself from the poles and use your hands to cushion the blow.
What kind of poles to take on the Camino de Santiago
Taking one or two poles to the Camino de Santiago should not depend on price. Currently, you can get very inexpensive trekking sticks that will be very useful. The things you should pay attention to are:
• The handle. Avoid buying ones with a very hard plastic handle, to avoid chafing and calluses. If your budget allows it, prioritize those with an ergonomic and non-slip grip.
• Type of aluminium. Depending on the type of aluminium from which the poles are made, they will weigh more or less. Whether you’re taking one or two, you’re interested in taking light poles on the Camino de Santiago
• Shock absorption. Some poles have an adjustable suspension system inside, which allows them to adjust their cushioning. This system is very practical for elderly people or suffer problems in the joints of the arms or legs.
We hope that with everything we have told you in this article you have no more doubts whether to take poles on the Camino de Santiago, and whether to use one or two. Before saying goodbye, we want to remind you that if you are looking for an agency that will help you organize the Camino de Santiago, we will be happy to accompany you on your adventure.
Call us or leave us a message on our official Facebook page and the Santiago Ways team will answer all your questions. We are lovers of the Camino de Santiago and we will not let you down!