The question of whether you need hiking poles for the Camino de Santiago, is something we frequently get asked. It’s also a topic of great debate. Let’s dive in and settle this once and for all!
Do I need hiking poles for the Camino?
Firstly, in the interest of full disclosure, we are not currently hiking pole users. When we walked our first Camino, we weren’t even sure what hiking poles were. And now, we are established hikers without them! That said, we are due to walk from Oslo to Trondheim this year and are considering hiking poles for that occasion.
Are hiking poles necessary for the Camino? It’s a completely personal choice. Whether or not you need hiking poles will depend on which route you are walking and the terrain, your walking experience and your body! For some people, hiking poles will provide huge benefit. For others, they are not necessary and will just feel like extra weight on your back.
What are the advantages of using hiking poles?
There are three main advantages to using hiking poles:
1// Hiking poles can help your balance and stability
Having the two poles to lean on can help you maintain balance and stability. This is particularly useful if you’re walking up or down slippery or difficult terrain. There are some steep ascents and descents on the Camino Norte and the Camino Primitivo too, but other Camino routes are flatter and you may not find your balance is challenged enough to warrant the use of hiking poles.
2// Hiking poles can take pressure of your lower body
The joints and muscles in your legs can take a battering when you’re walking long distances every day on the Camino. Using hiking poles can take pressure off your lower body. If you have lower body injuries, then hiking poles could be of benefit to you.
3// Hiking poles can help to maintain pace and rhythm
A bit like skiing with poles, hiking poles can help you find a nice rhythm. In turn, this can also help to maintain or increase your pace of walking.
What are the disadvantages of using hiking poles?
The main disadvantage of using hiking poles is that you will have to carry them! Hiking poles are extra weight to carry when you’re not using them, including on the plane. As noted below, you will also have to put them in the hold on the plane, which can be costly.
The second disadvantage of using hiking poles on the Camino, is that it’s an extra thing to keep an eye on. This may sound silly, but we really enjoy the minimalism of hiking with less. This is the main reason we don’t use poles, because it just feels like something else to think about! Plus, people frequently leave them behind in albergues or restaurants and have to retrace their steps to find them!
On the Camino, particularly the North Route, there can be a lot of walking on road and walking through towns. Hiking poles don’t really provide much benefit on this sort of terrain.
There is some research suggesting that using hiking poles can take up more energy than not using them. I don’t know how accurate this is, but there seems to be some logic to the argument, given that using hiking poles requires you to use your arms more.
Finally, you may find yourself at the end of quite a few (gentle and good natured) jokes about hiking poles if you use them.
How much do hiking poles cost?
There is a range of hiking poles on the market at various price points.
How much do hiking poles weigh?
The weight of hiking poles will depend on what type of pole you choose as as well as the size of the poles. Carbon fiber poles are likely to weigh a little less than aluminium.
Budget aluminium poles are likely to weigh about 250g, whereas carbon fibre are more like 200g.
Can you use just one hiking pole?
The original pilgrims walking the Camino likely walked with just one “staff”, which is a bit like a modern day hiking pole. You could use just one hiking pole to walk the Camino. The advantages of this would be that one pole is less weight to carry than two. If you have an injury or weakness on one side, then there are indications that one pole could help.
Using one hiking pole will likely provide a bit of stability and may be beneficial particularly if you’re hiking down or up difficult terrain. But you won’t reap the same benefits that you would by using two poles.
Can you take hiking poles on the plane?
Yes, you can take hiking poles on the plane. But you cannot take them in your hand luggage into the cabin. Most airlines specify that hiking or climbing poles must go into the hold. If you’re just travelling with a hiking backpack and poles, this might be tricky as you may not wish to put your backpack (your Camino treasure) into the hold.
Where to buy hiking poles for the Camino in Spain?
If you decide not to take them on the plane, you could buy them when you arrive in Spain to start the Camino. There are a few options.
Either, find a trekking store in Irun, Porto, Oviedo, Saint Jean Pied de Port or wherever you are starting. There are a number of Decathlon stores in Spain, France and Portugal. This store is always a great bet if you’re looking for any sort of hiking gear, including poles. Check the latest Decathlon locations, but at time of writing there is one on the outskirts of Porto and Irun. Stores can also be found at various points on the route, including Gijon on the North Route.
Another option is to order them on Amazon to an Amazon Hub locker near to the start point of the Camino. We have done this many times if we need something overseas and can’t get it onto the plane. It can work out to be much cheaper than paying for luggage on a plane.
John and Emma’s hiking gear. These are items we love to use when we go hiking, find them here on Amazon.
Osprey 40L, Multi, O/S
HOKA ONE ONE Mens Speedgoat 4 Textile Synthetic Trainers
HOKA ONE ONE Women’s Clifton 8
CWVLC Unisex Cushioned Compression Athletic Ankle Socks Multipack
Dr. Scholl’s Blister Cushions, Seal & Heal Bandage, 8 Cushions
Montem Ultra Strong Trekking, Walking, and Hiking Poles – One Pair (2 Poles)
More Camino and Hiking
Most of our planning is done using other blogs, but you can’t beat a guide book at the bottom of your case.
Find them here on Amazon.
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