I'm new to hiking poles too - my most recent outing was my first with them. They came in very handy for tricky river crossings (using both), and gave me something to do with your hands while normal hiking (using one). I normally aquire wooden staff to use anyway, but these are much lighter. From what I have read the general consensus seems to be that they are invaluable for steep climbs and descents. They let your arms assist in the effort, and take some of the impact & fatigue off your feet, ankles, knees. Plus lend stability.