When you're weary and a little oxygen deprived, trekking poles are an invaluable aid along perilous trails (at least I find them comforting). But you don't need to be traipsing along at 10,000 feet in the Alps to find sticks useful. You'll see plenty of experienced young backpackers and hikers using trekking poles because the poles can not only give you extra confidence on narrow mountain trails but also save your knees from excessive impact on easy downhills.
Black Diamond's Distance Plus FLZ Trekking Poles ($150) are made of light aluminum (only 18 ounces), fold up for packing, and have soft comfortable hand grips. I found they snapped together quickly and easily and packed just as simply into a side pocket of my backpack when the day was done.