How To Properly Pick And Use Trekking Poles


Are trekking poles really beneficial? Do they help? I don’t like them because they’ll only get in my way.

These questions basically described my first impression about trekking poles in a nutshell. Believe me, there were times that I only saw them as a “liability”, not much of a help gear, and might even get in your way of enjoying your hike in general. Until now.

Whoops. Yes, you heard me right. Why the sudden change of heart? Well, I never thought that these gear would be great at first, but when a chance came for me to be able to use them as a compromise because my hiking buddy brought an extra pair and insisted that I try them. Turns out that everything I used to think about trekking poles is wrong. 

It is a great tool in assisting your composure, helping you relieve muscle stress. It can also be a safety tool that can be used when needed. Here’s what you need to know more about trekking poles.

Using It At The Right Time

Poles are not much of a help when it comes to trekking flat surfaces but will greatly be beneficial on an uphill, downhill, and sometimes to uneven terrain. Why? When using trekking poles, 20% of your weight gets distributed from your arms and legs resulting in your feet to receive less stress from impact to each step. Poles also offer great stability, especially when threading the river to cross. However, it is obvious that you can never use them when scrambling rocks to climb or when you need to use both of your hands to cling on to something. Be sure to use them only in the right situation.

Pole Picking

Your height greatly affects what pole you should get. It is a matter of, what length are you most comfortable with.  Basically, there are 2 types of poles, a fixed and an adjustable pole. Fixed poles usually are less expensive and best when you just plan to go on a short hike with fairly easy to medium trail difficulty. When gripping a fixed pole on a flat ground, your elbows should form a 90-degree angle. Remember to choose a fixed trekking pole that is suited for your height. The general rule is that the pole should be 6-8 inches above your elbow when standing straight up.

Meanwhile, the adjustable trekking pole comes in handy on trails that offer more complexity for they can be adjusted to suit your needs in almost any situation, pull that pole! Forming your elbow to a 90-degree angle while hiking to a flat ground also implies with these poles. If you are going uphill for a long time, it is recommended to shorten your poles to about 5-10 centimeters. This length should provide more stability and support without straining your shoulders. When going downhill for a long time,  lengthening your pole for about 5-10 centimeters is recommended. This will greatly help and improve your balance.

Use Strap In Properly

Improper usage of your trekking pole’s wrist strap can make you work harder than needed and might strain you even more rather than help you out. Make sure you use each pole with the right hand. Check for indicators if it is meant for the left or the right hand, usually, you can see them in the wrist straps. Slide your hand through the bottom of the wrist strap and grip the strap under the palm of your hand. This way, you can better transfer your weight into the pole without over-gripping and prevent your hands and arms from straining.

Tips For The Win

Though most poles come with interchangeable tips to suit what situation you're into, knowing what they are and when they perform best is a must.

  • Hard pointy tips: Made of metal or carbide these tips provide traction on trails, snow, and ice. Sometimes this material is harder than rock, so be careful not to damage anything when you use these tips.

  • Rubber tips: These tips are designed for hard surfaces such as asphalt or bare rock. You can place these tips over spiky tips to reduce damage to both the pole and the ground.

Choose Your Basket

Trekking poles have these removable plastic disks called “baskets” that prevent the pole from sinking too deep into soft terrain. The general rule is, the bigger the better on pole baskets. Still, there are other options you can choose from to attach to your trekking poles.

  • Mud baskets: Hiking in the mud without the support of these baskets is a terrible idea. You will be working harder because your trekking poles are sinking deeper into soft ground.

  • Snow baskets: These are wider than mud baskets. Like mud baskets, snow baskets offer the same advantage and give your pole the same type of stability that snowshoes provide.

  • Powder baskets: They are wider than snow baskets, powder baskets are for very thick fluffy snow.  Powder baskets are needed if you are using skis or snowshoes to navigate the terrain.

Keep Your Pace And Start Moving

Remember to walk naturally when using poles, eventually, you’ll fall into your regular rhythm of planting the pole with each step. Use them as if they are extensions of your arms. As your left leg takes a step, your right pole should hit the ground, and as your right leg takes a step, your left pole should hit the ground. Repeat this over and over again and you're on the right track.  If you fall out of this rhythm, just lift your poles for a few steps and start over again.

Pro Tips:

  • When on steep terrain, planting both your poles can help your stability.
  • Poles can also be used to clear a path. Don't hesitate to whack those thick bushes or move small rocks that are in the way, Just be careful not to break your pole. 
  • You can also test how deep snow or water is using your pole.
  • Poles can also be used as a self-defense weapon from aggressive wild animals and hostile individuals that may bring threat.

Now that you know what trekking poles are and the superb advantages they provide, it is now time to get some and win your trail!

Back to blog

1 comment

My friends and I will be going on a hiking trip next week, and I was wondering what equipment should I come prepared with for it. It’s good that you mentioned getting trekking poles since they can help with your stability on steep terrain while also being useful as a self-defense weapon from aggressive wild animals and threatening individuals. I’ll keep this in mind while I look for where to buy a self-defense trekking pole ahead of our trip.

Anna Collins

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.