How to Use Trekking Poles

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Imagine a simple piece of gear that could save your knees, back, and help you conquer challenging terrain. That simple piece of gear is the trekking pole. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just starting, incorporating hiking poles into your hikes can help ease stress off the body. In this blog post, you’ll learn the essentials of how to use trekking poles.

Key Takeaways

  • Learn the essentials of how to use trekking poles to maximize your hiking experience and reduce strain on joints.
  • Adjust poles according to height & limb length for different terrains, use advanced techniques for uphill challenges & downhill descents.
  • Select right materials and accessories. Learn how to take care of hiking poles.

How do You use Trekking Poles? (Step by Step Guide)

1. Size and Fit Your Trekking Poles

Before you head out on the trails you must first know how to size and fit your hiking poles to your body. Sizing your trekking poles is important as it can minimize discomfort to your arms, shoulders, back, and neck. The ideal length for your trekking poles will depend on your height and limb length.

  • First, to size and fit your poles form a 90-degree angle while holding your trekking pole.
  • Ensure the ground is fairly flat and make equal adjustments to your trekking pole while maintaining 90 degrees in your elbow.
  • For adjustable poles, remember your preferred pole lengths so you can quickly adjust them when needed. This simple trick will save you time and hassle, allowing you to focus on enjoying your hike.

The 90-degree trick works well for a fast adjustment for your trekking poles. However, you can also use measurements to get your length. I recommend checking your trekking pole manufacturer or you can use this table below that is based on common recommendation for trekking poles and height.

2. Grip Your Trekking Poles

Proper grip of your trekking poles is key for both comfort and efficiency during your hikes. Most poles come with wrist straps designed to ensure a secure hold and prevent the poles from slipping out of your hands. To get the most out of your wrist straps:

  • First, slide a hand through each strap from the bottom up, making sure they’re tight enough to provide support but loose enough to easily slide your hand out again.
  • When gripping the poles, avoid clenching them too tightly as a light grip will require minimal effort to propel the pole forward with each step.
Slide hand through the loop
Give your pole a handshake
Grip with thumb over the loop

3. Adjust Trekking Pole Grips (Optional)

Trekking poles often have ergonomic grips for comfort. These grips often feature a 15-degree angle to support your wrists in a relaxed position. However, sometimes the straps will need to be adjusted to fit to your forearm. To adjust the straps on your trekking pole:

  • First, pull down the loose strap till the stopping piece slowly moves out
  • Next, pull up on the grip and slowly loosen the loop.
  • If the stopper piece slips out, then just tuck it back in.
Pull down the loose strap
Take out some slack
Loosen up the wrist loop

4. Walk with Your Trekking Poles

Once you have sized and fitted your trekking poles it is time to use them when you hike. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Start by positioning your arms and poles close to your body, a few inches away from your sides and the tips a few inches away from your feet.
  2. Time your left trekking pole to be planted as you step with your right foot.
  3. Repeat the same pattern but with your opposite foot and arm.
  4. This opposite arm/leg motion, similar to using ski poles, helps you maintain a natural gait and rhythm while hiking, ensuring a more enjoyable experience.

To maximize balance and leverage, keep your arms and one pole a few inches away from your sides and the tips a few inches away from your feet. This positioning allows you to get the most out of your trekking poles, providing stability and control on various terrains.

Left foot forward, Right pole forward
Right foot forward, Left pole forward

Terrain Specific Trekking Pole Techniques

Once you’ve mastered the basic coordination for walking with poles. It is time to learn more terrain specific techniques can help you conquer uphill challenges, navigate downhill descents, and maneuver through uneven terrain with ease. This next part I will address specific techniques for various terrains and situations.

Using poles on a gradual uphill

For Long Uphill Climbs

Going uphill can be strenuous, but with the right trekking pole technique, you can make the climb easier. When using poles for uphill climbing, follow these steps:

  1. Shorten the poles by 5-10cm.
  2. Hold the poles with the tips slightly behind you and the grips forward.
  3. Alternate the poles and use them for push and balance.
  4. Pump your arms higher and in front for more stability and support.

By shortening the poles and keeping them close to your body, you can reduce the impact on your knees and joints while going uphill. This technique helps you maintain balance, stability, and momentum, making uphill hikes more enjoyable and less tiring.

Heading down a gradual descent

For Long Downhill Descents

Downhill descents can be a knee burner and a toe jammer, but with the proper trekking pole technique, you can tackle them with more comfort. To use poles effectively when going downhill, follow these steps:

  1. Lengthen your poles by about 5-10cm from the length you set them at for general hiking to ensure maximum efficiency during long downhill sections.
  2. Hold the poles with the tips slightly in front of you.
  3. Keep your elbows close to your sides.
  4. Use the poles with each step, transferring the opposite side’s pole forward.

This technique provides more stability and helps you control your descent, reducing the risk of slips and falls. This adjustment helps you maintain balance and control, making downhill hikes safer and more enjoyable.

For Maneuvering Through Uneven Terrain

Uneven terrain can be challenging to navigate. To get the most out of your trekking poles on uneven terrain, adjust the pole length according to the slope and conditions. Shortening the poles when going uphill and lengthening them when going downhill ensures proper support and stability, helping you maneuver through challenging terrains with ease.

The Benefits of Using Trekking Poles

Trekking Poles are more than just fancy walking sticks, they really are game changers for hikers looking to maximize their comfort and longevity out on the trails. Scientific studies have shown that using poles can:

  • Reduce pressure and load on your lower joints, allowing you to disperse your body weight to your arms for a more comfortable hike
  • Help you maintain balance
  • Increase stride length
  • Clear a path through overgrown areas or test the depth of water or snow

Selecting the Right Trekking Poles

Choosing the appropriate trekking poles requires considering factors such as material, adjustability, and grip type. Each type of pole has its pros and cons, so understanding the differences between them is vital when trying to choose.

Material Matters: Aluminum vs. Carbon Fiber

When it comes to trekking pole materials, you have two main options: aluminum and carbon fiber.

Aluminum poles are generally more robust and can handle heavier loads and more force, making them a great choice for durability. They are also typically cheaper than carbon fiber poles, making them a more cost-effective option. The Trail Buddy trekking poles are one of the best budget aluminum trekking poles out on the market.

On the other hand, carbon fiber poles are significantly lighter than aluminum poles, offering more flexibility and excellent shock absorption. However, they can be more prone to breakage and are generally more expensive. One awesome carbon fiber trekking pole is the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z, which weighs only about 9 oz per pair.

Ultimately, the choice between aluminum and carbon fiber poles depends on your priorities, such as durability, weight, and budget.

Trekking Pole Accessories: Baskets and Tips

In addition to selecting the right material for your trekking poles, you should also consider the different types of baskets and tips available.

Baskets are removable plastic discs that can be attached above the tips of trekking poles to help prevent them from sinking too deep into soft terrain, such as snow, mud, or sand. They come in various sizes and can be easily swapped out to suit different conditions.

Tips, on the other hand, provide traction and grip on various surfaces. Rubber tips are great for rocky terrain or paved paths, as they silence the tapping of metal on rock while still providing necessary traction. Carbide tips are more robust and durable, offering excellent grip on various terrains.

By choosing the right baskets and tips for your trekking poles, you can enhance your hiking experience and ensure optimal performance on any terrain.

Snow baskets, mud baskets, and rubber tips

Special Considerations for Different Hikers

Different hikers have distinct needs and preferences when using trekking poles. Seniors with mobility issues or health concerns can significantly benefit from the added stability and support provided by trekking poles.

Children can also benefit from using poles, as they can improve balance, reduce joint stress, and increase stability and safety. For hikers with knee problems, trekking poles can reduce impact forces on the knees and provide relief to the joints.

Pregnant women can also benefit from using poles, as they provide added stability and support, taking into account the changes in center of gravity and the extra weight being carried. It’s essential to plan the length of the hike ahead of time and listen to your body for comfort and safety.

Trekking Pole Care and Maintenance

Appropriate care and maintenance of your trekking poles will ensure their long life and best performance. To clean your trekking poles after use, follow these steps:

  1. Use a small brush to remove dirt from the insides of the poles and around the locking mechanisms.
  2. Wipe them down with a damp rag or cloth.
  3. Let the poles dry thoroughly before storing them to prevent damage and maintain hygiene.

By taking care of your trekking poles and following proper maintenance practices, you’ll ensure their durability and longevity.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do beginners use trekking poles?

First, use the trekking poles by placing your hand up through the bottom of the strap and then pulling down and gripping the pole. Then walk using taking a step with your left foot and placing the right trekking pole forward and alternating during your hike.

What is the correct technique for trekking poles?

When you hike with trekking poles, keep your elbows close to your sides and transfer the opposite side’s pole forward with each step. Make sure your grip is loose to allow the pole to pivot correctly and adjust the length so that when the tip of the pole is near your foot, your arm forms a 90-degree bend at the elbow.

Is it good to walk with trekking poles?

Walking with trekking poles helps to reduce the strain on your lower body while also balancing you on uneven terrain and can even burn more calories and raise your heart rate. Trekking poles not only decrease impact on joints, but they can help share the load of weight more evenly across the whole body and protect your knees from the impact of walking.

What are the primary benefits of using trekking poles while hiking?

Trekking poles provide many benefits, including reducing joint pressure, improving balance and stability, increasing hiking efficiency, and providing an upper body workout.

How do I adjust the length of my trekking poles for uphill and downhill hiking?

Adjust your trekking poles by shortening them 5-10cm for uphill hikes and lengthening them 5-10cm for downhill ones for maximum stability and support.


Trekking poles can significantly enhance your hiking experience by providing stability, reducing joint stress, and improving efficiency. By learning how to use trekking poles during your hikes you can maximize your longevity and comfort out on the trails. If you have any questions or comments let us know!

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