How to Use Trekking Poles: A Beginner’s Guide

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If you’re looking to take your hiking or trekking experience to the next level, you may want to consider using trekking poles. Trekking poles can provide a variety of benefits, including increased stability, improved balance, and reduced muscle fatigue. 

In this article, we will discuss how to use trekking poles effectively and provide some tips on how they can improve your outdoor adventures!

What are Trekking Poles? 

Trekking poles are essentially walking sticks that are designed to help you better balance and distribute your weight while hiking. 

They typically have an ergonomic grip and adjustable length, which makes them perfect for a variety of different users. Hiking poles can easily compress for easy transportation and extend for use.

Trekking poles can also be used for other activities, such as walking, trail running, and backpacking, but they can be cumbersome in some situations, which is why it’s important to choose the right poles for you. 

Are Trekking Poles Really Useful? 

If you’re an avid hiker, you’ve probably seen people using trekking poles and wondered if they’re really necessary. Hiking poles can actually be quite helpful, especially on longer hikes. There are a number of reasons why you might want to consider using trekking poles, especially if you’re an avid hiker. 

As we mentioned before, trekking poles can help improve your balance and stability, which can be extremely beneficial when traversing uneven terrain. They can also help distribute your weight more evenly, which can reduce muscle fatigue. Additionally, hiking poles can be used to assist in crossing streams or other obstacles.

If you’re a new hiker, trekking poles can make your first few experiences much more enjoyable. They can help you navigate difficult terrain and make hiking in general feel much less strenuous. They can also be a great way to test your balance and coordination before attempting more challenging hikes.

Experienced hikers who have never used trekking poles may assume that they’re not necessary. However, even if you’re an experienced hiker, trekking poles can still be beneficial. You may be surprised at how much they can improve your balance and stability, especially on longer hikes.

Not only can you go faster, but these little devices can help you travel further with less fatigue. They can also be a great way to add variety to your hikes. If you’re looking for a new challenge, try using trekking poles on a steeper or more difficult trail.

Using trekking poles in snow at Glacier National Park

Trekking Pole Considerations

If you’re convinced that trekking poles are for you, the next step is to choose the right pair. When selecting trekking poles, it’s important to consider a few factors, such as:

Will you use one Pole or a Pair?

Many experienced hikers use two poles, but some find that one is sufficient. Using two poles often feels more natural for most. It will also allow for the most stability and use of both arms. 

The Size and Weight 

Lighter poles are often more comfortable to use, but they may not be as durable. Lighter poles are easier to propel and don’t add much weight to a pack. However, heavier poles tend to last a bit longer. 

The Length

Most trekking poles today are adjustable, so finding a pole to fit your size perfectly won’t be an issue. If you choose to get a non-adjustable walking pole or a solid staff, make sure to measure the distance from your wrist to the ground so you get the right size for yourself.

The Type of Terrain

If you’re planning on doing a lot of off-trail hiking, you’ll want a sturdier pole. If you mostly hike on well-maintained trails, a lighter pole will suffice.

How to Choose Trekking Poles

When choosing your next set of hiking poles, you should look at what kind of grips, shaft material, and features you want.

Trekking Pole Shaft Material

The shaft of the trekking pole will usually be made of either aluminum or carbon fiber. The shaft is one of the biggest factors in determining how much the poles will weigh.

Aluminum vs Carbon Fiber

Aluminum is fantastic because they are durable, strong, and can bend with minimal chance of breaking. This is typically the more economical choice making it great for new hikers. Aluminum poles typically weigh between 18 and 22 ounces but can vary depending on the manufacturer.

Carbon fiber poles are also incredibly strong and can absorb vibrations. These are the best choice for sturdy downward force, especially when going downhill. Carbon fiber is also much lighter on average weighing between 12 and 18 ounces. Thus, making them easier to pack and lighter to walk with and swing. 

However, the only downside is that carbon fiber poles aren’t as bendable, meaning they’re more likely to break when flexed under extreme stress. Carbon fiber poles tend to be higher priced than Aluminum poles.

Types of Trekking Pole Grips


Grips can be made from foam, cork, or rubber. Foam grips are known to be soft, durable, and can absorb sweat. Cork grips can shape to your hand over time, evaporate sweat quickly, and are lightweight. Rubber is great for cold-weather activities since they insulate your hands from the cold and can reduce shock and vibrations.

Some poles also allow the grips to move down the shaft, which can be beneficial if you want to hold the pole lower in order to get through steep sections of your hike while reducing the impact on your wrist and arms. 

Trekking Pole Features

Many hiking poles come with a variety of features, such as handles, straps, baskets, and tips. Determine what features are most important to you and choose a pole that has them. Here are some features to consider:


Wrist straps are very common on trekking poles and can help to reduce fatigue in your arms and hands. If you choose a pole with wrist straps, make sure that they are adjustable so you can find the perfect fit for your wrist.


Baskets are found on the tips of the trekking poles and help to keep the pole from sinking too deeply into soft surfaces, such as mud or snow. If you’ll be using your poles in a variety of conditions, it’s a good idea to get poles with removable baskets so you can swap them out as needed.

Snow baskets, mud baskets, and rubber tips


The tips of the trekking poles are important for both traction and durability. Carbide tips/steel tips can provide great traction on a variety of surfaces, even ice.

Rubber tips help extend the life of your poles and protect your gear when you’re storing them in your pack. They’re also great for use if you want to reduce the impact on the ground.

If you’ll be using your poles on a mix of surfaces, it’s a good idea to get poles with replaceable tips so you can swap out the tips as needed.

Shock absorbers

Some poles even come with shock absorbers to help reduce the impact on your joints. Though these are helpful they aren’t absolutely necessary for most people

Locking mechanism

Poles will use different locking mechanisms to stay extended. Some twist into each other while most use a clamp-style lock that allows for quick length adjustment and secure use.

No matter what type of trekking poles you choose, make sure to practice using them before taking them on a hike. Start by using them around your 

neighborhood or on an easy trail. Once you get the hang of using them, you’ll be ready to tackle any trail.

How to Setup Trekking Poles 

Once you’ve chosen the perfect trekking poles, it’s time to set them up. Follow these simple steps and you’ll be ready to hit the trail in no time:

How to Adjust and Use Trekking Pole Straps

While some poles do not have wrist straps. It is best if you go with a pole that does since, they allow you to hike with a looser grip.

This will put more weight onto your wrist. Which makes using your trekking poles more comfortable. While also making your adventure more relaxing and fun. 

When adjusting your wrist straps simply put your hands through the bottom of the wrist straps. Next, pull your wrist down, and then grasp the hand grips.

Afterwards, you’ll want to put a bit of weight on your wrist. To determine the ideal length of your wrist straps. The straps should be draped over your wrists, not twisted, with your thumbs above them. If it’s too loose or too tight, adjust them until they are comfortable. 

Positioning trekking pole straps

How to Calculate Trekking Pole Length 

Most trekking poles are adjustable, so you’ll need to measure them to get the perfect fit for your height. To do this, hold the pole in your hand and extend it until your elbow is at a 90-degree angle. This is the best length for you that you can quickly adjust your pole for.

You can also use a quick formula to find the best pole length for you. Simply take your height in centimeters, then multiply by 0.68. This number will be the length you should set your pole length in centimeters. 

Looking for a quicker guide. Check out our handy sizing chart to instantly see what size is best for you. Though this chart should work for most trekking poles if you find the fit to be off be sure double check the manufacturer’s size chart.

GMTH Sizing guide

How To Use Trekking Poles 

When using trekking poles there are a few things you should do to make sure you are using them effectively and safely. 

Have the Proper Adjustments

Make sure you adjust the poles to the correct height. Your arms should be bent at a 90-degree angle when they’re holding the poles. Your wrist straps should also be comfortable, not too tight, and not too loose.

Use Your Arms and Legs 

Make sure to alternate your poles and legs. If you use your left leg and right arm, then use your right leg and left arm. This will help evenly distribute the load on your body and help you keep a steady pace.

Double Plant Your Poles

Don’t forget to double plant your poles on steep climbs or descents when you need both poles to help you maintain your stability and balance. 

Use Your Poles to Navigate Obstacles. 

Trekking poles can also be used to help test the depth of water or cross streams safely. You can even pole vault over puddles if you’re feeling adventurous.

Adjust When Going Uphill and Downhill

When using trekking poles, you’ll need to adjust your technique when going uphill or downhill. This way you will be using the poles as effective and comfortably as possible.

Using Poles Walking Uphill

When walking uphill, plant the poles in the ground ahead of you and use them to help push yourself up. It’s also a good idea to shorten your poles by a few centimeters, allowing you to keep your arms closer to your body and giving you more leverage.

The goal is to use your poles for use them to propel yourself upwards, so make sure to place them close to your feet rather than in front of them. You’ll have more success pushing yourself up, instead of pulling.

Using Poles Walking Downhill

When hiking downhill, use your trekking poles for balance and support. Longer poles will give you more stability, so if you have the option to adjust your poles, make them a few centimeters longer. By doing this, you’ll get more traction on the ground, making it easier to keep your footing and avoid slipping.

Hiking downwards with trekking poles is a great way to reduce the impact on your knees. By using your poles to support some of your weight, you’ll be taking pressure off of your joints, making for a more comfortable hike.

Using trekking poles on a gradual uphill

Advantages of Trekking Poles

Assists with Balance

Trekking poles help you maintain your balance while hiking, especially on uneven terrain. This is because you have four points of contact with the ground (two feet and two poles), instead of just two (your feet).

Reduces impact on joints

Trekking poles can also help reduce the impact on your joints, especially your knees. By using your poles to support some of your weight, you’ll be taking pressure off of your joints, making for a more comfortable hike.

Improves Hiking Speed and Endurance 

Trekking poles can also help improve your hiking speed and endurance. This is because they help you hike more efficiently by using the arms and legs together.

Provides Stability on Uneven Terrain

Trekking poles also provide stability on uneven terrain, which can help you avoid injury. This is especially important when hiking on slippery or unstable surfaces, such as rocks or roots.

Helps with stream crossings. Trekking poles can also be used to help test the depth of water or cross streams safely. By using your poles to test the depth of the water ahead of you, you’ll be able to avoid any surprises that might cause you to lose your balance and fall in.

Test Ice Strength

In addition to helping test water depth, trekking poles can also be used to test the strength of ice. This is especially useful in winter when hiking on frozen lakes or rivers. By poking the ice ahead of you with a pole, you’ll be able to determine if it’s safe to cross.

Give Your Arms a Workout 

Trekking poles also give your arms something to do while you’re hiking. This can help your legs avoid getting tired as quickly since your arms will be getting a workout as well.

Makes Hiking More Enjoyable

Last but not least, trekking poles can make hiking more enjoyable. This is because they can help you hike more efficiently and reduce the impact on your joints. Plus, they give you something to do with your hands, which can make hiking more fun.

Disadvantages of Trekking Poles

Can be Cumbersome

One of the main disadvantages of trekking poles is that they can be cumbersome. This is because you have to carry them with you, which can add weight and bulk to your pack.

Can be Difficult to use on Rocky Terrain

Trekking poles can also be difficult to use on rocky terrain because they can get caught on rocks or roots, which can trip you up.

Can be Difficult to use in Tight Spaces. 

Trekking poles can also be difficult to use in tight spaces, such as narrow trails or dense forests. This is because they can get caught on branches or bushes, which can impede your progress.


Though there are reasonably priced trekking poles available. Trekking poles can also be expensive, depending on the quality and features you’re looking for. 

Final Thoughts

There you have it! Now that you know how to choose your trekking poles and how to use them, there’s nothing stopping you from getting out there and enjoying the trails. 

Trekking poles are a great way to improve your balance and stability on any hike, giving you the confidence to take on any adventure. 

Whether you’re a beginner or an avid hiker, trekking poles are worth trying. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start exploring!

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