You may think any hiker who uses poles is doing so to make the walk more comfortable. While there is an element of this, there are considerably more reasons for using your hiking poles than you imagine.
For one, they offer more stability and act like a couple of extra legs. Besides this, they can help you from back and knee ache when on extended hikes, or you are tackling a steep ascent for the first time.
Throw into the mix, hiking with trekking poles can help you burn through 40% more calories than if you don’t use them.
The question is how to use hiking poles in the right way? Here, you can learn how to do that, and lots of other relevant information regarding your poles.
Types of Hiking Poles
Hiking poles: You can see these named as hiking, trekking, or walking poles, yet they all amount to the same things. They sell them in pairs, and they help increase stability and act as shock absorbers for your knees by reducing strain. (Read Hiking Essentials)
You can often find adjustable poles to adapt them to your height.
Hiking Staff: You tend to find this as a hiking staff, walking staff, or travel staff. It comprises a single-pole and is best used on flat ground where you don’t have too much lad on your back. You can find these as adjustable and usable as a monopod with their built in camera mount.
Hiking Pole Length
The right-sized poles set your elbows in a 90-degree angle as you hold the pole tips to the ground close to your feet.
Many poles have adjustable lengths, making this angle of the elbow easy to achieve. Nevertheless, they often sell poles in fixed lengths and various sizes. Here are a few tips to help find the right length of pole for you:
Adjustable Poles and Staffs
- If over six feet, pick a hiking or trekking pole with a maximum length of at least 51 inches.
- If you are shorter than 6 feet, then you can adjust the length of most length poles, so it is right for you.
Fixed Hiking Pole Length
|Body Height||Ideal Pole Length Suggestion|
|Less than 5 ft. 1 inch||39-inch pole|
|5ft 1 inch to 5 ft. 7 inches||43-inch pole|
|5 ft. 8 inches to 5 ft. 11 inches||47-inch pole|
|6 ft. and over||51-inch pole|
Hiking Pole Adjustment
Hiking with trekking poles at the wrong lengths can cause stress to arms, shoulders, neck, and back.
- General hiking: Adjust so you have you the 90 degrees in your elbow, and pole tip rests on the ground.
- Sprawling uphill hiking: Shorten your poles by around 5–10cm. It offers more leverage and more secure plants. The steeper the ascent, the more you can shorten your poles.
- Long descents: Lengthening your poles by around 5–10cm from your general hiking length helps keep you upright and offers more balance.
Hiking Pole Features
Adjustable: Many poles adjust to enhance stability on different terrain.
Non-adjustable: Some poles don’t adjust and tend to be lighter.
Foldable: Foldable poles work like tent poles. Foldable poles are packable, lightweight, and swift to deploy.
Shock-absorbing poles: These come with internal springs to absorb shock from walking downhill. You can turn this shock-absorbing feature off when not needed. It is recommended when you have unstable hips, knees, or ankles.
Camera mounts: Some poles and hiking staffs include built-in camera mounts
Hiking Pole Shaft Materials
Your pole shaft material will determine the pole’s weight.
Aluminum: Durable and economical. Aluminum usually weighs between 18 and 22 ounces per pair. An aluminum-hiking pole can bend under stress, yet it won’t break quickly.
Composite: Shafts come in partially or entirely from carbon fiber. They are lighter, yet more expensive. They reduce vibrations, yet if stressed too much, they can breakage or splinter if tackling rugged areas in a national park or it is trapped in one of your river crossings.
Hiking Pole Grips
Some poles come with ergonomic grips with 15-degree angles to correct and keep wrists in neutral positions.
Grips can be from various materials and will feel different in your hands.
Cork: Moisture resistant and reduces vibrations.
Foam: Absorbs moisture from sweaty hands. Softest of all grip materials.
Rubber: Insulates from cold and vibrations. Durable so suitable for cold weather. Nevertheless, it can cause blisters on sweaty hands.
Other Hiking Pole Considerations
Wrist straps: Many hikers misuse these. Put your hand through the bottom of your strap. Pull down to grab hold of the pole grip. You will feel wrist support, and the heel of your hand allows you to remain relaxed. Some poles provide adjustable strap lengths, in addition to the right or left-hand wrist straps.
Baskets: Many poles will come with small, removable baskets around the trekking pole tips. You can use larger baskets for the sodden or snowy ground.
Pole tips: Tips are either carbide or steel. Rubber protectors can extend tip life and stop trekking pole tips from damaging your gear when stowed. You can purchase pole tips in angled rubber for use on asphalt or other like surfaces.
How to Use Walking Poles
Poles are great for many areas of hiking. Here is a quick breakdown of tips and suggestions.
Pole and Leg Alternation
Use the right rhythm of planting the opposite pole in time with the opposing foot, such as right foot, left pole, left foot, right pole.
This is a beneficial way, how to use trekking poles on steep climbs. You can drive through both poles to deliver more leverage.
River or stream crossings
If there were one area where you can find a use for your poles, it would be stream crossings or in shallow rivers, and you need to wade.
Be sure each time you plant the tip of the pole, it is stable on the ground before you take a step forward. In deeper water, try to lengthen your poles.
Plant both poles and vault across the puddle
Plant your poles for stability as you clamber over a log. You can use them the same for large boulders.
Poles are an ideal inclusion to any backpacking trip you may have. Even though they deliver more stability and can give your upper body a workout while protecting it from stress, you can also find other uses for them in a pinch.
Many hikers find they come in handy when pitching a tarp for a rain cover, or erect a makeshift tent.