How To Use Trekking Poles


Many hikers use trekking poles because of the many benefits that they provide. For one, they provide additional support which in turn helps improve your balance and stability while walking. They can also help improve your posture as you walk, especially when you’re carrying a backpacking backpack filled with all your backpacking gear. All in all, trekking poles can help you move quicker and travel farther distances while reducing the amount of effort required and lessening the stress and impact on your knees. However, you’ll need to learn how to use trekking poles properly to enjoy these benefits. Although there is no definitive way on how to use hiking poles properly, there are ways that you can use them more effectively.

Setting Up Your Trekking Poles

To get the most out of your trekking poles, you first need to set them up properly. That is, you’ll want to make sure that there are suited for your height. Set them up too long and you’ll have to unnecessarily raise your arms higher than is need when you move (which can be very tiring and result in shoulder aches). Set them up too low and you’ll find yourself having to bend whenever you plant your poles (which can result in lower back pains after a day’s hike). Now, you’ll have to adjust the poles according to the terrain you’re walking on as well, but for now, let’s focus on how to adjust your trekking poles to the correct height when you’re walking on flat ground.

  1. Unlock the trekking poles so you can adjust the sections. There are typically two methods of adjusting the trekking poles. The first one requires twisting the poles to loosen and tighten them. Generally, you’ll twist them counterclockwise to loosen them and twist them clockwise to lock them in place. The other method involves the use of a small lever which you flick open to loosen the sections and flick close to lock them in place.
  2. You’ll want to start by loosening the lowest section of the trekking poles. Once you’ve loosened the trekking pole, hold it in along your sides and let the lowest section fall until the tip rests on the ground. Keep your shoulders relaxed and your elbows tucked close to your sides. Move your arm until it forms a ninety-degree angle. If the tip of the poles touches the ground, this is the appropriate length for your height and you can now lock it in place. If it doesn’t touch the ground. Lock the lowest section in place and loosen the next section and repeat the steps until you achieve the desired length. Now, why start with the lowest section you may ask. Well, this will make it easier for you to adjust the poles later on when you need to walk uphill or downhill. This way, you only need to adjust the top part of the pole which is easier than having to bend down or turn your trekking pole upside down to adjust the lower section.
  3. Once you achieved the desired length, lock the sections in place by twisting them or flipping the lever. Make sure that the sections are locked securely so that they won’t move or adjust while you’re walking and planting them on the ground.

Using the Wrist Strap

The wrist strap is an integral component of trekking poles. When used correctly, they can go a long way in helping to prevent aching hands and wrists. However, many people never pay attention or even use them at all. If you identify with the group, then it’s about time to consider using those wrist straps on your trekking poles.

Using the wrist strap is pretty straightforward, simply open the loop and pass your hand through and reach for the trekking pole’s grip. Then with your free hand, adjust the locking mechanism or locking block on the strap. Repeat the above steps with your other hand.

One thing to keep in mind is that the straps should wrap snugly around your wrists. They shouldn’t be too loose or else they won’t be able to do their job well, nor should they be too tight that they restrict blood circulation to and from your hands.

Holding Your Trekking Poles

Many people make the mistake of gripping their trekking poles too tightly thinking that this will give them a better grip and more control over their poles. However, this isn’t necessary. Gripping your trekking poles too tightly will only tire your hands and wrists faster. So just how tight should you grip your trekking poles?

Experts say that you don’t need to apply a lot of pressure when holding your trekking poles. Your hold on the handgrips should be relaxed. You should be able to easily rotate the poles forward and backward using only your thumbs and forefingers.

So when holding your trekking poles, start with gripping them with your thumb and forefinger because that’s all the force you need to flick the poles forward and backward. Then, simply wrap the rest of your fingers loosely on the rest of the handgrips and that’s it.

Now, some people say that you need to grip your trekking poles tightly just in case you slip or need more stability while walking. However, this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case since you will naturally and instinctively tighten your grip on the poles if you feel unstable.

Another thing to keep in mind is to make sure that you’re holding the right pole for each hand. Trekking poles are generally sold in pairs with one pole designed for the right hand and the other for the left with the grips designed differently to accommodate the different finger positions for each hand.

Moving the Pole Forward

Moving the pole forward as you walk may seem like a straightforward process so much so that many people don’t even think about how they move the poles as they hike. You simply lift the poles and plant them in front of you and walk, right? Well, this doesn’t appear to be the case.

First, think about how you naturally walk. When you step forward with your right foot, your left-hand swings forward, right? And when you step with your left foot your right-hand swings forward. You should be able to maintain this pattern while walking with your trekking poles. Many people do otherwise and plant their right-hand poles when they step forward with their right feet. They plant the pole first and then move their legs afterward. The problem with this is that it defeats the main purpose of using trekking poles which is to provide balance and stability to the user.

That said, always remember that your trekking poles should move forward with the opposing leg. Also, move your trekking poles with every step. Some people only use their poles after every two or three steps. This may be okay when walking over flat and smooth terrain, but not in any other case. This is especially true when you’re carrying a heavy backpack.

Walking Uphill

When walking uphill, you’ll want to shorten your poles slightly. Most hikers would do this until their trekking poles are as high as their thighs. If you are reaching too far out to plant your poles you will be using most of your energy pushing the pole downwards and pulling yourself upwards. This isn’t very energy efficient since what you want is to push off from your legs as you go up. Your trekking poles are supposed to help you push off and are not to be used to pull yourself up. Also, you’ll want to keep the trekking poles close to your body while you walk uphill. Also, when shortening your trekking poles during an uphill climb remember to adjust the pole from the top section. This will be far easier than having to bend down or turn your trekking poles upside down to make the adjustments on the bottom section of the trekking pole.

Walking Downhill


If you need to shorten your trekking poles while climbing uphill, the opposite applies when you’re walking downhill. That is, you’ll want to lengthen your trekking poles. Generally, hikers will do this by adjusting their trekking poles until it is as high as their chest. This way you won’t have to bend down whenever you plant your poles as you head downhill.

If you are walking downhill, you’ll want to position the trekking poles slightly in front of you. You’ll also want to shorten your strides as this can help to relieve some of the impact of stress on your knee joints. Speaking of impact, if your trekking poles come with a shock absorber system, you’ll want to engage them to further help reduce the stress on your knees. This is especially true if you are carrying a backpack.

If you’re walking down a very steep hill, you’ll want to walk sideways and plant the poles securely into the ground before you take a step. Then position your foot right beside it so that if your hiking boots slip the trekking pole can help to stop your foot from continuing to slip downwards.

Making a Turn

Many people often make the mistake of crossing their poles in front of them when making a turn. However, this is not recommended and should be avoided at all costs since you may end up tripping on them. Instead, keep your trekking poles to your sides.

Assist in Sitting Down and Standing Up

Aside from aiding in walking, trekking poles can also assist the user in sitting down and standing up. Using your trekking poles can give you better stability when sitting down or standing up, something which people suffering from knee or lower back problems can benefit from.

To use your trekking poles to assist you in sitting down, first position yourself in front of the seat rock or whatever you’ll be sitting on. Next, remove your hands from the wrist straps and hold on to the trekking poles firmly. Then plant poles on your sides and use them to balance yourself as you lower yourself towards the seat.

To stand up, grab a trekking pole with each hand and gripping them firmly plant them along your sides. With the poles planted move your hands forward until the trekking poles are angled backward. Now, pull yourself up and forward and use the poles to assist you in maintaining your balance until you are fully up.

Some people use only one pole in sitting down and standing up. They do this by placing the pole in front of them in between their legs. Then holding the single pole with both hands, use it to balance themselves as they sit down or stand up. This is okay, but using two poles instead of one will give you better balance and stability.

More Tips

  • Trekking poles come with baskets that you can attach or detach. When hiking on muddy or soft ground, use the baskets to prevent your trekking poles from sinking too deep whenever you plant your poles into the ground.
  • Always use trekking poles in pairs. Although one pole is often good enough for most people, using two poles will provide you with far greater stability and control.
  • Choose trekking poles with rubber or tungsten carbide tips. The latter is more durable than the former, but both will help to prevent the trekking poles from skidding when you’re hiking in rocky or slippery terrains.
  • Be careful when using your trekking poles on rocky terrains. You may accidentally plant your poles between two rocks and you may fall and snap your poles.

Globo Surf Overview

Trekking poles provide plenty of benefits for trail adventurers and the casual hiker. They can help improve balance and stability which in turn will help you avoid falls, slips, and other unfortunate accidents. However, you need to learn how to use them properly to enjoy these benefits. This is why learning how to use trekking poles properly is important. When you know how to use hiking poles, you will see how much they can make every hike less tiring, more enjoyable, and even safer.

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Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!