Trekking poles are awesome for hiking and backpacking for many reasons. When properly used they can alleviate up to 30% of the weight stress felt on your back and shoulders from wearing a backpack. Trekking poles also reduce the amount of load bearing weight that is transferred to your knees. In addition the use of poles help with balance and stability in basically every situation when used appropriately. Sadly not many people know how to use trekking poles correctly or why it is important to do so.
In this blog I will teach you how to use your poles correctly and how to adjust them accordingly. I will also share some information on parts of the poles you may not of known about the importance of.
These are my poles…
“Komperdell” They are top brand name poles and not cheap by any means but don’t worry you can get good poles for affordable prices from many vendors. My first choice is always Leki but sadly I wore out my Leki’s after several years and just over a 1000 trail miles had been put on them. I thought I would give these Komperdell’s a try when it was time to get new ones about 4 years ago. These are almost just as good. The only thing I noticed that is not comparable are the wrist straps. I prefer the Leki wrist straps over the Komperdell’s as they are easier to adjust. Other than that I rate the poles basically the same thus far.
Here is a quick video of how to use the wrist straps…
Wrist straps make it easier to hold onto your poles without having to grip them tightly. You can rest your hand and allow the straps to carry the load instead of your hand strength. You just need to gently grasp the grip to guide the poles themselves.
The grips on your poles is a big decision for people to. I love cork grips as they give some but hold up as well. There are many types of grips like plastic and rubber and materials I don’t know what to call it. One thing for sure is if you intend to go “off road” as in hiking or backpacking or for a stroll through the woods then do NOT get poles with a “suspension” grip! They generally fail rather quickly for one. Second they undermine the poles usage for stability. Third they provide little or no real support for uphill or downhill traveling. Most injuries I’ve heard about involving poles generally happened because the person either used the poles improperly or they had suspension grips.
As with most things you want to get a pole that feels good to you and suits your needs best. I not only hike with my poles but also use them as tarp supports and a camera mono-pod. In doing so I find that “twist locks” hold much better than “flip locks” but I hear from other users that “flip locks” last longer and are easier to adjust.
You can get baskets on the bottoms of your poles. The Bigger baskets are for use in snow and the smaller ones for use in Autumn or when there are lots of debris on the ground. Remove the baskets when traveling over rocky terrain so they don’t get snagged in crevasses. Also remove for easier water crossings.
The most overlooked part of a trekking pole are the tips. The little metal prong at the bottom end of your pole that protects the pole shaft from being destroyed by the ground. Without these your poles would not last more than a day hike on rough terrain. They do wear down over time so you need to keep an eye on them. Don’t worry though they generally last a few hundred miles depending on terrain and quality of brand.
So how do you adjust the trekking poles?
Many people I see on the trails fully extend their poles and march around with their arms near fully extended out in front of them. This is clearly not the correct way…
This method will serve you no use. This way forces you to walk very unnaturally. You get no stability from doing this and no assistance up or downhills. Also you exert more energy than you save and no reduction in weight from backpack is awarded. Your knees receive zero benefit as well. Overall you will feel more tired and over worked at the end of the day.
Your trekking poles should be measured based on activity. If you are hiking or backpacking then your poles should be measured by holding them straight inline with your legs while standing upright. Extend poles so that the “base of the hand grips” are approximately within one thumb width above the top of your “hip pointer”. This should place your grips one hand width above your hip pointer or waist line.
When you walk with your poles, in general you should alternate left pole with right foot as they touch the ground. This increases your stability and control while on the trail. It also helps to alleviate weight and stress from your working knee, hip, back, and shoulder.
Notice the rear pole (right hand) is inline with rear (left) leg and my hand comes to rest even with my hip pointer? This means my poles are adjusted perfectly for me. They should be able at this point to support me and help take a load off my back, hips, and knees etc…
See how more comfortable and relaxed I am and how the poles are more effectively able to support me. If I were to trip or stumble the poles would be able to support me well. I am able to move with ease and without having to raise my arms higher then a natural swing.
Trekking poles are great for assisting in uphill climbs. When doing so you should shorten your poles so that you can hold them in front of you just ahead enough to lean forward onto. Keep in mind that your hand grips should never drop below your waist line. Use them to rest your upper body weight on as you climb steep hills.
Hold both poles in front of you and move them one at a time as you step but keeping both poles ahead of you as you climb. Use your wrist straps for support so your hands don’t get cramped from gripping the poles. Let your hands relax partially in the straps.
Going downhill lengthen your poles just enough so that you can keep them slightly ahead of you and be able to hold your body upright as you hike downward. Again try to keep hands at approximately waist level.
It helps to place your hands over the top of the poles. This gives you better control over yourself and the poles as you work your way down steep declines. It is controversial as to whether you should use your wrist straps when descending. I generally prefer to use mine.
So go get a set of trekking poles and go get hiking ! ! !