Chapter 42: How to Use Hiking/Trekking Poles and How to Find Light Ones

Using hiking poles can take some of the stress off your legs, and let your arms do some of the work giving you extra forward thrust. Many hikers like the increased balance and overall endurance trekking poles give them.

Make sure you use the correct grip when using trekking poles. Put your hand up through the loop and down on the strap so that your hand rests comfortably on the strap and pole. If you have the strap adjusted to the right length, you’ll have nice support from the strap and pole without the need for a constant “death grip” on the pole. There shouldn’t be any unnecessary and uncomfortable twists in the strap.

To adjust the pole length correctly for you, turn the pole upside down, place it on the ground at your foot, and put your hand directly under the basket. Your arm should form a 90 degree angle.

Some people adjust the pole length shorter for going uphill so they can lean a little forward and drive uphill. Some hikers like to lengthen the pole a little for balance on downhill stretches. Many of the lightest hiking poles are fixed length, and many hikers find it too tedious to change the length of their poles anyway.

As you hike, when your left foot goes forward, your right pole goes forward. When your right foot goes forward, your left pole goes forward.

Some of the lightest and highest quality poles are made by Black Diamond. Fixed length carbon fiber poles that fold down to 13” range from 9.2 to 9.7 ounces per pair depending on length. The Ultra Distance model received a Backpacker Editors’ Choice Award. The aluminum model ranges from 11.6 to 12.7 ounces.

Talk to hikers who use trekking poles to learn more about them. Try borrowing or renting a set of poles to see if hiking poles are right for you.