How to Use Walking Poles

How to Use Walking Poles
Walking poles, commonly known as trekking poles, are a way to help support yourself when on the trail or to give you extra traction and stability when crossing a river or rocky ridge. Trekking poles also help alleviate some of the stress put on knee joints on the downhill. A good pair of trekking poles is lightweight, adjustable and has a comfortable hand grip. This is how to make the most use of your walking poles.


Difficulty: Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Trekking/walking poles
  • Trekking/walking poles
Step 1
Get to know your poles. Though all trekking poles are similar in appearance there are many models and brands by excellent companies such as Leki or Komperdell which specialize in trekking pole design. Some have anti-shock features, some poles are made of three segments and some have a locking feature, while others merely twist tightly to secure a height. Learn all the features of your poles so that they will be a breeze to adjust on the trail.
Step 2
Set the poles to the proper height for you. The correct height is determined by your own height as well as the length of your arms. Take them for a spin around your yard or down the street and see what feels comfortable when walking on flat ground. This will be your default height.
Step 3
Set the poles slightly shorter than your default height when you are walking uphill. When hiking uphill the distance between the ground and your arms is slightly less especially if you are leaning forward slightly to compensate for the incline. Some people prefer to shorten their poles and attach them to their backpack when going up steep hills so their hands are free. The poles do not lend as much support on the uphill as they do going down.
Step 4
Set the poles slightly longer than your default height when you are walking downhill. The distance between your arms and the ground is slightly more when you are hiking downhill as you will most likely not be leaning forward as much as on the ascent. Going downhill is when your trekking poles do their best work. They help you to balance when hiking down any uneasy footing such as scree or wet rock and help to absorb some of the shock that would normally go entirely into your knees and spine. Still it is important never to put all your weight completely on your poles; they are meant to be an additional support and not a sole support.
Step 5
Set your poles slightly longer than your default setting when you are about to make a river crossing. This is an instance where poles can tremendously help with your balance, whether you are walking along the river bottom or trying to cross atop of slick rocks with a swift current running around them. Also, always unbuckle the waist belt of your backpack when crossing a river. If you are to fall in, the weight of your bag can drag you under.
Step 6
Attach powder baskets to the bottom of your trekking poles for snowshoeing or winter trekking. There are multiple sizes of powder baskets and the larger the basket the better it will help you stay afloat in the snow. Without any powder baskets your poles will just pierce right through most snow packs and you won't be getting any support.

Article Written By Naomi Judd

Naomi M. Judd is a naturalist, artist and writer. Her work has been published in various literary journals, newspapers and websites. Judd holds a self-designed Bachelor of Arts in adventure writing from Plymouth State University and is earning a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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