How to Adjust Hiking Poles

How to Adjust Hiking Poles
A modern version of the age-old walking staff, hiking poles -- one wielded in each hand -- reduce the strain on knees inherent in hiking through rugged country. They also generally improve stability on snow and ice. While single-section poles are available, many versions can be adjusted in length for better ergonomic response to the changing terrain. According to Komperdell, an Austrian outdoor equipment manufacturer, hikers using poles can reduce wear and tear on their knees by 250 tons on an eight-hour hike.


Difficulty: Easy

Step 1
Adjust the sections of your hiking poles according to their locking mechanism. Many are lengthened or shortened with a twist-lock setup. Most have three sections, so there are two locks to loosen. Other models have a flip-lock, which may be easier to negotiate when wearing gloves or in wet conditions, or a screw-based lock. Some poles have multiple grips so that it is your hand position, not their length, that is adjusted. According to, most hiking poles can be lengthened from 24 to 55 inches.
Step 2
Maintain your elbows at a 90-degree angle with the poles when hiking on flat terrain. This is the simple method to determine the ideal benchmark length of your poles.
Step 3
Lengthen the poles by a few inches when descending a slope to bolster your support and stability. Effectively, your arms should be in about the same position as they are when you are traversing even ground. By the same principal, shorten the poles by a few inches for ascents. When traversing slopes -- hiking across them, not up or down -- lengthen the down-slope pole and shorten the up-slope one.
Step 4
Reduce hiking poles to their most compact when they aren't in use. These condensed poles can then be strapped to your backpack until they are needed again.

Tips & Warnings

Test hiking poles before buying them.
Decide on a locking mechanism that best suits your preferences and make sure the locks don't chronically "slip" under pressure.

Article Written By Ethan Schowalter-Hay

Ethan Schowalter-Hay is a writer and naturalist living in Oregon. He has written for the "Observer," the Bureau of Land Management and various online publishers. He holds a Bachelor of Science in wildlife ecology and a graduate certificate in geographic information systems from the University of Wisconsin.

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