How to Use Trekking Poles

Hiker with trekking poles walking along riverbankTrekking poles aren't just for trekkers crossing the Himalayas. They help hikers of all abilities climb, descend and balance as well as take the pressure off of their knees.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Getting the length right

Things You’ll Need:
  • Trekking poles
Step 1
Grasp the pole in both hands--each hand on either side of the topmost lock that unscrews. Hold the pole firmly in your left hand and turn only your right hand towards you. This action will loosen the pole. Then pull the right section out with your right hand.
Step 2
If you're tall, you may need to lengthen the second section of the pole. In which case, hold the left side of the pole BELOW the bottom lock and firmly turn the section in your right hand towards you. Now extend the newly exposed section of pole.
Step 3
Lengthen or shorten both sections so that the pole is the proper length (see the next three steps). Then firmly tighten each section, holding the pole firmly in your left hand and turning the upper pole section in your right hand AWAY from you. Do not pull the poles completely apart, heed the warning at the end of the pole's section.
Step 4
For flat terrain, the pole should allow your arm to be close to a 90 degree angle and parallel to the ground.
Step 5
For uphill climbs, the poles need to be shorter and hence your hands are at a downward angle.
Step 6
For descents, the poles need to be longer. Standing still, your arms on top of the poles will be at an upward angle.

Walking with the poles

Step 1
Slip your hands UP through the bottom of the wrist straps and grasp the grips at the tops of your poles. If the straps feel too tight, loosen them.
Step 2
There are two basic gaits hikers use with the poles. In the first, the poles swing back and forth with each arm movement, much the way a cross-country skier would use poles to aid with momentum. In the second, both poles come forward at the same time and go back at the same time. It's simply a matter of comfort which one you choose.
Step 3
Use the hiking poles to climb over obstacles.
Step 4
Use the poles to keep your balance on uneven terrain. Be sure to test rocks to see if they are loose before you put your whole weight on them.

Tips & Warnings

A trekking pole has other uses as well: wrap some duct tape around one to use for repairing gear while on the trail; test snow to see how deep it is; use it as a makeshift splint if a hiker has an injured leg, wrapping the leg with a belt or jacket and attaching to the pole.
In high water, don't let the poles give you a false sense of security. Trekking poles are no match for a strong river current that's up over your knees--find a safe way to cross the water or find another route.

Article Written By Nancy Beverly

Nancy Beverly has been a writer for over 30 years. Her work has ranged from plays performed at the world-reknown Actors Theatre of Louisville to scripts on network television. As a freelance journalist, she writes for the Sierra Club newspaper "TRACKS" and has over 60 articles on

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