Trekking poles are a well-known piece of gear for hikers. They're necessary to maintain balance on rough terrain, help save your knees, and reduce fatigue over long distances. But many people find them difficult to use correctly. In this blog post we will teach you everything you need to know about trekking poles and how to use them like a PRO!
The benefits of using trekking poles
Less strain on your body allowing your to push off and propel yourself forward helping you hike further
They give you more stability with a four point contact with the ground
- Help distribute the weight of your pack and body directionally through the trekking pole, preventing injuries and back pain by improving your posture
- Reduce joint pain by using trekking poles as a shock absorber and taking the pressure off your knees and joints
- Multi use item in your gear kit by being something to mount your phone/camera bracket on and set up your tent
How to choose the right size
Each brand of trekking pole comes in different sizes. The length of the pole you choose will depend on your height.
When choosing the right size trekking pole for you stand straight and bend your elbow at a 90 degree angle. Loosen the height adjustment clips on the pole and with your poles placed on the ground - set the pole length. Typically mine are set to 115cm and I'm 165cm tall.
Ensure you still have enough length adjustment left to lengthen or shorten the poles for different terrain.
|Height||Suggested Pole Length|
|< 5 ft. 1 in.||100cm (39 in.)|
|5 ft. 1 in. – 5 ft. 7 in.||110cm (43 in.)|
|5 ft. 8 in. – 5 ft. 11 in.||120cm (47 in.)|
|6 ft.+||130cm (51 in.)|
What is the correct grip
When you start using trekking poles, it is important to get the right grip. Each pole will come with an adjustable strap. These straps are usually marked with an R for RIGHT and L for LEFT. The main purpose of the straps is to distribute the weight from your lower body to the trekking pole, giving you stability and balance and reduce fatigue.
Even though the trekking poles may be exactly the same, the strap position is different for each side. Both the left and right sides will have thicker padding where your palm sits inside the strap. This padding will come up higher on the strap depending if it is the Left or Right trekking pole. This is to prevent blisters and cushion your hand.
I recommend grabbing a red piece of tape or nail polish and marking the top of the RIGHT trekking just under the grip padding so it is easily recognisable.
Wth your straps hanging beside the gip, come up from the bottom, through the straps, up and over the top, then grasp the grip handles. Your thumb should be over the top of the strap.
The benefits of this grip is that a lot of the pressure you place on the pole is taken up by the strap and you don't need to have a death grip on the pole the whole time. When you use the straps incorrectly, this prevents dislocating or breaking your thumb if you fali.
How to use them on different terrain
The type of terrain you are on will determine which pole usage technique to use.
On flat terrain the purpose of the poles is to give you stability, balance and rhythm. Using them A symmetrically, meaning left foot forward, right hand forward is the most natural way. By using them this way, you have 4 points of contact at all times, giving you stability. With a little practice, this technique will come naturally and give you rhythm to your walk - propelling you forward. You will use the same technique when going up hill.
The purpose of trekking poles when you are going uphill, is to help drive your energy from your legs to your core, torso and your upper body. This will help balance out your energy so you're not just relying on your legs to get you up the hill. At the same time the trekking poles will help increase the speed of your ascent.
If the hill is not too steep you can leave the height of your poles as they are, but any steeper ascents, you may need to adjust your pole height. As there's a shorter distance to the ground when leaning forward, by shortening the height of your pole you can maintain the pole at a 90 degree angle with your elbow. This enables you to use the trekking poles behind you by gripping the ground to propel you forward using upper body strength.
Descending a mountain using the correct technique is really the most important part of trekking pole use. It is what prevents many of the injuries when hiking and reduces the impact to your lower body. When you are descending, lead with your trekking poles first, as apposed to ascending which you lead behind. If the descent is steep increase the height of your poles to maintain 90 degrees.
Place your hands on top of the pole grips and place the weight of your pack and body through the poles, which will give you better stability. This grip reduces the impact on your lower body and your joints.
Trekking poles have many benefits. If you're an avid hiker, they could be just the thing for your next adventure! Be sure to take advantage of all these tips and tricks before embarking on your next hike so that you can enjoy a great experience without injury or soreness.
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