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How To Properly Hold Trekking Poles


by Shandeigh Swaney



Trekking poles are an essential tool for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, offering stability, balance, and support on rugged terrains. These lightweight and adjustable poles not only help reduce strain on your joints, but they also enhance your overall hiking experience. However, to fully reap the benefits of trekking poles, it is crucial to learn the proper technique for holding them.


In this article, we will delve into the various aspects of holding trekking poles correctly. We will explore the benefits of using trekking poles, the importance of proper hand placement, adjusting the length of the poles, maintaining a consistent grip, and correct arm positioning. Additionally, we will discuss specific techniques for uphill and downhill trekking, as well as using trekking poles on different types of terrains.


By mastering the art of using trekking poles, you can improve your stability, balance, and endurance on your hiking adventures. So, let’s dive in and discover how to properly hold and utilize trekking poles.


Benefits of Using Trekking Poles

Using trekking poles offers a multitude of benefits for hikers of all skill levels. Here are some of the key advantages:

  1. Increased Stability: Trekking poles provide additional points of contact with the ground, offering increased stability on uneven or slippery surfaces. They help distribute your weight more evenly, reducing the risk of slips or falls.
  2. Reduced Joint Impact: The use of trekking poles can significantly reduce the impact on your joints, particularly your knees and ankles. By transferring some of your weight onto the poles, you alleviate pressure on your lower body, minimizing the risk of injuries and joint pain.
  3. Improved Balance: Trekking poles act as an extension of your arms, helping you maintain balance, especially when crossing streams or navigating tricky terrain. They provide an additional level of stability, allowing you to confidently tackle challenging sections of your hike.
  4. Enhanced Endurance: By engaging your upper body muscles, trekking poles help distribute the workload more evenly throughout your body. This not only reduces fatigue but also increases your overall endurance, enabling you to trek for longer distances with less strain on your legs.
  5. Reduced Swelling: The repetitive motion of using trekking poles can assist in promoting blood circulation and reducing swelling in your hands and fingers, particularly during long hikes or multi-day treks.
  6. Improved Posture: Holding trekking poles naturally encourages an upright posture, as it helps to align your spine. This can help alleviate strain on your back and neck muscles, promoting better overall posture throughout your hike.

These are just a few of the many benefits that trekking poles offer. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a beginner, incorporating trekking poles into your hiking gear can greatly enhance your outdoor adventures and make your journeys more enjoyable and safe.


Proper Hand Placement

Proper hand placement is essential for effectively utilizing trekking poles and maximizing their benefits. Here are some tips for placing your hands correctly on the poles:

  1. Strap Placement: Start by sliding your hand up through the strap from underneath so that the strap is positioned around your wrist. Then, grip the handle of the trekking pole firmly with your hand.
  2. Hand Grip: Place your hand on the handle, ensuring that your grip is comfortable and relaxed. Avoid gripping the handle too tightly, as this can cause unnecessary strain on your hand and forearm muscles.
  3. Thumb Position: Position your thumb on top of the handle, in opposition to your fingers. This allows for a more secure and controlled grip, enabling you to apply pressure and push off the ground effectively.
  4. Pole Angle: Angle the trekking pole slightly behind you, rather than directly perpendicular to the ground. This position allows your wrist and forearm to stay aligned and reduces stress on your joints during each stride.
  5. Adjustable Length: Ensure that the length of your trekking poles is adjusted to a comfortable height. The ideal length should allow your elbows to bend at a 90-degree angle when holding the poles, with your forearms parallel to the ground.

Remember, proper hand placement is crucial in maintaining a secure grip on the trekking poles and effectively transferring weight and support. Practice these techniques before heading out on your hike to ensure proper hand positioning becomes second nature.


Adjusting the Length of Trekking Poles

Adjusting the length of your trekking poles is essential for optimal performance and comfort while hiking. Here are the steps to properly adjust the length:

  1. Find the Right Starting Length: Before adjusting your poles, determine the starting length by standing with your arms at your sides and bending your elbows at a 90-degree angle. Measure the distance from the ground to the top of your hand. This will give you a rough estimate of the initial length to set your poles.
  2. Locate the Adjustment Mechanism: Most trekking poles have an adjustment mechanism, such as a twist lock or flip lock, located near the top part of the pole. Familiarize yourself with the specific mechanism on your poles.
  3. Loosen the Mechanism: To adjust the length, twist or release the lock mechanism to loosen it. This will allow you to freely adjust the pole length.
  4. Lengthen or Shorten the Pole: Depending on your height and the terrain, you may need to lengthen or shorten the poles. Lengthen the poles by gently pulling the sections apart, and shorten them by pushing the sections closer together. Use the markings on the poles as a guide to ensure equal adjustments on both poles.
  5. Tighten the Mechanism: Once you have set the desired length, tighten the lock mechanism firmly to secure the poles. Test the poles by putting weight on them and ensure they do not collapse or slip during use.
  6. Recheck and Make Adjustments: Before you start your hike, double-check the length of the poles to ensure they are still properly adjusted. You may need to make minor adjustments throughout your hike, especially if the terrain changes.

Remember, the correct pole length is crucial for maintaining proper posture and balance while hiking. Spending some time to adjust your trekking poles properly before you hit the trail will greatly enhance your overall hiking experience.


Maintaining a Consistent Grip

Maintaining a consistent grip on your trekking poles is vital to ensure stability and control while hiking. Here are some tips to help you maintain a secure and comfortable grip:

  1. Hand Position: Hold the poles with a relaxed grip, allowing your fingers to lightly wrap around the handle. Avoid gripping too tightly, as it can lead to hand fatigue and discomfort.
  2. Thumb Placement: Position your thumb on top of the handle, opposite your fingers. This provides additional support and allows for better control and maneuverability.
  3. Adjust the Straps: Most trekking poles come with straps that help secure your grip. Adjust the straps so that they fit comfortably around your wrist. This will allow you to release your grip without dropping the poles while still maintaining control.
  4. Pay Attention to Terrain: Be mindful of the terrain and adjust your grip accordingly. For steep inclines or descents, you may need to tighten your grip to provide extra support and stability.
  5. Switch Hand Positions: To prevent hand fatigue, switch your hand positions periodically. This can include alternating between gripping the handle and holding onto the strap or even adjusting the poles to a different height.
  6. Keep the Poles Clean and Dry: Regularly clean your trekking poles to remove any dirt or debris that may affect your grip. Additionally, make sure to dry them thoroughly after use to prevent slippery surfaces.

By maintaining a consistent and comfortable grip on your trekking poles, you’ll be able to navigate challenging terrains with confidence and reduce strain on your hands and forearms. Practice these tips to develop a natural and secure grip that enhances your hiking experience.


Correct Arm Positioning

Proper arm positioning while using trekking poles is crucial for optimizing stability, balance, and efficiency during your hikes. Here are some tips for maintaining correct arm positioning:

  1. Relaxed Shoulders: Keep your shoulders relaxed and avoid tensing or hunching them. This allows for a more natural and fluid arm movement while using the poles.
  2. Bent Elbows: Bend your elbows at approximately a 90-degree angle while holding the poles. This provides optimal leverage and reduces strain on your arms and shoulders.
  3. Arm Swing: Allow your arms to naturally swing back and forth as you walk. The arm motion should follow a rhythmic and pendulum-like movement, coordinating with your stride.
  4. Opposite Arm and Leg: Coordinate the movement of your arms and legs. As your right foot steps forward, your left arm should swing forward, and vice versa. This cross-patterning motion aids in balance and stability.
  5. Avoid Overextending: Avoid overextending your arm swing. Your arm movements should be controlled and in sync with your walking pace, maintaining a comfortable and balanced rhythm.
  6. Sync with Terrain: Adjust your arm positioning to adapt to different terrains. For uphill climbs, use your arms to help propel yourself forward. On downhill descents, engage your arms to assist with balance and control.
  7. Engage Core Muscles: While using trekking poles, engage your core muscles to stabilize your torso. This additional support from your core helps to redistribute the workload and promote overall body alignment.

By practicing correct arm positioning and coordinating your arm movements with your steps, you can optimize your hiking performance, reduce fatigue, and enhance your overall hiking experience. Remember to maintain a relaxed and natural arm motion, allowing your trekking poles to become an extension of your body’s movement.


Techniques for Uphill and Downhill Trekking

When encountering uphill or downhill sections during your hike, employing proper techniques with your trekking poles can greatly improve your stability and reduce strain on your body. Here are some techniques to navigate uphill and downhill terrain effectively:

Uphill Trekking:

  • Shorten Your Poles: When tackling uphill terrain, consider shortening your trekking poles slightly. This will allow you to maintain a more upright posture while providing added stability.
  • Engage Your Core: Engage your core muscles to support your posture and maintain balance. This will help you distribute the effort between your upper body and legs, making your uphill climb more efficient.
  • Plant Poles in Front: As you ascend, plant your poles slightly in front of you, ensuring they are in contact with the ground before you take each step. This technique provides additional support and stability as you push yourself uphill.
  • Shorten Your Stride: Take shorter strides while climbing uphill to conserve energy and maintain balance. Focus on keeping a consistent and steady rhythm as you ascend.

Downhill Trekking:

  • Lengthen Your Poles: Lengthen your trekking poles for stability and increased control during downhill descents. This will help you maintain a more stable and controlled pace.
  • Lean Slightly Forward: Lean your upper body slightly forward as you descend, allowing your poles to absorb some of the impact and provide balance. This technique helps to prevent your body from being thrown off balance.
  • Plant Poles Behind: Place your trekking poles slightly behind you as you descend, using them for support as you step downwards. This provides stability and redistributes weight, reducing strain on your legs and joints.
  • Take Shorter Steps: Take shorter, controlled steps while descending to maintain stability and prevent slipping. Descending in a controlled manner helps protect your knees and reduces the risk of injuries.

Mastering the proper techniques for uphill and downhill trekking with your trekking poles will enhance your overall hiking experience. Experiment with these techniques and adjust them to suit your personal comfort and the specific terrain you’re navigating. Remember to practice regularly and listen to your body to find the techniques that work best for you.


Using Trekking Poles on Various Terrains

Trekking poles are versatile tools that can assist you in navigating different types of terrains effectively. Here are some tips on using trekking poles on various terrains:

Rocky Terrain:

When trekking on rocky terrain, trekking poles provide stability and help you maintain balance:

  • Plant Poles Firmly: Place your trekking poles firmly on stable rock surfaces, using them to anchor yourself as you navigate uneven terrain.
  • Use Poles as Probes: Extend your trekking poles ahead of you to test the stability of rocks or boulders before stepping on them. This helps prevent slips or falls.
  • Adjust Pole Length: Keep your pole length slightly shorter for better maneuverability and control, allowing you to navigate through narrow or rocky sections more easily.

Forest Trails:

When trekking through forest trails, trekking poles aid in maintaining balance and navigating uneven ground:

  • Clear Obstacles: Use your trekking poles to clear away overhanging branches, spider webs, or other obstacles that may obstruct your path.
  • React to Uneven Ground: Adjust the length of your poles to adapt to changing terrain. Shorten the poles when going uphill or through dense foliage, and lengthen them when descending or encountering uneven sections.
  • Stabilize on Slippery Surfaces: On muddy or slippery sections, plant your trekking poles securely to provide stability and prevent slips. Cross your poles in front of you for added support.

Snowy or Icy Surfaces:

Trekking poles are particularly beneficial when dealing with snowy or icy surfaces:

  • Utilize Pole Baskets: Attach and use snow baskets on your trekking poles to prevent them from sinking into soft snow. The wider surface area helps distribute your weight and provides stability.
  • Plant Poles Deeply: When trekking on snowy or icy surfaces, plant your poles deeply to ensure a secure grip. This helps provide traction and stability as you navigate through slippery conditions.
  • Use Crampons or Ice Tips: Consider attaching specialized crampons or ice tips to your trekking poles for added traction on icy surfaces. These accessories enhance your grip and stability on slippery terrain.

Remember to adapt your technique according to the specific terrain you’re traversing. Experiment with pole lengths, tips, and your hand positioning to find the most effective and comfortable method for each type of terrain you encounter.



Properly holding and utilizing trekking poles is essential for any hiker or outdoor enthusiast. These versatile tools offer numerous benefits, including increased stability, reduced joint impact, improved balance, enhanced endurance, and improved posture. By following the correct techniques, such as maintaining a consistent grip, adjusting the pole length, and positioning your arms correctly, you can make the most out of your trekking pole experience.


Whether you’re hiking uphill, navigating downhill descents, or trekking through rocky or snowy terrains, trekking poles provide invaluable support and stability. They help distribute your weight, reduce strain on your joints, and improve your overall hiking performance. By using trekking poles on various terrains, you can confidently tackle challenging trails and enjoy a safer and more enjoyable adventure.


Remember to practice using trekking poles before embarking on a long hike and to adjust your techniques based on the specific terrain conditions. Regularly maintain your trekking poles, keep them clean and dry, and ensure the adjustment mechanisms are secure. With proper care and usage, trekking poles will become your trusted companions, enhancing your outdoor experiences and allowing you to explore nature with confidence.


So, grab your trekking poles, head out on the trail, and discover the difference they can make in your hiking adventures.