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How To Properly Use A Trekking Pole


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Kalina Sauceda



Trekking poles are an essential tool for any adventurer, whether you are embarking on a challenging hike or exploring rugged terrains. These lightweight poles provide stability, balance, and support, helping you navigate various types of terrain with ease. While trekking poles are often associated with mountain climbers and experienced hikers, they can benefit individuals of all fitness levels and ages.


In recent years, trekking poles have gained popularity due to their numerous advantages. They not only reduce the strain on your joints and muscles but also improve your overall hiking experience, allowing you to cover more ground comfortably. In this article, we will explore the benefits of using trekking poles, guide you through the process of choosing the right ones, and provide helpful techniques for maximizing their efficiency on different terrains.


Whether you are a seasoned hiker or a novice adventurer, understanding how to properly use trekking poles can greatly enhance your outdoor experience. So grab your poles and let’s dive into the world of trekking pole techniques!


Benefits of Using Trekking Poles

Trekking poles offer a multitude of benefits that can greatly enhance your hiking or trekking adventure. Let’s explore some of the key advantages:

  1. Increased Stability: One of the primary benefits of using trekking poles is the added stability they provide. By using both poles, you can distribute your weight and maintain balance on various types of terrain, such as steep inclines or uneven surfaces. This stability becomes even more crucial when carrying a heavy backpack or navigating through challenging weather conditions.
  2. Reduced Impact on Joints: Trekking poles act as shock absorbers, reducing the impact on your joints and muscles. With each step, the poles absorb a portion of the downward force, thereby decreasing strain on your knees, ankles, and hips. This is especially beneficial during long hikes or when trekking on hard surfaces like concrete or rocky terrain.
  3. Improved Endurance: By using trekking poles, you engage your upper body muscles, effectively distributing the workload between your lower and upper body. This can help alleviate fatigue in your legs and increase your overall endurance. As a result, you can hike longer distances and conquer challenging trails more comfortably.
  4. Assistance on Uphill and Downhill Terrain: Trekking poles provide invaluable support when tackling steep inclines or descents. On uphill hikes, you can use the poles to push off the ground and propel yourself forward, reducing the strain on your legs. On downhill sections, the poles act as anchors, providing stability and preventing slips or falls.
  5. Added Security: In uncertain or tricky situations, trekking poles can offer an added sense of security. They can help you test the stability of the ground before taking a step, ensuring you don’t stumble upon loose rocks or hidden pitfalls. Additionally, when crossing streams or navigating through slippery surfaces, the poles can provide extra support and stability.
  6. Balancing Loads: If you’re carrying a heavy backpack, trekking poles can help balance the weight distribution. By placing some of the load on the poles, you can alleviate strain on your back and shoulders, allowing for a more comfortable and balanced hiking experience.
  7. Nordic Walking Benefits: Trekking poles can also be used for Nordic walking, which is a low-impact exercise that engages both your upper and lower body muscles. This form of walking provides a full-body workout, improves cardiovascular fitness, and burns more calories compared to regular walking.

With all these benefits in mind, it’s clear that using trekking poles can significantly enhance your hiking experience. In the following sections, we will delve into the process of choosing the right trekking poles and provide techniques for using them effectively on different terrains.


Choosing the Right Trekking Pole

When it comes to selecting the right trekking pole for your adventures, several factors should be taken into consideration. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  1. Material: Trekking poles are usually made of aluminum or carbon fiber. Aluminum poles are more durable and offer better stability, while carbon fiber poles are lighter and provide improved shock absorption. Consider your hiking needs and preferences to determine which material suits you best.
  2. Weight: The weight of the trekking pole is an important consideration, especially if you plan to hike long distances or carry them for extended periods. Lighter poles are ideal for those who prioritize speed and agility, while slightly heavier poles may provide more stability.
  3. Adjustability: Look for trekking poles with adjustable lengths. This feature allows you to change the pole’s height to fit different terrains or your own personal preference. Adjustable poles are also convenient for sharing with others or for use in different seasons when more or less traction may be required.
  4. Grip: The grip of a trekking pole should be comfortable, ergonomic, and provide a secure hold. Common grip materials include cork, foam, and rubber. Cork grips are moisture-wicking and provide a natural feel, while foam grips offer excellent padding and are great for absorbing sweat. Rubber grips provide a firm grip and are ideal for colder climates.
  5. Wrist Strap: Trekking poles typically come with wrist straps that help distribute the load and prevent you from dropping them accidentally. Look for adjustable and padded wrist straps that provide comfort and allow for easy release in case of emergencies.
  6. Shock Absorption: Some trekking poles feature built-in shock absorption mechanisms. This feature helps reduce impact on your wrists and elbows, making them especially beneficial for individuals with joint sensitivity or for those traversing rough terrains. Consider your terrain and personal needs to decide if shock absorption is a necessary feature for you.
  7. Tips and Accessories: Trekking poles usually come with removable rubber tips, which provide better traction on hard surfaces like concrete or pavement. Additionally, carbide or steel tips are best for rocky or icy terrain. Some poles also have baskets that prevent the poles from sinking into soft ground. Consider the types of terrain you will encounter and choose poles with the appropriate tips and accessories.

When selecting trekking poles, it’s important to test them out and ensure they feel comfortable and sturdy in your hands. Consider renting or borrowing different types of poles to get a sense of what works best for you before making a purchase. Remember, the right trekking poles can greatly enhance your hiking experience, so take the time to choose ones that suit your needs and preferences.


Adjusting the Length of the Trekking Pole

Properly adjusting the length of your trekking poles is crucial for maximizing their effectiveness and ensuring your comfort during hikes. Follow these steps to adjust the length of your poles:

  1. Stand on Flat Ground: Find a flat and level surface to stand on, preferably wearing the shoes you will be wearing during your hike. This will give you an accurate measure of the pole length.
  2. Loosen the Locking Mechanism: Most trekking poles have a locking mechanism in the form of a twist lock or a lever lock. Loosen this mechanism to allow for adjustment.
  3. Set an Initial Length: Start by setting the length of the trekking pole to a general estimate, usually around shoulder height or slightly below. This initial length can be adjusted later based on personal preference and the type of terrain you’re hiking on.
  4. Adjust the Length: Grasp the pole just below the grip and gently extend or retract the sections to achieve the desired length. Take note of any height markers or measurements on the pole itself to ensure consistency between both poles.
  5. Lock the Mechanism: Once you have adjusted the pole to the desired length, tighten the locking mechanism securely. Make sure the pole sections do not slip or collapse when pressure is applied.
  6. Test the Length: Hold the pole with the grip in hand and your elbow at a 90-degree angle. Your forearm should be parallel to the ground, and the pole should reach the middle of your palm or slightly higher. Experiment with different lengths to find the most comfortable and efficient position for your body and hiking style.
  7. Consider Terrain and Slope: If you anticipate uphill climbs or steep descents, adjusting the pole to be slightly shorter can aid in propulsion and balance. Longer lengths are generally preferred for flat or gently sloping terrains.

Remember to adjust the length of your poles regularly, especially if you encounter different terrains throughout your hike. Shorten the poles for uphill sections to help with the ascent, and lengthen them for downhill sections to provide additional stability and support.


By taking the time to properly adjust the length of your trekking poles, you can optimize their performance and make your hiking experience more comfortable and enjoyable. The right pole length will aid in reducing strain on your joints, improving balance, and maximizing the benefits of using trekking poles.


Grip and Wrist Strap Techniques

Properly gripping your trekking poles and utilizing the wrist straps can significantly enhance your stability and control while hiking. Here are some techniques to help you optimize your grip and make the most of the wrist straps:

  1. Grip Placement: Place your hand through the wrist strap from underneath, allowing the strap to rest comfortably against the base of your palm. Then, grasp the grip of the pole with your fingers and curl them gently around it, maintaining a relaxed grip. Avoid gripping the pole too tightly, as it can lead to hand fatigue and discomfort over time.
  2. Grip Variations: Depending on the terrain and your personal preference, you can experiment with different grip positions. The standard grip involves placing your hand on top of the grip, parallel to the length of the pole. This grip is suitable for most hiking situations. The alternative grip is placing your hand under the grip, allowing the pole to extend through your palm and rest against your forearm. This grip is beneficial for steep descents or when extra stability is required.
  3. Utilizing the Wrist Strap: Insert your hand through the wrist strap and tighten it just enough to secure your hand in place. The strap should be snug but not too tight that it restricts blood flow or causes discomfort. The role of the strap is to support your grip and transfer the weight from your hands to your wrists, forearms, and upper body.
  4. Proper Wrist Strap Technique: To maximize the benefits of the wrist strap, imagine that you are placing your hand into a handshake position when sliding it through the strap. This ensures that the strap rests between your thumb and index finger, which provides better control and prevents the strap from sliding down your hand during use.
  5. Releasing the Wrist Strap: When navigating challenging and steep terrain, it may be necessary to release the wrist strap to quickly free your hand in case of a fall or loss of balance. To release the strap, simply push your hand upward through the bottom of the strap, allowing it to slide off your hand easily.
  6. Alternate Hand Positioning: During long hikes or to alleviate fatigue, you can vary your hand positioning on the grip. Move your hand from the top of the grip to the bottom, or vice versa, to change the muscles engaged and reduce strain on specific areas of your hands and forearms.

Remember to practice these grip and wrist strap techniques before embarking on your hiking journey. Find the grip and positioning that feels most comfortable and natural for you. Over time, you will develop muscle memory and a seamless technique that enhances your stability, control, and overall hiking experience.


Proper Arm and Pole Placement

The way you position your arms and poles while using trekking poles can greatly impact their effectiveness and your overall hiking experience. Follow these guidelines for proper arm and pole placement:

  1. Elbow Position: When holding the poles, your elbows should be bent at a 90-degree angle. This allows for optimal power transfer and control during each stride.
  2. Swing Motion: As you walk, allow your arms to swing naturally back and forth, in sync with your opposite leg. This rhythmic motion helps maintain balance and coordination while maximizing the benefits of using the poles.
  3. Pole Placement: With each step, plant the pole slightly ahead of your lead foot. This helps distribute some of your weight onto the poles and provides additional stability and balance. The pole should be angled slightly back, away from your body, to maximize its effectiveness.
  4. Avoid Overreaching: It’s important not to overreach with your poles, as this can strain your shoulders and decrease your stability. Aim to plant the poles just slightly ahead of your foot, finding a comfortable and natural stride that suits your body and the terrain.
  5. Use Poles on Both Sides: To maximize the benefits, use poles on both sides for a balanced and synchronized walking motion. This helps distribute the workload evenly and provides equal support and stability on each side of your body.
  6. Adjust Pole Length for Terrain: When encountering different terrains, consider adjusting the length of your poles accordingly. Shorten them slightly for uphill sections to help with the ascent, and lengthen them for downhill sections to provide additional stability and support.
  7. Adapt to the Terrain: Be mindful of the terrain you’re traversing and adjust your pole placement and arm movement accordingly. For example, in soft or muddy ground, place the poles deeper into the ground to provide extra stability. On rocky terrain, use the poles more aggressively to provide stability and prevent slips or falls.
  8. Balance Upper Body Engagement: Remember to involve your upper body in the hiking motion rather than relying solely on your legs. Engage your core muscles and use your arms and shoulders in conjunction with your lower body to achieve optimal balance and power.
  9. Relax and Maintain a Natural Pace: Lastly, it’s important to relax your grip, maintain a natural pace, and allow the poles to work with your body’s movement. Avoid tensing up or gripping the poles too tightly, as this can lead to muscle fatigue and detract from the benefits of using trekking poles.

By following these guidelines and paying attention to your arm and pole placement, you can maximize the benefits of using trekking poles and enhance your stability, balance, and overall hiking performance. Embrace the natural rhythm of your arms and allow the poles to become an extension of your body as you conquer new trails and enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors.


Using Trekking Poles on Uphill Terrain

Trekking poles are invaluable tools when tackling uphill terrain during your hikes. They provide stability, aid in propulsion, and help reduce the strain on your legs. Here are some techniques for effectively using trekking poles on uphill sections:

  1. Shorten the Poles: Before you start the ascent, consider adjusting the length of your trekking poles to be slightly shorter than normal. Shorter poles allow for a more natural and efficient arm swing while providing better leverage on steep inclines.
  2. Plant the Poles Strategically: As you ascend, plant the poles firmly into the ground slightly ahead of your lead foot. Push off the poles and transfer some of your weight onto them to help propel yourself forward.
  3. Engage Your Upper Body: Utilize your entire upper body, not just your legs, to power through the uphill climb. Engage your core, back, and arm muscles, synchronized with your leg movements, to optimize your energy expenditure.
  4. Lean Slightly Forward: To maintain your balance and momentum, lean slightly forward from your hips while keeping your spine in a neutral alignment. This forward posture helps distribute your weight evenly and prevents you from leaning too far back, which can hinder your progress.
  5. Take Smaller, Deliberate Steps: On steep uphill sections, take smaller steps to maintain control and prevent fatigue. Focus on each step, using your trekking poles for stability and support as you navigate the challenging terrain.
  6. Breathe and Pace Yourself: Uphill climbs can be physically demanding, so remember to regulate your breathing and pace yourself. Establish a rhythm with your arms and legs, coordinating your pole plants with your steps to maintain a consistent, sustainable pace.
  7. Use Your Poles for Balance and Support: Apart from propulsion, your trekking poles are essential for maintaining balance and providing additional support on uphill terrain. Plant the poles firmly into the ground and lean into them slightly to stabilize yourself as you push off to the next step.
  8. Visualize Climbing Stairs: Mentally visualize yourself climbing a set of stairs while using your trekking poles. This imagery helps you engage the correct muscles and promotes a more efficient and powerful climbing technique.
  9. Focus on the Summit: Stay motivated by keeping your eyes on the summit. Visualizing the end goal can help you maintain a positive mindset and push through the physical challenges of the uphill climb.

By employing these techniques and using your trekking poles effectively, you can conquer uphill terrains with greater ease, conserve energy, and minimize the impact on your legs. Embrace the assistance provided by your trekking poles and let them propel you to new heights on your hiking adventures.


Using Trekking Poles on Downhill Terrain

When navigating downhill terrain during your outdoor adventures, trekking poles become invaluable tools for maintaining balance, providing stability, and reducing the stress on your joints. Here are some techniques to effectively use trekking poles on downhill sections:

  1. Lengthen the Poles: Before descending, adjust the length of your trekking poles to be slightly longer than normal. Longer poles provide better stability and help you maintain control while navigating steep descents.
  2. Plant the Poles Ahead: As you descend, plant the poles slightly ahead of your body, allowing them to catch your weight and prevent you from losing your footing. Aim to land the poles firmly on the ground to serve as anchors.
  3. User Your Arms for Balance: Engage your arms in a wider swinging motion to help maintain balance and stability. This wider arm swing provides a counterbalance to your lower body and helps distribute your weight effectively.
  4. Lean Slightly Back: Lean your torso slightly backward to counterbalance the downhill slope. This slight backward lean helps prevent you from pitching forward and losing control.
  5. Control Your Speed: Use your trekking poles and the resistance they provide to regulate your speed on downhill sections. Dig the poles into the ground to slow down or gently press against them to control your descent.
  6. Shorten Your Steps: Take shorter and more frequent steps when descending steep slopes. This allows for better control over your movement and prevents you from gaining excessive speed.
  7. Shift Weight to the Back Foot: As you descend, shift your weight slightly back to your rear foot. This helps maintain stability and prevents your front foot from taking too much impact.
  8. Engage Your Core Muscles: Keep your core muscles engaged and your posture upright while descending. This helps you maintain stability and reduces strain on your lower back.
  9. Be Mindful of Foot Placement: Watch out for loose rocks, roots, or uneven surfaces while hiking downhill. Use your trekking poles to test the stability of the ground before placing your weight on the foot.
  10. Breathe and Relax: Stay relaxed and breathe deeply to conserve energy and maintain focus. Relaxing your grip on the poles and staying calm will help you navigate downhill sections more comfortably.

By following these techniques and utilizing your trekking poles effectively on downhill terrain, you can improve your balance, reduce strain on your joints, and descend with greater confidence and control. Embrace the added stability and support offered by your trekking poles, allowing you to tackle challenging downhill sections with ease.


Crossing Streams and Unstable Ground

When crossing streams or encountering unstable ground during your outdoor excursions, trekking poles can provide vital support and enhance your safety. Here are some techniques for effectively using trekking poles in such situations:

  1. Extra Stability: Engage both trekking poles to create a wider base of support when crossing streams or traversing unstable ground. This helps improve your stability and balance, reducing the risk of slips or falls.
  2. Test the Ground: Use your trekking poles to probe the ground ahead of you, especially when traversing areas with unknown footing or hidden obstacles. Probe the ground firmly, searching for solid footing before putting your weight on it.
  3. Place Poles in Triangular Positions: When crossing streams or unstable areas, place your trekking poles in a triangular formation with your body at the apex. This creates a stable base and provides optimal support in uncertain terrain.
  4. Use Poles for Balance: When stepping on boulders, logs, or other unstable surfaces, use your trekking poles to help maintain balance. Place the poles firmly on stable ground while carefully and deliberately moving your feet to the next secure spot.
  5. Adjust Pole Length: Adapt the length of your trekking poles based on the depth of the water or the stability of the ground. Shorten your poles when crossing streams to maintain better control, and lengthen them when navigating through unstable and uneven terrain for improved stability.
  6. Caution on Wet Surfaces: Be extra cautious when crossing wet or slippery surfaces, such as rocks or logs. Ensure your poles are planted securely on stable ground before transferring your weight and take slow, deliberate steps.
  7. Use Poles as Support: If you need to traverse a particularly challenging section, consider using your trekking poles as additional support points. Plant them firmly on one side while you lift your weight onto a stable point before moving the opposite foot.
  8. Teamwork: When crossing streams or unstable ground with others, maintain a safe distance between each person and use your trekking poles to support one another if needed. This adds an extra layer of stability and security.
  9. Stay Focused: Concentrate on each step, using your trekking poles as guides, and remain attentive to changes in terrain or foot placement. Avoid distractions and keep your focus on maintaining stability and balance.
  10. Stay Dry: When crossing shallow streams, consider using removable rubber tips on your trekking poles for better grip on wet surfaces. This helps prevent slips and keeps your trekking poles in good condition.

Practicing these techniques and utilizing your trekking poles effectively when crossing streams and encountering unstable ground can greatly enhance your safety and confidence in these situations. Remember to always prioritize caution and assess the area’s conditions before deciding on the best approach. By utilizing the support offered by your trekking poles, you can confidently navigate challenging terrain and enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors.


Maintaining and Storing Trekking Poles

Proper maintenance and storage of your trekking poles are important to ensure their longevity and optimal performance. Here are some tips for maintaining and storing your trekking poles:

  1. Keep Them Clean: After each hike, wipe down your trekking poles with a damp cloth to remove dirt and debris. Pay special attention to the pole tips and locks, ensuring they are free from any obstructions or buildup.
  2. Inspect for Damage: Regularly inspect your trekking poles for any signs of damage or wear. Check the pole shafts, locks, and grips for cracks, dents, or loose parts. If you notice any issues, repair or replace the damaged components before your next hike.
  3. Lubricate When Needed: Lubricate the locking mechanisms of your trekking poles periodically to ensure smooth operation. Use a silicone-based lubricant specifically designed for trekking pole maintenance.
  4. Replace Worn Out Parts: Over time, the pole tips or baskets may become worn out. Inspect them regularly and replace them if they are no longer providing adequate traction or support. Many manufacturers offer replacement parts, so you can easily refresh your trekking poles as needed.
  5. Store in a Dry Place: When not in use, store your trekking poles in a cool, dry place to prevent moisture buildup or corrosion. Avoid leaving them in direct sunlight or humid environments, as this can degrade the materials and affect their performance.
  6. Disassemble for Travel: If you plan to travel with your trekking poles, disassemble them to make packing easier. Most trekking poles can be separated into multiple sections for compact storage in your backpack or travel bag.
  7. Use Protective Caps: Many trekking poles come with protective caps to cover the pole tips during storage or transport. These caps help prevent accidental damage to your gear or injuries to yourself or others.
  8. Avoid Overloading: Be mindful not to overload your trekking poles with excessive weight or use them for purposes they are not designed for. Trekking poles are meant to provide stability and support during hikes and should not be used as load-bearing poles.
  9. Follow Manufacturer Guidelines: Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for any specific maintenance or storage recommendations for your trekking poles. Different brands and models may have slightly different care requirements.
  10. Regularly Replace Worn-out Poles: While proper maintenance can extend the lifespan of your trekking poles, it’s important to replace them when they become excessively worn or damaged. Using old or compromised poles can compromise your safety and performance on the trails.

By following these maintenance and storage tips, you can keep your trekking poles in excellent condition, ensuring they remain reliable and functional for your future outdoor adventures. Proper care and attention will keep your gear in top shape, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of using trekking poles for years to come.



Trekking poles are an essential companion for any adventurer, offering a wide range of benefits that enhance stability, reduce strain, and improve overall hiking performance. By understanding how to properly use trekking poles and implementing the techniques outlined in this article, you can take your hiking experience to new heights.


Using trekking poles provides increased stability, reduces the impact on your joints, improves endurance, and offers added security on challenging terrains. They assist you in navigating uphill and downhill sections while maintaining balance and control. Trekking poles also prove invaluable when crossing streams or traversing unstable ground, providing the support and stability needed to keep you safe.


When selecting trekking poles, consider factors such as material, weight, adjustability, grip, and shock absorption. Adjust the length of your poles to suit different terrains, and use proper grip techniques while utilizing the wrist straps for added support.


On uphill terrain, trekking poles aid in propulsion and balance. When descending, they offer stability and control while regulating your speed. Across streams and unstable ground, trekking poles provide extra stability, helping you maintain balance and navigate with confidence. By following maintenance and storage guidelines, you can keep your trekking poles in excellent condition for years to come.


So, whether you are embarking on a challenging hike, exploring rugged mountains, or venturing into unknown trails, don’t forget to pack your trekking poles. Embrace their support, enhance your performance, and enjoy the wonders of the outdoors with confidence and stability.