I am going give you a few tips and techniques that will help you be much more efficient when you’re actually using your poles
Firstly the reason why I use them for short-term and long-term benefits. Short term I can check much more efficiently I am I find that I am able to track a lot easier when I’ve got the poles and I’m not wasting as much energy
For the long-term benefits, it makes hiking a lot softer on the knees and the joints as you can distribute the weight of your body and the weight of your backpack across four points instead of just your two legs. Since I want to be able to do this kind of walking when I am sixty or seventy, it’s really that long-term joint health benefits that I want from my poles.
Now you can get a pair of poles and you might use them but might not find they make any difference. This is usually because they’re using them in an inefficient way. So I’m going to show you the way that I use them and you can try that and see if it works for you too.
How long should my trekking poles be?
Firstly you want to make sure you have set your poles to the right length. Most of the time you want to have a 90-degree angle with your elbow so with the poles placed on level ground. If you know that you’re going uphill all day that angle is going to be a little different as you will need the poles a little bit shorter as the ground in front of you will be higher.
Likewise, if you know you’re going downhill all day it’ll be a little bit longer because there is a long distance to the ground. When going downhill, you will tend to have a different grip, which we will talk about later, so you may not actually need to adjust the poles too much, if at all.
Now, the first thing you want to do when you actually start trekking takes the cap off the tips of the pole. You see a lot of people tricking with rubber caps on. The rubber covers the carbide tip at the bottom which is designed to grip on rock and dirt and all sorts of stuff.
Rubber is only good when you are on tarmac or similarly hard and flat surfaces as it will stop the tip from getting worn away. Some people leave them on to protect the trails, but I tend to see more rubber tips littering the trail than I do real damage from carbide tips, so I am not sure this is the right approach.
How to hold your Trekking Poles
The first thing to learn is how to use the straps properly as most people simply get this wrong…sometimes to their, very painful, cost!
Firstly, adjust the length of the strap. To do this, pull the tension block out. Once this is removed, you can pull the loose end to tighten the strap, or the upper portion to loosen it. Once you have it the way you want it, simply push the tension block back in.
Now the way to use the straps is a little counter-intuitive. Rather than put your hand straight through the strap and grip the pole, you should bring your hand up underneath the handle over the top and then grasp the handle.
If you have done this right you should see your thumb is over the top of the strap. This might feel slightly uncomfortable at first, but it will soon feel perfectly normal.
The reason why we do this is that if you were to trip over on trail and put your hand down to break your fall you can quite easily dislocate or break your thumb if your hand is straight through the strap. By having your hand come up through the strap, it is much harder to trap your thumb between the strap and the pole and hence, much less likely to result in an injury.
In addition, the straps will do a lot of the work holding your poles so you don’t have to have a death grip on the pole the whole time. In fact, you can control the pole just by the strap in your hand so you don’t have to be gripping the whole time
Once you have your hand through the strap correctly, you should hold the handle just like a ski pole. When you then you drop the pole it should drop straight below your wrists
How to walk with trekking poles
Okay so how do we actually use these poles when we are on the trail? The first thing to do is to just get used to walking with them. You should follow the same asymmetric movement as you do when walking normally. So as your left foot goes forward, so does your right arm and vice versa.
This is how your body naturally walks, but it can feel weird when you first do it with poles, so just walk around your garden for a while until this feels somewhat natural.
Now, when you are on flat ground you want the poles to give you some forward propulsion. So you do not want to put the poles out in front of you as this will not help.
Instead, you want to use the poles at about a 70-degree angle back towards you so that they hit the ground in-line with your body, ie level with where your feet would be if you were standing still.
Again, you should place the poles asymmetrically as you bring your left foot forward your right hand will come forward in order for you to get a little bit of forward-propulsion. This may not be much, but if you multiply that over a long days trekking it can make a real difference
How To Use Trekking Poles To Go Uphill
To walk up a steep section you may need to adjust your poles, but most of the time you can simply adjust your grip slightly if required.
Once again, you walk asymmetrically, so left foot up, right hand up, which is the way your body will naturally move. With each step, you can push with your hand to take some of the weight and help your legs out, making those steep climbs a little easier and more stable too, especially if you have a pack.
How To Use Trekking Poles To Go Downhill
On the way downhill you may need to extend your poles a little. However, the aim is to take a fairly significant amount of weight of your own body and your pack weight off your legs and into your hands.
For this, we change the grip from our snow-pole grip and bring our hands over the top of the poles so they rest on the top.
This not only gives you better stability, but it also takes what is potentially quite a heavy load off your legs so more evenly distribute the load across your body
As you descend, you want to go nice and wide with the poles for better stability and make sure you give the poles a little press to make sure they have good grip before putting your full weight onto them, especially in wet conditions.
So there are a few tips that you can use with your trekking poles to make you more efficient in your walking and keep you safer on the trail.
Trekking poles are a great addition to your hiking kit and not only make your hikes faster, but they will also help keep your joints in good shape so you can keep trekking into your old age.
Matt Green, is an avid hiker and lover of the great outdoors. He is always planning his next big trip or hitting the trails for a solo hike.
He’s traveled extensively to many remote regions and has plenty of experience exploring various terrains, and stories to tell.