Hiking can be quite difficult sometimes, requiring a great deal of physical effort from you to conquer the pain in your legs to go up that mountain. While hiking is mostly done through the effort of your legs, on the other side of the spectrum you can turn your hike into a full-body workout.
Getting a bit of help on the way up and turning your hike into a whole body workout can be accomplished with one simple thing – trekking poles.
In the past, I didn’t use trekking poles until one of my buddies kept pestering me to try it out – I never really felt they were that necessary. I’ve found that it’s helped me through a lot of really difficult terrain. A lot of the times, I use it as a way to workout my upper body as well. Turns out, these things aren’t so bad after all!
If you’re thinking of buying yourself a set of trekking poles (or if you’ve bought one already) and you’re wondering how to use trekking poles, this one is for you!
What You’ll Need
There are a few types of trekking poles you can get:
A will to learn and the drive to move forward.
How To Do It
Now that you have your trekking poles here are the three simple steps on how to use it.
#1 Set Them Up
Depending on what type of trekking poles you get, you may need to assemble them. Some come as is and don’t need setup, but there are a lot of other types of poles that need assembling and set up when you get them out of the box.
Some are foldable for example, while others come in two to three pieces and can be adjustable. My suggestion is that you get adjustable trekking poles, especially if you are going on long hikes with constant changes in terrain and slope.
#2 Make Your Adjustments
The next thing you’ll need to do is to adjust your trekking poles so that they properly fit your height. If your trekking poles aren’t properly adjusted, they can cause more problems than if you didn’t use them at all because they can cause discomfort on your arms, shoulders, neck, and even your back.
There are three ways that you can adjust your pole length:
FOR GENERAL HIKING
Hold your hiking pole and place the end or the tip near your foot. Your arms should be making a 90-degree bend at the elbow – this is the proper measurement and what you will be using for most of your hikes. If it is not, adjust it accordingly. Do this before you start your hike while on relatively flat terrain
FOR GOING UPHILL
From the general hiking length that you previously adjusted, you can shorten your pole by about 5-10cm so that you get more grip on the ground. The general idea is that the steeper the uphill, the more you shorten your poles. The trick is to find what feels most natural when using the trekking poles.
FOR GOING downhill
On the other hand, when going downhill, make your trekking poles longer by about 5-10cm. Again, the steeper the slope of the downhill, the longer you make them. This will help keep your body in an upright position so you reduce strain.
Or you can use this guide from REI on the suggested pole length to either adjust your trekking poles with or to buy (if your trekking poles aren’t adjustable).
Suggested Pole Length
Less than 5ft 1in
5ft 1in – 5ft 7in
5ft 8in – 5ft 11in
6ft and up
As you walk through long trails with varying slopes, adjust your trekking poles for the most comfort.
Finally, all you need to do is walk. But using trekking poles is something you may need to adjust to and get used to using it with the proper rhythm. If it is your first time using it, it is possible that it will feel unnatural.
As much as possible, try not to think so much so you can walk naturally. When moving the poles forward, swing your arms naturally and give your wrist a slight flick before planting them on the ground.
There are three movement patterns you can do when walking:
In this movement pattern, each pole moves forward as the opposite leg moves forward – right leg forward + left pole forward and left leg forward + right pole forward. The same movement you do when power walking. This gives you the most balance.
When a leg moves forward, the same pole moves forward – right leg + right pole and left leg + left pole. Use this type of movement if your legs feel very tired and need a break.
This is when you push both poles at the same time. This helps when you need to take a big step up or down.
1, 2, 3 – Take It From Me
Turns out, trekking poles are pretty useful in helping with stability and support especially on uneven terrain. They can be extra helpful if you’re a clumsy person as well who tends to trip a lot because they can help catch you before you fall!
Voila – that’s all there really is to it! There is no special mathematical equation or rocket science behind it. Just grab those trekking poles and get moving! If you enjoyed this short how-to article, feel free to comment below or share it with your friends! Happy adventures!