How To Use Trekking Poles

If you’re here, you’ve probably seen hikers and other dedicated walkers using trekking poles to get around. These walking poles are used to stabilize your body while walking, especially when you’re walking on harsh terrain. That’s why they’re common with hikers and other people who find themselves climbing slopes or traversing loose, dangerous ground.

How To Use Trekking Poles

Maybe you’re a first-time hiker who doesn’t know how to use them or maybe you just need some extra support temporarily. Whichever is the case, we have a guide on how to use trekking poles below. We have also detailed the benefits of trekking poles, but there are some drawbacks too. We’ve also explained how you can find the best trekking poles, so you’re not left disappointed.

How To Use Trekking Poles

There’s a misconception with trekking poles that you can just pick them up and get walking. Much like footwear, you need to break in trekking poles by gradually adjusting to the way your body moves with them.

If you don’t, you’ll still be uncomfortable while trying to walk with your poles. It’s not uncommon for people to get tired in their arms and upper body when they first use trekking poles.

So, how do you use them?

  • First, you need to relax. You should practice walking while relaxed but still maintain your posture.
  • Then you can pick up the poles and use them to telegraph your foot movements. Move the poles slightly ahead of each step and follow their movement with your feet. 
  • Once you step past, just lift the pole, relax your grip on it, and let it swing back to a neutral position with your leg.
  • From there, you put it in front of your next step and begin the cycle again.

During walking, these steps seamlessly blend together until you’re moving without stopping. The only difference is that now your arms and shoulders are engaged.

Many beginners take wide steps or thrust the poles into the ground as if they’re burying the sword in the stone. That’s a recipe for leg and arm pains. Instead, it should be a relaxed and nearly effortless movement.

There are other ways to use trekking poles because they are surprisingly versatile. They can be used to hold up a tarp shelter or test the depth of waterways. Others have attachments that can turn them into camera holders or skiing poles.

How To Use Trekking Poles

Benefits Of Trekking Poles

So, why do people use trekking poles? There are several reasons, so we’ve outlined them all here.

Even from a cursory glance, trekking poles help share your weight. This means you’re not carrying as heavy a load, which is important when you’re camping and wearing a lot of equipment.

By distributing the weight across the whole body, you won’t subject any single body part to a disproportionate amount of stress.

You may have had trekking poles recommended to you by a medical professional or somebody else who studies human fitness and movement. This is common where somebody’s joints are inflamed or damaged since stress accumulates in the knees during prolonged movement. Trekking poles can help relieve that pressure, which also helps the feet and back.

They’re also great for moving uphill and downhill. When walking uphill, they can give you some leverage to keep pushing yourself forward. When walking downhill, trekking poles don’t just reduce impact shocks, they also quicken your downhill walking speed.

By moving your arms with the poles, you also get an upper-body workout. You’ll burn more calories in your torso and build muscle groups in your arms and shoulders, which also helps support your spine. They can also help correct your posture by encouraging you to stand up straight when you walk.

Drawbacks Of Trekking Poles

Trekking poles aren’t all great, however, especially if you’re not using them correctly. Here are a few drawbacks you need to consider before you get trekking poles.

First, let’s get misuse out of the way. If you walk incorrectly with your trekking poles, they can do more damage than good. You can trip on them or lean on them too much, both of which are going to put undue stress and damage on your body.

They can also damage some environments, so be careful if you’re moving through conserved areas. You don’t want to leave stab wounds all over an ancient trail, after all.

As for the other drawbacks, they can be tiring. You need to build up your stamina and conditioning before you can seamlessly walk with trekking poles. You’re already engaged in strenuous activity and now you’re also moving your arms too, so you’re going to sweat more.

For some, they’re also a nuisance. If you’re the type who needs to keep their hands free for eating, drinking, general hand waving, etc., then you should get a pole with wrist loops. These allow you to secure the poles so you don’t need to hold them constantly.

How To Use Trekking Poles

Do You Need Both Poles?

So far, we’ve mentioned trekking poles in the plural, but it is possible to use just one. If you’re going all-in with trekking poles, we’d recommend you get them both.

Why? Because, if you walk too long with just one trekking pole, you’re only working out one-half of your body.

It’s common to carry just one pole for trails where walkers need to cross a river or tackle a downhill walk, so that’s the best use for a single pole.

Finding The Right Poles

Here’s what you need to keep in mind when buying trekking poles for yourself:

  • Price – You don’t want to overspend but the price typically reflects the material quality.
  • Storage – Get fold-away poles if you need to put them away.
  • Weight – Lighter poles are better for longer journeys.
  • Comfort – Get poles that are comfortable in your hands and have wrist straps.
  • Length – Get the right length poles for your height. Suppliers should have a guide on which pole lengths pair best with each height.

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it – everything you need to know about how to use trekking poles. The next time you’re out on a hike, however long it may be, take this advice into consideration and you’ll find that you’re not only able to cover more ground easily, but you’ll get a decent workout too!

Eric Willis
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