There are a lot of great reasons to pack a pair of trekking poles on your next backpacking or hiking trip—like increasing stability in uneven terrain and easing wear and tear on your body, to name a few. However, to take full advantage of your trekking poles, it’s important to have them properly adjusted.
Here’s how to adjust your trekking poles for paramount performance in any terrain.
Flat ground and slightly varying terrain call for sizing your trekking poles so that your arms are positioned with a 90-degree bend. This is the configuration where your trekking poles will spend the majority of their time—remember the graduated markings on the pole at this setting or use a bit of nail polish to note it and save time in the future. To find this spot:
A helpful tip for sizing three-section trekking poles is to set the top section in the middle of its adjustment range and use the lower section to put your arm in the proper position. This allows you to easily fine-tune fit with the upper section while on the move.
Using trekking poles while hiking uphill can ease the strain from heavy backpacks and take a load off your legs by letting you push yourself up with your arms. When ascending:
A few signs your poles are improperly adjusted include:
Trekking poles provide extra stability, better balance, and help reduce the impact on your knees (especially when carrying a heavy backpack) while moving downhill. When descending:
Some tip-offs that your poles are correctly positioned are:
On sidehills, bench cuts, and traverses where one side of the trail is higher or lower than the other, you can adjust your trekking poles accordingly by shortening the trekking pole on the uphill side and lengthening the one on the downhill side.
Most trekking poles come with adjustable straps. Straps are great for keeping poles at hand when digging out a snack from your pack or taking photos. Also, when sized correctly, straps take the pressure off of your hands and transfer it to your wrists—preventing over gripping and providing longer, more comfortable use. To use trekking pole straps the right way:
Before sliding on straps, make sure to check if they are specific to a side. Many trekking poles have right- and left-hand straps featuring padding or lining for comfort and with closures and tightening mechanisms located out of the way.
Much like your pace, stride, and attitude (especially on those hilly hikes) the length of your trekking poles will change in relation to the terrain. When in doubt, a good rule of thumb to fall back on is that they should keep your body in balance, feel comfortable, and not cause any discomfort.
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