How to Adjust Your Trekking Poles for a Proper Fit

Hiker adjusting Trekking Poles

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 and Rolling 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: 

  1. Stand straight with your trekking poles in your hands
  2. Place your arms close to your sides
  3. Position the tips of the trekking poles near your feet
  4. Adjust the length of the poles so your arms are at right angles
  5. Make sure the locking mechanism is securely closed

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.  

Uphill Trail Sections 

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: 

  1. The steeper the incline, the more you should shorten your poles
  2. Shrink poles in five- to ten-centimeter increments from where you set them for flat/rolling terrain until you find a comfortable position

A few signs your poles are improperly adjusted include: 

  • An unnatural or uncomfortable feeling
  • The need to stretch out to plant them on the ground
  • Fatigue in your shoulders


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: 

  • The sharper the decline, the more you should lengthen your poles
  • Extend poles in five- to ten-centimeter increments from where you set them for the majority of your hiking until you find a spot to your liking

Some tip-offs that your poles are correctly positioned are: 

  • Your body remains upright (no need to stretch, reach, or bend for your poles to make contact with the ground)
  • The poles remain parallel with your body


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: 

  • Put your hand through the bottom of the strap (most people instinctively put it through the top)
  • Position your hand so that the strap runs across your palm and between your thumb and index finger
  • Tighten the strap so your hand lines up with where you like to grip the pole 
  • You’ll know the straps are properly adjusted if they cradle your hand and keep the pole in place when weighted  

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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Questions? Talk to a gear specialist.