Trekking Poles – Proper Selection & Use for Longer Hikes with Less Fatigue
Did you know that buying and using trekking poles properly will reduce your fatigue at the end of a day’s hiking, and enable you to hike farther? Correct adjustment of carefully selected poles is the key to getting maximum benefit from them.
Two and three-section trekking poles are available. Both work well, but three-section poles are shorter when folded up, and easier to store on your backpack when not in use.
The hiking poles need to be strong enough to support your weight. When evaluating them for purchase, extend them longer than you normally would. Test by bearing down on the trekking poles as hard as you can. If they flex much, they will not hold up under use for you. Try another brand.
Trekking poles should also be easy to shorten and lengthen, and once set, firmly hold the setting. Some do not and have to be continually readjusted. Experiment with shortening and lengthening the poles you are considering before buying.
Also try the handle grips of the poles barehanded. Plastic and cork types are available. Compare how each material feels. You want your trekking pole handles to grip well without slipping, an advantage of cork handles even when wet.
The most common adjustment position of trekking poles is for flat terrain. When used properly, they should be extended so that your forearms are level with the ground. Most poles have loops at the handles, providing extra oomph. The loops should be placed at the base of the wrist, just tight enough so that you can feel support from them when pushing down and back on the pole.
When striding, plant your trekking poles even with the opposite heel; right pole planted when left heel hits the ground and vice-versa. The handles of the poles should be forward of the tips, so that you are exerting pressure down at a backward angle, pushing yourself forward as you go. This movement and placement of poles will help propel you along, and take some of the work off of your legs.
For most uphill and slightly downhill hiking, this adjustment of the poles will work well. As the terrain changes, readjustment may be required – shortening your poles for very steep hills, and lengthening them for extended steep down hill stretches. When going downhill, you should extend the poles out in front of you to absorb some of the impact with your arms instead of your legs.
Trekking poles are also excellent tools to help maintain one’s balance when the terrain is difficult or slippery. You can plant your poles firmly and quickly to catch yourself under these conditions and prevent a possible fall.
Finally, after your hike is complete, be sure to extend the poles and wipe them down with a clean, dry rag. This will help keep them in proper working order and provide you with many miles of pleasant hiking experience!