Trekking Pole Length: How to Adjust for Various Terrain Types and Optimal Agility

Sizing up some trekking poles? In this guide, we explain all with a handy sizing chart to help you find the perfect length for your height and tips on how to adjust them when you are out on the trail.

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Written by: | Reviewed by: Kieran James Cunningham
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If you’ve never used trekking poles when hiking before, you’re in for a treat. 

These accessories are great for hiking and are staple standard equipment for many. They’ll help you maintain balance in tricky sections, of course, but that’s not all they’re good for. 

Adjustable poles provide support by helping to reduce load-bearing pressure on your legs and help you move with optimal balance and efficiency. Hiking poles also prevent “sausage fingers” – that feeling you get from hiking all day with your hands dangling at your sides.

Finding the ideal length might seem tricky, but it isn’t at all! In this guide, we’ll give you the lowdown on how to size those sticks!

Trekking Pole Height Calculator/Size Chart

Close up of two peoples legs wearing hiking boots and standing on a rock holding trekking poles
Trekking pole height will be individual to every person

Finding the right length of pole for you will ultimately come down to personal preference, and the best way to figure out what size trekking pole to use is to adjust the height as you’re hiking until you find what feels best for you. Nevertheless, this chart is a good starting point for finding the correct height. 

These are recommended heights for walking on flat terrain and will help ensure that your elbow is at the desired 90-degree angle when the pole tips are touching the ground. 

Also, bear in mind that everyone’s body is different. If you have shorter legs, you’ll probably need to set your walking poles to be even shorter than it says in the chart. If you have particularly long legs, you’ll likely need to adjust the length to be longer than it says in this walking stick height chart. 

Your Height
(ft in)
Your Height
Suggested Pole Section
Length (cm)
Trekking Pole Height Calculator/Size Chart

Length Adjustment: How It’s Done

How to Adjust Trekking Poles for Walking Uphill

When walking uphill, the proper length of poles varies, but it should generally be shorter. On steep inclines, you could end up shortening your hiking sticks by 5 to 10 cm. As with walking on flat ground, when the tip is touching the ground you want your arms to be bent at 90 degrees. 

Man using trekking poles to walk uphill over rocky terrain
Ideally, you want to shorten your poles by 5 to 10 cm for hiking uphill

Many users will stop to get the right trekking pole length before beginning a big climb. This is a good idea since it also allows you to rest before the ascent! 

However, many walkers will simply “choke up” on their poles – that is, grip them lower down – which is also what you have to do with fixed-length poles. For this reason, it’s nice to get poles that have a longer grip. This way, you won’t have to stop to get the exact stick height you need for a short climb. 

How to Adjust Trekking Poles for Hiking Downhill

When traveling downhill, you’ll want to make your poles longer. Using your sticks extended like this will help improve balance and reduce the impact on your knees and feet. For this reason, you don’t want to buy poles that are completely extended when you walk on flat ground.

Before you start going down, add about 5-10 centimeters to your hiking sticks, depending on how steep the hill is. Make sure the locking mechanisms on the adjusters are securely locked. Double-check they’re secure by driving the tips into the ground as hard as you can. You don’t want to have those suddenly slide and become shorter when you’re relying on them for balance.

Woman with trekking poles hiking downhill over rocky terrain
On shortening poles for downhill hiking double-check the locking mechanisms are secure

Take note on the pole ruler what the proper length ends up being for you. Now, next time you embark on some downhill trekking you can quickly set your walking sticks to the exact height needed using the correct corresponding number for you.

Adjusting for Contouring

Before you start hiking on a contour, you’ll want to shorten the pole on your uphill side. And at the same time, you should lengthen the one on your downhill side. Like everything here, this will take some finagling to get the lengths right. But, you can always simply move your hands up or down the grips. 

How to Use Your Sticks Correctly

To get the many benefits of hiking with walking sticks, you’ll have to use them properly! 

Place your hands through the straps before grabbing the grip. The goal here is to let your wrists rest in the straps. This way you don’t have to keep a tight hold on your grips while walking. 

Using the wrist strap on a trekking pole
Using the wrist strap on your trekking pole will make your poles more comfortable to use

Always keep your forearm held parallel to the ground when doing a height adjustment to get that 90-degree angle. As you step forward with one foot, place the tip of the pole in your opposite arm on the ground and push off slightly. Now repeat this as you step with your other foot. 

It feels a little awkward at first, but you’ll get used to it. Find your rhythm and stick with it. 

Trekking pole Length: Final Thoughts

Now that you know how to size and use trekking poles correctly, it’s time to grab your hiking boots and go hike! This is one of those easy-to-learn skills that can make a huge difference in your hiking experience. 

Instead of tripping over rocks and roots, you’ll be gliding effortlessly down the trail. And you’ll be doing it with extra shock absorption to relieve joint pain in your knees and ankles!

Did you enjoy reading our article? If you have any comments or questions, feel free to leave them in the comments box below. And if you’d like to share this post with your friends, share away!

Last update on 2024-04-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Sam Schild Avatar

Sam Schild spends most of his time outside. On any given day he's either backpacking, bikepacking, trail running, or thinking about the next time he’ll get out there.

He has hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and the Colorado Trail, among countless other shorter trips. He has logged over 10,000 miles bike touring all over the United States, too.

When he’s not out on a trail somewhere, you can find him cruising on his bike or drinking coffee on a patio in Denver, Colorado.

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