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How To Choose and Use Trekking Poles?

How To Choose and Use Trekking Poles? In this article, you will find all the answers. Since I used the trekking poles for the first time, I can’t imagine hiking without them. There is always a place for hiking poles in my luggage. I can always rely on them and use them on different terrains. Mountains, valleys, canyons, deserts, snow, sand, and mountain streams. They perfectly support and facilitate the hiking. Which one should you choose? How to use hiking poles? When and in what terrain to use them? What are the advantages and disadvantages of using trekking poles? We share our years of experience hiking with trekking poles. So, check our hiking poles guide.

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Agnes Stabinska, the author and co-owner of the Van Escape blog, is standing on a hiking trail with Black diamond trekking poles in her hands.

Why use trekking poles?

Using trekking poles is not a fashion. Walking with them has nothing to do with mountain lance, but it is a matter of health. Hiking with poles is much easier. They have many advantages that make it easy to hike. First of all, they relieve the joints and spine.

I have been using trekking poles for many years and pack them on every hike. I can’t imagine going on a trail without poles; I like how much they relieve my knees and back. Moreover, I already had several pairs of trekking poles. So, I have many years of experience using them, so I’m sharing my first-hand tips.

We will discuss both the advantages and disadvantages of using hiking poles. We will tell you how to use them correctly and when to use them. We’ll share tips on choosing the best trekking poles without spending a fortune.

We will show you the budget trekking poles options we used. We will also show our favorite model, the purchase we are very pleased with, and we can highly recommend it, after months of hiking.

Benefits of trekking poles

  • They relieve the joints, especially the knees and spine. When walking, especially in the mountains, the body is exposed to many loads, which can be minimized by using trekking poles. The greatest loads are generated by carrying a backpack and descending the slope. Research shows that during one hour of walking (especially when descending) with trekking poles, it is possible to absorb several tons of loads that would otherwise be exposed to our joints.
  • They provide stabilization on uneven ground while ascending and descending. With trekking poles, you can gain more control when descending and soften the momentum of your descent from the slope.
  • They reduce the load on the lower limbs by transferring them to the arms and making the whole body participate in the walk. Distributing weight over the upper and lower limbs is one way to help your body over rough terrain and with your luggage on your back.
  • The use of trekking poles allows you to correct your posture. Well-adjusted poles keep the body straight, which is extremely important for proper breathing. Breathing is easier in the natural body position, which is especially important on approaches.
  • Moreover, they provide additional support when we lose our strength. They often make you feel less tired during the hike with trekking poles.
  • They help you keep your balance. Thanks to them, you can increase the static balance and reduce the risk of falling on unsafe ground.
  • Trekking poles are also invaluable when crossing rivers and streams. They were perfect for riverbed treks in the Narrows or the Subway. I also used them on a hike to Havasu Falls (check out my Havasupai packing list).
  • You walk faster with them on steep terrain—both on ascents and descents. This has to do with the distribution of loads and the stabilization of the body with additional support points. Going down with trekking poles on the 8-mile trek to the famous Havasu Falls was great. Also, they reduce fatigue when you have to go uphill during your return.
  • When walking through tall grasses or meadows, you can check with the hiking poles whether there is a viper or a snake in the grass in front of you. During our road trip around Argentina, I managed to chase away the persistent fox thanks to the trekking poles. It probably had rabies. I met it on the trail. It didn’t want to leave. It was getting closer and closer. It wanted to fawn (this is how sick animals behave). I used my trekking poles to scare it away. I hit the stick to stick several times. It helped.
Agnes Stabinska on a hike with trekking poles.
Agnes Stabinska, the author in the mountains with trekking poles
Agnes Stabinska, the author, on the Angels Landing hike. She is hiking with trekking poles in hands.

Disadvantages of trekking poles

Are there any disadvantages to using trekking poles? Few. The benefits of using hiking poles definitely outweigh the disadvantages. But a few minor drawbacks we can mention.

  • They may interfere with the approaches where you must have your hands free. So, your backpack should have straps that allow you to attach poles, and hiking poles should fold comfortably, so they do not interfere. So, in more exposed terrain, edges, ridges, and steep ascents (like the end of the trail to Angels Landing), you should give up trekking poles and free your hands. Attach the hiking poles to your backpack when you meet an abyss on the road.
  • Poles constitute an additional load when attached to a backpack, so it would be best to choose poles made of light but durable material.
  • Sometimes steel tips slide on stones, so choose poles with several tips, also rubber.
  • Sometimes they might break and bend, so it is worth investing in durable hiking poles that will serve for years (but you don’t have to spend a fortune to buy great hiking poles).
  • The tips might block between the stones. Therefore it is important to have a few interchangeable tips that allow the trekking poles to be adapted to specific terrain.
  • Incorrect pole handling, often associated with improper adjustment, can cause poor posture. So, choose poles with adjustable lengths to make them perfect for yourself.
  • People who use trekking poles for a long time, especially when the technique is not fully appropriate, may experience disturbances in the proper sense of balance. Support with them makes the human body a little lazy, so there is no point in using trekking poles on smooth and straight terrain or short and easy hiking trails.

Check out my detailed Day Hiking Packing List to prepare for your hiking adventures!

Agnes Stabinska, the author, is crossing the river with the help of trekking poles.

Who should use trekking poles?

Specialists have determined that they are especially recommended for people:

  • who carry backpacks during their hikes
  • with diseases of the joints, pain in the knees or spine
  • with excessive body weight
  • in middle and old age

When to use trekking poles?

Are hiking poles really useful, and should you take them on the trail?

  • on all hiking trails with uneven surfaces
  • for long distances day hikes with a backpack
  • for multi-day hikes with a backpack
  • when you have problems with joints, knees, or spine
  • when you overcome large elevation gains
  • on routes where you cross rivers or streams
  • on all routes where it can be slippery, especially in rain and snowfall
Agnes Stabinska on Bryce Canyon hike with trekking poles in her hands.

How to choose the best trekking poles?

We’ll give you a few tips to follow when choosing your poles and show you some of our favorite pairs we’ve used so far. Many companies make them. Everyone has their favorite brand. Our favorites are Black Diamond, Leki, and Rei.

What to consider when choosing trekking poles?

The weight, strength & locking system

  • Please pay attention to the material from which the poles are made, affecting their strength and weight. The best are carbon fiber and aluminum.
  • The locking system is also important. It should be convenient, fast, and reliable. Thanks to the height adjustment, you can adjust each stick model to your height. So, you set the height and block it. You have two ways to do this: internal and external.

The length

  • The length of the trekking poles and how they are folded are also important. After folding them, the length of the poles is important so that they can be easily transported or attached to a backpack. So it is advisable to be as compact as possible. We can choose two-segment poles, three-segment, and four-segment poles. So far, we have used two and three-segmented ones and can recommend them.

The handle

  • The handle should be comfortable and pleasant to the touch and well-shaped. Therefore, we think cork handles are the best, which fit perfectly to the hand. And even in the hottest, when you hike to the Wave or other amazing hike but in the heat, your hand won’t sweat.

Straps & Tips

  • Each trekking pole model is equipped with wrist straps. Ensure that they are wide and comfortable inside and can be fastened quickly and efficiently.
  • Spare tips are the element most exposed to wear. It would be best if you were sure that the seller had provided the option of purchasing spare tips that can be easily replaced. It is worth using rubber tip covers to extend the tip’s life.
Agnes Stabinska with Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork
Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork

What are the best trekking poles?

The best budget trekking poles

Are the best hiking poles always the most expensive? No. Good trekking poles don’t have to cost a fortune. If you don’t know yet whether you want to use them or are a beginner, you can buy cheaper but solid poles. If you don’t hike too often in terrain that requires trekking poles, we can recommend a budget option.

Foxelli Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles are a great budget option. They are made from 100% carbon fiber material, which is known for its incredible lightness. They are straightforward to use and a breeze to adjust – locking them in place takes only a few seconds. The anti-slip natural cork grips absorb sweat and moisture and keep your hands cool and dry during those challenging long-distance hikes. They are suitable for all conditions, and you will get interchangeable tips and a bag for easy transport in the set. I used them for about 4 years and enjoyed them a lot.

TrailBuddy Trekking Poles are also a great and inexpensive choice for beginners. They are made of tough aluminum, which is crucial if hiking on rocky terrain or supporting heavier weight. But they are still lightweight. Also, have Cork handles, which are comfy to use in hot and cold temperatures. In our opinion, cork handles are the best. Changing the height is a breeze thanks to its lever locks. You will get 2 pairs of rubber tips, 1 pair of connectors, mud baskets, and snow baskets.

The best trekking poles

We haven’t used many trekking poles because the ones we have are extremely durable and of great quality. So we don’t need to exchange them for other models. Of course, the choice is huge. We only recommend those we know personally.

PRO TIP: If you are looking for good quality poles at an affordable price, be sure to check out Rei outlet offers online. They have great promotions.

Agnes favorite trekking poles are:

Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles. Since I bought them, I haven’t been without them. They are with me on every hike. They are made of aluminum, so they are light. Moreover, they are perfect for all seasons. They have proven themselves on hard rocks, desert sands, and snow. Moreover, they deliver on-the-fly adjustability and easy handling. They are durable and have a cork handle. Cork grips are super sturdy. Moreover, they have a 15° corrective angle that delivers optimal grip position, and you don’t feel the wrist’s pain after miles of hiking. They are ergonomic and offer a lot of stability on tough terrain. Cork handles make them easy to hold for miles. Cork is robust and solid, with no chipping or flaking. They are lightweight but so strong. What’s important, they have nice quality straps, with soft sides. Wrists do not rub. They are very comfortable. Finally, they are beautiful. Check the price and buy them here.

Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
close-up of Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
details of Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles

Leki Legacy Lite Cor-Tec Trekking Poles. They are solid as a rock in each terrain, also in muddy or rainy weather. Moreover, they add stability to snowy or uneven surfaces. They are lightweight & durable. And the handles are very comfortable. Light, low-profile SpeedLock Plus locking system offers fast, solid length adjustments, even when you’re wearing gloves. Furthermore, they have innovative, 2-component Evocon Cor-Tec grips with 80% natural ground cork that offer all-day comfort, support, and control when you’re climbing and descending.

How to use trekking poles?

  • Above all, trekking poles need to be held firmly. To do this, put your hand through the loop of the strap from below, then grasp the loop and the handle of the stick together. This will transfer more force to the trekking pole’s strap and relieve the wrists. The best option is cork handles—this material has a non-slip effect when your hands sweat during hot days. These handles are also very comfortable.
  • The number of segments and the hiking pole length are also significant. The best are three-segment trekking poles, which are more durable. Adjust the length to your height. With the trekking pole in your hand, your elbow should be bent at a 90-degree angle. Shorten the hiking poles when climbing and lengthen them when descending.

Walking with hiking poles

  • There is no universal technique for walking with hiking poles. We can walk alternatively by putting our right leg forward and our left arm with a hiking stick forward, then our left leg and our right arm.
  • Be careful not to lean all your body weight on the hiking poles as it may break.
  • When crossing the water, put your poles forward first and rest on a firm surface, not slippery rocks. Examine the area so that the stick does not slip.
  • When you want to attach the poles to your backpack, let’s do it in such a way that in the event of a fall, you won’t hurt yourself on them. Or not to hit someone else with them. Fasten them so that they do not fall out, especially when climbing. When choosing a hiking backpack, check that it has special loops or straps and mesh pockets into which you can insert handles and tighten the upper part with a strap.
  • Depending on the surface, replace the tips of the poles. It is especially important when you are walking on snow or when the stones are slippery.
Agnes Stabinska is using trekking poles during her hike to Havasu Falls.


  1. Wow such a big coincidence as I was researching on good trekking poles today. I want to buy a good one as I do find it hard sometimes when I am trekking in an unmarked paths. It definitely does provide stability and balance. Thanks for this post, I am now clear as to what kind I need to look for.

  2. I guess it is a little bit of a conundrum like you pointed out – they’re more to carry, but they can be really helpful. They’re great in a pinch so that you don’t fall. I’ve never thought about getting them, but now that I’m almost 50, I just may! 

  3. I must admit we did a lot of researching before we bought our trekking poles.  This blog post would have saved me some time.  When I got them I was worried I would look like a feeble old lady.  But since I have had them, they have made such a different in my ability to hike with confidence.  We bought ones that were strong enough to really be able to lean on them.  And after our first trip, bought a package of replacement tips.  But not leaving home without them for many trips anymore.

  4. I have always seen people hiking the same hikes as me but with trekking poles, and I never fully understood the benefit until now! Evening out the weight distribution seems like such a huge benefit when going on long & strenuous hikes. Might be investing in a pair for my next hiking trip…

  5. I haven’t considered trekking poles before. I have seen
    people hike with them and wondered how beneficial it would be, sounds like
    very!  I get back pain when hiking over a
    mile, creates a problem when visiting national parks, and plan to be on trails
    for 3 days straight. Great tip to ensure a backpack has straps. I will look into this
    more for sure

  6. Great blog! You have truly inspired me to get a pair of trekking poles. However, I think I need to practice how to use them correctly to take advantage of lessening load on legs. It’s a good tip that load is transferred partly to arms while using them. Saving your blog to refer to when I get the poles. 🙂

  7. Trekking poles are really important especially during rocky and snowy hikes.  This is really informative post detailing trekking poles. Goes without saying, really cool pictures!

  8. Definitely the advantages of using them far outweigh the disadvantages. Especially for those longer, more challenging terrain. Anything to keep your stamina and balance is a good thing in my opinion. 

  9. This is an interesting read. I have never considered using trekking poles but yes, this is helpful. We usually bring big backpacks when hiking so having one sounds right. 

  10. I climbed mount fuji and bought one of the tourist sticks you get stamped along the way. It wasn’t a Trekking pole but it massively helped. Another time I trekked in the jungles of chaing mai and slipped several times. The guide ended up making me a walking stick out of some wood. I think it’s time I buy some Trekking poles! Thanks for the tips 

  11. I walked the Camino the Santiago pilgrimage route in Spain (approx. 900 km). I initially thought that trekking poles are somehow for old people, but then someone persuaded me to buy a pair. They became my best friends, especially during descends from mountains. I don’t think I could have finished the camino without them

  12. Wow! I never even gave trekking poles a thought, but I will have to seriously look further into getting some. I enjoy hiking, but I do summer from joint pain. Thanks!

  13. My REI trekking poles have been a godsend, allowing me to hike for hours and avoid intense back pain from my spinal issues. But the surprise benefit has been that they convert hiking into an upper-body excercise as well, for the pectorals and triceps. I don’t know what I’d do without them …

  14. Trekking poles destroy trails. All my friends who do trail-construction work hate them with a passion for how quickly they tear apart and erode trail surfaces. They should only be used on solid rock except by people who can not walk without them or people who donate to trail crews to offset the damage caused.

  15. It is the understanding of a culture and methods of pursuing it that can make it good or bad in the eyes of other people. Thus, it cannot be concluded that every western influence is harmful. Indian youth, instead of following the west blindly, should try to grasp the very essence of western culture and help it in enriching his own. Only then can true development take place.microcurrent machine

  16. Agree with Black diamond as a favourite. A lot of my climbing gear is from them and when working in outdoor sports they are one of our trusted brands for commercial use too. They are built to last and have a good price point too (not super cheap but affordable compared to many others).

  17. Great article! Maybe I missed out but do not see instructions for setting the correct length. Adjust until your forearm is parallel to the ground.

  18. I walk hundreds of miles when I am on the Camino in Spain. My first camino in 2019, I needed new tips for my Black Diamond & learned pieces for BD are not to be found in Spain – at least not in northern Spain. Now I have Leki which are more common in Spain. A minor consideration for most people but thought I’d mention it.

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