10 Tips for Choosing and Using Trekking Poles

By: MT Sobek

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October 10, 2023 | Pro Tips

I had never once used trekking poles, even hauling my own gear when backcountry camping. I was 44 years old when I decided to train for my first Tour du Mont Blanc. Since my knees were not in the best condition, I thought using trekking poles would be a good idea. Looking online there were so many choices.

How to find the right trekking pole? I asked my MTS colleagues with lots of hiking experience what they consider when purchasing hiking poles for extreme conditions. Here’s what I learned to look for in a trekking pole:

1. Cork Handles for Comfort and Durability

Cork handles absorb sweat, giving a comfy grip and reducing blisters during long hikes.

using absorbable cork trekking poles for hiking

2. Ergonomic Handles for Reduced Stress on Wrists

Ergonomic handles are another vital feature to consider. These handles prevent stress on your wrists and arm nerves, and give you a firm grip without discomfort or strain.

ergonomic handles on hiking trekking poles

3. Wrist Straps and Improved Stability During Hike

Wrist straps can be a game changer! By threading your hand up through the strap and gripping both the strap and handle, you create a more stable pivot point, which reduces fatigue, similar to using a ski pole, which can be beneficial during extended hikes.

using hiking trekking poles with wrist straps to make grip less tiring

4. Non-Slip Grip for Challenging Hiking Terrain

The non-slip grip under the handle is a crucial feature that comes in handy in various challenging situations. Imagine yourself on a steep mountain trail, facing a daunting big step or ledge.

In these moments, when you need to lower your grip for added stability, the non-slip grip becomes your reliable companion. It provides you with the confidence and support to push or pull yourself up with ease, ensuring a safe ascent. Its enhanced traction allows you to maintain a firm hold on your trekking pole, even in slippery or unpredictable terrain.

5. Snap-Locks for Better Adjusted Trekking Poles

Snap-locks are a fantastic locking mechanism that’s not only quick and easy to adjust but also incredibly convenient when you find yourself in challenging weather conditions or wearing gloves.

No more fumbling or struggling with complicated mechanisms – just snap and lock into place with ease.

trekking poles on hiking trails with snap locks

6. Durability vs Weight in Trekking Poles

While lightweight poles may seem appealing, durability should be a top priority, especially for extreme destinations and conditions. That’s why it’s important to consider the materials used in the construction of your trekking poles.

Carbon fiber is easily dented if hit from the side, losing its strength. This is a concern when navigating through rugged terrains and unpredictable weather conditions.

Aluminum poles are heavier but more resistant to dents, making them a reliable choice for adventurers seeking durability and longevity.

7. Protecting the Trails with Rubber Tips

Rubber tip protectors are optional accessories that are sold separately and serve as a safeguard against any potential damage on the trail caused by the poles.

hiking trekking poles for a hiker with rubber tip protectors to save trails

9. Downhill Pole Extensions for Enhanced Comfort

Extend the poles an inch or two extra when going downhill, especially on steep terrain. This is a great trekking poles feature that helps your wrists, reduces strain, and enhances your stability, particularly on steep descents!

trekking poles specifically to aid downhill hiking

10. Practice makes perfect!

Lastly, remember that practice makes perfect! Whether you’re a beginner or investing in a new set of trekking poles, it’s crucial to spend time on the trail with your new pair of trekking poles!

When you extend your trusty walking sticks, we highly recommend ensuring that your elbows are comfortably bent at a 90-degree angle. This optimal position, achieved by adjusting the pole extension on level ground, will provide you with the ideal trekking pole experience. For instance, as someone who is 5’4, a pole extension of 115cms ensures that I have the perfect pole position for my adventures.

solo hiker using trekking poles on a mountainous terrain

In conclusion, selecting the right trekking poles is crucial for for any hiker, and the choice of features can significantly impact your hiking experience. Prioritize comfort, durability, and the environment while practicing with your poles to enhance your hiking adventures.

I recommend Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles for women, but MT Sobek staff also recommend LEKI poles.

Equip yourself with the right trekking poles and hike with confidence!

 Kathryn Gritt, Adventure Coordinator