Mastering Trekking Pole Height: Hike Like a Pro

Trekking Pole Height: Two hikers on a hilly trail with their trekking poles set at the correct height

In this post, we'll take a look at:

Are you ready to hike like a pro? Mastering the science of trekking pole height can make a big difference in your hiking adventures.

In this post, we’ll explore why the length of your hiking poles matters and how it can impact your hiking experience.

Why Trekking Pole Height Matters

Have you ever wondered why the length of your hiking or trekking poles is such a big deal? Well, let’s find out why it matters so much:

  • Posture and Comfort: Proper pole length ensures good posture, keeping your back straight and relieving shoulder strain. If poles are too short, it can cause hunching, leading to discomfort and potential back pain.
  • Balance and Stability: Hiking poles act like an extra set of legs. They provide stability on uneven terrain, preventing slips and falls. If your poles are too long or short, it can throw off your balance and make hiking more challenging.
  • Efficiency: Properly adjusted poles distribute weight, save energy, and extend your hiking range. This effect is more pronounced with a heavier backpack, as discussed in this Sports Medicine International Open article.
  • Reduced Impact: When you’re hiking downhill, properly sized poles reduce the impact on your knees. Think of them as shock absorbers for your body. They can make the descent much easier on your joints.

TLDR: The importance of hiking pole length can’t be overstated; it affects your comfort, balance, efficiency, and your body’s well-being during outdoor adventures, particularly when carrying a backpack. For more information, consider exploring our articles on using hiking poles correctly and attaching them to your backpack.

Types of Trekking Poles

Before we explore the proper use of trekking poles at the right height, let’s take a closer look at the three main types of trekking poles:

Mastering Trekking Pole Height: Adjustable Trekking Poles; Fixed-Length Trekking Poles; Foldable Trekking Poles.
  1. Adjustable Trekking Poles: These are like magic wands for hikers. You can change their length to fit your needs. If you’re hiking uphill, make them shorter; if you’re going downhill, lengthen them. They’re super versatile and great for different terrains.They generally adjust from about 24 to 55 inches long.
  2. Fixed-Length Trekking Poles: These poles don’t change in length. They’re simple and reliable. However, you need to make sure they’re the right length for you from the start. Fixed-length poles are often favored by experienced hikers who know exactly what they need. It’s important to note that some modern fixed-length trekking poles can fold up, but you cannot adjust their length. So, no need to worry, you can still include them in your check-in luggage.
  3. Foldable Trekking Poles: Picture poles that fold up like tent poles and also have adjustable sections. These are incredibly convenient if you’re seeking something compact and lightweight. They set up and pack away quickly, which is why they are favored by fastpackers and ultrarunners.

Now that you’re aware of the various trekking pole types, you can choose the one that fits your hiking style.

Next, we’ll delve into mastering the correct trekking pole height.

Mastering Trekking Pole Height

Trekking Pole Height: A close-up of crisscrossed trekking poles

It’s time to learn how to set the right height for your trekking poles.

The Rule of 90:

Imagine holding your pole with its tip touching the ground. Your arm should make a nice, comfortable 90-degree bend at the elbow. This is what we call the “Rule of 90.” It’s like finding the perfect fit for your shoes but for your poles.

  • When your arm makes a 90-degree angle while holding the pole, it’s the right height for most flat to moderate terrain. This ensures good posture and less strain on your back and shoulders.
  • To measure this, adjust your pole until it feels just right, and remember the length in centimeters (cm) marked on the pole. This is your “rule of 90” length.

Adapting for Different Terrains:

Uphill, downhill, or navigating challenging slopes? Here’s your adaptation guide:

  • Going Uphill: Shorten your poles by about 5-10cm. This helps with traction and reduces strain on your back, especially if you’re carrying a heavy backpack.
  • Going Downhill: Lengthen your poles by about 5-10cm. This gives you better support and reduces the impact on your knees.
  • Traversing: Vary pole lengths, with the uphill one shorter and the downhill one longer, for improved comfort and stability on uneven terrain.

Remember, there’s no fixed rule for how much to adjust your poles; it depends on the steepness of the terrain and what feels comfortable for you.

On your first few hikes, be patient and open to making adjustments until you find the right trekking pole height for each scenario.

Size Charts for Selecting the Right Trekking Poles

Choosing the correct length for your trekking poles is crucial, especially if you want to hike comfortably and safely. To make things easier, many pole manufacturers provide size charts specific to their products. Let’s take a look at some examples:

For Adjustable-Length Trekking Poles and Hiking Staffs:

  • If you’re taller than 6 feet, it’s a good idea to pick hiking staffs or trekking poles with a maximum length of at least 51 inches.
  • If you’re shorter than 6 feet, don’t worry; most adjustable trekking poles and hiking staffs can be shortened enough to suit your height.

For Fixed-Length Trekking Poles:

anufacturers often provide size charts like this one:

Your HeightSuggested Pole Length
< 5 ft. 1 in.100cm (39 in.)
5 ft. 1 in. – 5 ft. 7 in.110cm (43 in.)
5 ft. 8 in. – 5 ft. 11 in.120cm (47 in.)
6 ft. and taller130cm (51 in.)

Simply find your height on the chart, and it’ll guide you to the recommended pole length.

Final Thoughts

Now that you’ve explored the science of trekking pole height, you’re well-equipped to hike like a pro. Remember, the right pole length can make a world of difference in your hiking adventures.

It’s all about comfort, balance, efficiency, and protecting your body as you explore the great outdoors. So, grab your hiking poles, set the right length, and embark on your next adventure with confidence.

Looking for ultralight hiking poles? Check out our TOP 5 guide to find the lightest trekking pole options on the planet.


How tall should my hiking poles be?

Your hiking pole’s ideal height depends on your own height and the type of terrain you’ll encounter. As a general rule, your pole should be adjusted so that your forearm forms a 90-degree angle when you hold the pole with its tip on the ground. Manufacturers often provide size charts to help you find the right length based on your height. For those below 6 feet, adjustable poles are a flexible choice, allowing you to adapt to various terrains. For those above 6 feet, choosing poles with a longer maximum length is advisable. Remember, the correct pole height enhances comfort, balance, and stability during your hikes.

Is it OK to use one hiking pole?

Using one hiking pole is absolutely okay and can offer several benefits. While many hikers use a pair for added stability and balance, a single pole can still greatly assist you. It provides support, helps with balance on uneven terrain, and can reduce the strain on your legs and joints. It’s particularly useful when carrying a backpack or navigating steep slopes. So, whether you choose one or two poles, it ultimately comes down to your personal preference and the specific demands of your hike.

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