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How to size trekking poles?
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Timothy Hortberg
(thortberg) - F

Locale: Midwest
How to size trekking poles? on 07/05/2008 13:24:19 MDT Print View

I am looking at moving into trekking poles both as tarp poles as well as extra support in trekking. I am 6' 03" and wonder how I determine which size to buy. I appreciate any advice. Thanks.

Gotta Run

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
How to size trekking poles on 07/06/2008 17:23:16 MDT Print View

As a user rather than as an expert, here is my 2c worth.
Taking notice that you want to use them for your tarp as well as hiking, I would suggest an adjustable type, heavier but more versatile.
The standard length when walking on a flat surface is the distance between your hands ,out at a 90 degree from your body , and the ground. Add about 10" for the downhill bits and you have the correct length.
With the adjustable type you cannot have one that is too long.
My preference is for the Black Diamond Flick Lock because they are very quick and easy to adjust and I take advantage of that going up and down steep ground.

Edwin Morse
(slosteppin) - F
How to size trekking poles on 07/07/2008 18:02:28 MDT Print View

I'm another user. I don't consider myself an expert on anything, I just try to enjoy life.
I am presently using a very old pair of Black Diamont poles. I like my poles adjusted so my hands are higher than my elbows.
I have several friends I sometimes hike with who also use poles. We all have them a different length. Some have the poles much shorter than I do.

My new BPL poles should arrive this week.

Ed M

René Enguehard
(ahugenerd) - MLife

Locale: Newfoundland
Find what works, stick with it on 07/07/2008 18:23:15 MDT Print View

I have found that the best way to figure out what length pole you need is to use an adjustable one at a set length and walk with it for a bit. Then just keep adjusting until you feel you've hit a nice height and then stick with that. I think I have mine set at 123.5cm, which is just a little above elbow height.

However, if you have elbow problems (tennis, racquetball, etc...), you might want to set them lower so that you have less strain on your elbows. If you have weak knees you might do the reverse. But again, this is what I would do for myself, what other people would do is really up to them. Pole length is very personal.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Pole Height on 07/07/2008 18:41:39 MDT Print View

I would suggest this DVD to show you some techniques for using the pole.

Bought the DVD when I bought my 1st set of poles.

To answer your question, the top of the handle should be at your waist/hip.

This should give you a 90 degree angle at your elbow.

The middle section of the pole should be "open"/extended only the space of your fist.

The lower section is the part that you should adjust to get to where the pole is at your hip level.

Reason for his is that if you need to shorten or extend the pole length, you only need to do it at the middle section.

As this is easier to reach than the lower section, this should allow you to adjust the poles without having to remove your hands from the straps.

The pole is shortened when you are traveling up hill since the slope of the hill will cause you problems as you swing they poles as you travel....being too long.

Going downhill, you would want to lengthen the poles so that as you travel downhill, they "reach out" further for the downward slope and you can use the poles to steady or slow your decent and allowing you to take the pressure of the down hill decent off your knees.

Oh, the reason why the poles should be at the hip level, you have more leverage with each step with your arms to "push" off the poles as you go up slopes, should not be pulling yourself up the hill by planting the poles uphill ahead of you and pulling yourself up towards the poles.

Better to simply push off the poles as you are stepping forward...less fatigue.

As the video says, "Avoid the Death Grip on the poles."

Use the strap to push off the poles...this is harder to describe in have to see a photos of the hand grip.

I barely hold the handles of the poles and just the straps on my wrist to push off of.

Hope that this helps.


Timothy Hortberg
(thortberg) - F

Locale: Midwest
trekking pole sizing on 07/08/2008 11:02:34 MDT Print View

Thank you all for your remarks and experiences. I'll put them all to use in my decision.

Laurie Ann March
(Laurie_Ann) - F

Locale: Ontario, Canada
Leki Poles on 07/10/2008 11:43:23 MDT Print View

Bryan and I both have Leki poles. His are the Super Makalu Core-tec and mine are the Makalu Compact PA. I am 6 feet tall and there would be room for lengthening these if I were taller. I also have the DVD that was mentioned and it is well worth watching.

We've both really abused the poles and the only drawback is that once in awhile I have to check and tighten mine... Bryan doesn't seem to have the same issue and we've even switched poles to see if it was a problem with the poles. Turns out that I must just do something weird when I use them because I do the same thing to Bryan's.

Anyway we both love our poles and I wouldn't go hiking without them.

Ryan Krause

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Fixed Poles? on 07/11/2008 11:10:06 MDT Print View

Regarding "the top of the handle should be at your waist/hip." what about sizing fixed length poles? It seems they would be too short for downhill sections.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Pole length on 07/11/2008 11:14:03 MDT Print View

I'm 5'8ish and have been using adjustable aluminum poles for the last year+ set at 115mm. I've never once lowered or raised them to adjust for terrain. As a result, my recent order of fixed length poles was also for 115mm.

Edited by simplespirit on 07/11/2008 11:15:03 MDT.

te - wa
(mikeinfhaz) - F

Locale: Phoenix
fixed length or not? on 07/11/2008 11:47:57 MDT Print View

I echo the "adjustable" poles if you are new.
There were some CF poles on sale that were a little too long for me, so I removed the handle by pulling it off and then cut the pole with a hacksaw. The measurement that worked for me was this:
standing with shoes on flat ground, relax your shoulders and bend a 90° with your elbow. measure from the ground to the bottom of your elbow and add 1 inch. Perfect.
you may however find that you like to toy with the length while hiking different terrain which cannot be done with fixed lenght.. but there is obviously a crowd who prefers no fiddle factor. I myself find it odd that people adjust their poles for every up/down hill attack. Hiking around here you would have to adjust your poles about every 34.7 seconds. no thanks!
but yeah, try some poles from a friend first?

Jason Brinkman
(jbrinkmanboi) - MLife

Locale: Idaho
Re: How to size trekking poles? on 07/11/2008 12:13:21 MDT Print View

The following is a general guideline only. I would advocate, as others have, that you begin with adjustable poles until you get it dialed in. This technique is also useful as a starting point for adjustable pole settings.

Turn a pole upside down and place your hand around the pole tip with the bottom of your fist resting on the snow/mud basket. The general guideline is that your elbow should make a 90 degree angle with your forearm parallel to the ground. Same technique that is used for ski poles.

I am 6'4" with a 34" inseam and 22" torso. I use 135 cm poles, but I prefer mine on the longer side for downhill braking and cross country ski style fast trekking. I would guess that a 130 cm setting would be a good start for finding your perferred length.

David T
(DaveT) - F
. on 07/11/2008 12:18:36 MDT Print View


Edited by DaveT on 01/17/2015 11:19:02 MST.

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
How to size trekking poles? on 07/11/2008 12:57:28 MDT Print View

If you only walk trails, then one piece poles will be fine. I've been taught that the optimum length for level ground is to hold your elbow at 90', then lock off. My favourites for trekking are TiGoat adjustable poles.
I also use poles for winter mountaineering and prefer Black Diamond flick-locks for this. They are easy to operate with gloved hands in cold conditions. The easier something is to operate, the more you will use it. Nice on a route with lots of steep ups and downs.

Alan Seegert
(zemmo) - MLife

Locale: AK/NM
It depends, absolutely, on how you want to use them. on 09/20/2008 17:45:01 MDT Print View

I am a little over 5'8", and like a fixed pole at 120-125 cm, which is much longer than the "standard" guideline. For me, longer is better, until the poles are so far below me when going up a steep hill (i.e., the angle between the pole tip and the ground becomes too low for good purchase), that they start losing traction. Obviously, the tip type and surface introduce many variables here.

I like to use the poles for an upper body workout when hiking, and they're great for whacking mean dogs. I go up steep climbs much faster than I would w/o them.

Edited by zemmo on 09/20/2008 17:47:17 MDT.

John G
(JohnG10) - F

Locale: Mid-Atlantic via Upstate NY
Pole Length on 09/21/2008 07:05:41 MDT Print View

Extra long poles aren't a problem - just use them like cross country ski poles. On flat sections, just plant the tips just behind your heels. On uphill sections, plant the tips near the front of your instep. This way you don't have to fuss with adjustments, and the angle helps push you up the hill or forward along the flats. On downhill sections, the extra length helps you slow down & brace much easier - also with no adjustments needed.

To use my poles like this, I like the length to come up to just under my armpit. For very rugged terrain, a couple of more inches (to the top of my shoulder) is better, but for 90% of the terrain armpit length is best. Sizing them for elbow length doesn't allow me to get any "push-off" on uphills or flats, since they are straight up and down. And even with the BD flicklocks, I perfer not to have to make adjustments.

That said, I only use my poles on weekend "conditioning hikes" where I'm going for speed, or adventure racing where I want to run off trail or on rugged trails with more safety. For long treks with a pack, I leave the poles at home because they use more energy, are bothersome when I'm tired, and I don't need them for stability on even semi-rugged trails (ie: trails with rocks every 1-2 feet that are 6-9 inches tall, and have slopes not much more steep than the stairs in my house). The key to not needing poles for backpacking is to get the center of gravity in your pack right so it doesn't cause you to lean forward to counter-balance it.

For heavy packs I still think poles are a great help for knees and lower backs though.

Edited by JohnG10 on 09/21/2008 07:51:19 MDT.

Monty Montana
(TarasBulba) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Trekking poles why ? on 09/22/2008 20:11:11 MDT Print View

This departs a bit from the general discussion, but I have to question the use of trekking poles at all. As a USFS Wilderness Ranger working in the Cascades, I have observed the accelerated erosion of trail tread on those trails with heavy pole use compared to less popular trails getting only occassional use. The reason? Those carbide spikes easily penetrate the compacted, protective top layer of tread, loosening it; with successive hikers the tread surface really gets tilled up, and when it rains an excessive amount gets washed away, exposing tree roots or causing the trail to sluff on steep sections. IMHO their use should be banned on certain heavily used trails, or at the very least rubber end caps should be required. REI needs to take a lead in educating the public on this similar to the role they played in banning wooden handled ice axes.

Edited by TarasBulba on 09/22/2008 20:12:53 MDT.

Bill B
(bill123) - MLife
Trekking Poles why? on 09/23/2008 03:39:38 MDT Print View

I completely agree. I have seen tree roots so scarred by tips that the trees themselves must be getting damaged as well. I recently added the rubber tips to my trekking poles and do not notice any measurable loss in traction. I actually enjoy not hearing that obnoxious scraping sound that the carbide tips make.

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Trekking poles why ? on 09/23/2008 11:26:21 MDT Print View

Occasionally, one long pole is handy for descents over high ledges and stream crossings. Trekking poles are not long enough for descents and often inadequate for stream crossing. As for helping the knees, I have one titanium knee and another getting bad and I have not experienced any real benefit from dual trekking poles other than keeping me from loping comfortably on benign trails thereby risking a face plant.