Hiking poles are designed to help making long journeys easier. Whether hiking or trekking across tough terrain, having a hiking pole will enable your legs to last longer into the journey, and ensure that your joints will not experience as much fatigue as they would without them. Basically, they make the trip less physically tiring while still allowing your entire body to be fully involved in the hike.
Much of their benefit is derived from their design. While there is no doubt that having some type of support is beneficial when hiking, if the pole is used improperly, you may experience pain across your back and shoulders, which, naturally, reduces some of the benefits gained from using them. You need to be able to keep the poles at a length that is suitable for your hiking needs, so that you can easily maneuver across even the toughest terrain without experiencing aches and pains.
How to Figure Out Pole Length
Though a fixed length pole is still a good solution for those that are hiking up and down long hills, it is always useful, if possible, to try to get an adjustable length pole so that you can change the height of the pole depending on whether you are travelling up or down hill – or across straight terrain.
However, assuming you are travelling across a level ground, the preferred height is fairly easy to calculate. Stand on flat ground with your back straight. Hold your arm out so that your upper arm and your forearm are creating a perfect 90 degree angle. Wherever your hand is, this is the ideal height for the pole, as it is the easiest to handle while still keeping your back straight and your shoulders level.
Adjusting the Pole for Hills
Assuming you have an adjustable pole, you will want to change the length depending on whether you are travelling up or down a hill. The adjustments should be as follows:
· Uphill – When travelling uphill, it will take less length to be able to get to the ground, so you will want to shorten your pole if possible. If the pole is too long you may be gently pushing yourself backward which is not great for your back and may hurt your balance.
· Downhill – Similarly, if you are traveling downhill, you will want to make the pole longer, as it will take additional length to reach the ground. If the pole is too short you will be bending/leaning forward, and you would prefer to keep your body level and your back straight as you walk down.
There are no exact measurements since much of it has to do with your arm length as well as the angle of the hill, however you can easily make the adjustments as you go assuming you have the tools on hand you need to adjust your poles. It is not uncommon for avid hikers that prefer single length poles to carry two poles on them for that reason – so that they can easily switch poles when they hike up and down hills. However, if you have a adjustable length pole, this should suffice for your needs.