Hiking poles can come in all different lengths, which as wonderful as it is, can be quite intimidating. How do you know which hiking pole length is the best for you? Well that’s what I want to help you discover. The right length of pole makes a huge difference – especially when hitting up slopes.
Standard length for everyday hiking
On a typical day of going out for a hike or a stroll you won’t need to adjust your pole. You can put it to the sweet spot. The spot that just, for lack of better words, “feels right.” Thankfully it is actually pretty straight forward to select the perfect length.
Relax your arm beside you and then lift up your hand so that you make an L shape, or a 90 degree angle. Yes my friends, it is that simple. All you need is a pole that can be adjusted so that when you hold it in front of you, your arm rests naturally in a 90 degree curve. It should feel natural and comfortable.
Hitting up a hill
While going for a nice leisurely and flat walk is relaxing, it is not usually the case. If you are like me, you want to head uphill and feel some burn. I don’t adjust my poles if it is a small hill, but on the big hills or the mountain slopes it makes a big difference having them adjusted.
Before a big slope I stop to shorten the length of my hiking pole. It just feels award and less stable when your pole is too long on an uphill slope. Adjusting the pole to a shorter length gives you more stability and more of a natural feel.
Last summer my wife and I hit up her first mountain. The final point before the top was at a @ incline. So stinking steep. As a new hiker, she was struggling at first. But after adjusting her poles to a shorter length she had more of a pull upwards, more confidence and was much less fatigued than previous hikes.
So, uphill = shorter pole.
Coming down steep slopes
Going up a hill or mountain may be more tiring, but coming down can be a whole lot freakier. For instance – walking down a slope with loose pebbles, needing to side hill and zig zag back and forth like a sheep. Yes, we are talking the steep ones. Having a longer hiking pole makes a world of difference in these situations.
Going down hill requires a longer pole.
If the pole is longer you can place more weight on it without awkwardly twisting your body. You are more stable as you have something to lean on. Whether it is a long and gentle incline around town, or a riveting mountain slope, a slight adjustment of your pole to a longer length will help greatly.
Unconventional hiking pole length uses
Now, you may see an article about hiking poles and their lengths and think that there are three options: flat, up and down. But alas, hiking poles have some unconventional uses.
Tent poles: If you happen to be one of the brave souls that camps with just a tarp, and your sleeping bag (crazy but we do it!) than your hiking poles will become your best friend. Stab those suckers nice and steady into the ground and adjust them to what ever height you prefer – and you have yourself a home made tent. Seriously, it helps.
Testing foundations: When going for a nice walk, sometimes you come across mother natures random surprises. She throws all types of stuff at us, be it some nasty mud, ice with an unknown thickness or tall grass and you can’t quite see your footing. Adjusting your poles in a face off with mother nature is extremely helpful.
Maneuvering objects: Often when walking in the forest you come across fallen logs. You can adjust the height of you poles and use them to vault right over the logs. If you are scaling up some rocks and boulders you can shorten them a bunch and then get them in a nook and pull yourself up. These are just a couple examples, but there are tons of situations when a quick switch from longer to shorter can give you the power you need.
Helping your partner: My wife’s all time favorite – when you are right at the brink of getting to the top of a steep slope, and just need a little help, and your partner shortens or lengthens their pole, locks it in place, and lets you grab hold as they help heave you over the finish line. Yes, that my friends, is one of the most rewarding ones.
Variety of lengths
All in all, the best thing about poles is that you can make them what ever length you need them to be. Standard, long, short, it all has its uses. Hiking pole lengths can be as versatile as necessary to get you through your walking, hiking of gallivanting experiences.