[pct-l] Trekking Poles

James Vesely JVesely at sstinternational.com
Tue Mar 17 10:12:56 CDT 2015

I have a few suggestions you might follow if you give hiking poles a try and I would suggest you give them a try.

Use the hand straps.  I put a lot of downward force on  my poles to the point where the poles start to bend and to transfer all that weight to your hand muscles is not very efficient over the long haul.  

I found adjusting the pole length to get the standard 90 degree elbow bend angle to be NOT very efficient.  I adjust my poles when going uphill to the highest setting of 140cm (it depends on your height).   The lesser elbow angle gives you much more torque by letting use more of your upper body strength to pull your body up the hill.   Try pushing down on the poles at a 90 degree elbow angle (short pole) vs. a lower elbow angle (longer pole) while going up a set of stairs and you will see what I mean.  Keep your hands close in towards your body with the elbow almost completely bent to the maximum.  The secret is to use short arcs, lean into your poles and use your upper shoulder and bicep muscles with a small elbow angle. 

I also found using the shortest pole length 100 cm or 105 cm to be optimal for going downhill.    Again you have use the straps because otherwise using this method will not be possible.      When going downhill you will find that your arms will be almost straight, the strap will NOT be around the wrist but rather around the palm and only your thumb and index finger will be wrapped around the handle with a bent wrist.  ALL your body weight will be on the straps.      It may seem odd at first but give it a try.    This would be similar to straddling a set of  parallel bars with straight arms in that it takes little effort to hold yourself up.   This method if done right will  transfer a huge amount of weight from the knees to the arms and for me it completely relieved my knee pain at the end of the day and allowed me to hike much further with less fatigue.   I have also found that with some practice and if you move your poles fast enough you can increase your downhill speed considerably without damaging your knees. 

The short pole method also works going uphill as well.   By using nearly straight arms,  rocking your shoulders and placing your pole in short arcs it can be very effective.   

In my opinion if your arm and upper body muscles aren't sore after using hiking poles for the first few times you are not getting the full use out of them.   Hiking poles aren't just for balance for river crossings or for setting up your tarp but are a valuable tool for transferring weight from your leg muscles to your to the upper body. 

Think about street bike racers and why they lock their toes into their peddles?    It's because it then it allows them to use muscles on their legs on the up stroke which they would not be able to use otherwise.    Use hiking poles in the same way.

The moral of the story is try different pole height settings and methods of weight transfer and see what fits for you.     You have tons of miles to cover and plenty of time to experiment. 


-----Original Message-----
From: Pct-L [mailto:pct-l-bounces at backcountry.net] On Behalf Of James Lamping
Sent: Monday, March 16, 2015 8:49 AM
To: pct-l at backcountry.net
Subject: [pct-l] Trekking Poles

Im sure this has been asked a few times but I am debating to buy trekking poles or not (at this moment I am leaning toward buying them). Just wondering what everyones thoughts are on the best trekking poles that wont clean out my wallet. Thank you!


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