Walking Pole Height
The optimal length for your walking & trekking poles is cm.
On walking tours with longer ascents, we recommend individually adjustable telescopic poles in order to alter the length by 5 to 10 cm during ascent/descent (depending on the inclination of the slope).
Different sports require different length poles, and it is not only important to choose the right material, it’s also important to make sure you get the correct length. The ideal length for your poles depends on the sport type, on the route profile and not least on the ability level of the user as well.
Available types of poles on the market include fixed poles, which have a a fixed length and variable or telescopic poles, which can be adjusted when needed and are suited to different sports. The latter choice gives you a high level of variability, but the downside is that they are less solid and more susceptible to errors. This means they can buckle through misapplication or wear, and the adjustment mechanism can fail.
A pole length calculator can help to give you a rough estimation of the ideal length, however this doesn’t take into account the high level of complexity required to precisely calculate the necessary length. In this case – as so often – there’s nothing like trying it for yourself.
Personal preference is of course important when choosing the correct length - what is too long for some, is perfect for the more experienced. The rules of thumb mentioned above give you some approximate guidelines, if in doubt, nothing beats trying it for yourself!
Walking poles (aka trekking poles or hiking poles) should help you to keep your balance and take the strain off your knees on the ascent and descent. But in exposed situations or during difficult river crossings poles quickly become indispensable safety equipment. Using telescopic poles gives you many advantages overall, including the ability to adjust the length to the route profile quickly on the go, or to pack the poles away small and store them in a backpack when necessary.
On long trips, routes are often flat or only slightly uneven, but for Alpine trekking tours, take a look at the next section. A flat route means that you don’t need to constantly adjust your poles for ascent or descent, so a fixed length can be used.
In this case: In a standing position (with hiking boots on!) hold the grip of the pole with your hand, and place the tip of the pole on the ground so that the pole is at a right angle to the ground. In this position the forearm and upper arm of the hiker should form a right angle. This length will be suitable for both ascent and descent, so long as the gradient is not too steep. That means that you can avoid stopping frequently to adjust the poles on flat or slightly uneven routes. The following section explains how poles can be adjusted in extreme terrain.
Poles for hilly or mountainous terrain are a much more complex matter. We strongly advise the use of telescopic poles here, because they can generally be adjusted to different lengths for ascent and descent.
The exact length depends on how steep the incline is. Poles for mountain ascents should be shorter, and those used for descents longer, than poles for even terrain. Even on different slope gradients, the rule still applies that the elbows should form a right angle with the pole while walking. This position allows the arms to apply the optimal amount of weight to the pole.
A note of caution when adjusting poles for mountain descents: The poles must be carefully locked, so that they don’t retract under pressure. When walking across a slope, you can hold the pole on the up-slope side below the grip, so that you can maintain the right-angle elbow position, without adjusting the pole.
With correct adjustment you can effortlessly achieve the right length, to keep your balance, to support your legs on the ascent or to relieve your knees on the descent. The steeper the climb, the shorter the pole length needs to be (in comparison to the length used on even ground). When you descend, the poles can be made correspondingly longer; if necessary the angle with the elbows can be less than 90°.