Trekking Poles come in many shapes and sizes, but often people haven’t been properly educated on the proper fit of a trekking pole.
The proper height of the trekking pole is fairly easy to determine. Trekking poles are typically measured in centimeters, so you’ll want a measuring device that shows metric measurements. The “by the book” way to determine this is to stand with your feet shoulder width apart, and allow your elbows to be straight down towards your hips. Raise your wrists up to where your elbow is bent at a 90˚ angle. Then simply measure the distance from the ground to the top of your hands while being held in a fist.
Many trekking poles are available in adjustable sizes. They range from 60cm – 150cm depending on the manufacturer (Some manufacturers do make lengths exceeding 150cm as well, but may need to be special ordered at times!). If the poles are adjustable length, and your length is within their range, then you can move on to looking into the various grip materials below. One advantage of adjustable length poles is that if you are climbing a hill you can shorten them, or if you are decending a hill you can lengthen them. That being said, some trekking poles come in fixed lengths (coming to mind are the Black Diamond Distance Trekking Poles) which do require you to carefully consider what size is correct for you. There are advantages to both styles of poles, the fixed length poles are most often much lighter weight than adjustable poles. This is due to the fact that the adjustable poles often have overlapping poles to allow for the adjustment (the poles slide into each other for storage and adjustability), as well as a locking mechanism of some sort. The two locking mechanisms that are most typical include a twist lock where you twist the bottom of the pole to lock it or release it, or a cam-lock or flip lock clip to tighten or release the adjustment mechanism. The flip-lock mechanism is more secure typically, though often people like the clean look of the twist locks. Many people complain that the twist locks loosen up over time.
The next decision, once you know the length of poles you need, after you know if you want fixed length or adjustable…then you can continue on to the material of the trekking pole you desire. Typical materials offered are aluminum or carbon fiber. Aluminum is the more common material, often preferred because of it’s ability to take an impact, and if it does bend it can be bent back into place to temporarily get you finished with your hike. Carbon on the other-hand is typically considerably lighter in weight. Carbon also offers some impact “deadening” taking the edge off of the carbide tip on the bottom of the pole striking hard surfaces such as a rock. Several aluminum poles offer a shock absorption device in them as well.
Then there’s yet another decision to make, this one often takes comfort into consideration though. The grip and wrist strap varies by manufacturer as well as models. Most are contoured to fit your hands, with 1 or more finger grips to gain both stability and comfort. There are 3 basic materials used for grips, foam, rubber, or cork. While the foam is the softest, the rubber is fairly firm, and the cork slowly conforms to fit your hand the best, often this comes down to comfort and what fits your hands the best. If you’re using the wrist strap properly, the material of the grip is less important. To properly use the wrist strap, you will put your hand into them from the bottom side, then pointing upwards bring your hand and wrist down to grasp the grip. If the straps are adjusted properly, they will be snug and you’ll find that your weight is mostly caught by the straps. This allows you to not need to grab the handles tightly, which result in tired hand and finger muscles as well as forearm muscle exhaustion.
As you can tell, there is a lot to choosing the perfect trekking pole. Be sure to try out a few different models to ensure you purchase the correct ones. Also be sure as you go to hike in various locations to check the park and trail rules about using carbide tips in the park. Some parks require you to cover those tips with a rubber tip to reduce wear and tear on the trails, trees, and rock surfaces.
See various trekking poles on Amazon at: Trekking Poles