Walking with hiking poles: 10 most important tips

Walking with hiking poles. One swears by it, the other has its doubts. Certainly, it has advantages. It reduces tension in the body, less weary muscles and a more healthy feeling body. But it also has its disadvantages. It might take a while till you get the hang of it. Also, technique is important. Because without using the right technique, walking with hiking poles is just counterproductive.

During my Camino to Santiago de Compostela, I walked for the first time with hiking poles. And yes, that took a while to get used to. But it helped me a lot!

In this blog, I summed up 10 practical tips on how to use hiking poles in the right way.

1. The correct height

The correct height of your hiking poles depends on where you’re going to walk. Are you going to walk in the Netherlands or on flat ground? Then you adjust your hiking poles in the way that your elbows are at an angle of 90 degrees.

Are you going to walk in the mountains? Then adjust your hiking poles 5 to 10 centimeters shorter when you ascend. And adjust them 5 to 10 centimeters longer when you descend. Of course it is very personal what you prefer, but you can apply this as a general rule. If you adjust your hiking poles differently, make sure that you secure them after again. Otherwise you might lean on them and they collapse. Something you of course want to prevent!

Camino Santiago de Compostela

2. Which hiking poles do you choose?

There are many different hiking poles to choose from. They differ in quality, look, price, etc. Which hiking poles you eventually choose depends on your budget and of course if the hiking poles suit you.  There are three different materials used for hiking poles: aluminum, carbon and titanium. Carbon and titanium are the most expensive materials. Do you want to purchase hiking poles? Always go to a sports specialty store and let an expert advice you.

3. Better grip

At the end of the hiking pole there is a basket. This ensures the hiking pole not sliding too far between stones and gives you better grip. In summer you use a smaller basket and in winter you use a bigger one.

cammino francese

4. Using your hiking poles

You can use hiking poles in different ways. You can choose to use the strap, or leave it. A huge benefit of using the straps is that you are able to push yourself more and lean on them.

5. Extra power and speed

You can generate extra power and speed with your hiking poles. Especially when you walk on flat ground. The additional benefit of using the arms extra, is that you kind of do a fullbody workout. And that’s a nice bonus!

6. Hiking poles with ascending and descending

Is there a steep climb a head of you? Then your hiking poles will provide you extra support. Make sure your hiking poles don’t lean too much to the front and you have your elbows still bended. You can even lean a little bit on your hiking poles, to get even more power out of it.

Actually, during descending your hiking poles are even more important. Because you will have better grip and balance. Especially when you walk for example with a backpack it’s more comfortable. Make sure you put your hiking poles in the correct way in front of you, parallel to your body. In this way you can lean on your hiking pole and reduce the load on your knees.

7. Where do you put your hiking poles?

It is always important to look closely where you put your hiking poles while walking. Make sure you’re hiking poles stand firm and you don’t slip away with them. When walking on harder grounds it aks for a close and careful look.


8. Carry them in hand luggage: yes or no?

Can or can’t you carry hiking poles in your hang luggage? This is a frequently asked question. The answer is not that simple. It varies per airline. Some airlines are okay with folding them completely, putting them on the sides of your backpack and carry them as hand luggage. With other airlines you have to check them in. Always check which rules apply to your airline.

9. The difference

Hiking pole? Nordic walking stick? Are they similar? No, most certainly not. It is good to first know what hiking poles you need before you purchase them. Cause every different activity requires a specific pole.

10. When yes and when not?

Again, this is of course a very personal matter. My advice would be to certainly bring hiking poles during your Camino to Santiago. Especially when you start for example in Saint Jean Pied de Port or Irun. In the foothills of the mountains, are some tough stages where hiking poles come in handy. Are you walking from Sarria to Santiago, the last 100 km of the Camino Frances, it is not necessary. Unless you would prefer hiking poles of course. Are you walking in Menorca, on the Cami de Cavalls, hiking poles are not needed. They are needed on the GR221 in Mallorca, because there will be some climbs.