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How To: Adjust Trekking Poles for Efficiency on Varying Terrain

Trekking poles are a boon for security on sketchy terrain, and they'll keep your knees alive over hard-charging decades of hiking. To get the most benefit on flats, uphills and downhills, use adjustable-length poles and adjust them correctly. Here's how.

Photos by Jennifer Howe /


  1. bob-h

    Good information, but I think before Baclpacker Magazine allows a Short cut to be added to their web page they should see exactly where it takes you. The short cut forJennifer Howe photo (trekking pole adjustments) Is not something that is in anyway related to backpacking. I am offended!!!

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  2. jerrywdoyle

    One critical use of trekking poles valued from my years of hiking and backpacking I never read in any write-up on their uses is their use as a defensive weapon from animal attacks. Little doubt exists in my mind that my trekking poles saved me from serious injury, if not death on two occasions. One occasion was when a charging bison running at me full speed failed to pivot the second time after I used the bear attack defensive maneuver of jumping up high, screaming maddenly at the full blast of my lungs to scare him and making myself as tall and big as possible as the behemouth stormed toward me with such speed and force causing the earth beneath my feet to vibrate. Realizing that my initial actions of using the bear defensive maneuver a second time would render no success I jumped as high as possible, clenching both poles tightly in my hands and came down fiercely with them using the carbide tip points directed at the animal’s eyes. Upon contact with the poles, the bison pivoted a second time so fast, so forcefully, that the bull twisted my neck and shoulder areas in the process leaving me in pain for days, but thankfully, “not gored.” I reported the incident to park rangers at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park at the Medora ranger station, giving them my name, address, drivers license number and instructing them to send the veterinarian bill to me for payment, should the bull be found injured. Thank heavens, the park rangers reported to me several days later that they believed they found the animal and observed no damaged inflicted, other than the gob of bison hair clumped on the tip of my trekking poles. The Rangers denoted that I escaped serious injury, if not death, since the bison (in the absence of my trekking poles as a defensive weapon against the charging bull) surely would have gored me, then flip me upwards like a rag doll and trampled me afterwards. Similarly, but not as life threatenly, my trekking poles protected me a second time against a herd of wild boar hogs that also charged me, again, with the intent of using their “tusks” to inflict injury to my body.

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