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I was recently convinced to buy a pair of trekking poles for backpacking. But how long should they be?

What is the optimal length to adjust my trekking poles, when carrying a heavy pack?

I have tried walking around my living room, and I cannot decide what length is ideal. How much does it matter? Should the poles be different lengths for going up or down hill? Does it depend on how much weight I'm carrying? Does the type of handle matter?

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To paraphrase Abe Lincoln, trekking poles should be long enough to reach the ground. – Olin Lathrop Nov 7 '12 at 21:29
So... in your experience, this isn't something to worry a lot about? – theJollySin Nov 7 '12 at 21:49
No, I was just making a flip comment related to Abe's answer that your legs should be long enough to reach the ground. I personally don't like carrying things in my hands and don't use poles, so can't offer any personal experience. – Olin Lathrop Nov 8 '12 at 0:02
up vote 11 down vote accepted

The trekking pole should make a 90 degree angle with your elbow. This will be your reference setting that you might want change when:

  • Going up a hill where you will reduce the length (helps you advance)
  • Going down a hill where will increase the length (helps slow down or stabilize)

For more information, I found this great image here

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