Hiking staffs (also referred to as trekking poles) are a ubiquitous hiking accessory. Hikers enjoy using them because they provide them with the stability necessary to conquer an array of terrains. They can also assist with overall rhythm, guaranteeing a smoother excursion. However, the correct length is required to provide stability and comfort along the way.

A hiking staff should generally be 6 to 8 inches above your elbow when standing straight up. When holding the pole with the tip on the ground next to your foot, your arm should make a 90-degree angle bend right at the elbow. Most of the time, adjustable hiking sticks are recommended for the best fit. 

If you’re considering adding a hiking staff to your adventures, then you need to make sure that you’re using the right length. The length will differ between people of different heights, and purchasing the wrong size can be detrimental. Keep reading to find out how long a hiking staff should be and why it is so utterly important.

How Long Your Hiking Staff Should Be

When it comes to finding the right length hiking staff, it all depends on your height. The best way to do this is by purchasing an adjustable hiking staff. A fully adjustable hiking staff will ensure that you can find the right length while also allowing you to adjust the size depending on the surface you will be hiking on.

However, if you’re looking for a fixed-length hiking staff instead, there are more specifics to keep in mind. Check out the chart below to find the right length for your height.

Height Hiking Staff Length
Under 5 ft. 1 in. 39 inches
5 ft. 1 in. to 5 ft. 7 in. 43 inches
5 ft. 8 in. to 5 ft. 11 in. 47 inches
Over 6 ft. 51 inches

Based on the chart above, it’s clear that those over 6 feet tall should find a hiking staff with at least 51 inches. Those under 5 feet should find hiking staffs under 39 inches. Those who find themselves in the middle have more specific options. 

Using an Adjustable Hiking Staff Correctly

The same rules apply when using a hiking staff. You want to make sure the hiking staff is 6 to 8 inches above your elbow when standing up straight. When the hiking staff is on the ground by your foot, your arm should make a 90-degree bend at the elbow.

However, different hiking terrains call for adjustments. That is why it is recommended to find the right length on the bottom adjustment. That way, you can make adjustments only to the top of the hiking staff when necessary on the trail.

It is essential to know how to adjust your adjustable hiking staff while out in nature properly. The good news is, walking on a flat surface will not require any adjustments. However, trekking uphill and downhill requires adaptation to ensure you’re stable, healthy, and comfortable during the excursion. Here’s how to do it.

Downhill Trekking

When going downhill, one thing you need to concern yourself with is overall balance. It can be hard to stay upright and in control, especially if the terrain is very steep. The best way to handle a downhill trek is to lengthen the pole by about 1 to 3 inches. Although this is a subtle change, it will ensure that you can slow your speed and remain upright.

Uphill Trekking

Uphill trekking can leave you feeling tired and uncomfortable, especially when dealing with a hiking staff that is too short. For uphill trekking, shorten the pole by 1 to 3 inches. The general rule of thumb is the steeper the slope is, the shorter your hiking staff should be. This will allow the hiking staff to assist you and take the strain off the shoulders and back. 

Why the Right Size is Important

At this point, you might be wondering why the right size hiking staff is so significant. Well, there are a few different reasons. First, you must understand why hiking staffs are recommended for avid hikers. Then, you can understand why the size matters so much.

Increased Balance and Stability

The main benefit of using a hiking staff is that they add balance and stability on the way. Balance and stability are vital whether you’re on flat terrain, going uphill, or downhill. No matter the elevation, you will be working on rough land, and having something that provides you with a little extra steadiness is always beneficial. 

However, if your hiking staff is not the right size, it won’t provide you with an adequate amount of stableness. You will find the trek just as unsafe (if not wobblier) than before you started using it. So, finding a hiking staff that is the right length is key to a smooth trip. 

Reduced Fatigue and Joint Discomfort

Although hiking is an enjoyable event, it can also be exhausting. This is true whether you’re a young or old hiker, traveling in rough terrain and water or flatlands. 

After going uphill, downhill, and all around, the muscles, joints, and especially the legs can end up feeling fatigued. This is especially true in essential areas such as the knees and shoulders. Well, a hiking staff can take some of the pressure off and provide you with a more comfortable trek.

Comfort and reduced fatigue are only possible with the right height hiking staff, though. When a hiking staff is too long or short, you may end up putting more discomfort on the joints and muscles. In the end, you may feel more exhausted and achy due to the wrong sizing of your hiking staff. 

Improved Pace

Another benefit of using a hiking staff is that they allow the hiker to engage in a steadier and more rhythmic pace. Why is this important? Well, there are two main reasons:

  • You can hike at a faster pace, and
  • Reduce the amount of stress and tire on the joints and muscles.

An improved pace can ensure that your hike runs smoothly. Not only will you be able to conquer the terrain in less time, but the smooth rhythm of your walk will ensure that no parts of your body are overcome by discomfort. 

One easy way to miss out on an improved pace is with a hiking staff that is too long or short. When your hiking staff is not the correct length, it can be challenging to get a good grip on it. Therefore, a smooth rhythm is virtually impossible, and you may end up putting more strain on certain parts of your body. 

For example, having to hunch over to keep a grip on your short hiking staff can cause severe shoulder and back discomfort. On the other hand, too long of a stick can leave you feeling unsteady, putting more pressure on the upper body to keep your balance.

Final Thoughts

There are many hiking staff lengths to choose from. The best option is to go the adjustable hiking staff route. Not only will you be able to have more flexibility in finding the correct length for your height, but you will also be able to adjust to the terrain while out in nature. 

Always remember that finding the correct length is key to comfort and a smoother trip. If you end up with a hiking staff that is too short or too long, then you may end up hurting yourself or causing more strain on your joints and muscles. 

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Where can I buy a plain 43" walking stick