Maybe there are a few oddballs out there, but trekking poles almost always have wrist straps. Whether or not you actually use them is another story. Walk down any popular trail and only a tiny fraction of hikers actually use their straps.
Those thin little straps dangling from the top of your poles aren’t just a fashion statement; they actually have a purpose. Wrist straps are there for a reason, but do you actually need to use them?
People Don’t Know How to Use Trekking Poles
Most people don’t actually know how to properly use trekking poles. This includes the proper use of straps. Walk down the trail and you’ll see people making these 4 common mistakes.
- Pole height is incorrect
- Straps aren’t properly tightened
- Hands go through wrong side of straps(go in from the bottom).
- Improper cadence
Should You Use Trekking Pole Wrist Straps?
Hikers and backpackers can’t seem to decide if you should use wrist straps. Some people say that you can accidentally injure your wrists if you take a tumble while using the straps.
Personally, I think that’s a bit far fetched and the benefits far outweigh the risks. You can protect your wrists by going up through the bottom of the straps. If you fall the straps should pull off instead of pulling out.
You’d be surprised how much of a difference straps make. Wrist straps give you just a little bit of extra support, stability and extra push down the trail. They spread the weigh through your arms spreading out the force. It really helps propel you forward on long hikes.
Do Trekking Pole Straps Help? Depends on The Situation
Whether or not you should use wrist straps depends on the situation. Personally, I just think it’s a bad idea to cut off your straps. You don’t always have to use straps and in some situations, you’re better off without them.
When to Use Trekking Pole Straps
Wrist straps are extremely helpful in moderate terrain. It doesn’t matter if you’re on flat terrain, uphill, downhill, etc wrist straps are beneficial. They significantly reduce the stress on your wrists and help improve stability. Straps just add a little bit of versatility.
Straps are especially helpful in the winter. When you properly tighten straps(not too tight) you shouldn’t have to grip the poles. Using a light grip will allow blood to better circulate making your hands warmer.
When Not To Use Trekking Pole Straps
Never use straps on difficult terrain where there’s a fall risk. You know the type of terrain I’m talking about (mud, rocks, roots, sand, moss, etc). Falling with tightened straps will probably break your trekking poles and possibly cause injury.
You Might Want to Cut Off The Strap
I actually like using the wrist straps, but most of my buddies don’t. Whenever they get a brand new pair of trekking poles, the first thing they do is cut off the straps.
They just don’t like the way straps feel on their wrists, plus you could break a pole, wrist or arm. After a few years without breaking trekking poles there’s no convincing them.
Don’t Have to Grip The Poles
When using wrist straps you really don’t have to grip the poles. Just loosen up your grip and let the straps take over. This isn’t a big deal on short hikes, but over a long day it makes a huge difference.
Whether or not I actually loosen up my grip depends on the situation. In rough rocky/muddy terrain I need the extra support. On well-manicured trails, I usually loosen up my grip a bit. I don’t like the feeling of grabbing my poles with every step. Being able to use a little less power with straps makes a huge difference.
Falling With Straps Probably Breaks Your Pole
If you fall with wrist straps on you will probably break your trekking pole. Trekking poles are designed to bend when you fall on them. Get a pole stuck in a rocky crevice and it will most likely snap. There’s no way to know for sure if the pole will actually snap without straps.
Adjusting The Wrist Strap
Most people don’t actually know how to use wrist straps properly. They just don’t take their wrist straps seriously. I very rarely see properly tightened wrist straps.
When straps are properly adjusted they can significantly reduce the impact on your wrists and hands. If you don’t properly tighten the straps you might as well just cut them off. At that point, they’re doing more harm than good.
Adjusting the length of your strap is easy. Just pull out the tension block and tighten up your strap. Tighten it up until you have just enough space to slip your wrists out without causing circulation issues. Once the desired tightness is reached just tighten up the tension block.
Make sure you have enough room in the strap to grab the lower part of your grip. You should be able to quickly grab the lower grip without adjusting the straps. Use the lower grips when you don’t want to adjust your trekking poles on short inclines.
Check out my post on adjusting trekking poles.
Using The Wrist Strap
To use wrist straps put your hand up through the bottom of the strap (never from the top) and wrap your hand around the grip. Putting your hands through the top of the strap increases injury risk. When you go through the top it pulls out on your wrist instead of just slipping off.
Put your hands up through the straps and tighten it up. The strap should rest snugly against your wrist and provide support. Loose straps might be more comfortable, but they don’t stabilize the load. The strap should rest on the back of your hand without cutting off circulation.