4 Ways to Attach Hiking Poles to Your Backpack

Man trekking on grassy road in mountains
Stanislaw Pytel / Getty Images

 Hiking poles come in handy for a lot of things, such as crossing rivers, probing mud depth, and moving wet brush out of the way. Some people swear by them for helping support and balance the weight of a heavy pack, and they're an invaluable aid if you happen to fall while snowshoeing. But those same poles become a burden when you're not using them.

If you're carrying old ski poles or any type of trekking pole that doesn't collapse down into a manageable bundle, you're pretty much stuck toting them around in your hands for the rest of the hike. But if your hiking poles are the collapsible kind that telescopes down to a manageable length you can stow them on or in your backpack, leaving your hands free for the rest of the hike.

Most backpacks have specific attachment points for holding trekking poles. See how to attach your hiking poles to your backpack the conventional way. Plus, explore a few alternative arrangements in case your pack doesn't have the right attachment points.

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Secure the Handle

Photo © Lisa Maloney

The odds are good that, somewhere on your backpack, you've got a trekking pole attachment point like this. Some, like the one you see here, are just a closed loop that you can loosen or cinch tight. Loosen the cinch all the way and poke your trekking pole's handle through it, pointing up toward the top of your pack.

A few packs have trekking pole attachments that open and close all the way, with a small hook holding them closed. If you have this sort of attachment just unhook the fastener to open it, lay the trekking pole in place (handle pointing toward the top of the pack) and close the fastener around your pole.

  • Stick the point of the trekking pole through the loop on the bottom corner of your pack. The pole's basket will keep it from falling through.
  • Press the pole's point toward the bottom of your pack to make sure it really seats into that loop.
  • Tighten down the cinch point around the body of the pole to hold it in place, and you're good to go.
  • Attach your other pole to the pack, and you're ready to keep hiking hands-free.

But what if you don't have a hiking pole attachment point like this? Let's look at some alternative arrangements.

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The Side Pocket Trick for Securing Hiking Poles

Photo © Lisa Maloney

If your backpack doesn't have a cinch point and bottom loop for holding hiking poles in place, but it does have a side pocket and side compression straps, you're in luck. Just poke the handle ends of the poles down into the side pocket, then fasten the compression straps around the body of the poles and cinch them tight.

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Securing Your Trekking Poles with Compression Straps Only

Photo © Lisa Maloney

If your pack doesn't have side pockets but does have horizontal compression straps, you still have options for securing your hiking poles. These straps can be anywhere on the pack; they don't have to be on the sides. Sometimes packs have slots for you to add your own compression straps at different points, so look for those as well.

Loosen the straps, pass the poles through them (handles down, baskets pointing up) and tighten the straps around your poles. The poles' baskets will keep them from falling through.

Obviously, this only works if your poles have baskets on them. In some cases, the poles never had baskets, or you took them off and didn't bring them with you on your hike.

If your pack doesn't have compression straps, look for patches which have two or more slots. Those are where you can add your own compression straps. In this case, you can buy compression straps to add to your pack or thread webbing, cordage, in other ties through the slots to use as straps to hold your poles.

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The Top Carry

Photo © Lisa Maloney

If your pack doesn't have a special trekking pole attachment point, side pockets or compression straps, there's still an easy, if somewhat awkward, solution. Just lay the poles across the top of your pack and cinch them in place.

This works about the same as the other options for a larger pack. Lay the poles across the top of the large compartment, close the top of the pack over them, and cinch it in place. It's not a perfect solution because now you've got a little crossbar (one end of which is pointy) laid across your back. But if you're hiking in open terrain, it's still a pleasant alternative to hand-carrying hiking poles when you don't really need them.

If your pack doesn't have a top you can cinch down or at least straps across the top, your only other option is to stick the poles in the actual body of the pack, handles pointing down, points sticking out of the pack's top. Shift both poles all the way to one side, zip the pack closed from the opposite end, and try to remember not to poke your hiking buddy's eye out if you turn around quickly.