When venturing into the wilderness, a constant companion for many is a walking stick, but most people don’t realize the potential for walking stick uses.
Some folks just pick up a new stick each time they head down the trail, discarding it at the end of the hike. Others head to the store and buy a fancy adjustable aluminum staff, complete with rubber or foam hand grip.
Walking stick uses for every outdoorsman/woman
If you think about it, the walking stick might be the original multi-tool! They serve a variety of purposes, each with the intent of keeping you safe while on the trail.
If you come across a stream or river, the stick can be used to gauge the depth, letting you know if it is safe to cross or not. It can also find sudden drop-offs or holes before you end up going for a swim.
When traveling through dense underbrush, or even a lightly forested area, the stick can be held in front of you to brush branches and such aside. It can also help alert snakes and other small animals of your approach.
A walking stick can extend your reach, allowing you to snag something floating away from you in a stream or knocking something down from a high branch.
When traveling on uneven terrain, a walking stick can be a tremendous help in keeping your balance, even for the most experienced and confident hiker.
A walking stick can also serve as a fairly decent weapon, whether the threat is on four legs or just two. While perhaps not ideal, it is certainly better than nothing.
There are also a few true survival uses for a walking stick, should you end up having to unexpectedly spend a night or two out in the wild. The stick can be used to help craft together an expedient shelter, such as being used as a ridgepole.
Many a fish has been caught using a simple pole with line and hook tied to the end. Most of us already carry some amount of fishing gear in our survival kits.
If you need a way to carry supplies, go the hobo route and use your shemagh to make a bindle to tie to the end of the walking stick. By the way, a shemagh scarf has many, many uses and should be a part of your outdoor gear.
How to choose a walking stick
There are three basic considerations when choosing a walking stick. The first is length. For most people, a stick that reaches from the ground to about their sternum works well. You want something that is long enough that when you’re traveling downhill you won’t be slumped over.
Next is thickness. This is largely a matter of personal preference and comfort. I have fairly large hands and prefer a walking stick that is about 1.5″ thick.
Finally, material. I much prefer a wooden walking stick, ideally made from something I’ve found in one of my travels. It just seems quite fitting to use a natural material when I’m in the wilderness. Others, though, prefer aluminum or even PVC. Again, this is a personal choice.
I recommend a good wrist strap, too. Using the strap will help to prevent your hand from becoming fatigued over long hikes.
Some people prefer to use pairs of trekking poles. Personally, I’m not sold on them as I like to have at least one hand free at all times. Many people, though, swear by these sets of poles so you might consider trying that option and seeing if it works for you.
A walking stick is more useful and versatile than most people realize.
Resources mentioned in this article:
- Adjustable aluminum trekking pole
- “Keep it Simple and Survive: 8 Keys to Outdoor Survival, Part 1”
- Shemagh scarves
- The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide by Andrew Skurka