Bushlore Topics > Other Outdoor Gear

Hiking staff

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A solid dependable hiking staff is a part of basic outdoor kit for just about any age, condition or terrain.

A hiking staff is longer than a cane but shorter than a traditional pole. It has strength without excess weight and a comfortable balance point for both horizontal carry and vertical use. A reasonable height is somewhere between shoulder and top of head high. Ample height to assist traversing quick terrain changes while being pleasing to the eye. The hiking staff is not to be confused with modern trekking poles.

The staff is an old school tool and while some undoubtedly attempted to formalize things along the way as always it has remained what it has been - a handy stick. Some are plain, some are decorated, some end up as firewood but utility is seldom questioned nor is the beauty of the simplicity  Finding just the right one takes a bit of looking and maybe luck. There's no need to order one on line, put it on a card, wait for shipping, get a license or ask permission. They are effective to stabilize the user in tricky balance situations, maintain effective social distancing with humans and other critters, hold up a quick tarp shelter or poncho tent and as many other uses as one can imagine. Maybe more.

My favorite hiking staff for the last decade or so is from a Russian Olive branch. Cut it,  skinned it, smoother with a pocket knife and used it smooth in the carrying part after it dried out. It is shoulder high and the bottom is strengthened by a natural branch bifurcation that was rounded down a little at first and then by use. 
I did wrap about a hands width of light line at the balance point for quick reference but that's all. It sees regular, probably daily use, in the high desert.

The right hiking staff is more than a simple tool. With time and attitude it eventually becomes part of the adventure.

Kind of like a haversack but that's something else.

Happy trails

My favorite staff for the last several years has been what I can find.  I have a few fabricated staffs that I like, but seldom take them with me.  In Florida I rarely use staffs or walking sticks.  When I travel to areas with some elevation changes I use either my trekking poles or cut a staff.  Regardless, the most important part for me is to keep on hiking.

I seldom used a staff of any kind in my younger days.  First staff I ever saw was in some movie about Robin Hood and using a staff as a weapon of sorts.  We carried Ice Axes when winter climbing in Colorado but nothing else.  In my older age, before new knees, I used a variety of canes and made a longer walking staff from a piece of hickory a neighbor gave me.  I never used it as an aid in hiking or just walking but it saw good service as a way to open and close irrigation gates in the gated pipe I use.  You can open and close gates without bending over to get them with your hand.  I cut a flat on each side at the bottom of the staff to facilitate this task.  I broke the staff using it to try and turn a pipe a bit to change the angle of the gates to the ground.  Dumb on my part. I now use a shorter oak stick that is about 3/4" x 1 1/4" and the same length as the canes I used.


Moe M.:
 I have several canes (for mobility reasons) and hiking staffs (again, for mobility reasons), a couple of canes I have are made of hickory, have a shepherds hook on the end and are engraves with handholds, they are defense tools as well as mobility tools, the others are made of some other type of hardwoods and they are strictly for walking, one of my canes and two of my hiking staffs (both favorites) are made of fire hardened Bamboo, they are light but extremely strong.
 While I'm hiking or generally woods bumming I always rely on a hiking staff, they are not just for stability, but with a well made staff you can fend off most small and medium sized animals (think rabid raccoon, skunk, or even a timber rattler when surprised by either, it's good for moving brush out of your way, and in some instances can extend your reach, such as when trying to fill your bushpot with water, from a stream or shore line and don't want to get your feet wet, and of course they are good for holding up a tarp you're using for a temporary shelter.

I first became aware of the staff when I was a kid watching Friar Tuck & Little John dueling for the right to cross a stream via a single log bridge.  My brother and I immediately cut a couple of staffs and pretended to battle each other whenever the other issued a challenge. :duel:   

By coincidence, I saw an article on the use of the staff as a defensive weapon in the last issue of Backwoodsman Magazine.  Does anyone remember the Johnny Carson skit where he played the lovable Art Fern hawking 'Jimmy The Stick' on late night TV?  Do a search for it.....it's hilarious! :lol:


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