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#88482 - 03/15/07 10:52 PM Speaking of Hiking Staffs...
benjammin Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/06/04
Posts: 4016
Loc: Anchorage AK
Or is it staves???

Anyways, what makes for a good hiking staff, either natural or manufactured?

In my experience, Western Red Cedar saplings make the best sticks I've ever tried. When thinning a cedar grove, I pick ones that are at least 2" diameter at the base and 1" or more at 6'. I've tried Spruce and a few hardwoods, but found Spruce to be too soft and tending to bow during the curing process too much. Madrona is my favorite hardwood, though it is heavy and finding a straight piece long enough is quite an adventure. I think some of the Madrona I've worked with is harder than English Oak!

Cedar is light but strong, though the wood will dent easier than others. It carves fairly easily, and tends to hold true better than any other evergreen I've worked with. It is naturally weather resistant, though I always varnish my sticks anyways. I have yet to have one split on me, though if one were so concerned, a simple thong wrap at the ends would tend to exclude that possibility altogether.

I've never been one for manufactured walking sticks, or staffs, though I realize that they can be made with far superior physical properties to natural ones. For me it is aesthetics I suppose, and the value of making my conservaton efforts pay a dividend or two.
The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.
-- Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher (1820-1903)

#88507 - 03/16/07 02:28 AM Re: Speaking of Hiking Staffs... [Re: benjammin]
OldBaldGuy Offline

Registered: 09/30/01
Posts: 5695
Loc: Former AFB in CA, recouping fr...
I have always been kinda lazy, so I used to just buy a 1" in diameter six ft long clothes pole at the lumberyard, stick a rubber cane tip on it, cut to desired length, drill a hole in the other end and add a paracord loop, then hit the trails. When we needed to downsize a lot of stuff, we bought two Tracks Sherlock Walking Staffs, which collapse down to 41", and extend to 56". They come with a rubber tip, which is removable to bare the steel point, and have a removable snow basket. Kind of pricy, but they do what we need now...

Edit: It must have been one of those dreaded senior moment, 'cuz I just remembered that we have bunch of diamond willow in a side compartment that we brought back from Alaska. Gotta finish scraping the bark off, get 'em sanded and laquered, and figure out a tip for at least a couple of them. Then we will have some pretty hiking sticks...

Edited by OldBaldGuy (03/16/07 04:48 AM)
Edit Reason: forgot something

#88509 - 03/16/07 02:32 AM Re: Speaking of Hiking Staffs... [Re: benjammin]
samhain Offline

Registered: 11/30/05
Posts: 598
Loc: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
For years I've used a wooden staff with a metal hook at the top (very useful for catching branches/roots/stuff that fell into the creek, etc).

I use an 1 1/4 inch rod for mine with finger grooves filed into it at top/middle/and bottom. (I think it was an old closet rod).

The wooden staff has some structural advantages that the telescoping ones don't. On our last trip I was able to wedge one end of my staff into a root bundle and the other end wedged onto my thigh to give my daughter a stable foothold scaling up a steep incline. The metal staff probably would've bent under that use.

I've even given my old one to my daughter and she uses it just like a hand reaching up without thinking to hook onto my staff so that I can pull her up an embankment, etc. She also hooks onto my daypack so that I can tow her up hills (A daddy's job is never done). smile

Recently I've found out how much easier it is to use two staffs while hiking so I bought a telescoping staff to use in my left hand.

It made a big difference having the two of them taking a lot of strain off my knees and I can collapse it when I only need the one .

I've thought of just going ahead and carrying two telescoping hiking staffs but I've gotten so used to having the hook and having the stouter wooden one that I've compromised and plan to carry both.

samhain autumnwood

#88513 - 03/16/07 02:44 AM Re: Speaking of Hiking Staffs... [Re: benjammin]
Seeker890 Offline

Registered: 06/19/06
Posts: 93
Loc: Central Ohio
I currently use a pair of collapsable Al/Ti hiking sticks for the light weight and to help take the load off my knees when backpacking. When out with the scouts when hiking is not the emphasis of the trip, I prefer a natural stave. I am not sure of the proper name, but we always called it "ironwood". Increadably strong and light weight when dry. Mine is approx. 5 foot long and about 1 1/4" at the top, tapering to about 1" on the bottom. I trimmed the bottom a little bit and glued a 3/4" copper tubing coupling on the end to keep it from splitting under heavy use. Drilled near the top and ran a leather thong through it for a wrist / hanging strap.
The Seeker

#88514 - 03/16/07 03:42 AM Re: Speaking of Hiking Staffs... [Re: OldBaldGuy]
Menawa Offline

Registered: 01/23/07
Posts: 20
There is such a wide variety of options and opinions that it is hard to say what is "the best", so just get what suits you. However, people with bad knees probably do need two ski-pole type hiking sticks when negotiating rough terrain at speed. I prefer rigid poles to those with shock-absorbing features, but many people prefer the opposite. I collect hiking staffs and have a wide variety both store-bought and handmade. But I rarely carry any of them unless I am making a multi-day backpacking trip. Then I prefer my homemade hickory staff, 5' tall, 1" thick, very tough, a crutch tip on the bottom attached with shoe goo, and a natural Y top. The Y at the top is perfect for catching snakes, proping my backback against a tree with the carry loop, or to stretch a line across for a tarp shelter. On shorter hikes, I generally prefer to just pick up the first stick I find and keep "trading up" until I have a pretty good hiking stick by the time I get home. If it's really nice, I trim it up and add it to my collection.

#88515 - 03/16/07 03:47 AM Re: Speaking of Hiking Staffs... [Re: Seeker890]
big_al Offline

Registered: 01/04/06
Posts: 586
Loc: 20mi east of San Diego
When I was out on a fire I brought back some aspin staves. They work wonderfull when dry. Light, strong and fairley stright.
Some people try to turn back their odometers.
Not me, I want people to know "why" I look this way
I've traveled a long way and some of the roads weren't paved

#88524 - 03/16/07 10:04 AM Re: Speaking of Hiking Staffs... [Re: benjammin]
redflare Offline

Registered: 12/25/05
Posts: 647
Loc: SF Bay Area, CA
(I am reposting my response from an old hiking pole thread )
"I am a recent convert myself. Before I always hiked without them, thinking that the poles would get in the way.
As I got older, I realized that my knees were giving out on me,. On my last hike to the top of Mt. Whitney, hiking poles made a huge difference: I was able to go down the mountains with ease, and my uphill speed increased dramatically.
I have Black Diamond hiking poles. They are easy to adjust if you are switching from uphill to downhill, unlike the Leki kind.
Here is an old knee support/hiking poles thread "

#88540 - 03/16/07 04:16 PM Re: Speaking of Hiking Staffs... [Re: benjammin]
wildman800 Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 11/09/06
Posts: 2695
Loc: La-USA
Thanks for some great ideas concerning walking stick attachments. I will try the hook first and see how that works out.
My walking stick is an oak (sapling) tap root. Very hard and coated with polyurathane. It is approx 5' 6" (L) x 2" (D). I use it in many ways and I am still finding new applications for my stick.
The best luck is what you make yourself!

#88541 - 03/16/07 04:52 PM Re: Speaking of Hiking Staffs... [Re: benjammin]
woodsrider Offline

Registered: 12/12/06
Posts: 15
The following company sells beautiful walking sticks, I have one of their twisted oak sticks.


#88580 - 03/17/07 03:33 AM Re: Speaking of Hiking Staffs... [Re: benjammin]
kixonrt66 Offline

Registered: 03/16/07
Posts: 26
Hello All,
I am newcomer to this forum and I wish to introduce myself. I am an old timer of 51 with many years of backpacking, hiking, hunting experience as well as other outdoor pursuits. I have only recently become interested in survival skills and I hope to learn all I can from the folks here. I reside in Albuquerque,NM and spend much of my free time fly fishing and hiking the trails near town and in the romote areas as well.
Regarding hiking poles or staves:
For the last ten years or so I have adopted a pair of MSR adjustable hiking poles when I am backpacking. I find them invaluable for maintaining balance on rough or steep terrain and especially when crossing creeks, etc. For simple walking for pleasure I use a single six foot length of Rattan, 2" in diameter, with brass ends and a rubber crutch tip at the bottom. I have a length of 550 paracord wrapped around the grip and a small button compass in the top brass cap that is removable. I find Rattan to be the best balance between strength, weight, flexibility and durability. Sometimes on a lark I will carry a dried Yucca staff...amazingly light and surprisingly strong but prone to damage and splits. Thse are good in a pinch as they are disposable and replaceable almost anywhere in New Mexico.
I carry a fairly comprehensive personal survival kit in the fanny pack that I wear or a smaller essentials kit inside a pocket sewn into the crown of my hat.
I hope to meet and get to know many if not all of you in the future, perhaps I can contribute an idea or two as well as learn much from you all.

Edited by kixonrt66 (03/17/07 03:35 AM)

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