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In all the lists I’ve seen for bug out equipment, I’ve never seen anyone talk about including a walking stick. I guess, since we’re all trying to save weight, adding a walking stick to your pack might seem like a frivolity. Yet adding a walking stick to your bug out bag might make your bug out go a whole lot smoother.
It may seem a bit stranger to add a walking stick to your basic load, especially when you’re trying to carry weapons too. But the two are not mutually exclusive. If you carry your primary weapon across your chest on a sling, your hands are free for walking sticks. Then, if you need your weapon, you can always drop the walking stick and switch over.
I used to do some backpacking in my younger days and I never went on a trip without a good walking stick. For that matter, you’d never catch me going on a hike, even today, without a walking stick. I have one that I whittled from a tree, with a kudzu vine wrapped around the upper part.
Granted, not every hiker or backpacker uses a walking stick and of those that do, not all use a wood one. In fact, the lightweight “trekker poles” are much more common. But I’m a bit of a traditionalist and like my wooden walking stick. Besides, there are things it can do, which those lightweight ones might not work so well for.
Why Use A Walking Stick?
So, what are the advantages of using a walking stick?
- Helps you maintain your balance better, especially on uneven terrain, terrain that provides unsure footing or when going up or down hills.
- Helps you use your upper body to relieve your legs of some of the weight they are carrying, which in turn helps you go farther before you run out of steam.
- It helps protect your knees. As you get older, that becomes more important.
- Improves your posture, which can be a real problem when you’re carrying a heavy pack.
- Helps you walk faster, especially when going downhill.
Different Uses For Walking Sticks
At the same time, there are a bunch of different things which you can do with that walking stick. If you didn’t have it, you’d need to find some other way of doing them.
- Measure the depth of snow in front of you.
- Measure how deep a stream is, before trying to cross it.
- Move poison ivy or other plants aside, so you can walk through.
- Reaching something that may be getting away from you, like a water bottle that’s trying to float out of your grasp.
- It makes a good tent pole, when you don’t have anything else to use.
- While it might be a bit short for it, you can tie a line on it and use it for a fishing pole.
- The quarterstaff, which is nothing more than a stick, makes an effective defensive weapon, especially when dealing with attacking dogs or other animals.
- Good emergency splint, if someone in your party gets injured.
- Use a walking stick to string a clothes line from your shelter, so that you can dry your laundry.
- Makes a pretty good monopod for your camera. I use mine this way all the time.
- You can even attach gear to it, to carry, like hanging your compass or water bottle.
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I think it’s also germane to note that many medieval weapons were “pole arms” which meant some sort of spear, hook or axe head on a pole, much like a walking stick. While Hollywood likes to depict these being 10 feet long, or longer, they were usually about six feet. That’s not an overly excessive length for a wood walking stick; so you could combine your walking stick with some sort of weapon, simply by attaching a knife to use as a spear point.
Types Of Walking Sticks
There are three different categories of walking sticks I’m thinking of here, when I’m talking about this.
Wood Walking Sticks
The classic wood walking stick is a five to six foot long piece of a thin branch or a sapling, generally about 1 ¼ to 1 ½ inch long. Generally speaking, these are whittled by their owners or whittled by a friend. The nice thing about a wood walking stick is that it is personalized. Being made of wood, it’s easy to modify it, making it possible for it to be used for a number of tasks.
Trekking sticks have largely replaced the use of wood walking sticks, at least in the minds of most serious backpackers. They are similar in appearance and construction to ski poles, making them more lightweight than a wood walking stick. They are also usually used in pairs, much like ski poles are. This allows them to work even better at helping support your weight and aiding your balance.
Some trekking sticks are telescoping, which is nice for a bug out bag and some come with interchangeable baskets for use at the point end. This makes the same sticks usable in dry or snowy conditions, allowing you to adapt them to the conditions. Ultimately, trekking sticks are more versatile than a homemade wood walking stick.
There are a number of companies which make axes which are intended for use as breaching tools, breaking down doors in a building clearing, firefighting or rescue operation. I’ve seen military units carry these and thought they would be great for survival as well. Some can be used as walking sticks, as they are essentially the same length as a cane.
The basic design of these looks like an axe with a hollowed-out head. The backside of the axe’s head is a deadblow hammer and the bottom of the handle is a pry bar. So, there are a lot of ways that it would be useful. The problem is in dealing with the weight. You would need something about 30 inches long and a piece of metal that long is going to be fairly heavy, no matter how much they try and make it lightweight.
A Final Thought
Whatever you decide to do, it has to fit in with the rest of your bug out plan and bug out gear. What works for me may not work for you and vice-versa. You’ll want to try this out with your full bug out bag and any other gear that you’re planning on carrying. That’s the only way that you’ll know if it is going to work.
For whatever test you do to be valid, you should make it over rough ground, walking both uphill and down. Those are the times when a walking stick would help the most, and that’s what you need to see. If it doesn’t work for you, no problem. Some people find that they have enough body strength to carry a pack without trouble, even without a walking stick.
Do you have any different uses for a walking stick? Let us know in the comments below.