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Monday, December 7, 2009

Scarecrow's cool tool

(originally posted at the OPN by Scarecrow)

When I lead a group of paying customers into the bush on a survival course or just family & friends on a camping trip, the first order of business after leaving the vehicles is to procure a solid walking stick (Staff). This is not a walking cane that is just 3 feet long but a staff that approaches 55-60 inches in length from tip to tip.

From a practical point of view a walking stick helps reduce the effort required to put one foot in front of the other on a long hike. A solid staff helps support the weight of your pack and improves your balance on uneven terrain. A walking stick is a real advantage when travelling down hill or crossing a river/creek.

A walking stick has a multitude of uses. You can use one as a support post for an improvised tarp shelter, you can lash a knife to one end and you have a spear that makes for a very effective offensive/defensive weapon against large animals. Without a knife attached, your walking stick can still function as a useful defensive weapon against animals and other people. A long stick is great for poking over and under logs and into brush piles before stepping on that poisonous snake. If you were to fall through the ice while crossing a body of frozen water in the winter, your walking stick should provide you enough support and leverage to pull yourself out of the water unaided. You can use your walking stick to tell time and determine direction if you lose your compass or break your gps. A couple of walking sticks can be used as poles for an improvised stretcher if someone in your party becomes injured and needs to be carried. A stick of a known length (and some basic math skills) is a great way to measure things such as height and slope off in the distance or even up close. If you have a walking stick with you, you always have a fishing rod - if you thought to bring some line and a hook...

When I'm out walking at night, I usually have my walking stick with me. I'll admit that to the uninformed I look a little out of place walking down the street with a 55 inch stick in hand - kind of like Moses leading the masses... but to date no one has yet asked me for my ipod. When I'm not walking, my hiking stick is in my car with my "get home" kit.

You never know when a good stick will come in handy. I'm not a big fan of hi-tech trekking poles because I don't do the type of activities they were designed for, but these will work and are much better than no hiking stick at all. I prefer a wooden walking stick. It feels solid and comforting in my hand. Walking sticks are free to make while passing some idle time in the bush. A good walking stick should come up to your shoulder when one end is on the ground. A circumference of 1.25 to 2 inches is about right. Small enough to grasp comfortably, thick enough so as to not easily break, but not so thick that you feel as though you are carrying a log. Hardwoods are better than softwoods when you have a choice.

So far, a walking stick isn't considered a weapon and you can still take a walking stick on the bus. With a little bit of training and some practice, a good stick is all you need to deter all but the most determined gun carrying thugs you might encounter while you are out and about. A walking stick is a great example of a multiuse survival tool for good times and bad.

[What have you done today to prepare?]