When many people think of walking sticks they think geriatrics and say to themselves “I’m not old, I don’t need help walking”. While walking/hiking sticks and canes are a great tool for the elderly to help them steady themselves they are also a great tool to help those who are on or off trail hiking. If you do not hike you may not need one but if you are a hiker or survivalist you definitely should consider adding a walking/hiking stick to your list of tools/equipment. There are many reasons to carry a walking/hiking stick and here are eight good ones to consider:
1. An Extended Arm and/or a Third Leg
When walking/hiking, a hiking stick is like having an extension to your arm and/or a third leg. Just having the stick helps your confidence and stability when traversing terrain on the trail such as fallen trees, rocks, small ditches etc. Being able to reach across an obstacle and provide yourself some additional balance is invaluable when on the trail.
2. Wading and Crossing Water Obstacles
When you encounter a water obstacle such as a stream or even a river on the hiking trail you will want to know the depth as well as have some additional stability when crossing. A walking/hiking stick can play double duty here. You can use your stick to gauge the depth of the water before entering and during your whole traverse of the obstacle. If you are not able to see the ground below the water you will not know what you may encounter.
The walking/hiking stick can also act as a probe to check for slippery rocks, soft silt etc. that may cause additional troubles traversing the water obstacle.
3. A Weapon/Protection
What if the obstacle you encounter on the trail is alive? Be it animal or human a walking/hiking stick can be your first line of defense. I am in no way suggesting we start beating animals or people with our walking/hiking sticks but having one can help if you find yourself threatened while on the trail. As with the other reasons a walking/hiking stick can act as an extension of your arms helping you keep the theat further away. If the threat was only potential, such as a snake, the stick can be used to move the threat out of the way without harming it or yourself in the process. If you didn’t have the stick you would need to waste valuable time to locate something first to defend yourself.
4. Mark Your Route for the Return Trip
If you are hiking an unmarked trail or even off trail a walking/hiking stick can help you with marking your trail. There are other methods for marking your trail and using a walking/hiking stick is one of them. Many sticks that are made out of wood have a metal tip on them that is perfect for scratching a directional arrow on rocks, trees, in the ground etc. Doing so could save your life if you are hiking off trail or on an unmarked trail. Becoming disoriented is one of the top reasons hikers get lost and having this simple tool and markings could help you get yourself back on track and reoriented to your path.
5. Pacing and Stabilizing Yourself
When walking/hiking having a walking/hiking stick can help you set and keep your pace especially if you are bearing a load during your trek. The stick can also help in providing additional stability if you are bearing a load such as a back pack with your supplies for a multi-day hike. Just like having the third leg it can provide you a tool to take some of the load off your weak side or one side of your body that may be tiring quicker. Pace setting is a must when you are out hiking to keep you on schedule. Just the tap of the stick alone can help set your pace by creating a cadence that is almost like a musical beat that helps keep you moving.
6. Clearing Your Way
Not only can a walking/hiking stick provide stability and protection, it can also help you in moving thickets and branches aside. Nothing worse than that old smack in the face by a branch you missed or the person in front of you let rip. Using the stick can help keep those out of your way. Have you ever walked face first into a spider web? Not a great feeling no matter what your inclination is towards spiders. Use your walking/hiking stick to clear those out of the way too and even prevent getting bit by that spider who thinks you are food because you walked into their web. The walking/hiking stick can definitely save your day here.
7. Directional Offset
We all have a tendency to favor our strong side. If you are right handed when traversing obstacles or even just when walking a straight line for a long distance you will be off target in the end. The walking/hiking stick aside you should alternate going around obstacles to the right and left as this will help keep you closer to target. That being said, if you just walked a straight line for a long distance you have a good tendency to be off to the left or right depending on which side you generally favor. Make a conscious effort to use the walking/hiking stick in your weak side hand to help offset this natural tendency to drift.
8. Emergency Crutch
Injury on the trail happens. Nothing worse than injuring your foot or leg while on a hike. Making a crutch from items found out on the trail is a possibility but it could also cost you valuable time especially of the injury is sever. Having a walking/hiking stick that comes up to your arm pit gives you an almost ready-made tool to use as a crutch. Wrap some soft material at the top of the walking/hiking stick and you can use it as a crutch to get you back safely and quickly. If your walking stick is not that tall just having one gives you a tool to help assist stabilizing the injured side and take the load off while you make your trek back.
I have just listed 8 reasons here for a walking/hiking stick but there are many more uses. In an emergency situation it can be used as the primary pole for an emergency shelter, raise a signal for help higher up, provide additional confidence when hiking and many more. As you can see there are many uses and reasons for using a walking/hiking stick on your next hike.
Written by Stephen Faykus of www.gopowergear.com
A long term IT professional and outdoor enthusiast. Military background that truly compliments both professional and personal life. Is very knowledgeable in many areas including outdoor experiences such as hiking, camping, survival etc.