Hiking Staffs, Walking Sticks, Trekking Poles
By Steve Gillman
Are hiking staffs longer than walking sticks? What about trekking
poles and hiking sticks? (I had to get all those keywords in
there so you can find this page in the search engines.) Well,
whatever you call them, they are supposed to help your knees
more than anything. This they do well, especially when you are
They also help you keep your balance. You can use them to
defend yourself against wild animals as well. I like to use a
walking stick to rest my head on from time to time. I also use
a walking stick as a monopod for steadying the camera.
Do You Need a Hiking Staff?
What if you don't have knee problems, you are hiking on level
ground, and you prefer to sit down for a break? Then, for you,
perhaps there is no point to using a walking stick. Actually,
I don't use one most of the time. It's just another thing to
Do they save you energy? Well, they take weight off your joints,
but logic says you will also expend more energy over-all if you
are carrying them. I use a hiking staff at times, because my
knees insist, and it is fun to poke at things with it, but it
is not always a necessity. For what it's worth, the "father"
of ultralight backpacking, Ray Jardine, doesn't recommend trekking
Ultralight Trekking Poles and Walking Sticks
If you do want good trekking poles, your options now include
the incredible Bozeman Mountain Works Stix Xls Trekking Poles.
They are made of a high-strength carbon fiber and weigh just
2.7 ounces each! I think that is half the weight of the nearest
competition. You can find them at Backpackinglight.com.
Another option is to make a walking stick along the trail.
I often stop to cut a dead stick, which I use until I lose it
(I always forget my walking stick somewhere-another reason I
don't buy the expensive ones). If I happen to still have it at
the end of the trail, I leave it for the next backpacker. This
is a good lightweight option because even if they aren't as light
as high-tech trekking poles, you can leave them behind when you
no longer need them.
Ski poles are good for trekking. It's probably best if you
remove the baskets, especially if your hiking in wooded areas
where they may catch on something.
Bamboo makes good light hiking staffs. It is stronger than
it looks, so you can use a piece that is only about 3/4"
thick. I bought mine as decorative bamboo at Pier One Imports
(four dollars for three six-foot pieces), and cut it to size.
I glued some soft leather on for a comfortable handgrip.
Related page: Carved Hiking
Sticks - DIY