There are many tools available to the hiker and backpacker, but few are as versatile as a walking stick. On long hiking trips, especially those that take more than one day, a stick will be worth its weight in gold. It can be used as a tool for comfort, as well as a tool for self-defense, and also a tool for meal preparation.
What are the qualities of a good hiking stick? A good stick should be made of a hard wood, such as oak, hickory, maple, or ash. While the traditional walking stick should come up to about waist-level, an ideal hiking stick should come up to chest-level. It should also be easy to grip. A stick too small in diameter will be weak, while a stick too large in diameter will cause fatigue. Here are a few ways you can put a hiking stick to good use.
1. A hiking stick can be used to dry out wet clothing. Simply suspend the stick between two tree crotches and you have an instant clothesline.
2. A hiking stick can be used to suspend a pot over a fire while cooking meals.
3. Hiking sticks can be used in a variety of ways to catch food in a survival situation. Whittle the tip into a point and you have a spear for spear-fishing. You can also keep a few yards of fishing line and some fish hooks in your backpack in order to fashion an emergency fishing rod.
4. A hard and sturdy hiking stick is an effective self-defense tool against wild animals. If you must defend yourself with a stick, do not swing it at your target (it may break). Instead, use it as a spear and target the vulnerable areas of the wild animal such as the ears, eyes, nose, and reproductive organs.
5. A hiking stick will help you wade across streams and rivers.
6. You can hold a hiking stick horizontally (much like a tightrope walker) while hiking over treacherous terrain in order to help you improve your balance.
7. By attaching your belongings to the end of the stick and placing it over your shoulder, you can reduce the irritation sometimes caused by the straps of your backpack.
8. A hiking stick will come in handy in case you sprain or injure your ankle or foot.
9. In a survival situation, you will be able to reach fruits and nuts growing in trees. Without a stick, you would have to climb.
10. If you come across a stream or bog without a visible bottom, a hiking stick is valuable for gauging the water’s depth.
These are just ten examples of the many ways a hiking stick can be used. There are hundreds of other uses as well, which makes the hiking stick one of the most important and versatile items a hiker or backpacker should carry.