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Essential Facts you Need to Know About Walking Sticks and Trekking Poles

Updated on December 20, 2015

Gorilla Using a Stick for Balance While Crossing a River


History of the Walking Stick

Walking sticks have been used as a crutch, an offensive and defensive weapon, as a fashion accessory and also as a status symbol. Mankind have been using walking sticks for a variety of reasons from before written history.

Surprisingly, even animals have been known to use a piece of wood as a walking stick. The picture above, illustrates this perfectly, as a gorilla uses a stick for balance and possibly to measure the depth of the water.

What is a Walking Stick

The traditional definition of a walking stick was a piece of wood, used to help a person maintain their balance while walking, and while this may have originally been its intended use, walking sticks have also been used as offensive or defensive weapons, walking sticks have been known to conceal everything from blades to a single projectile gun inside them. Even without a blade or gun concealed inside, in trained hands a walking stick can be a formidable weapon (re: Escrima a Filipino martial art that uses sticks).

Very Traditional Design

My old Walking Stick
My old Walking Stick | Source

Walking Sticks Help People With Disabilities.

People with disabilities use a walking stick to for balance and to support their weaker side, and even though it seems counter productive, they generally hold the stick on the stronger side of their bodies and lean on it. While this may not be true for everyone, I have found that the majority of people who need to use a walking stick seem to follow this rule.

Walking Sticks Names

Modern walking sticks go by many names trekking sticks, trek poles, pilgrims staffs and Nordic walking sticks and walking cane are a few of the common names.

A longer walking stick was generally referred to as a walking staff or pole, and has been in use for centuries, both for support and as was common in those days, to ward of wild animals and protect herds of domesticated animals such as sheep and cattle.

Anti Shock Systems

Anti Shock System
Anti Shock System | Source

Modern Walking Stick Design

Modern walking sticks come with a few standard amenities, adjustable length, a strap, rubber grip, suspension system (springs), some higher end models even come with a variety of removable tips for different terrains.

Most are light weight and strong enough to support a hefty persons weight.

Traditional and Modern Materials Used to Make a Walking Stick

Walking sticks (trekking Poles) have been made from various types of wood and synthetic materials. Some of the more common materials used are;

Rattan – durable, flexible, a very common material for a walking stick.

Supple jack – a climbing plant that makes a good walking stick, also called a rattan vine, even though it is in no way related to the Asian rattan palm.

Ash tree – A walking stick made from an ash tree is called an ashplant stick.

Hercules plant – is referred to as a devil's walking stick.

European Cornel – is a good dense wood that makes an excellent walking stick. This wood is often used for crafting into tool handles. It’s an extremely durable and tough wood.

Yew wood – famous for being shaped into bows, but has also been used to craft beautiful walking sticks.

Carbon fiber – light weight but expensive, many of the most expensive trekking poles are made from carbon fiber.

Aluminum – a little bit heavier then carbon fiber, make sure you get a good, high grade aluminum trekking pole, the cheaper ones tend to bend if not snap in half when a hefty persons weight is applied to them.

Titanium – extremely durable, but heavier than some of the other modern materials, well worth the price if weight is not a consideration.

Walking Sticks

What kind of Walking stick do you prefer to use while hiking ?

See results

A Simple Walking Stick

Natural Design
Natural Design | Source

What Kind of Walking Stick Should I Buy?

There is no simple answer to this question; there are many variables that need to be taken into consideration. I have a variety of walking sticks, from the decorative to the utilitarian models, I also own a variety of modern trekking poles, and have found a use for all of them at one time or another.

Modern Walking Sticks with all the Frills

Taking a Break
Taking a Break | Source

Misc Uses for a Trekking Pole on a Hike or Jungle Trek

A few things you can use your trekking pole for while out and about.

Measuring the depth of a river or water crossing

As a splint for an injured limb

As a makeshift pole to hang a material like plastic or cloth, this can be used to make quick flag for signaling or a temporary shelter (makeshift tent).

As a balancing device while crossing rivers or streams (slippery rocks are a serious hazard).

To move brush aside safely, it is better to use a stick/pole then to use your hands or feet, who knows what wildlife lurks in the brush (snakes, skunks, etc).

As a crutch if you sprain your ankle.

In an emergency situation having a trekking pole handy is a smart move.


February 13, 1922. Washington, D.C. "Unidentified woman." Holding a "tipping cane" also known as a "cane flask" during Prohibition.
February 13, 1922. Washington, D.C. "Unidentified woman." Holding a "tipping cane" also known as a "cane flask" during Prohibition. | Source

Tipplers (A Fun Walking Stick)

This has gone out of fashion, but it was popular during the 1900's, tippling canes or cane flasks, walking sticks with hollowed out tops that had flasks of alcohol concealed inside them.

Walking Sticks as a Fashion Accessory.

While not as popular as it was in the past, walking sticks are still used as a fashion accessory by some.

Ornately decorated with silver or gold plate, semi precious stones and decorative carvings, an elegant walking stick will stand out in a crowd.

Walking Sticks as Symbols of Status.

Decorative Walking Sticks/Staffs have been and are still being used as symbols of a persons status.

Most notably the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches.

Health Benefits of Using a Walking Stick

Takes Pressure off your back.

Helps to support weak legs/knees

Builds upper body strength when walking or hiking

A Collector of Walking Sticks is Known as a Rabologist

Many rabologists limit their collections to antique walking sticks, as they find the modern versions to be gaudy and lacking in class.

© 2013 ketage


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    • ketage profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Croatia

      Thanks Kenneth, I have always loved collecting sticks, since my dad gave me an unusual piece of wood that was naturally pure black in color, it is very short about a foot long and about as think as my index finger, yet i could not bend it or break it, even over my knee. As I grew older, I kind of graduated to walking sticks :)

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama


      Great hub. Fantastic text and graphics. I admire your talent. Voted up and away.

      Keep the great hubs coming.

    • ketage profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Croatia

      Hello Dewahoki, It is a Gorilla, bigger then orang utan, I have shaken an orang utans hands in Zoo Negara Malaysia, a very memorable experience, I am not sure if i would be up to shaking the hands of a full grown gorilla.

      I am guessing you play Hockey, Dewa Hoki :)

    • dewahoki profile image


      5 years ago from indonesia

      wow gorilla ,,,, or what's that?? like orang utan in my country indonesia - kalimantan


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