Walking sticks are like old friends, someone you can lean on when the going gets tough. I have used all types and of course this blog would always recommend making one instead of buying one but lets look at the facts.

The stick my son is holding is one of four I made from a single sapling. The small tree was damaged and was sure to be rotten on the forest floor if left untouched, so I touched it. It yielded two adult and two smaller walking sticks. The damaged section of the sapling was cut out and the bark partially stripped off to help dry it but still allowing it to keep some natural gripping surface and character. The tops or thick end of the sticks were cut on a slight angle to give it a semi sharp edge for both fending off trail dogs and to give the stick that rough rustic look. I like to cut walking sticks long enough to come to my shoulder or so. Some may think this too long but the first fumble that has you landing chin first on your stick will wise you up...but fast! The added length helps with stream crossings and boulder jumping as well.

As a family, we are in the habit of naming our walking sticks (old friends as they are) giving your stick a name ensures it wont be left behind at some trail side rest stop or watering hole. You just don't do things like that to your friends.....WILSON! I have a rafter full of retired old friends that I now use as loaners for guest hikers, it saves us from having to cut new sticks. Always treat your walking stick with respect, they are not for swinging at underbrush or using as ball bats to send stones out over the valley, and especially they are not for sword play. I put rubber bumpers on the bottoms of my walking sticks for three really good reasons, it protects the bottom from splitting with use, it improves their grip on smooth/slippery surfaces and it keeps em quite. I hate that tap tap sound in my head all weekend.

If you must move up to a "Trekking pole" you are indeed on a slippery slope. These things come in so many colors and styles it can drive you nuts.

I've seen poles that have price tags that would make your head spin, $80, $100, $150 dollars and for what? Lets look at this a bit closer. What we basically have here is an aluminium pole either one piece or in sections, with a comfortable grip and a toughened contact point such as hard rubber at it's base. Most of these are removable to expose a metal (usually carbide) bit that can dig into the ground/rock/ice without dulling too quickly. A simple leash completes the package to keep you from dropping the thing as you maneuver over broken terrain.

Some have snow baskets like ski Poles (ski poles make nice walking sticks, x-country is best) to retard the pole penetration into snow pack. Some have twist locking section while others have clamping parts. I've even seen one that sported an ice axe head for self arrest..........as if. They all have the same use, balance and traction! That's it!

Really that's it.

If you want to claim they give you better radio reception or make good tent supports .....go for it. I guess they might. They might do a load of things they were never really designed to do but so will the tire iron in the trunk of my car, lets not over think one of the no brainer tools you could buy (make) all the extras like "shock absorbers and Compasses are Kool but truly unnecessary..........balance and traction, that's it.

My telescopic poles cost about $25 a pair and are great for moving over snow/ice and do a nice job at that price. So they came from a no name company sold in my local MART store not Switzerland or England. They sport no big adventure internationally recognised name. Its about function people not a fashion show.

Unless you are in a survival situation, you should never super load your collapsible trekking poles. They are not meant for that, remember balance and traction. If you need more then that from a walking stick either cut a bigger one or go back for the tire iron.

Safe Travels