It seems to me that we have two kinds of hiker. One uses manufactured Hiking Poles while the other prefers Sticks That Are Lying About On The Ground (or STALAG for short).
I fall into the second category. I’ve tried Hiking Poles twice and was disappointed twice. The first time I was wading up-hill through a snow drift when one of the poles buckled and bent itself out of shape, fat lot of use that was.
The second time almost exactly the same thing happened, this time in thick, gooey mud, and both sticks ended up bent out of shape and later dumped into a rubbish bin near Cromer beach.
I’ve not suffered the same disappointment with STALAG poles though.
When I went hiking in the Pyrenees last summer I spent quite a lot of time just sitting about whittling and carving my hiking stick.
I found my hiking stick in a wood, pulled it out from the undergrowth and broke, and then cut, it down to size.
I found the effort of working the wood to be very calming and satisfying, a nice way to spend some time when resting during or after a days walking.
You can see the stick in the picture on the left.
There are a number of (probably spurious) reasons why, in my experience, Sticks That Are Lying About On The Ground are superior to hiking poles.
So, what are the pros and cons of STALAGs?
1) Quite quick to find, usually lying about the place waiting to be picked up.
2) Easily to adjust. Break the stick down until the correct length is found, use a knife for precision
3) STALAGs are free!
4) No extra cost when you want to upgrade to the next model
5) Fun and relaxing. Spend time whittling and crafting designs on your stick, make it uniquely yours.
6) Protection from vicious looking dogs and other beasties (and possibly hoodlums). Yes, a hiking pole waved vigorously about might just discourage a dog. On the other hand, a thumping great five foot long STALAG will definitely give the mutt cause to think twice before tearing a chunk out of your leg.
7) Great for aspiring Ninjas or Aikido practioners, keep your moves sharp and fluid while hiking down the trail
8) Eco-friendly: 100% recyclable, no fossil fuels used
9) Easily replaceable if lost or broken
10) Can be used for firewood in desperate situations
11) You don’t look like a lost skier
1) STALAGS are generally a tiny bit heavier than hiking poles
2) You could be mistaken for Gandalf
3) Er…that’s about it
So there you go, a rigorous scientific examination of hiking poles versus Sticks That Are Lying About On The Ground.
What do you use and why?
8 thoughts on “Hiking Poles versus Sticks That Are Lying About On The Ground (STALAGs)”
Better to cut a green stick. Still free, but less likely to snap on you. I carry trekking pole and a staff alike. Rigging my tarp can use both…
Advantage of trek poles is they weigh nothing at all.
Sticks are holy.
Oh yes, you’re right about green sticks, I shoulda mentioned that. And yes, agreed, sticks are holy : )
Nice post and I particularly enjoyed reason 6. I’ve actually had to do this and not having my proper poles with me ( I was orienteering and they tend to get in the way) I was forced to resort to a STALAG to beat the savage mutt to death. However, in this situation the weight of a STALAG does mean that the efficiency and speed of the clubbing action is retarded, thereby exposing the operator to additional canine attack risk. So in short, it’s the usual trade off between cheap, heavy, “does what it says on the tin” functionality and the more expensive lightweight and agile option.
Yes, you’re right it is a balance but the weight of the STALAG in my hand when confronted with possibly dangerous doggie is reassuring compared to the featherweight touch of a metal pole.
Only advantage with sticks is you don’t have to pay extra to put your poles in the hold when travelling abroad on cheapo airlines.
though I guess you could hide the poles up your trouser legs, or something ; )
Assuming there is a convenient source of green wood nearby 🙂 then wood sticks are good. It’s interesting that I always felt like a plonker when you finf yourself in a big town with a large wooden pole!
Haha, I do like this comparison. Personally I have collapsible trekking poles as they weigh pretty much nothing but I do like a good stick sometimes too. It is one of my life ambitions to whittle a virgin STALAG into a usable and personalised walking stick for when all this walking finally pops my knees out of my legs for good.