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?