A SCOUT STAFF, by Robert Baden-Powell
“The Scout staff is a useful addition to the kit of the Scout. Personally, I have found it an invaluable assistant when traversing mountains or boulder-strewn country and especially in night work in forest or bush. Also, by carving upon it various signs representing his achievements, the staff gradually becomes a record as well as a treasured companion to the Scout.
“The Scout staff is a strong stick about as high as your nose, marked in feet and inches for measuring. The staff is useful for all sorts of things, such as making a stretcher, keeping back a crowd, jumping over a ditch, testing the depth of a river, keeping in touch with the rest of your Patrol in the dark. You can help another Scout over a high wall if you hold your staff horizontally between your hands and make a step for him; he can then give you a hand from above. Several staves can be used for building a light bridge, a hut or a flag staff. There are many other uses for the staff. In fact, you will soon find that if you don’t have your staff with you, you will always be wanting it. If you get the chance, cut your own staff. But remember to get permission first.”
Stave, stick, staff or pole, whichever name you choose, one of these make hiking more easy and fun. The Scout staff has long been part of Scouting and a natural part of hiking and backpacking.
I did not know about Scout staves in Scouting until I was an adult (in the late 1970’s). BSA introduced them as part of Brown Sea Double Two training. They were an immediate hit with me and others in our area.
Back then, we helped Scouts customize their staves in a variety of ways. They attached nylon cord to use for grip and emergency cordage. They are quite practical for teaching lashings, especially when every Scout has one. The myriad camp gadgets (see The Useful Scout Stave) you can make with them makes camp life easier without the old tradition of cutting saplings.
Larry Green writes, “For those interested in starting a pioneering program in their unit, it’s often suggested that one of the first things to procure is a supply of Scout Staves. The BSA Supply Division’s Scout Hiking Staff is still the best deal on the market for Scout Staves. Item: Number 1443 on scoutstuff.org
- They’re very practical for teaching lashings.
- They can be used for a variety of involving and fun interpatrol competitions and Scout meeting challenges
- They’re exceedingly useful on outings”
Baden-Powell, Scouting’s founder, suggested that a good staff should come to a Scout’s nose. Scouts can represent their accomplishments in its carvings and as B-P wrote, use it in, “making a stretcher, keeping back a crowd, jumping over a ditch, testing the depth of a river, keeping in touch with the rest of your patrol in the dark” and more.
A thick, heavy rubber band near the handle has many uses. Peep holes drilled at right angles to each other can be used to lay out a 90º corner. The same peephole, surprisingly works as a focusing tool something like a telescope. Brass tacks at one foot intervals make it a yardstick; mark the last foot with one inch intervals by notching the wood, and you will have a ruler. Wrap 50 feet of fishing line and a fish hook around the pole and cover with duct tape, both could be useful in many situations.
But walking and hiking is where the Scout stave finds itself most often nowadays. As a trail companion, you will enjoy hiking with it. For example, Darrell Hookey, in ExploreNorth writes: “Nature walks are to be enjoyed by all the senses. And there is nothing like a wooden walking stick to send gentle signals from the ground to the fingertips. Sometimes the wump of a stick hitting the ground, tapping out a cadence, is the only sound you will hear. …Yet a stick tossed forward, slipping in the fingers a couple of centimetres as the opposite foot hits the ground only every other time, is a pleasant stroll.”I like mine wooden, but these days many hikers take to aluminum or telescoping, carbon-fiber hiking poles.
A pair of these can make the trail a bit more high tech and they are usually just as good as a walking stick. However, these are super lightweight and pack away easily when you don’t need them. So while wood is for me, you might like to try something more modern.
A sturdy staff is a hiking essential for many Scouts, especially on rough terrain with a pack or when fording a stream. They let your arms get into the act, so you cover ground more easily and they are great for balance when traversing hillside or carrying heavy loads. They even work to rest on when en route.
Do you use a walking stick, and what does it say about you as a hiker?