ESSENTIAL SKILLS

How to Make a Hiking Stick: Your Trusty Companion in the Wild

How to Make a Hiking Stick
Sean Nelson
Written by Sean Nelson

Are you planning to go for a hike? If your answer is yes, then you have to know that you will be visiting a shared territory. There are wild animals and plants. In fact, you need to know that there are no designated roads in some areas.

You may need to duck under the bushes and push through a thick flora, move along thick grass jump across rivers, walk on rocks and so on. In this case, knowing how to make a hiking stick makes all the difference.

In such kind of a territory, you need to observe some two important rules. So what are these rules?

  1. You shall not forsake your companion
  2. Remember rule number one above.

So do you know your companion? Oh, it is your hiking stick.

Man hiking on rocks

Have you ever imagined that sometimes poor network coverage can render your phone irrelevant in the jungle? You cannot make a phone call. You cannot access Facebook or Twitter. You cannot send text messages. So what do you do?

You find your way out of the jungle. Under these circumstances, only your hiking stick can be of help to you. A hiking stick is essential and that is why you need to know how to devise a hiking stick.

Making your own hiking stick is one of the best experience that you can have prior to beginning your hike. It is the gateway to a hike. But why should you make your hiking stick rather have someone make it for you or just buy one from a friend or from the nearest shops if available?

Well, there is a great value in making it yourself.  First, you will learn. Secondly, you will have it exactly as you want it, light or heavy and with the right height. So are you ready to make yours? Simply follow the steps below.

Step 1: Have the appropriate tools in place

Have the necessary tools in place. Just like any trade, tools are very important and will make work easier. Making a hiking stick will require tools. A fisherman needs a hook or a net, a farmer needs a hoe, a writer needs a pen and paper or a computer and in this case, you will need a machete, a pocket knife and a file.

Pocket knife

These are very important ones but to add more polish, you can use sand paper, paint thinner, a rag or a handkerchief. Each of these tools has specific roles.

They say a bad workman quarrels his tools. Do not fall into this trap and have all your tools in good shape. Sharpen your machete and pocket knife, have a good file and a good sand paper to ensure that you work with ease. A well-sharpened machete will cut through the wood easily, reducing the effort you spend and your work will be neat.

Step two: Search for the correct type of wood

Your hiking stick is going to be of help to you in various ways, so you have to make sure that your choice of wood is right. Your hiking stick will help you cover long distances in the jungle without getting fatigued, it will help you wade through rushing streams, test their depth and move among rocks. It is your best companion at such a time. The choice of wood will determine how easy you go through the whole hike.

In choosing the type of wood, go for hardwood with closed grains. A good example is a maple; you can find others that are within your vicinity.  Some species such as oak have open grains, however it can still work well where you do not have the likes of maple.

Maple-Tree

Take time and comb through your local forest. Search for the best hardwood. Let it be a straight one. The length of the stick should be long enough to reach your armpit. Let the diameter measure around 2 inches. It should not have cracks as these may cause lines of weakness that may lead to breakage.

Opt for a smooth stick if you can get one. It will give you an easy time when it comes to shaping. Avoid dry sticks. They are not strong enough and most of the time they break under pressure. Avoid picking sticks that you find in the forest because there is a high chance there are some parts that are rotten. Go for fresh sticks.

Take into consideration the weight of the stick as well. While it’s an undisputed fact that a hiking stick is a must in a hike, you can’t just choose any stick. Ensure you get a stick with the right weight. You do not want to add more luggage on yourself.

You are looking for something that will make your feel comfortable so choose the correct weight that you are comfortable with. Once you have found one, use your machete to cut it down. Remember, you need to cut it down from near the root but just slightly above the ground. This is important as it will help you avoid wasting the strongest part of the stick.

Cut branch

Step three:  Processing the stick

Now that you have the correct stick, let’s get down to processing it. Having cut the stick at the bottom part just slightly above the ground gives you a manageable size. Measure the stick and ensure it is of good length. Let it be long enough to reach your armpit.

Mark it and cut off the extra piece. The length is important. Assuming you want to test the depth of the water, would you need a shorter hiking stick or a long one? Definitely, you will need a long one. So cut it appropriately.

Trimming rough edges

Begin by trimming the end points of the stick. This is where the trimming process begins. Before you remove the bark, prune the twigs and trim the end points. This is because they are the potential areas for cracks to occur.

A crack that starts at the end points can run through the stick and divide it into two pieces. This makes the end points the most delicate parts to deal with. However, there’s no need to be alarmed. Just make sure you trim it carefully. Proper trimming ensures that the lifespan of your hiking stick is longer.

Trimming

Using your pocket knife, remove twigs from your stick. Remove the bark as well. It helps to make sure that any poisonous material that might have gotten stuck on the stick is removed. The wilderness is a shared territory, the stick you found may have been a habitat for some poisonous insects.

So by removing the bark, you are simply taking precaution. Removing the bark also helps in giving the stick a polished look. Besides, it adds more smoothness for easy handling.

The points where you removed the twigs must have that rough texture. This is where your file comes in. Use it to smooth the rough edges. You can do this by moving the file to and fro upon the rough surfaces until it gives a smooth texture. Remember to do this gently until it smooths out.

Remove residual sawdust

While you are using the file on your stick, you will see that there are residual sawdust. These fine pieces of sawdust can cause irritation especially if you are allergic to elements such as dust. Do not let this put you off.  It is part of the process of making your hiking stick and it is pretty simple to deal with.

Sawdust

So how do you handle that? Simply take a rag or a handkerchief, dip it slightly in a paint thinner and use it to wipe gently upon the surface of your stick. If you do not have a paint thinner, you can simply use water and the result will be the same. This is especially helpful if you are making a stick in the wild where a paint thinner is not accessible.

Decorating the stick

A slight decoration will give your hiking stick a more attractive look. This gives your stick its own identity and perhaps its sentimental value is increased as well. Then with a few carvings here and there, you can really transform the look of your hiking stick. Or you can even use paint, emblems, anything that enhances the beauty and looks beautiful to you.

Remember beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. So find what you like. Just remember not to chop the stick in the process of decorating it. This creates weak points that may lead to breakage. You can still make it look great without having to chop some parts of it away.

However if you must chop off parts of the stick in order to improve its look, it’s better not to because the stability and durability of the stick is your utmost priority. The look is only secondary.

Decorated wooden sticks

Curing the stick

After cutting the stick, it’s safe to say that it is still green inside. In order to cure it appropriately, put it in a warm place and allow it to dry. Remember to rotate it constantly. This is important as it will prevent bowing. You can dry it for a couple of days and there is no specific number of days as it will depend on the actual temperature.

However, a hiking stick can be made and used the same day. You can allow it to cure with time as you use it. If you are already hiking, there is no need to put it aside to cure since you can begin using it straight away. However, assuming that you are not in a hurry, you can proceed to the next step below.

Varnishing the stick

Now that you have a smooth, good looking hiking stick, your last and final step in the processing stage will varnishing. There are numerous varnishes you can use. For this matter, choose the kind of varnish that is waterproof, thick and not very glossy. Varnish that features these qualities work best.

Varnishing

If you cannot find a good quality varnish, you can simply apply two coats of wood stain. However, be sure to allow each coating to dry overnight for the best results. Once these coatings dry up, you can finalize the making of your hiking stick by using a very soft sandpaper to make it even smoother.

For the Last Touches

Up to this stage, your hiking stick should be as good as finished. In fact, you could use it now if you want to. However, you may choose to add one last thing: an end cap. Why would you need an end cap?

An end cap works like a horseshoe. In some hiking areas, the terrain can present quite a challenge. Moving among rocks causes wear and tear more quickly than you can ever imagine. The best way to manage that is by having an end cap that will protect the end point that will be in contact with the ground so often.

Rubber cap

In choosing an end cap, go for the rubber end cap. Plastic ones may break in the middle of the hike. Rubber end caps can be polished using a shoe polish. Polishing does not only make it shine and look great but it also keeps the snakes at bay. Snakes hate the smell of shoe polish. This may seem like an insignificant detail but it’s always nice to know that you have a handy snake repellent with your hiking stick.

Final Thoughts

With these tips, you should well-equipped to create you very own hiking stick. Are you ready now? Then take your first adventurous step, get your hands on your tools, step into the woods and begin the process of making your own hiking stick.

Along with your hiking gear and equipment, a hiking stick is a great addition to your outdoor arsenal. Plus, making your own stick is a great experience in itself. Simply follow these steps and you’ll be fine.

Hiking with a stick

Do you think a hiking stick is essential when hiking? Have you made one before? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sean Nelson
Sean Nelson

Sean was backpacking since he was 7. He was born close to the RMNP and his father was a ranger, so life surrounded by mountains and wildlife is a norm for Colorado. He likes to explore, but prefers to stay in USA. In his opinion, there are too many trails and options in US to go abroad.

  • Amanda Bringman

    I haven’t had the time (yet) to put together my own walking stick, but these directions make it seem pretty simple. How long does it take? And if I wanted to buy a stick, what would be a good buy? I’ve kind of had my eye on the Vaikeen brand because they seem strong and flexible. Thoughts on those (or any others???)

  • Sean Nelson

    Hello Amanda! If you have the time for this DIY hiking stick, then you’ll do just fine. If not, opting to buy a ready-made stick is still ok. We’ve had lots of requests on DIY projects that save money and this is an article that addresses just that.
    For the best hiking poles, why not see an article in this site. Check this one out:
    http://backpackingmastery.com/top-picks/best-hiking-poles.html

  • Steve Roman

    To me, a good hiking stick is essential. I’ve never made my own, but do love the Leki Micro Vario TI Core-Tec Trekking Poles I bought this year. They’re lightweight and very easy to open and close and lock into place.

  • Sean Nelson

    Hi there Steve and thanks for your comment. If you’re not the crafty one, then by all means, you can buy a hiking stick. These are great for added support when going up a hill or a mountain. It also gives you balance, which I think is important for persons with a lot of things to carry.

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