Tactical walking sticks offer the prepper or outdoor adventurer a way to trade the conventional walking stick carved from a hardwood tree branch for something far more versatile and useful, and oftentimes with less weight.
Modern technology and innovation has offered a wide array of different walking sticks that can fit different individuals’ needs and budgets. Many of these walking sticks are so versatile they can eliminate the need to carry gear that would otherwise have to go into a backpack. They can be thought of as the Swiss Army Knife of walking sticks.
I’ll cover a variety of the different choices available online, the pros and cons of each, and what makes each one unique; but let’s start with making the case why you should consider upgrading your walking pole to something more… tactical.
Why Hikers and Senior Citizens Carry Walking Sticks
Hikers and seniors use walking sticks because they know they help with walking balance and stability. And there are plenty of studies that support this.
A study on ankle fractures sustained at Snowdonia National Park found that:
Encouraging the use of walking poles particularly at the time of descending may help to reduce the incidence of ankle fractures in hill walkers.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19635422/
Another study on the effects of hiking downhill using trekking poles while carrying external loads (pay attention preppers with heavy bug out backpacks), concluded that:
A reduction in the forces, moments, and power around the joint, with the use of poles, will help reduce the loading on the joints of the lower extremity.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17218900/
Yet another study on trekking poles used during mountain walking
Trekking poles reduce [rate of perceived exertion] RPE on mountain ascents, reduce indices of muscle damage, assist in maintaining muscle function in the days after a mountain trek, and reduce the potential for subsequent injury.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20473229/
Downhill hiking causes the muscles of the legs to both lengthen and contract at the same time. This is known as an eccentric contraction, and it’s known for causing muscle soreness. If that muscle soreness gets too bad, you can end up with an increased reaction time and an increased risk of injury. Trekking poles reduce the odds this soreness happens in the first place.
These are but a few of the hiker and senior-specific reasons that they regularly use trekking poles. But what about the prepper? There are plenty of reasons seniors should prep, and plenty of reasons preppers should consider tactical walking sticks.
Advantages for the Prepper in a Bug Out
Bugging out necessitates moving through dense brush and uneven, rough terrain. This is prime territory for a fall, especially when you combine it with carrying a 35+ pound pack on your back. But it’s not just fall prevention that makes the case for carrying trekking poles when you’re bugging out.
While trekking poles give all the above-listed benefits to the prepper as well, there are a few other advantages of interest when bugging out.
For starters, a trekking pole decreases the metabolic cost of hiking up very steep terrain. This means you won’t burn as many calories hiking inclines. Considering that in a bug out situation you’re going to need to conserve as many calories as possible since you can only carry so much food on your back, this is a big benefit.
In addition, those that use poles find that they have a lower rating of perceived exertion when they do, meaning they don’t have as hard of a time hiking up the mountain compared to those without poles. This is something to consider if you’re looking at a potential Long Walk Home style situation.
You have to remember pain levels as well. If there are people in your family who are not in the best of shape, or if you have bad knees, trekking poles have been touted as a means to help these people to trek downhill with minimal damage to the cartilage in their needs.
Lastly, consider that tactical walking sticks and staffs are some of the oldest self-defense tools that can be found in every culture on the planet. If you find yourself in a situation where you cannot gain fast access to your firearm, you lost your firearm, or whatever, a tactical walking stick some means of protection.
Buyer’s Guide: What to Look For
When you go out looking for a tactical walking stick, there are a few key factors that you’re going to want to keep in mind.
You have to make sure that the walking stick will be tall enough to work for you. The taller you are, the taller the stick needs to be. Hikers typically measure for a trekking pole by standing up with their arms hanging to their sides and then – with the elbows pinned at the sides – bringing their forearms up parallel to the ground. A stick that will reach from the floor to the hand (when in this position) will suffice for a walking stick.
However, that’s an all-purpose guide mostly for flat terrain. If you are climbing up you will likely need a shorter stick. If you’re climbing down, you might need a longer one. The ideal walking stick for varied terrain is one with an adjustable height.
Many tactical walking sticks feature special tools and other options that will aid you in different tasks. What features you want with your walking stick will depend on you and your situation, but most all of them include a fire striker and a compass.
You want to make sure that the tactical stick you are buying is made of quality materials. Nobody wants to use a rod of cork for a staff, because they inherently understand that it would just crumble. That’s not what you want to happen when you’re trying to descend a wet, slippery slope. So, make sure you’re buying quality made equipment.
Many of the tactical walking sticks I’ve featured here are manufactured from aircraft-grade aluminum, which is both strong and lightweight.
The wallet always speaks when shopping, and you have to make sure that you listen to it. Finding a trekking pole that fits within your budget. Spend too much and you will have less money for other preps.
5 Best Tactical Walking Sticks
1 – Best as a Weapon: Blowgun Walking Stick
Whether it’s knives, axes, or spears, Cold Steel makes quality products, and their blowguns are no exception to the rule. This blowgun doubles as a walking stick, or, it’s a walking stick that doubles as a blowgun.
It features a newly designed grip with integral mouthpiece and hand-guard for extra comfort both when shooting the Blowgun and using it as a hiking staff.Cold Steel
There’s no way that you would be able to hide what this actually is, but in a true bug out situation, you’re likely not going to care about that. For those who are uncomfortable with firearms or who are too young for them or who just want a “silent” option to take down prey or use as a self-defense weapon in a pinch, this may prove to be an acceptable compromise.
- Made of highest quality material
- Manufacturer: Cold Steel
Primitive hunting master Tim Wells, has actually used this blowgun to take down a wide variety of wild game, so this blowgun can definitely pack a punch. There’s an image of him sitting beside a black bear floating around online that he killed with nothing more than a blowgun dart.
Speaking of darts, you get plenty of them when you purchase this blowgun as well. If you’re looking for a silent means of taking out game close to the campsite as you bug out in the wild, this is definitely a walking stick/blowgun combination that you’re going to want to think about.
2 – Most Budget Friendly: WELLDO Tactical Walking Stick
You’re not going to break the bank reaching for this. Following the typical screw-on aluminum tube design, you get five separate tubes that combine for a staff that has a maximum 51” in length.
- VERSATILE TOOLS: Ten in one versatile tool are included in this slim tactical walking stick. There is whistle, fire starter, a straight edge blade, saw, compass, lanyard, spear head, ice breaker, non-slip tip and bottle opener.
- TUNGSTEN STEEL TIP AND LANYARD: The non-slip tip is made from tungsten steel, so these portable hiking sticks are very wearable. Tooth shape designed at the bottom of the tip will provide more resistance. A lanyard can prevent the trekking pole slip off from hand and make your journey free of worry.
Ten different survival tools are included with this tactical walking stick as well: the walking stick itself, a whistle, fire starter, straight edge blade, saw, compass, lanyard, spear head, ice breaker, and bottle opener.
While the stick is rather hefty, don’t expect the compass to be more than Chinesium, and some have pointed out that you’re likely going to want to wear gloves with this stick or create some type of handle wrap as the hand area is nothing but metal.
If you have your own compass though (which you should), and aren’t opposed to working around the handle, this could be a very functional tactical walking stick to take with you.
3 – Most Packable: Prime Adventure Tactical Survival Hiking Stick
This isn’t the cheapest tactical walking stick out there, but it is one of the most packable. Comprised of six different screw-on aluminum tubes, each nestles into a canvas waist bag so you can get the whole stick put together when you need it most.
Each aluminum tube contains a survival-related tool. You get a glass breaker, an ice cone, a Phillips/flathead screwdriver, a harpoon, whistle, fire starter, compass, knife, bottle opener, and more (a total of 15 tools).
- INDESTRUCTIBLE: Unbreakable machined aluminum alloy 6061-T6 is strong enough to hold a person's weight and can withstand any situation.
- WORTH EVERY PENNY: This tactical staff is designed to combine $100's of dollars of multiple tools into a functional alternative.
If you’re trying to keep your pockets as free as possible, or are concerned about finding yourself in a bug out situation, this will serve as an extra source of insurance. Even if you’re just hiking out in the woods with friends, this stick helps ensure that you always at least have something with you.
The only negative with this stick is that the glass breaker pointed tip works great when you’re out hiking in the woods, but the stick is likely to mar floors that you walk on. A rubber tip is included, so you’re going to have to make sure to reinstall that if you want to use this while inside as well.
4 – Most Unassuming: Blackhorn Irish Shillelagh Walking Stick
Unless you’re trekking in Great Britain, few would recognize the iconic Irish shillelagh. This was a common walking stick used by the Irish as a self-defense tool in times past, after the English banned weapons. There are books written on how to defend yourself with these walking sticks. They’re incredibly strong, but also have a bit of flexibility to it when swung to hit a target.
- AUTHENTIC IRISH: The Irish Shillelagh Walking Stick is a beautiful product with a rich history. The name comes from the Shillelagh Forest in County Wicklow. It was originally created as a strong fighting stick, for self-defense when weapons weren't allowed. It has evolved to become a sturdy walking stick that is lightweight and a symbol of distinction. Crafted in County Roscommon, Ireland.
- QUALITY MATERIALS: Blackthorn is a resilient and heavy wood that has been used throughout history to make weapons and sturdy canes. Blackthorn wood is very rare, so craftsmen visit their secret locations in the dark. Like truffles or morels, blackthorn wood is harvested once per year. Because blackthorn wood is created in nature, no two sticks are exactly the same.
This stick is pricey, but it’s made in Roscommon, Ireland. It’s a shorter stick, only coming in at 36”, so that is something to consider as it may not be as beneficial for trekking downhill.
5 – Best No-Frills Design: Winsper Trekking Pole
If you’re looking for a simple, no-frills tactical walking stick design, this is it. It’s not going to break the bank either. This stick is up to 50” tall when fully assembled, and it packs down into an included black carrying case.
- Hiking Essentials: Winsper trekking poles are made of aero-grade aluminum and are surprisingly strong compared to carbon fiber rods. Scratch resistance, greatly reducing the impact on joints.
- Winsper trekking pole can be adjusted to 113 or 129 cm according to body height. Equipped with whistle to signal emergency at any time, compass on top to guide you in complex environments.
This can easily be stowed away in a car’s trunk without getting bent by heavy get-home bags, and comes with a whistle, compass, and fire striker as well.
Are Walking Sticks Worth It?
A quality trekking pole makes ascending steep mountaintops with a heavy pack strapped to your back so much more enjoyable than it is otherwise, and greatly aids in keeping you safe as you descend a mountain as well – whether that mountain is slick with mud and rain or not.
A trekking pole is worth it if you’re planning on backpacking out a long distance in austere conditions. It doesn’t do much good to have a bag full of stuff that you need to get you from Point A to Point B if you can’t ever get there in the first place.
A trekking pole (or two) helps you to move without pain, to avoid injury, and to decrease the difficulty of hiking steep terrain. For all of these reasons, they are a common site on hiking trails throughout the world.