Trail Spear
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Survival Staff, Spear, Knife and Ax
Just walk into the woods barehanded and you'll soon encounter the first tool. A knife takes a little more evolution to create, but there's always a stick at hand. Even a crude broken branch has a myriad of potential uses, from brushing aside the webs of spiders to keeping enemies at a distance. Ever since humans learned to walk upright they've compensated for the loss of those two other feet with sticks.

Go onto a modern hiking trail today, however, and the staff is a rare item. People are almost embarrassed to carry them. Is it a sign of weakness? a mark of age? a fashion miss statement? Unless it's a high tech trekking pole, the staff has fallen out of favor.
My array of hardwood bo's for every occasion. From left to right, my red oak kung fu staff; short bo ash model; and my gentleman's juniper walking stick.
(Photo courtesy of AliceOne)
This assortment of Native American weapons is dominated, not surprisingly, by spears. Pointy sticks are even more efficient than blunt staves.
Historically, stick weapons are the mainstay of cultures where people travel isolated and wild pathways yet do not wish to present a threatening appearance. If you want a fundamental level of defensive ability without looking like a paranoid invader, the staff is the perfect choice. Although we think of today's world, especially here in the West, as tame and civilized, the reality we face in the backwoods isn't so different from that of older and tougher days. Animals of all kinds share the world with us and get cranky about it, and you can't trust everyone you meet on the trail. A good poking stick can preserve the peace without causing serious injury.
In recent times this society's reaction to any form of animal violence has been to eliminate both species and ecosystem. I think we've grown beyond that, but not far beyond that. In modern instances of predation against humans, the individual animals pay the price--as well as any suspect animals who just happen to be in the area. Our fellow beasts are intelligent as well as cautious--if they test one of us, and learn that we are pointy and belligerent, they probably will not try us out again. That's good for everybody. The guy with the stick is not dangerous to the balance; the guy without one is.

Sadly, I have seldom had any reason to apply this aspect of the art of Stick. The most common encounters I' ve had are with feral domestic dogs and pigs who probably already had a low opinion of humans. The only potentially deadly confrontation in my collection was with a stag deer with a very nice set of pointy antlers, who showed up in a bad mood as I was trying to unwind my dog from one of his offspring (both of them unhurt). No real carnivores have ever attacked me, and they probably won't. I carry a big stick.
The hiking staff is much more than a self defense device. It will be used most often for very ordinary things like keeping your footing. I can think of any number of reasons to have one. To part underbrush on a trail, to give reptiles a chance to move along before you put down a foot, to take some weight and balance before you shift from this boulder to that ledge, to prop yourself against a current on a swift water crossing--the needs and the uses are endless. Yes, you could make a staff on the spot, when you happen to need one--no, if you choose that last minute response, you won't have anything dependable. A good staff will save your life. A rotten branch won't.

Getting back to lion defense--the thing that is probably the least likely situation I'll ever face--the common wisdom is this: pick up a rock and throw it at the
Native Americans favored shorter weapons like clubs and tomahawks in woodland country.
I take an approach I learned from an old Buddhist martial arts philosophy. It applies to any sort of wild beast, human or not. If there is a way to settle a problem without violence, I take it. If there isn't, I don't roll over and play dead; I take an active part
Photo by Somadjinn
Crawford Survival Staff:
Hiking staff, sword, spear and blowgun all in one practical package!
Big Survival Stik: Carbon fiber hiking staff with concealed survival spear.
Highland Hiking & Survival Staff: Mountaineering crook staff and survival kit.
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I recommend them to everyone. I carry extras in my car. Since I began hiking in the Cascade Mountains back in the 70's, a wooden staff has gone everywhere along with me--except for the one summer I yielded to common opinion. Seven miles into the back country, on one of the toughest trails I've ever climbed, I took an awkward step that a staff would have easily countered, and I ripped a groin muscle that still hasn't quite healed. I very quickly cut a rough staff and limped home on it.
in my own defense. A good bluff and maybe a bop on the nose is usually enough to turn the tide. If what receives that lesson is a mountain lion--the kind of encounter that has become more common in recent years as populations shift and territories change--it's to the animal's benefit. One that successfully attacks a human will often try again, and the result inevitably is the death of the animal.
cat; pick up a stick and brandish it. Lucky you if you happen to be within reach of a rock, or a stick good enough to pack a punch.

Get a good staff and keep it at hand. Here's how.