Staff & Spear
Wilderness Defense
Staff Market
Survival Knives
Old Spears for Today's Trails
Photo by Somadjinn
Photo by Badseed
Photo from Creative Commons
Becoming Pointy -- OK, call me crazy, I just feel like backpacking into the boonies unarmed is stupid. I do understand that the chances of running into a hungry mountain lion are very slim, and I don't expect it to happen, but I don't feel right wandering around unarmed. Possibly it's because of where I grew up and when—in that culture and that time, not too many decades ago, nobody where I lived went into the woods without a gun. As soon as I was old enough to not shoot out the garage windows with one, I always had one with me. It was just something we did, and we were less likely to actually hurt anybody than most of the people wandering the streets today.
Lion Spears of Venice
Today it's kind of awkward to carry rifles or handguns on the backpacking trails, even though weapons have been recently legalized in some national parks (before you go, check regulations). I don't particularly like firearms now, even though I grew up with them. Before firearms were invented, people carried spears because it made good sense, and for some of us it still does. Survival tools are of no use unless you have them with you.

I have four top picks, all of them from Hanwei Forge, also known as CAS Iberia. The
Viking throwing spear, Cavalry lance, Viking short spear and Hanwei yari are all excellent spears. The yari is a little heavy and a little too fancy for the trail, much more a weapon than a staff or survival spear. Though it's beautiful, I wouldn't take it anywhere but grizzly country, where it might actually inspire false confidence. It's also much more expensive, because shaft and fitting and polish are part of the deal.
Cane Swords and Cold Steel -- Cold Steel also makes a few spears—a boar spear, samburu and two styles of Zulu spears—but the quality is low, both in the steel and the wooden shaft. They're functional but not pretty and too heavy to double as a hiking staff. The Cold Steel cane swords are a design that is more easily produced by modern processes. Consider that legally these sword canes are concealed weapons before you decide they'd be handy on the bus. On the trail you get away with a lot, but it's still a very serious issue to consider.

Of the sword cane lot, the Zatoichi style certainly suits me the best, but I'd worry about the durability of the cane sheath if I had it out in the weather much. Cold Steel products are less traditional but definitely built tough. It's just hard to love plastic or carbon fiber.
What I want is a spear that doesn't attract too much attention but is ready to use. I've written about the Crawford survival spears here, and even though the Crawford has a lot of good qualities, I don't want a spear I have to take apart and reassemble before using it. The Crawford design is too complicated for me. All I is a light version of the old traditional sidearm that people would have carried in open country ten thousand years ago.

Combat quality weapons in those old styles are rare today. Only a few makers of old weapons do any real testing. Paul Chen of Hanwei Forge makes good weapons built to match or exceed the quality of the original items and are the best you'll find in an affordable price range. CAS Hanwei checks to make sure they hold up to real use.
Of those sold as spear heads, with shaft selection and fitting left up to the owners, the Paul Chen Viking Throwing
Spear is the heaviest of the three I consider practical for trail use. For a trail spear I'm assuming people are thinking about weight as well as function. Apparently in the old days, Viking warriors tucked a few of these under an armpit and tossed them at the enemy as they were closing the gap. The spear is fairly lightweight but more than most people will want to carry.

My favorite is the Viking Short Spear, even though it will likely draw some suspicious glances and require occasional explanation.

Best choice by far--the Cavalry Lance by Paul Chen. This is a reproduction of a British cavalry lance still used as part of the dress uniform of Canadian Mounties. The narrow blade could be easily sheathed. It's the lightest of all the Chen spear heads, and it includes a matching fitting for the butt of the shaf. That's a handy addition that Alpine climbers added to walking staves in the old days, and it gives this spear a bit of balance the others don't have.
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