Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Poles versus staff

I have been following a debate in a pilgrim forum on the pros and cons between walking poles or a staff. Some people feel they don´t need either, but personally I feel happier with something to help me keep my balance going up and down hill on rough or muddy surfaces.

Walking poles are light, can be folded away when not needed, and checked in at airports. On the other hand the tapping noise they make every time the tips strike a hard surface is supposed to be extremely irritating, especially for the other walkers. There are rubber tips you can use but they don´t seem to last. Poles were also apparently originally designed for ski training, for speed, not for long-distance walks. A bit of an expensive fashion accessory, I feel.

A pilgrim´s staff sounds right for the job, but has the disadvantage of weight. I would dearly love to take the staff I used on the Inca Trail, for practical as well as sentimental reasons. Since it is made of bamboo it is hollow, therefore pretty light but also strong. The problem is that it is over five feet long. There is no way I would be allowed to take it on board as hand luggage, and if I checked it in I can´t imagine how it would reappear at the other end. I have visions of it jamming up conveyor belts and causing general chaos, as well as the risk of it breaking, so reluctantly I´ve decided not to take it.

This leaves me the option of buying a staff in Spain. You can get them quite cheaply there, I´ve heard, although I doubt they will be as light as my bamboo friend. There appears to be a thriving cottage industry of walking sticks and staffs in the villages along the way, so I´ve decided to pick one up there. At least it shouldn´t be too noisy.


  1. yes the others can be noisy!! funny it did not bother me but when we trained for Kokoda Challange a couple of years ago, one of the guys had the 2 poles..they must have made a lot of noise because when we went for our walk a few weeks ago, a few commented and said " oh no not those noisy things again"!! we are not taking any but plan to get a staff in Spain :)

  2. I am not accustomed to walking with a stick or staff. But it seems to be wise to have one or the other... I have decided to wait til I arrive in Spain to decide. I may purchase a stick in Pamplona or perhaps I will get a locally crafted staff. Some people say just find one on the path - it will call to you. Well, we shall see...I depart for my adventure in about 3 weeks. 8-)

    Life is good...

    In Sunny Santa Fe

  3. Well, that is four of us getting "staffed" in Spain, maybe we should start a campaign!