DIY: UL Hiking Staff

8:51 a.m. on February 13, 2020 (EST)
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Walking-Staff-01.jpg

Above:  Approaching High Lake, located in the Cottonwood Lakes Basin of the Sierra, en route to Mt. Langley, via New Army Pass.  The horizon behind me is the Sierra Crest.  The reddish portion of my staff is the hand grip - obviously such a large grip areas affords confident and instant negotiation of a wide variety of terrain situations.  The staff is shown in its short configuration.

I’ve been asked on several occasions to share the design of my hiking staff, so here are the details.  This is an easy DYI project that needs several days to complete, due to epoxy dry times, but requires only about 3 hours of actual activity, including ordering the materials and any clean up.

Requirements: 

  • I wanted a staff that could double for the mast pole of my pyramid tarp. 
  • I wanted to be able to adjust the gap between the bottom of my tarp and the ground.
  • Light weight!
  • I wanted the grip section of the staff to extend most of its length, so it is an equally effective aid on steep up or down hill slopes, and everything between.
  • It need not be stowable, therefore I did not design the staff to include a third tube section.  If one wanted to make the staff fit in a pack, however, a second joint can be added to the design, so the staff can break down into three, shorter, stowable, sections.  After five years and hundreds of miles of use, both on trail and XC, I haven’t experienced the need to stow the staff in my pack, as it is so light it is hardly noticeable, easily carried with just two fingers of one hand.

Design Notes:

This design includes a collet style clamp to facilitate adjusting staff length.  The collet provides the ability to tune the amount of ventilation under my tarp.  It also addresses an issue common to all tall staffs: the tendency for them to knock the brim of your hat on steep, uphill trails.  I can shorten the staff, so it remains below my hat on trails where this occurs.  The range of adjustment possible will depend the lengths of the carbon tubes, and how far up the Lower Shaft Tube is covered by the Scuff Sleeve.  The dimension used herein provide for 6” of length adjustment.

Carbon tubes are engineered to address forces that are directed along the axis of the tube.  Some tubes designs address cross axial forces by bending somewhat, versus breaking.  In our application we seek tubes that can support back packers’ weight loads, while being able to flex to some degree, when hit with cross axial loads such as encountered when the tip is jammed in a hole and the staff is bent as it is levered against an adjacent rock.  These considerations lead to the tubes we selected.  Regardless the tubes selected are robust, they are still relatively brittle, like tempered aluminum, and will snap if flexed beyond their recovery point.

A shrink fit grip provides a non-slip gripping surface that works wet or dry. The preshrink size of the grip material used here is just under 1” Dia.  I used this size because it is what I had on hand from a prior project that used .625” Dia. tubes for the top section of the staff.  Shrink wrap grip of this diameter is a very tight fit going over a .750” Dia tube covered with o-rings.  You may want to go up one or two sizes for an easier fit.

Adjustable poles make several noises while in use; one is the sound from telescoping pole sections rattling against each other.  I added a small piece of shrink tube (Anti-Rattle Shim) to the top end of the Lower Staff Tube, to dampen this noise. 

Materials:

Staff Final - Quanty: 1    Ref Get Bit Part# EVABC20                                     

Staff Grip - Quantity 1    Ref Get Bit Part# HST-.984X39.4-B/R

Upper Staff Tube .750” Dia X 48” - Quantity 1     Ref Dragon Plate Part# FDPT.75*TTW*48

Lower Staff Tube .625” Dia X 24” - Quantity 1     Ref Dragon Plate Part# FDPT.625*TTW*24

Collet – Quantity 1        ref Dragon Plate Part# FDPCK-TELESCOPE-KIT-12

Epoxy Adhesive – Quantity 1    ref Scotch-Weld 2216 2-part epoxy (available through Dragon Plate)

Anti-Rattle Shim  - Quantity 1    (½” long length of Electrical Shrink Wrap)                                              
Adjustment Limit Stop - Quantity 1    (½” long length of Electrical Shrink Wrap)
                                  
Scuff Sleeve - Quantity 1    (12” long length of Electrical Shrink Wrap)         
Scuff collar - Quantity 1   ( 1 ½” long length of Electrical Shrink Wrap)

Electrical Shrink Wrap 1.5” Dia – Quantity sufficient for fabricating the above mentioned components.

Staff tip - Quantity 1   (Generic, hardened hollow steel sleeve or bushing available at hardware stores) The sleeve OD must match the Lower Staff Tube ID.  The sleeve should be about 1 ½” long.

Grip Knuckles – Quantity 17    (15/16” OD, ¾” ID, faucet o-rings, available at hardware stores)              

Craft Fabric Adhesive    (or equivalent, capable of bonding foam and rubber surfaces).

------------------------------------------

Supply Sources:

Get Bit Outdoors - https://getbitoutdoors.com   Fishing rod components.

Dragon Plate - https://dragonplate.com   Structural composite shapes and fabrication materials.


Hiking-Staff.jpgRefer to the assembly drawing when following the fabrication instructions (below).

Fabrication

Upper Staff Tube fabrication

  1. Square up the end of the Upper Staff Tube, if required.  The end of the tube receiving the collet body must be square as possible to maximize the joint strength and collet clamping performance.  Use a sanding block and 220 grit sand paper, if necessary, to hone the tube end square with the axis of the tube.  
  2. Rough up mating surfaces of the Collet Body and Upper Staff Tube.  Temporarily position the Collet Body on the bottom end of the Top Staff Tube.  Wrap tape around the tube, just above the point the tube protrudes from the Collet Body.  The tape will prevent any smeared adhesive from marring the exposed surface of the tube.  Remove the Collet Body and sand the portion of the tube previously contacting the Collet Body. Wrap 220 grit sand paper around a pencil, smooth side of sand paper facing in.   Insert the sand paper covered pencil into the end of the Collet Body that will be bonded to the Upper Staff Tube. Sand just enough to rough up the surface.   
  3. Bond the Collet Body to the Upper Staff Tube.  Mix the epoxy, per the manufacturer’s instructions, and apply to the Collect Body.  Seat the Collet Body onto the end of the tube.  Try to center the Collect Body over the end of the tube. 
  4. Wipe away excess adhesive before it hardens. Wipe off any epoxy found on the surface where the Collet Body contacts the Collet Compression Ring, and wipe away any epoxy clinging to the inner wall of the Upper Staff Tube.  Let the adhesive cure, per the manufacturer’s instructions. 
  5. Position o-rings along the length of the tube that is to be covered by the Shrink Wrap Grip. Place the first o‑ring 5” from the top end of the tube, with the remaining o-rings spaced 2”, center to center from each other.
  6. Slide the Shrink Wrap Grip over the top end of the tube and o-rings.  Be careful that you do not disturb the positions of the o-rings.   Allow the grip to extend 2 ½“ beyond the bottom o-ring on the shaft.
  7. Shrink  the grip to size.  Start from the Collet end of the tube and work your way to the other end.  Work on it in segments, shrinking the grip snug against the tube and adjacent o-rings, before moving on to the next segment and o-rings.  Try to impart as little heat to the project as possible, as o-ring life can be shortened by heat, resulting in brittle, crumbling rings.   A well-crafted shrink will closely hug the contours of the o-rings.
  8. Affix the Staff Final.  Trim excess heat shrink grip from the end of the Upper Staff Tube, leaving about ¼” extending beyond the tube end.  Using a craft fabric glue or similar, flexible adhesive, attach the Staff Final to the top of the tube, covering the end of the Shrink Wrap Grip.

Lower Staff Tube fabrication

  1. Bond the Staff Tip to the Lower Staff Tube.  Wrap 220 grit sand paper around a pencil, smooth side of sand paper facing in.  Insert the sand paper covered pencil into the end of the tube that will be receiving the Staff Tip, and sand a ½” length of the inside of the tube where it will contact the Staff Tip.  Sand just enough to rough up the surface.    Do the same to the ½“ of the inside of the Staff Tip end that will face the ground.
  2. Wrap the outside of the tube end with tape.  Also wrap the portion of the Staff Sleeve that will protrude from the Lower Staff Tube. The tape will prevent any smeared adhesive from marring the exposed surfaces of these components.  Sand the outside surface of the Staff Tip not protected by tape.
  3. Mix the epoxy, per the manufacturer’s instructions, apply to the inside of the Lower Staff Tube, and outside of the Staff Tip.  Insert the Staff Tip into the end of the tube, leaving about ½” of the tip extending from the end of the tube.
  4. Remove the tape when the epoxy starts setting up. Let the adhesive fully cure, per the manufacturer’s instructions. 
  5. Plug the center of the Staff Tip.  Make a plug from tissue paper, and insert it into the tip, so it is about ½” from the business end of the Staff Tip.
  6. Mix the epoxy, per the manufacturer’s instructions, and fill the center of the Staff Tip with the epoxy so the level of the adhesive is ¼” from the end of the Staff Tip.  Let the epoxy cure, per the manufacturer’s instructions.
    DSCN0123.jpgAbove: Bottom end of the Hiking Staff, showing details of the Staff Tip area.  Note the epoxy plugging the center of the Shaft Tip is slightly recessed in the tip.  The narrow rim of the tip grips terrain very well.  The steel tip is hardened, and will last for thousands of miles of use.

  7. Install the Scuff Sleeve over the Lower Staff Tube and Staff Tip. The shrink wrap should cover most of the end of the Staff Tip.  Shrink the sleeve to fit.  
  8. Install the Scuff Collar.  Prior to installation, trim the Scuff Sleeve, leaving about 3/8” of the Staff Tip exposed. Slip the Scuff Collar over the Scuff Sleeve, slightly overlapping the end of the Scuff Sleeve where it contacts the Staff Tip.  Shrink the collar to fit. 

    DSCN0124.jpgAbove: The image shows the Tip of the Hiking Staff.  Note both the Scuff Sleeve and Scuff Collar cover the end of the carbon tube, and a portion of the Staff Tip.  Also note the Scuff Collar covers the end of the Scuff Sleeve.  Approximately 3/8" of the Staff Tip remains exposed. 
     
  9. Slide the Collet Compression Nut over the top end of the tube.  Make sure you have the threaded end of the Collet Nut facing the top end of the tube.
  10. Install the Anti-Rattle Shim and Adjustment Limit Stop, and shrink to secure.  The Anti-Rattle Shim fills the gap between the Upper Staff Tube ID and the Lower Shaft Tube OD.  This keeps the tubes from rattling against each other during use.  The Adjustment Limit Stop prevents pulling the Lower Shaft Tube out of the collet.  Position this sleeve about 6” from the top end of the tube.  The resulting overlap of the tubes strengthens the joint.
  11. De-gloss the Lower Shaft Tube if necessary.  The collet works by compression and friction, gripping the  Lower Shaft Tube with the Collect Compression Ring.  You may need to sand the gloss off the outer surface of the Lower Staff Tube to obtain sufficient friction, such that the collect does not slip when subjected to a heavy load.  If you need to sand this surface, chuck the tube in a drill motor or lathe, rotating it as you sand in order to keep the tube close to perfectly round as possible.  Avoid sanding into the carbon fibers, as that will weaken the tube, if you get carried away.  Check your work often.  The sanded portion tube should not taper, or if it does taper, the top end of the sanded area should be a smaller OD than the bottom end of the sanded area.   Confirm the OD of the sanded area of the tube does not fluctuate back and forth in size along the length of the sanded area.  Using a straight edge for this purpose, calipers or other means to verify work quality. 
  12. Confirm Collet performance.  Insert the Lower Staff Tube into the throat of the collet body, adjust to the desired length, then tighten the Collet Compression Nut.  If the joint slips when the staff is weighted, check if the Collet Compression Ring needs to be modified (see notes below).

Notes:

This project requires only basic hand tools: a drill motor or Dremel motor tool, fitted with a cutoff wheel for plastics (to cut the carbon tubes to size); a sanding block with faces set at 90 degree angles to each other for squaring up the cut tube ends; scissors to cut the shrink wraps, and a heat source.  You will also need the means to check the accuracy of the sanded area on the outside of the bottom half of the Lower Staff Tube - use a straight edge, caliper, or other measuring device.

When the Collet is fully tightened, you should not see any of the Collet Compression Ring poking out of the end of the Collet Compression Nut.  If this is what you observe, then the Collet Compression Ring is too small.  This can be remedied by applying several layers of super glue to the outside surface (only) of the Collet Compression Ring, to give it a thicker cross section.  Let the glue dry between layers and before assembling the upper and lower tubes together.

I found a staff equal my height (approx. 6’) was optimal for descending trails, as that allows planting the staff out front and well below my position on the trail, affording very stable support when negotiating tall steps and obstacles on the trail.  I found a staff of this length to be less than ideal, however, while going uphill, because it had a tendency to knock my hat off my head.  I use the collet to shorten the staff, so it clears my hat brim, when going uphill.

The hand grip covers most of the Upper Staff Tube. This affords optimal hand position on the staff, regardless of obstacles encountered.  The o-ring “knuckles” prevent the hiker’s grip from slipping along the staff.  The staff, assembled as described herein, is lighter than a single pole from the lightest commercially available trekking poles.  Its balance and light weight makes it easy to carry.  While some may consider they want to be able to stow the staff when it is not needed, I found carrying it at its balance point, shaft parallel to the ground, you can swing it forward and backward, as a drum major might, to set a cadence and establish a rhythmic arm swinging motion that makes walking feel more efficient. 

If you desire to make this a three piece staff, you will need another collect and a third tube of a different diameter.  The ½” OD carbon tubes are acceptable as a bottom staff segment.  You will not have as long of a gripping surface on the upper tube, however.  The three piece staff will probably weigh a little more than its two piece cousin.

Assume any changes in the design materials or dimensions most likely will create a cascade of changes required to other dimensions, as well as affect otherwise unrelated performance requirements.  

One can substitute the Collet mechanism for a cam actuated clamp.  The cam clamp provides a stronger clamping force for those who weigh more, or just want for-sure-for-sure dependability.

I had access to free carbon tubes, so cannot provide a precise cost estimate, but it will probably a little more than $100 material cost, when including the purchase price of carbon tubes. 

Maintenance:
Keep the threaded surfaces of the Collet free of foreign mater.  

The purpose of Scuff Sleeve and Scuff Collar is to protect the lower end of the carbon fiber tube from damage inflicted by terrain features encountered during use.  These items will eventually incur enough wear and tear that they will require replacement in order to continue delivering effective protection.  Fortunately wire shrink wrap is cheap and easy to work with.  An area particularly prone to damage is the shoulder created where the Staff Tip exits the Lower Staff Tube.  Replacing just the Scuff Collar will usually remedy the situation, as long as a repair intervention occurs before the underlying Scuff Sleeve is also damaged.

Ed

11:51 a.m. on February 18, 2020 (EST)
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Wow. This is a significant effort Ed, both the writing and the construction! I'm impressed. 

12:34 p.m. on February 18, 2020 (EST)
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FlipNC said:

Wow. This is a significant effort Ed, both the writing and the construction! I'm impressed. 

 I agree.

6:07 p.m. on February 18, 2020 (EST)
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Actually the fabrication is REALLY EASY!  I spent more time documenting this than on the actual construction.  Painting the bathroom takes more skill and effort.  I guess the exploded view drawing makes it look far more challenging than it really is. 

Ed

4:10 p.m. on February 19, 2020 (EST)
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Or just cut yourself a pole. 

7:34 p.m. on February 19, 2020 (EST)
TRAILSPACE STAFF TOP 25 REVIEWER
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Thanks for taking the time to share this DIY info with us, Ed!

This is great.

12:00 a.m. on February 20, 2020 (EST)
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Really a nice walking stick Ed. Thank you for the details to make one. I rewalked Colin Fletcher's 1000 Mile Summer and use a two piece 3/4" PVC stick. I could break it down in half when not in use. I drilled a bunch of 5/16" holes through making an interesting pattern. It gave it great gripping ability and lightened it some. The top end was "Y" knotched so I could run a cord/rope over the tip and with all the holes I could attach lots of different things at different heights. The bottom end was the standard flat washer inside a rubber cane tip. That thing lasted for years... my only gripe was it was a little heavier than any other walking staff I've seen.

That brings me to this question... what does your staff weigh?

Again great job on the stick!!!

10:15 a.m. on February 20, 2020 (EST)
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I’m impressed Ed. I’ve been toying with the idea of building a Lurk I can break down for some of the backcountry skiing I do- the Lurk works better than poles for me on narrower trails. Do you think a pole that retracts similar to yours would take the abuse of being ‘a third leg’? 

Thank you for providing the build details and links for supplies.

1:13 a.m. on February 21, 2020 (EST)
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BC Heath said:

I’m impressed Ed. I’ve been toying with the idea of building a Lurk I can break down for some of the backcountry skiing I do- the Lurk works better than poles for me on narrower trails. Do you think a pole that retracts similar to yours would take the abuse of being ‘a third leg’? 

Thank you for providing the build details and links for supplies.

Carbon tubes can take a lot of force along their axis, but are poor at cross axial forces.  Lurks used to be used as brakes, placing the poles between one's legs and pushing the end of the ski into the snow by siting on the lurk.  That would be a cross axial force, likely to break the pole.  

I am leery of skiing with carbon poles in the BC.  There are too many ways to damage or break carbon fiber poles while XC skiing.  I won't use carbon tubes for alpine ski poles for the same reason.  If I were to build a UL lurk, it would utilize aluminum tubes.

Ed

2:01 a.m. on February 21, 2020 (EST)
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Hersh Johnson said:

Really a nice walking stick Ed. Thank you for the details to make one. I rewalked Colin Fletcher's 1000 Mile Summer and use a two piece 3/4" PVC stick. I could break it down in half when not in use. I drilled a bunch of 5/16" holes through making an interesting pattern. It gave it great gripping ability and lightened it some. The top end was "Y" knotched so I could run a cord/rope over the tip and with all the holes I could attach lots of different things at different heights. The bottom end was the standard flat washer inside a rubber cane tip. That thing lasted for years... my only gripe was it was a little heavier than any other walking staff I've seen.

That brings me to this question... what does your staff weigh?

Again great job on the stick!!!

This staff, built with .75" and .625" tubes, as described, is 9.1 oz and 6' long. 

This staff, built with .625" and .5" tubes: 7.2 oz and 6' long. 

The lightest trekking poles on the market currently run just over 3/4 pound per pair.

The lightest commercial staff I've seen is Z-Pack's carbon tube staff.  It comes in at 7.5 oz and 5' long.  The z-pack staff lacks a non-slip grip, and the tip is not as effective at holding a placement on hard surfaces. 

Ed

3:11 a.m. on February 21, 2020 (EST)
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whomeworry said:

I am leery of skiing with carbon poles in the BC.  There are too many ways to damage or break carbon fiber poles while XC skiing.  I won't use carbon tubes for alpine ski poles for the same reason.  If I were to build a UL lurk, it would utilize aluminum tubes.

Ed

 I would have said the same, but I have been using the same pair of telescoping poles, K2 Lockjaws with Al upper and carbon lower,  for backcountry skiing for something like 10 years. The low swing weight is very naiiice. I have bent or busted a lot of poles in my time, but these ones are holding up OK.

OTOH, I did manage to break on of the Leki carbon poles that I tested for the review corps, when my feet kicked out from under me on some "trail bearings" on a steep descent and I fell backwards onto the pole shaft. The good news with trekking poles is that they come in pairs... Carbon is tough, especially if it's not overly lightly built, but it fails catastrophically, rather than bending like metal. SO maybe it's a wash.

8:33 p.m. on February 24, 2020 (EST)
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Perhaps the tipper for me it is reliability.  I carry the means to field repair any metal poles on my trips.  Never used (knock on wood).  But the nature of composites to fail then splinter confounds assembling a field repair kit for that scenario. 

A lurk used in the "sitz" brake mode would be subject to significant cross axial force.  I don't think I would use a 3/4" fiber tube for this application.  Perhaps a 2" carbon tube would cut the muster, but then a tube that size would be ungainly to handle.

Ed

April 4, 2020
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