John Muir used one. You probably whittled a hiking staff smooth around a campfire as a kid. For a certain outdoors demographic, or perhaps if you’re in search of a certain nostalgia, a stout wooden stick in hand might still be the preferred balance implement when heading on a hike and into the woods. A commercially-made option, Brazo’s Walking Sticks from Waco, Texas, come in many types — from simple to extra fancy, some even in-layed with works of art!
For a test this fall, we got a $65 staff from the company, the Twisted Oak Traveler’s Stick, which is a model designed to break down for easy packing and transport via threaded sections that unscrew the stick into three pieces.
The Twisted Oak is a 55-inch staff that weighs about 1.25 pounds. For aesthetic appeal, the center section of the stick is corkscrewed (that’s where the “Twisted” part of the name comes from). Each of the sections screwed together tightly with seams that were barely noticeable. When unscrewed again for transport, the three parts measure less than 20 inches.
On the trail, compared to the light trekking poles I usually use, the wood stick was a little heavy. But it wasn’t a big concern for my leisurely pace. I would not carry this type of stick on a serious hike or adventure, but for hikers and backpackers at a sightseeing pace it’s fine.
Brazo’s offers accessories like a built-in compass, custom engraving or different tips as upgrades. We tested the standard rubber foot. If I could do it over, I’d buy the $13 upgrade to the “combi spike” end, which is similar to a standard trekking pole tip.
Overall, the Twisted Oak stick is a nice product. Craftsmanship, price and performance are balanced well. Whether a handmade staff like this or a fallen branch from the woods fits your bill, we say long live the humble hiking stick!