Rediscovering the Scout Staff

When Baden-Powell first conceived the idea of the Boy Scout, part of the uniform that he designed included the hiking staff. Yes, indeed, he considered the hiking staff or ‘Scout staff’ to be an indispensable part of Scout equipment. This was for good reason, for the Scout staff has been and always will be a very useful and versatile piece of gear.

I would like to encourage every Scout to own and use a hiking staff. You can buy one, or, which is better, you can cut and make one yourself. A general rule of thumb is it should be high enough to be level with your eyes. For Patrol Leaders, it should be 18 inches above your head so you can fix the Patrol flag to it on hikes. 

To introduce you to the importance and many uses of the Scout staff, I would like to share some quotes and pictures that I have collected from various sources on the Internet. Credit for some of the images goes to http://inquiry.net/.

I hope you enjoy these resources and get yourself a staff of your own if you don’t yet have one. What are some creative uses you can think of for the Scout staff? As always, I love hearing any questions or comments that you might have. Also, feel free to pass this article along if you found it interesting.

Scout On!

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I HAVE noticed a slackness in one or two centers lately in the matter of Scouts being allowed to parade without their staffs, which for several reasons is regrettable.

The Scout’s staff is a distinctive feature about his equipment, and it has its moral as well as its practical uses.

The essential point is that this should be realized and appreciated by the Scoutmaster and Commissioner.

I remember when, in pre-war days, I was attending a review of the German cavalry, the Emperor asked me what I thought of their lances. I ventured to express the opinion that they were too long to be effective in war, and that a shorter lance, such as we use for pigsticking in India, would be more practical. He smiled and explained, “That is true — but in peace time we are breeding the spirit in our men. I find that with every inch that you put on to a man’s lance you give him an extra foot of self-esteem.”

Well, although the idea is “made in Germany,” there is something in it. The Scout’s staff had, as a matter of fact, been in the hands of the Scouts before that conversation, and I had already realized its value in the direction of giving smartness to a body of Scouts and a completeness to the individual which distinguished him from other boys and gave him the esprit de corps which is so effective a step to efficiency.

There are historical associations connected with it which give the staff a sentimental value if we look back to the first British Boy Scouts of a Cuhulain armed with staffs, the pilgrims or “good turn trampers,” with their cockle-shells and staffs, the ‘prentice bands of London with their cloth yards and their staffs, the merry men of Robin Hood with bows and quarter staffs, down to the present-day mountaineers, war-scouts, and explorers; these all afford a precedent which should have its romance and meaning to the boy if properly applied.

The ceremony of enrollment of the Scout can and should be made a moment of impressive feeling for the boy when he is invested with the hat and staff that mark the Scout, and which equip him for his pilgrimage on that path where he “turns up right and keeps straight on.” The officer who fails to use such opportunity is missing one of the most important chances in the Scout life of his boy.

He should expect of the boy a reverence and affection for his staff — such as the swordsman has for his sword, or the hunter for his rifle. Let the Scout individualize his own staff, even to decorate it in his own way if he likes, but let him keep to his staff. To jumble all staffs into a bundle and put them away in a corner after parade, or, worse, to let them get lost and thus excuse their appearance on parade, is to neglect a valuable help to the moral training of the lad.

All this, of course, is quite apart from the actual practical uses of the staff. ~ Baden Powell, 1917

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5 Comments

  1. Bob's Gravatar Bob
    August 25, 2012    

    I recently added a few feet of duct tape to my staff. I picked up a roll of orange tape at Walmart for $3 and wrapped about 5 feet around my staff. I chose orange since it’s highly visible and could be used as a mark in an emergency situation. Duct tape is always useful; last weekend I used a few pieces to tape a torn map back together while on a hike.

    Also, hiking staff medallions are becoming more popular; adding them to your staff makes it more attractive and interesting, and provides a record of places you’ve been.

    Another practice of mine – I cut a small notch in the staff for each night I spend camping with the troop. They add up quickly!

    • August 25, 2012    

      Thanks for the comment! Great suggestions! One thing I love about the hiking staff is that each one tells it’s own story. Each one reflects the personality and tastes of it’s owner. I like mine with the ‘simple’ look, but I’ve heard of some guys doing some really cool modifications to their staffs. I really like duct tape idea.

  2. Erin Howarth's Gravatar Erin Howarth
    May 23, 2013    

    Very cool. In Cub Scouting, we have to tell the boys: “sticks and stones stay on the ground” about a million times per outing. My son can’t seem to carry a flag pole without turning it into a light saber, but I think I might implement the giving of a staff at crossover. I’ve read about packs which give arrows decorated with stripes denoting Cub Scouting achievements. Something similar could easily be incorporated into a staff like this. I’m thinking the one-inch scale would be an ideal spot to place colored stripes denoting various Cub Scouting milestones.

  3. robertd's Gravatar robertd
    June 29, 2014    

    Just got back from Camp Powhatan in Virginia. We had a great time but I am always looking for “useful Ideas” for my staff. I love the fishing hook and line idea, the measurements with tacks. Sounds sacrilegious but can we drill it out and stuff it with AA and an anttena for an internet connection?

  4. Patsy Whiddon's Gravatar Patsy Whiddon
    July 21, 2014    

    My husband and I recently started hiking again. We live in Arkansas which is a great place to hike. This past week-end we hiked The Falls, Bear Cave and Rock House trails at Petit Jean. We had forgotten how much fun it can be and were very proud to purchase our hiking medallions to be displayed on our staffs. Now we are excited to hike the trails closer to home but we both agreed it was more fun hiking trails that we know we can represent with a beautiful medallion.

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