Hiking poles sometimes take on a multifunctional role in the outdoors, serving in place of dedicated tent poles on lightweight shelters like the Mountain Hardwear Hoopla 4. This year's Outdoor Retailer Summer Market took the multifunctional hiking pole to a new level, with two hiking poles that double as full-on survival tools on show. One includes an interchangeable multi-tool system that transforms it into a spear, brush axe and more, while the other has a built-in flashlight … and stun gun.
Designed to "bring the hiking stick into the 21st century," the Zubin Axe is a large multi-tool for outdoor living. Its two-bolt interchangeable head system allows the user to quickly change out the basic compass top with a series of five tools and weapons.
The tool that seemed most prominent in Zubin's Outdoor Retailer display was the dual-sided "survival axe" with sharp, curved blade and indented straight-blade axe. The tool is built to chop firewood, clear the brush in front of you, chop down high branches and perform other functions of a camping hatchet/blade.
If your cutting work would be better served by a serrated saw than a smooth blade, you can swap the survival axe for the bite of the saw blade and get to sawing branches and wood for fire making and shelter building.
Zubin also offers two types of spear attachments. The standard spear is your typical single-point, dual-edge spear, designed to kill small to medium game in a survival situation. The fishing spear is a dual-pronged, barbed design for spearing small, slippery critters like fish and frogs. For small animals that are too quick and squirrelly to get close to, Zubin has a slingshot, combining with the staff for a high, stable shooting platform.
The hiking staff makes for a natural platform for a spear or brush axe, but it's not necessarily the most nimble format. For jobs that demand a small hand tool, Zubin also makes a small handle that works with all the aforementioned heads. With that handle, you can make a hand axe, handheld slingshot, small saw, etc.
Zubin was seeking out distributors at the OR show last week and told us that it was in the process of finalizing some deals. It does not currently sell the staff directly, but it said that it may do so in the future. The Zubin Axe, which uses a hickory shaft, stainless steel tools and a rubber grip, is listed in several different packages, allowing you to buy the tools that you want without ones you don't. The complete survival axe kit with all five aforementioned tools and the staff itself is priced at US$300. The basic survival axe with the dual-sided hatchet/blade and staff is available for $165. The saw, sling shot and fishing spear are priced individually at $30 each. The hunting spear is priced at $60.
Another interesting multifunctional hiking pole that was on display at Outdoor Retailer, the Zap Hike 'n Strike from Arkansas-based Personal Security Products packs a completely different "survival" toolset. The collapsible, 56-in hiking pole comes with three CR123A lithium batteries that power two unique tools you wouldn't expect to find hiding in a hiking pole. The first is an LED flashlight built into the top of its handle. The "Strike" part of the product comes in the form of a 950,000-volt stun gun. The stun gun's power switch is located on the shaft, and the spike electrodes are on the handle, surrounding the LED light.
The Hike 'n Strike stun gun could be handy for post-dusk walks through shady city parks and perhaps the rare violent fugitive hiding out in the wilderness, but you might wonder if there's really enough of a chance of such self-defense scenarios to warrant carrying a stun gun hiking pole around. Retailers selling the device suggest that the stun gun can be used to defend against aggressive wildlife, which is probably more of a concern in situations where you'd be using a hiking pole in the first place.
The stun gun is usually thought of as a way of fending off human assailants, but anecdotal evidence, including this short story from Taser, suggests that stun guns can be effective against smaller animals like coyotes and vicious dogs. The Hike 'n Strike could provide some peace of mind if attacks by coyotes, bobcats and other small, potentially dangerous animals are a worry in your neck of the woods.
While it could work against small predators, the Hike 'n Strike seems unlikely to be an effective weapon against larger animals like bears and moose. Stun gun manufacturers, retailers and third party publications tend to advise against relying on the stun gun as a means of fighting against large animals. After researching the issue in cooperation with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Taser came out with a model built especially for large wildlife. That model and the two others the company found to be effective against large animals (including the Shockwave) were large, long-range devices, allowing the user to stun the target from a distance, as opposed to the arm's length hand strike the Hike 'n Strike would entail.
On the other hand, if the only thing standing between you and a vicious bear mauling or moose trampling is your hiking pole, maybe it couldn't hurt to have 950,000 volts of surging electricity on hand. Or maybe it could. Given that wildlife is unpredictable (what if the electric jolt just makes the animal more angry), you'd be much better off following standard avoidance and self-preservation techniques, using the stun gun only as a very last resort.
The Hike 'n Strike is available now, though state restrictions prevent residents of several US states from purchasing it. It sells for around $75 and has a listed weight of 18 oz (510 g), which includes the batteries.
The video below shows how the Zubin interchangeable head works. We didn't get the chance to see the Hike 'n Strike in person, but the Trailspace video linked below shows some good footage from the OR show.