From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
A walking stick is a device used by many people to facilitate balancing whilst walking. It may be used as a defensive or offensive weapon, and may conceal a knife or sword as in a swordstick. Walking sticks come in many shapes and sizes, leading to their being collected. Some kinds of walking stick may be used by the handicapped as a crutch.
Walking sticks, also called trekking poles, pilgrim's staffs, hiking poles or hiking sticks, are used by hikers for a wide variety of purposes: to clear spiderwebs, part thick bushes or grass obscuring the trail; as a support when going uphill or a brake when going downhill; as a balance point when crossing streams, swamps or other rough terrain; to feel for obstacles in the path; to test mud and puddles for depth; and as a defense against wild animals. A walking stick can be improvised from nearby felled wood. More ornate sticks are made for avid hikers, and are often adorned with small trinkets or medallions depicting "conquered" territory.