I used to think hiking poles were for wusses, until I hit the Laugavegurinn Hiking Trail in Iceland two years ago and found them to be extremely useful for rocky, steep trails or fording streams, and I wouldn't hike without them now. But they are what might be called uni-taskers, serving pretty much one purpose.
However, now designers are adding interesting functions to poles and these are definitely not wussy. CC Weiss of Gizmag attended the huge Outdoor Retailers Show in Salt Lake City and found some serious hiking pole hardware. The Zubin Axe is designed to "bring the hiking stick into the 21st century". The solid hickory pole has a removable head that can be swapped out for an axe, saw, spear, fishing spear, and even a sling-shot.
I wasn't sure what to call this thing; a certain D&D player I know thought it might be a glaive, guisarme, naginata, glaive-guisarme, crowbill, and then finally settled on " a voulge or a bill, but with a back-curved khopesh head." I will stick with the alliterating Halberd.
There is a protective cover for the head, fortunately; I wouldn't want to be walking around with this otherwise. More at Zubin Axe.
Hike 'n Strike
Now I am not very handy with a halberd or a glaive, let alone a voulge. Fortunately, there is the Hike'n Strike. Self-Defense Products tells us:
If you walk or hike outdoors, you know the danger of a dog or other small animal attacks. This new Hike 'n Strike makes walking safer with an expandable walking cane that has a 950,000 volt stun gun on the end. It has a rubber coated, no-slip moulded grip and a built in LED flashlight too.
Now this is a hiking pole with juice. CC Weiss at Gizmag is not totally convinced that it would work against larger animals or if it is a smart thing to do:
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.
I am seeing a lot more aging baby boomers using hiking poles as a cooler form of cane; I suspect this might find a more urban role. More information at Self-Defense Products.