The Ice Walking Survival Stick, by Carmen G.

As we start to age, we have to compensate for arthritic knee joints, arthritis, and the inability to balance oneself on level ground, never mind walking on a wooded trail.  When finding myself in the situation of not being able to work as a Building Inspector, I decided to do something about it.  My problem was not being able to walk on uneven or ice-covered ground in order to inspect construction sites.  Those sites were the equivalent of an Appalachian trail minus the view in my mind.  My solution was to use a broken rake handle and insert a Philips head screwdriver with the handle ground down to fit into the hollow end of the handle,  thus presenting me with a pointed tip that resembled a very large ice pick with a five-foot long handle.  The tip was ground to an extremely sharp point and protruded out six inches from the bottom of the handle.  The idea was simple hold the stick with the point on the ice and walk by holding onto the slip proof staff.  The making of the ice stick just morphed into a great home project, by using materials that were just lying around the workshop looking for the right application.  By using material, that I had stored in the shop made my wife feel   like I was finally going to get rid of my stuff taking up room.  Her idea was that I would be making more room for her stuff in my space.  Ha , Ha! Thanks to many survival readers’ ideas and letters to survival blogs,   I was able to build new stuff out of old stuff and just wound up with different   stuff.  When   the last two major storms hit, my stuff proved necessary and practical: my wife has been quiet about that.  (I still check   the   trash cans for my stuff).  I do not expect that to last long but I believe I will survive her encroachment of her replacing her stuff where mine used to be.  By my warped thinking, she is investing her surplus stuff for use on my survival projects.

I started the ice stick by gathering the materials and finding the required hand tools under mountains of   hardware saved over the years.  All of the items were going to be projects someday and this was the day.  The first thing I picked up was a broken fiberglass rake handle that was cut off square at the bottom where the steel rake used to be.  The top already had a black plastic rubber handgrip on the end.  The length was ideal approximately 5’ long and the 1 ¼” diameter staff was made for the hand and it was strong enough to support my weight while leaning on it. 

In one survival handbook that I came across was a sketch of two Ice picks with the wood handles drilled through to attach corded loops.  This was done so that a gloved hand could slide through, grip the handles, and prevent the dropping of or losing the picks.  The purpose of the picks was to save yourself if you fell through thin ice and you could pull yourself out.  In addition to this, if you fell on the ice you were to lie flat (spread eagle) and by using the picks pull your way onto thicker ice.  With this in mind,  I decided to do the same thing with the walking stick.  Keep me upright in snow and on ice and having the ability to reach unto to the ice to test it.  The pick evolved into a large Philips head screwdriver, modified to serve this purpose.  Modifying the screwdriver was simple with a side grinder and a coarse sanding disk.  Take the screwdriver handle and sand the outer surface until it fits snugly into the bottom of the handle.  The next step was to drill through the fiberglass and plastic screwdriver handle (above the steel imbedded in the plastic) and through to the other side.  Then turn the handle until you are able to drill another hole an inch above the first one, then repeat the drilling again in the opposite direction.  After removing the burrs, push through each hole a 1/4″ stove bolt with a washer between the bolt head and the pipe.  When the bolt comes through the other side, complete  the connections  by capping each bolt with another washer, lock washer, and bolt cap.  For the top of the newly created “Ice Walking Stick”, I secured a Para cord wrap with a hand loop, enabling the user  to  grasp the stick with a gloved hand and not drop it on the ground or in the snow.  The idea was also to be able to reverse the pick end to a rounded plastic screwdriver handle for non- icy days.  

I was very happy with my walking stick and it had served me very well until I joined Mr. Charlie Richie’s family of survivalists and became a fan of Richie’s magazine, “The Backwoodsman”.  A month after I emailed my Ice walking stick illustration to one of my favorite web sites,  I picked up “The Backwoodsman Volume 32 No. 3, May / June issue.  On page 53, you will find the article “The Survival Walking Staff” by Raul Limon.  This article was the survival staff, minus the “Carmen Touches.”  After reading the article, I realized that we have been walking around in the woods for years.  I am just catching up to those who used hiking sticks since man walked this world almost erect.  With that new insight from Charlie Richie on how can we improve if possible on what has already been proven to work through trial and error?
As I have enjoyed reading and mentally experimenting with the ideas presented to everyone from all of the subscribers, members, and bloggers (who are genuinely open friendly and sharing).  I wanted to present to them my version of the Ice Walking Stick and ideas for the survival kit.  Therefore, after reading the article it was time to reinvent the wheel or the stick in this case.

The second version of the walking stick that I created was an ice stick with all the survival necessities to protect you in an emergency bivouac in a 1-1/2″ diameter PVC pipe, with the ice pick at one end, and a screw cap at the other end, with everything else inside the waterproof stick.

I have taken ideas from every issue of Charlie Riche’s magazine and any information presented from the following sites:,, , , and,,,, Les Stroud and Bear Gryllis DVDs as well as many military handbooks, outdoor survival manuals.  

By taking, the concepts presented,  in each article I built onto the idea and added my new enhancements, hence the term “what is old is new again”, but with a twist.

The stick was assembled with off-the-shelf PVC pipe, fittings, glue, and miscellaneous hardware items. 

The material list for my first generation stick is as follows:
·        1 ½” dia. 5’ – 0” long  schedule  40 PVC pipe
·        1 ½” PVC  female cap socket joint
·        1 ½” PVC  socket female x threaded adapter
·        1 ½” PVC   threaded cleanout plug
·        One Philips head 3/8” diameter steel shaft x 6” long with a plastic handle (clear plastic preferred to be able to see the steel shaft imbedded in the handle).
·        (2)  ¼” dia.  x 2 ½” lg. stove bolts
·        (4) ¼” washers
·        (2) ¼” lock washers
·        (2) ¼” bolt caps
·        1 small can of PVC solvent and glue
·        A dust mask when cutting or grinding the plastics
·         Safety glasses for cutting, grinding and drilling
·        SS machine screw 1” long with a two (2) washers and  a nut
·        Duct tape (heavy duty plastic coated recommended)
To start the stick, work with the screwdriver   first, using a side grinder with an abrasive sanding disk to round off the screwdriver handle.  The handle should fit snugly into the bottom of the pipe.  Insert the handle until the beginning of the screwdriver is flush with the bottom of the pipe. Set the pipe on a vise to hold it in place for drilling.  Mark on the outside of the pipe where the steel shaft lies within the handle before drilling.  Knowing were the end of the pipe is drill about a half inch clear of the shaft a 5/16” diameter hole through the assembly.  Rotate the pipe a full 90 degrees and drill another hole about  ¾” above the last hole working toward the top of the pipe.  You should have the holes running North and South and East and West. The screwdriver handle can  be switched   from the ice pick end to the rounded screwdriver handle end by just reversing the position of the driver.  The bolts will secure the driver in either position for ice, road, and or sidewalk as needed.  Install the stove bolts washers and nuts to the pipe. 

Take the PVC cap and drill a hole directly through the center of the top of the cap.  Use a drill bit the same diameter as the screwdriver, then push the cap onto the tip and up an onto the pipe end.  This will close off the bottom of the pipe and keep moisture out from snow or water from creek crossings.  I thought of gluing this cap, on but that would mean always having the pick end out and not being able to change to the blunt tip.  I glued the pipe cleanout fitting on the  top of the pipe and then screwed the threaded male plug  (hex head) into the cleanout.  To keep from losing the plug on the ground run a metal screw through the plug with glue on the screw threads, and place the washer and nut on tight to the underside of the plug.  The screw head extended above the cap about a half inch with a fender washer to hold a cord attached to the plug and was then tied off to the hand loop to keep from losing the plug.  On a cold day, I would not want to look for the cap if it drops into the snow.  For extra cordage run a length of parachute  cord around the pipe and duct tape the ends only under a few turns of about  of duct tape.  This also forms a grip and tie off for the hand loop.  The hand loop should be large enough to slide a gloved hand through the loop.

The fun part was filling the newly-hollowed pipe with skinny survival gear that fit into the pipe cavity and could slide in or out quickly. My shoulder pack is my extended stay bag and contains full size back up gear and more.  Remember that anonymous famous saying that “One is none routine”, and of course my favorite: “It is better to have it and not use it rather than to need it and not have it”.  The meaning has changed substantially from its original meaning, I think.  With this in mind, my walking stick serves more than one purpose other than assisting me while walking on snow, ice or rough terrain.  The stick provides a feeling of confidence that should a problem arise you have assistance available and at hand.

The contents ‘of the Ice Stick is as listed below
·        ¾” copper pipe nipple about 3” long  with caps at each end just pushed on the ends containing waterproof matches
·        Rolled up  cotton pads soaked in paraffin wax (fire starter) (Note: Makeup remover round cotton pads split open, filled with Vaseline, closed shut then dipped in wax to seal.)
·        Round plastic  propane and flint lighter
·        Wax coated cotton  tipped sticks (short double ended homemade mini torches) (Note: Mini torch consists of cotton tipped swab with a paper stick with both ends dipped and coated with candle wax. When lit is lit has a very bright light and last about five minutes of intense heat.)
·        Fishing line and small hooks in a small plastic container
·        Swiss small army knife
·        Reciprocating saw blades metal and wood
·        Small plastic bottle with four days worth of  meds inside
·        Steel and flint fire starter combo
·        ¼” triangular style 6” long metal file
·        Small led flashlight and extra  AAA  batteries
·        Steel 30 # leaders with swivels for constructing snares/ fishing
·        Small bottle of liquid type bandage
·        Sewing tube with nylon  braided line and large  needles
·        9 volt battery for igniting steel wool
·        Rolled up steel wool in plastic wrap
When you carry the walking stick, you can provide more room in your bug out bag.  The shoulder bag provides the shelter, food, ammo, cleaning kit, axe, saw, field first aid kit, and basic specialty knives.
Your imagination will run away with different packing items and uses for the stick. Enjoy and be safe.