2008 LuxuryLite Big Survival Stik Walking Staff REVIEW

This is a modern version of the traditional hardwood walking staff. Made of carbon fiber, it is much stronger and more robust than even the stiffest of trekking poles. It has an adjustable hand strap, breaks down into sections, and can even be converted into a “trail defense system".

Recommended

Overall Rating: Recommended

For those who prefer a hiking staff, there are few choices on the market that use modern materials. Constructed of carbon fiber and aluminum, the Big Survival Stik improves on the traditional hardwood staff with very stiff shafts, low weight, and extra durability. Further, it includes a hand strap, an aluminum tip, and an integrated trail defense system for protection (and fireside conversation). It’s a good alternative to a classic piece of gear.

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by Doug Johnson |

2008 LuxuryLite Big Survival Stik Walking Staff REVIEW

Introduction

The LuxuryLite Big Survival Stik is a walking staff in the tradition of hardwood walking staffs used by hikers for decades. However, it is much lighter, stiffer, and stronger than wooden walking staffs. It also has an adjustable hand strap, breaks down into 23 inch sections, and can be used as both a knife and a spear, should the need arise. If wimpy trekking poles aren’t for you, but you still enjoy the feel of a traditional walking staff, the LuxuryLite Big Survival Stik is a great choice.

What’s Good

  • At 9.7 ounces, it is much lighter than wooden walking staffs
  • Compacts to 23 inch sections for easy storage
  • Extremely stiff - the stiffest pole we’ve ever tested
  • Hand strap is comfortable for all-day treks
  • A complete trail defense system including knife and spear

What’s Not So Good

  • Much heavier than lightweight trekking poles (although this is not a trekking pole)
  • Sections can be difficult to separate
  • Tip packs with dirt and doesn’t bite well, causing slippage
  • The integrated knife makes for great conversation but may not be useful on the trail

Specifications

  Year/Model

2008 LuxuryLite Big Survival Stik Walking Staff

  Style

Three-section collapsible

  Shaft Material

21 mm (13/16 in) diameter carbon tube with aluminum inserts at section junctions

  Tips

Anodized T-9 aluminum “fat tip”

  Grips

Sliding prussic hand strap with rubber cover, no grip

  Grip Size

n/a

  Weight
Per Pole (without baskets)

9.7 oz (275 g) measured weight; manufacturer’s specification 9.0 oz (255 g)

  Pole Length

53.5 in (136 cm); “grip height” is adjustable

  Collapsed Pole Length

23 in (58 cm);

  Baskets Included?

No - none available

  Basket Type

n/a

  MSRP

$125

  Options

48 in, 1-section non-collapsible pole also available: 6.6 oz (mfr claim), $87

Performance

Trekking poles are not for everyone. Some hikers prefer the solid feel of a traditional hiking staff over a pair of lightweight poles with grips and straps. For these hikers, though, there are few choices in hiking staffs that use modern materials and fit well into an ultralight kit.

The LuxuryLite Big Survival Stik is an example of a modern walking staff. Constructed of huge 21 millimeter carbon fiber shafts, this is no wimpy trekking pole. Unlike hardwood staffs, this pole also breaks down into four sections (with the longest two measuring 23 inches) for easy stashing when hiking in more technical terrain.

2008 LuxuryLite Big Survival Stik Walking Staff REVIEW - 1
The Big Survival Stik breaks down into four sections for easy storage.

A unique part of the Big Survival Stik is the “survival” aspect. In the tradition of secret knives hidden in canes and walking staffs, the top of the staff pulls out to reveal a 6 inch aluminum “needle knife.” According to LuxuryLite, “This scary ultrahard T-9 aluminum weapon is sharp enough to leave a big hole in any creature unwise enough to attack you.” If that’s not enough, you can even remove the tip and attach the dagger to the end of the shaft to create a 52 inch spear that I was able to throw quite a distance with accuracy. Beyond trail defense, the knife is not particularly usable (don’t expect to slice cheese with this) but it sure is a conversation starter! More about this “Trail Defense System” is shown in the video below.

 

For a better viewing experience, please download the Flash Player. The LuxuryLite “Trail Defense System” in action.

When not involved in trail combat, the four sections fit together with thick aluminum inserts that are angle cut to line things up more easily. They stay together with friction, eliminating the need for complex locking systems. Some twisting and force is needed when putting the sections together or taking them apart but I never had any issue with them coming apart on the trail - the tight fit ensures this.

2008 LuxuryLite Big Survival Stik Walking Staff REVIEW - 3
The wrist strap is easily adjustable via the prussik cord.

The LuxuryLite staff includes a removable hand strap that is attached to the pole with a prussik knot. The cord is covered by a rubber tube to protect the hands while in use. This hand strap is used differently than a trekking pole grip; simply slide your hand through the loop and wrap your hand around the staff. The strap supports the side of the hand rather than the wrist. This oversized loop keeps your hand from sliding down the staff when hiking and allows you to grip the staff less firmly. I quickly adapted to the loose grip of the hand strap and found it comfortable for long days on the trail. Occasionally I would change hands when one arm got tired and this was easily done without stopping.

2008 LuxuryLite Big Survival Stik Walking Staff REVIEW - 4
The oversized T-9 aluminum tip is slightly concave and quickly packs with dirt but leaves the hard edges exposed (left). It definitely leaves less of a mark in soft soil than a trekking pole tip (right).

The Stik tip is round aluminum rather than the sharp tip found in most trekking poles. In dirt conditions, it gripped reasonably well and had less penetration in soft soil and sand. This left less of a mark on the trail than trekking pole tips, which can leave an ugly divot. That said, the slightly concave tip packed quickly with soil and in sticky mud, the tip occasionally needed to be whacked against rocks to clear all of the soil. When climbing steep terrain and pushing hard on the staff, it also tended to slip more than a sharp-pointed trekking pole, leaving scars of a different kind. Overall, though, the tip worked fine.

Being constructed of four sections with only two of the same length, it is possible to configure the Stik to many different lengths for use with a variety of shelters. However, using the staff with shelters with grommets that are designed to be used with a sharp trekking pole tip may require some modifications or creative thinking.

Compatibility with trekking pole shelters Usable with this shelter?
Gossamer Gear/Tarptent Squall Classic (42 in/107 cm) Yes (108 cm length)
Tarptent Virga 2 / Squall 2 and Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo / Europa (45 in/114 cm) Yes (119 cm length)
Golite Trig 2 (48 in/123 cm) Yes (125 cm length)
MSR Missing Link (54 in/137 cm) Yes (137 cm length)

The LuxuryLite Big Survival Stik is the stiffest pole we have ever tested at BackpackingLight. Our new Pole Deflection Test involves supporting a pole on a rig with bolts at a 100 centimeter length and supporting a 25 pound weight at the center point. The deflection of 1.1 centimeters is substantially less than other poles we tested (among them the pre-2007 Bozeman Mountain Works Stix Pro, our previous stiffness champ).

2008 LuxuryLite Big Survival Stik Walking Staff REVIEW - 5
The LuxuryLite Big Survival Stik being tested in the all-new BackpackingLight Pole Stiffness Test. It’s the stiffest pole we’ve ever tested.

Pole make and model Amount of deflection (cm) Pole weight (no baskets) oz (g)
LuxuryLite Big Survival Stik 1.1 9.7 (275)
Bozeman Mountain Works Stix Pro (no longer available) 2.1 3.2 (90)
Pacerpole 2-section aluminum/carbon hybrid 2.5 10.9 (308)
Komperdell Featherlight / Bozeman Mountain Works Stix prototype 2.6 4.8 (136)
Komperdell Nature Stick Carbon 2.7 5.3 (151)
Gossamer Gear Lightrek 3 5.1 2.8 (79)

2008 LuxuryLite Big Survival Stik Walking Staff REVIEW - 6
The stiffness of the LuxuryLite pole makes it ideal for vaulting creeks or other aerial maneuvers.

In the field, this stiffness was very confidence inspiring. I used the staff to pole vault creeks and rocky sections and to fully support my body weight on steep descents - I never felt even a hint of flex. When intentionally trying to generate flex by putting all of my weight on the pole (see picture below), the amount of flex was extremely minimal. If you like the stiffness of a thick hardwood staff, this pole will replicate that better than any pole on the market.

2008 LuxuryLite Big Survival Stik Walking Staff REVIEW - 7
Even with my full body weight on the pole and trying hard to make it flex, only a very minimal amount of flex was noticed. This is one stiff pole.

At 9.7 ounces, the Big Survival Stik is not among the lightest of trekking poles. Then, again, this is not a trekking pole and it serves a slightly different purpose. When compared to hardwood walking staffs, it is much lighter. Even when compared to oversized aluminum walking staffs such as the Tracks Lite Staff (52 inch length, 10.5 ounces), the Luxury Lite is almost an ounce lighter. And the Tracks pole doesn’t break down, won’t be as stiff, and doesn’t include the knife and spear that make the LuxuryLite so unique.

So what is the difference between hiking with poles and hiking with a staff such as this? I am a dedicated trekking pole user and I have to admit that at first I was skeptical of large, oversized staff. But after several long hikes with the staff, I’ve become a real fan. While my trekking poles are definitely faster when trying to cover long distances and more efficient when making direct ascents, the slow placements of the LuxuryLite staff brought me back to a more relaxed, lumbering pace. I enjoyed having a hand free and appreciated the fact that the stiff shaft was so secure under the combined weight of gear and my son Henry on my back. When using the Stik I seemed to wander more and I like the change in gait and the more easy-going pace that came with it. For mellow walks, the LuxuryLite staff has become my favorite pole. Now, that’s not to say you can’t hike quickly with the Stik - it’s definitely able to move you along quickly. There’s just something about hiking with a staff that, for me, tends to bring a more easy-going pace.

At $125, the LuxuryLite Big Survival Stik is an expensive hiking staff. When compared to the price of hardwood poles, though, the price is reasonable. And when you consider the functionality, stiffness, and unique aspects of this pole, it’s a reasonable price.

What’s Unique

This is a unique product, no question. There is no other hiking staff on the market that is made of carbon fiber, is this stiff and light, or that serves as both a knife and a spear. If you are looking for a unique hiking staff, the LuxuryLite Big Survival Stik is it.

Recommendations for Improvement

As much as I love the knife, it does add weight, and it isn’t very functional. I would like to see a version of the staff that eliminates the knife and focuses on the lightest weight. Still, I think I would choose the knife for my staff!

The tip is a mixed bag. It leaves less of a scar in soft soils than trekking pole tips, but it also slips more, especially on steep slopes, and it packs with dirt in certain soil conditions. It would be great to have a tip that incorporated some sort of raised point in the middle to prevent soil build up and to provide extra traction.

Overall, this is a well thought out and executed product.


Citation

"2008 LuxuryLite Big Survival Stik Walking Staff REVIEW," by Doug Johnson. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/2008_luxurylite_big_survival_stik_staff_review.html, 2008-02-20 03:00:00-07.

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Forum Index » Editor's Roundtable » 2008 LuxuryLite Big Survival Stik Walking Staff REVIEW


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Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Luxury Lite on 03/20/2008 07:48:18 MDT Print View

The snow baskets are a great new option- thanks for sharing Richard! Sometimes there is significant drag when pulling a pole with baskets out of the snow- especially when it's wet or crusty snow. I can imagine the lower sections coming off occasionally.

Have you ever experienced this Richard?

Thanks again- and by the way, no offense was taken at all! I always appreciate thoughtful discussions on this site- even disagreements. I think your input is valuable for anyone considering this pole- thank you!

Happy hiking!
Doug

Richard Allen
(roninpb)
Doug: I cannot write in the reply box. I'll contact site Admin. on 03/21/2008 19:02:45 MDT Print View

By posting the image and choosing "Edit" I am now able to reply to your post. Here goes.........

I haven't had any probs w/the poles coming apart .... in snow or mud. I mix and match sections for the tightest fit. Plus I have found that after a while the aluminium oxidizes, causing an even tighter fit. My poles require a twisting motion and good hand strength to R&R sections and tips.

Note: The pic below is of a new Leki snow basket and a slightly used LL basket, as delivered w/the LL "TipTop" kit. The Leki basket is much more pliable than the LL.

I avoid winter mountaineering. So please forgive my ignorance if i'm wrong. But it seems to me that a pair (or?) of LL Big Survival Stiks would make a pretty good avalanche probe when joined together. Thoughts?

Basket Comparison

I was rushed when I posted the parts pic earlier in this thread. Some captions would've helped. Ooops.

From left to right:
LL Basket tip which I cut down. It's lighter weight (Hooray!). And doesn't tangle as much on overgrown (ie; nonexistent) trails.
LL Basket/Tip as delivered in "TipTop" kit.
My original basket/tip made from sourced LL parts.
Custom 19in OAL section made for me by LL.
17in OAL section w/a P&S adapter which I cut down.
Needle *trowel* w/a one gram cork plug and a velcro adjustable handstrap. Comfy and multi purpose. Weight similar to OEM handstrap.
Needle Knife w/a hose (water filters, etc) adapter plug. Also multi purpose. And LTW. ;-)

I enjoy modding gear. Specially LL gear.

Peace,

Richard.

Edited by roninpb on 03/21/2008 19:25:26 MDT.

Frank Ramos
(frprovis) - F
field notes on 06/14/2008 13:26:47 MDT Print View

I just got back from hiking about 1000 miles in the mountains of Central Spain using this stick. Some comments:

1) I absolutely need to be able to put my hand on the top of the stick during certain manuevers (pole-vaulting deep stream with high banks on the side, so that the pole is only at mid-thigh heights when buried in the stream bed, etc) and the stick as shipped is very uncomfortable for this. So I added a 3/4" rubber cane tip from the hardware store to the top, with some duct tape underneath to hold in place. This worked well.

2) the strap slips down easily. I added some crikled duct tape around the middle of the pole to stop this.

3) the gold colored tip slipped off during a stream crossing because it got stuck in some very tenacious clay at the bottom of the stream. This was in March and the stream was hip deep (and cold!!!) where the tip slipped off, so I ended up having to dive down to retrieve it. Luckily I did retrieve it, but then the same problem occurred during another stream crossing. What happens is that the friction between the tip pieces is reduced when they get wet and cold. Moisture acts as a lubricant and the male and female alumimun tip sections shrink/expand at slightly different rates due to cold/heat. If the tips are sized to be snug when warm, then they will be loose when cold. If they are snug when cold, they will be very tight when warm.

In order to avoid more slipping, I bent the male tip sections slightly in the field so they fitted tighter. This solved the slippage problem, but because the fit was now excessively tight, the male sectino exerted heavy pressure on the female section when assembling the pole and eventually one of the female sections came unglued and slipped deeper into the tube so that now the tip didn't fully meet and this pole was very weak at this point. This happened in May, near the end of my trip. I managed to complete the trip without problems, but I see this as a serious shortcoming, since there is no way to repair this problem in the field. My tarp is designed to use any stick, including a tree branch, as the front support, but I'm getting tired of sticks letting me down. All of the cam sticks I've used in the past have let me down eventually and now I'm seeing that this luxury lite stick also can let me down.

4) Because of rain and other factors, I once decided to make an early shelter and apparently did so in a place where someone could see, who then called the police. They came to investigate and told me I had to pack up and leave because camping was not permitted where I was. In the course of packing up while being watched by the police, I had to insert the knife piece back into the rest of the pole. I did this quickly and discretely as possible, but certainly if the police had been watching more closely and if they had wanted to nab me on something serious (they didn't, they were just following procedures), this would be a great opportunity because of the concealed weapon issue. So I think it would be a good idea to cut the knife off so the short sections is like the other sections.

5) On the other hand, the knife was quite comforting when some wild boar surrounded my tent (I removed the knife section to make the pole shorter for use with my tarp). Not that I really want to fight a full sized male boar in pitch dark with nothing but a knife in my hand. They hunt these beasts in Spain and so I don't know why they were daring to approach me, but they did.

6) Incidentally, the knife will bend if you try using it as a trowel. A trowel is not necessary anyway. If the ground is soft, then just use the tip of the pole to push the dirt away. If the ground is rock hard, then a trowel is hopelessly ineffective.

7) there are times when I need to store my stick somewhere in or on my pack in order to rock climb. The luxury lite is somewhat cumbersome for this, compared to collapsible sticks, because I have to disassemble and store it inside the pack rather than just collapsing it and then hanging it on the outside of the pack. I don't do this that often.

8) The luxury lite is not nearly as good as collapsible sticks for use as a self-arrest pick when crossing snow banks on a slope. First, the tip is not that sharp. Second, because the luxury lite can't be collapsed, you have a lot of extra stick at the top which would likely unbalance you if you fell. I didn't cross many snow banks nor do I have much experience using any hiking stick during real (as opposed to practice) self-arrest manuevers. But the luxury lite would definitely be a poor choice compared to the tracks sherlock or one of the cam-lock collapsible sticks.

9) the luxury lite is as good as any other stick for fending off dogs, which is probably the single most important reason for a hiking stick, in my experience.

all things considered, I liked the feel of the Luxury Lite stick very much after I modified it with the rubber cap and the tighter coupling. But the possibility of the female tip sections coming unglued has me worried that this stick is not much more reliable than the cam lock sticks that keep failing on me every 1000 miles or so. I will probably be returning to the Tracks Sherlock Staff for my next trip, even though it weighs quite a bit more. The more experience I get, the more tolerant I am of extra weight in exchange for extra reliability.

Bruce Warren
(brucewarren) - F
Re: field notes on 07/20/2008 16:09:14 MDT Print View

Frank has some good observationsand some incorrect observations:

1) The Tip/Top kit now available includes a rounded rubber cap for those hikers who insist on using a 54" hiking pole when they really need a 72" length to cross those deep streams. An extra long hiking staff is oh so useful once you try it...

2)The hand strap slides down the full length so you can instantly make a very short Stik to dig in when clawing your way up hill. The tip has a flare to stop the strap from falling off and so does the top section.

3)Frank says he is "tired of sticks letting me down." But his LuxuryLite Stik finished a 1,000 mile trip still functioning despite his re-engineering of the joints. The aluminum joints expand/contract at exactly the same rate since the two mating pieces are the same alloy, so they do not get loose or tight due to temperature changes. This is why an aluminum liner is bonded to the carbon with flexible glue since carbon and aluminum have very different coefficients of expansion. The tip is designed to come off when it gets really stuck so that your forward momentum does not break the staff. If you are hiking in very unusual conditions like streams with sticky clay bottoms, you can put some bathtub caulk on the joint piece and then slip the tip on. You can get it off later if you really twist and turn the tip.

4)We sell an 11" Top Section with no needle knife for those places where you don't want to carry the needle. Or you can easily cut the end off the needle off with any hacksaw.

5)And wild pigs in Texas were the reason for creating the needle knife.

7) You can slide the hand strap to just above the middle and hang the Stik from your pack like other hiking poles with wrist straps.

8)To make a self-arrest pick, just use one section, put the other parts in your pack before you do the slippery crossing. Also, a traditional basket tip is now available. Maybe we need to add a tip that uses an ice axe point?

9) I am very impressed that Frank did 1,000 miles in the mountains of Spain. That is the most gruelling test the Stik has been thru so far. And Frank's report reveals that the Stik never failed him, the worst happening was retrieving a tip stuck in the mud. The Stik never collapsed or broke. It finished the 1,000 mile trek. And the joint liner that slipped a little is covered under the Lifetime Warranty.

Christopher Williams
(clwilla) - F

Locale: The Bluegrass
Really want, but limited options on 08/31/2008 21:01:42 MDT Print View

I was very dismayed to find that LL has raised the price of this staff nearly $75 since this review just 6 months ago, and that one needs to buy an extra $67 piece to not have the knife.

A knife like this is gratuitous at best, and dangerous at worst, yet in order to have the functionality of the pole without the knife (one couldn't dream of passing through TSA security gates at an airport with that blade) one has to pay an extra $67. Why not simply offer both versions? Perhaps if LL were to, they would soon discover that the "Trail Defense System" is the gimmick it is, and lose a bullet point in their marketing material.

I would love the functionality and strength of a CF staff like the LL Survival Stik, but since I can't get one that I can travel with without spending nearly $300, I'll have to pass.

Edited by clwilla on 08/31/2008 21:46:05 MDT.

Bruce Warren
(brucewarren) - F
prices on 09/01/2008 09:37:35 MDT Print View

Chris,

Things that cost about $199: iPod, GPS, tent, sleeping bag, backpack, gas for one day of driving, one LuxuryLite Big Stik.

The secret is you only need one. Just one. When you use those skinny bendy poles you need two because you cannot trust them. My 5 years as a pro motocrosser trashed my knees (ACL, MCL, missing in action), I discovered that going downhill with one very long and very stiff staff is easier on the legs and knees than using two bendy poles. Because your brain knows you cannot really trust those skinny poles and your muscles stay tense all the time... just in case.

Sorry the Stik is out of your price range... but where else can you find ANY carbon hiking pole with a lifetime warranty and hand made in Texas? Add up how much have you spent on hiking poles in the last 10 years.

You don't have to buy the special knife-less section, you can cut the needle knife off with any hacksaw if you are sure you'll never want to carry the thing.

The needle knife is a very important feature to most customers, a lot of solo hikers feel a bit vulnerable out there with wild animals, loose dogs, and a few strange characters wandering around.

But, in reality, the needle knife is a mere toy compared to the classic hi-carbon 8" hunting knife in the leather sheath you see hanging from the belt of many outdoor travelers.

-=Bruce Warren

Christopher Williams
(clwilla) - F

Locale: The Bluegrass
Re: prices on 09/01/2008 11:00:16 MDT Print View

I agree. I'm sure that the Big Stik is a fine product that is worth every penny. I am just dismayed at the price hike of 60% less than 6 months after a review was written on it. I was excited to buy it when I read the review, but when I saw that the price jumped from $125 to $200 I was a bit let down. Not that the price went up (I understand that, as a consumer I will have to deal with occasional price increases on everything), but that it went up so drastically.

That said, I don't think that I would pay $200 for a pair of poles either, and, since you asked, I haven't spent a dime on poles in the last 10 years as I've never used them.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Nahhhh on 02/19/2010 09:26:29 MST Print View

Too much the overpriced gadget for me. I would question the concealed weapon issues too. Not much use as a shelter pole for me as it isn't adjustable.

Might as well have a section of bamboo with a strap. I've built ones with bottom sections from discarded trekking poles bedded in silicone adhesive. Bamboo pole with a carbide tip and snow basket mount!

I'll stick with my Black Diamond poles and Komperdell staff. Heck, all my poles, knife, and frog spear head didn't cost what this thing does!