Scout stave

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Baden-Powell's drawing of a Scout with his staff, from the front cover of Scouting for Boys: Part III, published in 1908

A Scout staff (or Scout stave) is a shoulder-high wooden pole, traditionally carried Boy Scouts. Its main purpose was as a hiking stick, but it had a number of other uses in emergency situations and can be used for pioneering.


Canadian Boy Scouts on parade with their staves at Calgary in 1915.

When Robert Baden-Powell published in 1908 the manual Scouting for Boys, he recommended that Scouts should carry "a strong stick, about as high as your nose, marked in feet and inches for measuring". After listing the various uses to which the staff could be put, he added "If you get the chance, cut your own staff, but remember to get permission first". It was said to have been based on a staff used by a Royal Engineer officer during the Fourth Anglo-Ashanti War.

In August 1917, Baden-Powell wrote a critical article in the Headquarters Gazette about "the matter of Scouts being allowed to parade without their staffs, which for several reasons is regrettable".

At the 3rd World Scout Jamboree in 1929, French Scouts constructed an ~25m replica of the Eiffel Tower from Scout staves.[1]


The Patrol Leaders carried a white pennant on their staves, showing a silhouette of their Patrol animal.

Baden-Powell's drawing of a Patrol Leader's pennant: "Each patrol leader has a small white flag on his staff with the head of his patrol animal shown in red cloth stitched on to it on both sides. Thus the 'Wolves' of the 1st London Troop would have the flag shown below".


The scout staff has many uses. The most important is safety and balance while hiking with a pack of camping gear. Staves can be purely decorative while others can be strictly functional. A scout stave is more than a stick picked up off the ground.

Some uses from various Scouting publications:

  • Making an improvised stretcher
  • Holding back a crowd
  • Jumping over a ditch (pole vault)
  • Testing the depth of a river
  • Helping another Scout over a high wall
  • Construction of a light bridge, hut or Camp flagpole
  • Self-defence
  • A tent pole for a small tent
  • making an improvised camp broom
  • Feeling your way over rough or marshy ground
  • Measuring distances[2]
  • Estimating the height of trees or tall buildings[3]
  • Linking Scouts together on a night hike
  • Making a splint for an injured leg
  • Stopping an aggressive dog
  • Beating out bush fires

See Also


  1. Tenderfoot to Queen's Scout, The Canadian Boy Scouts' Association, 1955 (p. 24)
  2. Starting to Scout: Tenderfoot and Second Class Tests, The Canadian General Council of the Boy Scouts' Association, Ottawa 1944 (p. 7)
  3. Tenderfoot to Queen’s Scout 1955 (pp. 84-85)