No one’s ever asked me how to make a packstaff attachment for their four-part paddle, but I’m going to tell you anyway. IK&P paddles are here, btw.
What’s so good about packstaffs? Well, they’re a great way of converting your light but strong paddle shaft into a light but strong walking staff that’s stronger and longer than walking poles which are useful on the trail, but redundant on the water. Not necessary on the flat ground, staffs help you trek uphill and down dale for the same reasons as walking poles; they help spread the load to your arms and pecs and off your legs in general and ageing knees in particular. I am sure my legs have felt less tired after a full day of loaded packstaff walking in the hills.
Plus a longer packstaff can easily take your full weight as you ease down a steep gully with a heavy backpack pushing you forward. A friction-fit telescopic walking pole would collapse, or sure feels like it might. Like any long staff they’re also handy for prodding boggy-looking ground, fighting off Turkish mastiffs and help with vaulting streams and the like. Again, a lightweight walking pole may not be stiff enough to do this. A packstaff nib weighs not much, costs next to nothing, and works with any four-part paddle, like my Aquabound Manta Ray (left).
Find a bit of tube that’s close to the right diametre to slip into your paddle where the blade goes. My blue tube is from some cheap paddle that came with a long-gone slack raft. Add tape to make a snug fit, if necessary. But not so tight that you risk jamming when wet or wearing the shaft with possible blade fit loosening implications. Drill a hole at a point where there’s enough overlap to make the assembly strong, and then fit a spring clip. I bought a pair on ebay for a fiver, though you can buy cheaper pressed out ones for less. As it happens it turns out my Aquabound uses cheap pressed clips. You may not be able to find the typical 7-8mm buttons to fit the AB files. I settled with 6mm (left). This spring clip is easy to fit and a big improvement over my previous ‘slip-on’ nib which got sucked off in bogs.
Next, line up the two holes or fit the spring clip and add a collar. You don’t want the nib’s striking force impacting on the clip’s button alone. I sawed a bit of old fibreglass kayak shaft which was a tight fit on the blue tube, so split it then glued it on. That glue didn’t work so well so I roughed it up, more glue then added a couple of rivets. The collar also protects the end of the paddle shaft a bit. The the actual end ‘nib’ is currently a black plastic screw section (right). Stuff and glue in a bit of cork or other blockage in your nib end (right) to stop the tube slowly filling with mud or stones. The nib weighs 128g.
Using the packstaff with an open shaft at the top end, I sometimes worry that stumbling onto that shaft at face height would be nasty. With a canoe T grip (fiver on ebay) you can press comfortably on the staff coming down a hill and it also acts as a handy hook. Mine had to be ground down to fit. It weighs 74g, so all up my packstaff extras weigh 200g. The AB paddle weighs 890g.