Hiking Staff/survival Bow




Introduction: Hiking Staff/survival Bow

I was recently looking for a new project and happened on some videos by the Backyard Bowyer on making bows from PVC pipe.  After watching a few of his very instructive tutorials, I decided to make one for myself.  After I got it done, I was surprised how well it shot and how easy it was to make, not to mention being very low cost.  While I was researching all things PVC, I happened on some other fellas who had made hiking staffs from PVC pipe.  The pipe doubled as storage for survival items.  Some of these were quite involved with all kinds of connectors, sections, etc. and looked to be quite handy.  After a bit I kind of melded the two ideas and thought why not make a bow that doubled as a hiking staff (or vice versa, if you prefer!)

So, here tis the Hiking Staff Survival Kit/Survival Bow thing!

Step 1: Making the Bow/staff

I used a 66 inch piece of ¾ inch white PVC for this.  Most of the guys who made staffs from PVC used 1 inch which makes it easier to store stuff inside.  However, I found one inch to be a little too stiff for a bow, at least for a weak old man.  To strengthen the center of the bow and control the bend, I cut an 8 inch piece of one inch pipe, cut a slit down one side on the table saw and then slid it down to the center.  I had to spray a little WD40 on the ¾ and tap it with a hammer to get it to slide, because even with the slit it fits pretty tight.

Once I got it centered, I super-glued it and then filled the gap with JB Weld.  The side with the gap is the back of the bow.

Step 2: Notching for the String

Next, I drilled holes one inch from the ends lined up with the slit in the one inch pipe.  It’s a little difficult to get everything lined up perfectly and, in fact, I first cut notches sideways, but got them so crooked I ended up cutting about an inch off each end and then cut the lengthwise slits.  These aren’t perfect either, but they work. 

Step 3: Final Touches

I taped over the one inch PVC piece with black electrical tape.  This gives it a little more ‘grip’ and is a way to store lots of tape.  I overlapped quite a bit and there is close to a third of a roll on there should I need to tape something.

Then I taped both ends with some camo duct tape.  This tape could be removed and used also.  It also serves to strengthen the pipe a little and would prevent an injury should the bow break.

Step 4: Survival Kit Contents

The professional survival kit builders out there will find a lot to pick at here as this is not a great set of contents, but it does, I think, cover the bare necessities which is about all you can fit into the space available.

In the upper end are two carbon arrows with field points, the bow string (550 cord), a plastic tube for drinking from a bag or stream and to blow on a fire, and a ten inch tile saw blade.  Tile saw blades are great for survival kits because they are stiff enough to be used alone or you can attach them to a little bow.  A saw is better for building shelters, traps, etc. than a knife.

I taped one end of the bow string to the end of one of the arrows and pushed it in first, followed by the second arrow, etc.  Finally, I pushed it all in with the string.  To remove, you pull on the string and it all comes out nicely.  There is a button compass in the end cap.

Step 5: Survival Kit Contents (cont.)

There isn’t much room in a ¾ inch pipe, so you will have to be creative here.  I found that the aluminum tubes from some solar sidewalk lights and high lighter marker tubes fit and slide freely.  You want something that will slide easily or stuff will get jammed in the pipe.  I made some plugs for the aluminum tubes with my 3d printer, but little plugs cut from dowels would work just as well.

In one aluminum tube is a chapstick with sunscreen for your lips and starting fires – just rub on a cotton ball, much less messy than Vaseline and works well, a large needle, a plastic vial of bleach for water purification, the foil packet contains 4 fish hooks and 4 split shot, an 8mm white LED and No. 25 Exacto blades.  In the other aluminum tube is a single use tube of super glue for cuts, two straws containing Neosporin, four bandaids and a rolled up one gallon ziplock bag for water.  For fire starting, there is the fire steel and the marker tube contains eight cotton balls.  The little silver and black thing is two 3 volt button batteries to be used with the LED (one at a time) to make a rudimentary flashlite.  I didn’t have a suitable knife that would fit in a ¾ inch space so I decided to go with a No. 5 Exacto handle and No. 25 blades.  I think there are several advantages to this plan.  First, you aren’t going to get much of a knife inside the PVC.  The largest thing would probably be on the order of a cut-down paring knife.  And, since you have a saw, most jobs for the knife will involve cutting small sticks or cordage or working with food items.  Second, having multiple blades eliminates the problem of breakage and having to carry a sharpener.  Third, being able to remove the blade makes it safer to carry.  And finally, if you are going hiking you should have a better knife on your belt or in your pocket anyway!!

And last, I wrapped the upper end with 50 feet of 550 parachute cord, which serves as a nice hand grip on the staff.

Step 6: Conclusion

I ran out of good ideas when I got to the end caps and decided to just use black tape to fasten them on.  About anything I could think of (drilling holes, etc.) jeopardized the integrity of the end of the pipe.   The ends are not completely water-proof but almost.  I drilled a hole in the bottom cap and installed a short ¼ inch bolt to keep the staff from slipping.

I probably wouldn’t want to stick an elk with this bow, but as a survival tool to take small critters such as rabbits, small rodents, frogs or fish it would be just fine.  I did not weigh it, but I would guess it’s a 25 to 30 pounder.  And, in a real deal and I was hungry, I would try to stick a deer at 15 or 20 yards.  If you got a good hit, you would get enough penetration to kill it.  The PVC does have a bit of ‘memory’ so you shouldn’t leave it strung for a long time.

The survival kit, while pretty sparse, would provide me enough tools to build a shelter, make a fire, get a drink and stay happy til something good happened!!  And that’s what it’s all about, right??  Thanks for reading about my project and Happy Trails!!



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    25 Discussions

    this is awesome and sounds like a good thing to have in your car as a "just in case" sort of thing.

    1 reply

    Thanks, Moodle2! Yeah, and it just looks like a piece of pipe so its not likely to get swiped.


    2 years ago

    dear mr. doodah (or may i call you zippety?)

    this is one of the most simple, logical, well-thought-out instructables i've seen in a long time. see the supply sergeant for a cleverness medal and wear it proudly


    1 reply

    when you make the knotch for the bow string is it one hole or two on either side

    1 reply

    Cody: There is a notch in each side of the end of the tube and I drilled a hole where the end of each notch or slit will end. This eliminates the potential for the tube to 'split.' If that isn't clear ask again........

    I'm in the process of building this and plan on using it to take camping and small game hunting thank you for this great idea


    I made a slight improvement. I had used a 6" piece of 1" pipe for the hand grip. I lengthened it to eight inches and made sure that the 3/4" limbs wet in a full 4" on each side. now the bow tests at 37.4 lbs at 28". Not bad for PVC! I included broad heads with removable blades I put .357 mag shell casings over the broad heads. they don't take up any more room. If I need thumper arrows for small game, I can tape the shell casings right to the arrow shaft. I am going to share the Ideas with some scouts on the next outing.

    hallen41: Glad it helped you and sounds like you made some cool improvements too.

    I was trying to build a survival staff when I found your Post. Thanks. I tested my PVC staff/Bow and it is a consistent 30 lbs. at 28". I also added a fishing spear that attaches to the screw and covered the screw with a hose nozzle for a tip.. I added a 1" PVC 6" end cap to store extra gear. I will try to put a photo on tomorrow. Thanks again for the ideas.

    Late addition. Use insertion plugs, remove/thin the grip. Slip inside a 1 inch for better stiffness, not only for stability, but protection for the arrows.

    Instead of electrical tape for the hand grip, I would have used the same tape used to wrap racquets with. (Non-slip grip).

    3 replies

    the problem with the stuff used to wrap racquets is it can be quite bulky at least in my experience and i don't exactly have small hands, then again it can easily be removed if it is so worth trying out. as a bonus you could even use it to form a shelf to use as an arrow rest due to it's bulk.

    I guess there's proabably dozens of things that could be used to form the grip, each with their own pros and cons I think I'm going to have to make a few when I get time and try them out

    Try that medical tape (about 1" width, white, fabric) that the sports guys always seem to be wrapping their wrists/ankles with (track team doctors used to wrap my feet/arches to keep me from getting nasty blisters on my arches, before I ditched the Nikes and discovered Asics). Its lightweight, sticky, and the non-sticky side is fabric-textured for a good grip. I've got a couple of dumbbell weights (that I really *should* be using more often...) that I wrapped the grips with to help when my palms get sweaty. Great stuff!

    Yes, that would certainly help make the handle grip better. I used the electrical tape because I can use it for so many other things.

    very interesting I'm actually considering making one of these. though I think I'm going to go with 25mm (1inch) pipe and will probably pack a more compleate survival kit.
    a few thoughts maybe wrapping the middle with fishing line to use as an improvised reel (hooks, weights, sewing needles can be carried inside for fishing and doing repairs on kit. I got the idea from the original jimmy lyle survival knife (the one used in rambo 1/2) which had fishing line on the grip for such uses)

    2 replies

    One inch would certainly give more room for survival stuff, but you better try to draw the bow first!! It would be way to heavy a draw weight for me, I think.

    well I commonly use a 60lb draw recurve bow and from what I've found after some research a bow made of 1inch PVC pipe would have a top limit of about 40-45lb

    Hmm, a hiking staff needs to be somewhat stiff for walking, but a bow needs to be nice and supple. Best thing i think would be to get a stiff stick, and make it an atlatl. That way, you can hurl projectiles AND have a sturdy staff for walking/bo fighting.

    1 reply

    nerd12: You're right. There is a bit of flex to the staff, but its a bit of trade-off. An atlatl would be cool but would take me too long to learn to be accurate, I'm afraid.