Poles for Pioneering – What is a Spar?

Wooden poles are the main ingredient in building a pioneering structure. Everyone knows what a pole is. Depending on the project at hand, we use them in all different lengths and diameters. But, what are all these references to spars? Is a spar different than a pole?

What is a spar? Simply stated, in pioneering, a spar is a thick, strong pole. Obviously, when completed, a pioneering project has to be able to withstand the strain and stress that will occur while performing its intended function. We can’t build a structure out of spindly sticks tied together with string and expect it to work. We use spars lashed together with good, natural fiber rope!

Bamboo Pole, Pine Spar, Scout Stave, Stick
Poles, Staves, Sticks, and Spars

Okay. So a spar is a thick, strong pole. Now there are a lot of givens, but we’ll go through them anyway, and quickly:

  • The best spars for pioneering are straight with a minimum of taper.
  • The diameter of a spar is measured at the butt end, not the tip. Depending on what’s being built, butt ends are frequently between two and four inches thick, and under certain circumstances, even thicker.
  • Spars can be any length, depending on what’s being built. In Scout Pioneering, the most common sizes are six, eight, ten, and twelve feet. (Depending on what’s being built, fourteen, sixteen, and even longer are sometimes called for.)
  • For pioneering projects, spars should be skinned. (If the bark moves when the project is under strain, lashings can slip, skinned spars last longer and the projects look nicer.)
  • Spars should be stored out of the weather for future use.

Is a Scout Stave a spar? No. By themselves, they’re too skinny. Scout Staves are great for instruction and small projects, but a 5-foot Scout Stave is a strong stick, not a spar. Many camp gadgets can be built using short, smaller diameter poles, like Scout Staves.

Is a bamboo pole a spar? A bamboo pole is a bamboo pole. Large diameter bamboo is certainly thick, and depending on it’s condition, also strong, however it should be born in mind, bamboo can withstand vertical stress much better than horizontal stress. It’s super for a variety of pioneering uses because it’s wonderfully straight and for its size it’s very light weight. Due to it’s surface being so slick, lashing bamboo poles together presents additional challenges.