All-Terrain Cane: The Humvee of White Canes

When David Epstein moved to Sedona, Arizona, several years ago, he looked forward to regular hikes with his wife through the picturesque red sandstone formations along the outskirts of the popular tourist destination.

Epstein, who has the incurable inherited retinal eye disease retinitis pigmentosa, soon found hiking with his wife increasingly difficult — especially at dusk. Over time, he had problems seeing the uneven ground, loose rocks, and tree roots that caused him to frequently stumble and slow down the couple’s progress.

When Epstein finally made the difficult decision to start using a white cane, he found it helped him somewhat — but he also found it a hindrance. Designed for street and sidewalk travel, the cane was too light for the rigors of off-road trail hiking. He was regularly frustrated when the cane tip snagged on a trail’s nooks and crannies.

Not willing to give up hiking, Epstein went to work designing what would become the All-Terrain Cane (ATC). Now in its third iteration, the All-Terrain Cane could be called the Humvee of white canes.

Constructed from grade nine aircraft titanium alloy, the ATC is both light, weighing less than one pound, and incredibly durable. From a distance, the cane looks like a standard three-section folding white cane with the customary red tip, but on closer inspection it is clear that this is not your father’s white cane.

Starting with the 16-inch handle, the ATC incorporates two designs. The familiar golf grip design at the top of the cane transitions down the shaft into a rounded ski pole grip shape. The handle’s extra 7-inch length allows travelers to grip lower on the cane while ascending hills and steep grades.

Gripping the cane like a ski pole, a hiker can dig the sturdy titanium cane into the trail for extra support and stability without worrying about it hyper-flexing or breaking.

Inside the cane’s hollow titanium tubes is the familiar bungee cord holding the three sections together for easy folding and unfolding, but the ATC’s cord is very different. Made from high strength Kevlar, it ensures far greater resistance to breakage when traveling out in the elements.

The ATC’s slip-on cane tip is a two-inch thermoplastic roller ball, similar to the tips of many standard white canes with an important difference — instead of two pieces connected with a screw, the roller ball is a single welded unit attached to a sealed housing that prevents dirt, sand, and other fine debris from gumming up the ball’s rolling action.

Epstein also incorporated innovative grip-lock technology just below the ATC’s handle. With a flip of the lock, cane travelers can adjust cane length on the fly, retracting or extending the tubes 10 inches — from 51 inches at its shortest to 61 inches at full extension. This handy feature lets cane travelers rapidly shorten the ATC during climbs and lengthen it on descents.

Readers interested in taking cane travel off-road can find the All-Terrain Cane on AwareWolf’s website:

Technology reviews are written by Doug Goist, program manager, workforce development, at NSITE. A recognized leader in the field of technology accessibility, Doug has worked with the U.S. Department of Defense, the military services, federal agencies, and private sector partners. In 2013, he served as the technical steering committee representative for the U.S. Agency for International Development on a study of mobile money transfer and handset accessibility in Africa.