If you’re reading this it’s safe to assume that you are in the position I once was; looking to buy your first staff and unsure where to begin. Here’s five tips to help you make the right pick:

1. Sizing – “How long should my staff be” is always the first question for any beginner. Fortunately there’s an easy trick to find a good benchmark staff length using just a tape measure. Simply stand on the tongue of the tape measure and stand. Measure to the bottom of your chin and record this number – that’s your staff length.

2. Purpose – Ask yourself what you’re looking for in this purchase. Are you looking for something to practice on, or do you want to be able to light it on fire? Or just light it up with LEDs? Simple practice heads will prove most durable for a beginner, but will be hard to see at night, while LEDs and kevlar wicks are fragile, and repeated drops can damage them without proper protection. I’m going to shamelessly plug Ninja Pyrate here, because their modular staves help with this immensely, with a different head for practice, LED (powered by Flowtoys Flowlights and Capsule Lights), and fire, they provide a budget-friendly way to have your cake and burn it, too

3. Wicks – If you’re like me your first staff will probably be equipped with wicks because, let’s face it, it’s so darn cool, you’re like a fire bender, man! Don’t let this excitement get the better of you – Make sure you protect your wicks while you’re learning! This can be as simple as socks or beer coozies, or you can order superbly durable covers from Dark Monk. There’s also a wealth of custom made beauties to be found on Etsy. Make sure you’re keeping your kevlar safe, both from UV rays, which degrade kevlar over time, and from the ground.

4. Storage – A 5 foot staff can eat up a decent amount of space, and sooty wicks leave stains on the wall. Beyond that, you’ll also want to take your staff with you from time to time. Consider how you’ll transport your staff. Consider if a one-piece staff, or a collapsible one, will better suit your needs – both Ninja Pyrate and Gora Professional Fire Gear make highly portable staves.

5. Metal – Not all aluminum is created equal. Consider where you will be practicing and choose your staff accordingly. Do you have a grassy area to practice in, or is there concrete? If you don’t have a soft landing for your staff, or expect to beat it thoroughly, look into higher durability metals such as the 7075 aluminum used by Dark Monk.

The most important thing, however, is practice – the best stick in the land is useless in hands that don’t know how to spin it. Go find yourself a stick and get to work!