- May 17, 2018 at 10:02 am #3536179
I don’t want this to be a heated gun thread. I am asking those who do carry a gun while hiking or backpacking, what do you carry and where do you keep it while hiking? I have no desire to have a gun but i was out backpacking for 2 days recently and my friend wanted me to learn how to use his Rueger .380 in case something happened to him and I needed to use his gun. So I agreed. It scared me to use it, but he only showed me without the bullets. However…at my age and being more vulnerable as a 65 yr old woman, it got me to seriously think about carrying one.May 17, 2018 at 12:23 pm #3536187wiiawiwb wiiawiwbMember
If you’re “afraid” of guns, you probably should not carry one. You’re far more likely to have a problem and injure yourself or someone else. Consider some other option such as bear spray (if it’s legal in your state) to fend off an animal.May 17, 2018 at 12:32 pm #3536190
You didn’t answer my question, but thank you.May 17, 2018 at 1:54 pm #3536196ArthurMember
Maybe hearing about actual incidents where having a gun on the trail helped someone might influence Donna’s decision. I personally have never heard of any, so it would be educational to me too.May 17, 2018 at 2:44 pm #3536203M BMember
I have three handguns and would never think of carrying one of them backpacking in the areas I frequent in the US. I’m sure there’s areas that would make me think twice. They’re not needed for animals, just for humans. And that probability is so low, I’m willing to take my chances.
Now when I’m in the woods bow hunting, I do carry a small 25 caliber semi-automatic in my pocket. Saturday Night Special if you will. Little extra insurance should I come across trespassers or poachers . It’s so small and light I walked into stores for getting it was in my pocket several times.May 17, 2018 at 3:41 pm #3536220
Kudos to you, Donna, for taking the initiative to understand something that frightens you. Fear of guns is almost entirely based in ignorance. They are tools and, as such, require a competent user to be most beneficial.
I would suggest that you spend much more time around guns under the supervision of someone who is proficient in their use and is safety concious. There are a lot of knuckleheads out there that know which end to point where and how to make it go “boom” but are dangerous as hell.
Are you wanting to carry for protection from 2 legged threats or 4 legged? If it is the 2 legged variety there are a huge number of options in relatively light and small packages. If it is the 4 legged variety, you and the critters are better off with bear spray. It takes a lot of training and grit to maintain your proficiency with a handgun under hyper stressful conditions. Not likely in the face of a charging carnivore. Plus, you would need a much more powerful handgun. A .380 will most likely just piss off whatever you shoot.
I do not carry while backpacking, but I am a good sized young male. I occasionally carry while exploring around through the forest near my home because there is decent chance of encountering deranged individuals in the places I go.
Usually, I carry a single stack .9mm or .45acp ( S&W Shield or Glock 36, respectively). Depending on the days activities and my gear setup, I might carry in a Hill People Gear Kit Bag, a Remora holster in a pocket, in a belt pouch on my pack with the trigger protected, in an OWB holster, in an IWB holster, etc.
One more very important thing to point out, if you are carrying a loaded firearm you must understand the laws in the area you are carrying. In most states concealed carry of a loaded firearm requires a permit. Permits are not necessarily recognized by neighboring states. Some places allow open carry. National Forests, BLM, National Parks, State Parks all have different rules.May 17, 2018 at 3:52 pm #3536222
As Nick mentions, there are a lot of legalities depending on exactly which jurisdiction you’re in. Not just what state (which vary hugely) but private, state and federal lands and which type of state or federal land. Here’s a young woman’s fairly informational video with her research and thoughts. She opted not to carry, but knows people who do, and definitely is hike-your-own-hike about what others do.
She’s also got one about carrying on the PCT, but it looks like you’re in Virginia so an AT perspective is probably more helpful.
BTW, “Dixie” is currently on the CDT so she’ll wrap up the “Triple Crown” on long-distance thru hikes this fall.May 17, 2018 at 4:13 pm #3536225
But, to answer your question,
“what do you carry and where do you keep it while hiking?”
We just took our first-of-the-season serious hike on mother’s day (her day, so my wife got to pick the activity) up a steep mountain trail, known locally for its view and difficulty which had just (mostly) cleared of snow. We knew over half the people on the trail – one of families I coach in competitive math, the local NPR station manager, other families from school or the ski team, etc. 70% of the parties were carrying a firearm, all of them handguns on that day. I saw two large-caliber (for a Glock) Glocks – 10 mm or .40, three .44 magnums, and two other high-capacity modern semi-auto pistols I couldn’t discern the caliber of – maybe 9 mm, maybe 10 mm or .40.
Other days on trails around here, I’d expect 30-40% of the guns carried to be long guns (it’s what the State and Feds and experts recommend if you carry for grizzly bear protection (which is why everyone is carrying) specifically 12-gauge with slugs or minimum .300 Win Mag). In practice, I see a lot of 12-gauge pump or semi-auto shotguns, presumably loaded with 1-ounce rifled slugs. A few .300 magnum rifles and probably more .338 rifles (they’re popular up here, because while it is more than enough for deer, moose and caribou, it’s doubles as a great bear defense round).
And, averaged over the years, I see about 1 in 10 carry a VERY large caliber revolver. That used to mean a .454 Casull but now includes even more stupidly large options like S&Ws X-frame revolver in .460 or .500. Watch a gun channel on YouTube and even people who *love* guns and *love* to shoot guns hate to shoot those. Actual Alaskans top out at .44 magnums and seem to go for 6″ barrels. Tourists (many of whom I suspect rationalized their most recent purchase because “bear protection” on their Alaska trip) carry .44 with shorter barrels or carry something in a larger, very-hard-to-shoot-caliber.
An old Alaskan joke from pre-Glock, pre-Ruger Redhawk days regarding .357 versus .44 magnum: Why should you file the front sight off your .357? So it won’t hurt so much when the bear shoves it up your . . .May 17, 2018 at 4:22 pm #3536227
And how do people carry?
60% in a cross-chest holster. (If right-handed), the holster is at about bra level or just under, centered on your chest, barrel pointed towards your left hip. Works better for guys and small-chested women. One hiker last Sunday had so much steel, lead and silicone without enough elastic and straps that everything was bouncing around a lot.
The remainder carry a hand gun (if right handed) on their right hip. Seems like most of the Glocks are carried there and most of the .44s are carried in chest holsters.
I suppose some are concealed carrying. It’s legal for anyone in Alaska (unless you’re a felon), without any training nor certification.
Long guns are usually carried on a sling over one shoulder. Maybe 20% carry in their arms in front of them and mostly near the trailhead. By the end of day, the sling is over their shoulder.May 17, 2018 at 4:34 pm #3536229
^^haha! I’ll have to remember that .357 joke.
Brown bear and some Grizzly country certainly requires a different mindset and gear list. My biggest bear concern around these parts is inadvertently placing myself between a Mama black bear and Jr. Second biggest concern is a habituated campground bear wrecking my ice chest (on the rare occasion that I visit those places.)May 17, 2018 at 4:41 pm #3536231
I’m unclear on “in case something happened to him and I needed to use his gun” because there are multiple ways I can parse that.
- He’s fatally wounded on the trail and wants you to put him out of his misery (I know a woman who carries a .357 in her truck primarily because she doesn’t want a vehicle-struck animal to suffer).
- Everyone needs to be protected by a gun at all times and you’d need to use his gun to finish the hike after you leave his body behind.
- He has a psychotic episode and you have to disarm and subdue him (happened to some of my wife’s coworkers in the very remote Wood Ticchick State Park). It made for a very long police report but no charges were filed (the perp was dead).
I teach probability and these all seem very very remote possibilities. He’s disabled on the trail AND you need to finish the hike AND some situation arises that requires a weapon to resolve is getting past the struck-by-lightning categories and into struck-by-a-meteorite territory.May 17, 2018 at 4:51 pm #3536234
Nick: I don’t carry (nor own) any guns, but because I like to hike, don’t mind schlepping meat, and am a good camp cook, I’m a popular guy to have along on hunting trips. For black bears in spring I carry potatoes, carrots, and onions plus cooking oil and some spices. It walks on four legs and (in the spring) eats grass – so it tastes like a cow. I’ve learned that Californians love my “beef stew” as long they don’t learn what the “cow” looked like.
For grizzlies, the most I bring is pepper spray and that only on a high-risk, heavy-weight trip (say, a canoe trip down a remote salmon river in Fall). On the trail hiking or backpacking, we group up and make noise when the sight-lines and berry density gets bad.May 17, 2018 at 4:56 pm #3536237idesterMember
@doug-iLocale: The Cascades
If you do decide to get a handgun, before doing so, I’d suggest going to a good range (and joining) and taking a basic handgun course. A good range will have a number of different handguns that you can shoot. Get familiar with handguns, and then, after firing a variety of them, choose the one that feels most comfortable to you and buy that one. And then continue going to your range and firing it somewhat regularly (once a month, once every other month) to not only stay proficient but to better feel at ease when handling one.May 17, 2018 at 5:18 pm #3536244
Thanks, all. I haven’t decided whether I will or won’t carry, but if anything, after doing some research and speaking to many of my friends of both sexes who do own guns, say the same thing about education etc. Here in town there are several places that do the training, some have clubs for women ( NRA Woman ) and one place also has classes for women on how not to be a victim..and it doesn’t mean you need a gun. It shows how to be in dangerous situations, or at least be aware and not walk into one. I feel that it would be good for me to at least learn about weapons and safe handling. Just because I have one doesn’t mean I have to use it. I have come across rabid raccoon on occasion while hiking. My only weapon was a fixed blade 6″ Buck knife on me and hiking poles. I would have killed it if I was attacked. I was ready, but opted to get high off the trail and remain quiet. I didn’t know what else to do.
As for my friend, he likes to be prepared and maybe he felt better for my own safety if I did know where his gun was located for various reasons, and to know how to use it.
It’s all good. Having the right skills for the task is what it’s about while out in the woods.
Yes, I follow Dixie since she began the AT. But when it comes to safety, what is right for one, may not be for another.May 17, 2018 at 5:19 pm #3536245Kevin BabioneMember
My favorite (and only) backpacking gun story…
Several years ago I was hiking a section of the AT in Pennsylvania with a friend who has a number of guns but limited backpacking experience. It took a lot of effort, but I convinced him that he did not need to carry on the AT. There were two other guys already set up at the shelter where we stopped for the night. We weren’t there more than 5 minutes before one of the guys asked if either of us were carrying. I replied: “No – Donald wanted to, but I wouldn’t let him.” He replied that he’d never go out on the trail without his S&W .38 – “too many crazies.” My friend Donald naively asked him if he could see it, whereupon he dug through his pack and handed it over to Donald with the warning: “It’s loaded.”
I was astounded! He didn’t know us at all and yet he calmly handed the weapon that he HAD to carry to a total stranger.
As far as I recall he carried his gun buried in his pack…May 17, 2018 at 5:24 pm #3536247
David: I can see why you would be good company in a hunting camp. It has been a long time since I ate bear but I remember it being pretty gamey. Probably a Fall bear. That stew sounds pretty good, though.
I would hazard a guess that, being a math teacher (professor?) you approach your decisions with a cold logic not common in humans. In my experience, humans have an uncanny ability to visualize the absolute long shot, worst case scenario and then plan for that, despite the statiscal improbability.
I admire your comfort with hiking in heavy brown bear country without supplimental “protection”. I doubt I would hike those same areas without at least bear spray, but, admittedly, i have no experience there. The old worst case unlikely scenario is starting to affect my decision maker.May 17, 2018 at 5:36 pm #3536249wiiawiwb wiiawiwbMember
Donna said, “You didn’t answer my question, but thank you.”
In my opinion, you are getting the cart far ahead of the horse if you’re asking what specific caliber you should be considering when you are afraid of guns by your own admission. If you willing to consider getting trained and spending time with firearms, then fine.
It’s not possible to properly advise you until you disclose whether it humans, animals, or both that you’re trying to protect yourself against. Even still, that is a bit meaningless because we don’t know what you’re capable of handling; nor do you. You may shoot a 9mm, scream with fear, and never want to touch a handgun again. In the alternative, you may also enjoy shooting, spend time with it and be capable of handling a larger caliber such as a .357 magnum, 10mm, or higher.
I’d suggest you join a gun club or range and have someone who knows firearms teach you. Start with .22LR where you develop good and repeatable skills. Then you’ll be ready to move to a .380 or 9mm or more. Start with caliber too powerful and you’ll likely develop a flinch which you may never lose.May 17, 2018 at 5:38 pm #3536250Ken ThompsonMember
@hereLocale: Right there
I’ve hike with a couple guys that always carried. Both were average size if not on the smaller side. Both carried a .40 caliber in their side water bottle pocket.
I own but never take one with me. But I am a 6’3” 225lb male that has been fortunate enough to get to 51 without ever wishing I had one at my disposal right then and there. YMMV Great job everyone for keeping this civil, helpful and unChaff like.May 17, 2018 at 5:50 pm #3536252
Nick: “you are what you eat”, so if it’s eating grass, it tastes like a cow; if it eats dead fish, it tastes like dead fish; if it eats garbage. . .
The northernmost-ever and westernmost-possible BPL GGG event is this July on Adak. As I tell people: caribou tastes just like reindeer. And just like beef. If you fed the cow nothing but lichen.
I coach middle-school competitive math. MathCounts, specifically. Lots of probability, statistics, logic, problem-solving, plus interesting twists on algebra and geometry. Our small-town team came in Second at State this year with one student advancing to Nationals. Yes, “running the numbers” in my head helps minimize anxiety about bears, criminals on the trail (hoods in the woods), and snakebites while focusing my attention on driving safely to the trailhead and hypothermia while on the trail.
I think a lot about comfort versus compliancy. I see people get lazy about life jackets while our family policy is an unwavering, “Always wear a PFD in a small craft”. Last time I was on a boat that sunk in the ocean, the New Mexicans along were surprised I was in my life jacket (Did you know it was going to sink?) while I was surprised they weren’t. “Never drive tired.” is another and I have carte blanche to sleep by the side of road if I get tried while driving the 160 miles back from Anchorage at 1 am. My wife won’t worry that I’m overdue because, she’s learned, I’m just sleeping in a highway pullout.
It amused me how, while on a walking safaris in Zimbabwe that I was reassured by the guide’s .458 (that’s a literal “elephant gun” to you non-gun-savvy folks) and the tracker’s .44, despite my taking a different approach at home. Of course, the risks aren’t actually what people think (lions and leopards), but hippos first and foremost plus crocs on the river and cape buffalo inland. Still, I was stuck how, when we found lion tracks, we FOLLOWED them. Back home, we see fresh grizzly tracks or warm scat and we go the OTHER way.May 17, 2018 at 6:02 pm #3536253Ben H.Member
@bzhayesLocale: So. California
…I carry potatoes, …., and some spices…..
For grizzlies, the most I bring is pepper spray….
Do I see a dual-use opportunity?May 17, 2018 at 8:41 pm #3536277D MMember
@farwalkerLocale: What, ME worry?
I carry a titanium .45, have had a CCW for 40 years. It’s in my fanny pack in front while backpacking. Never a problem getting to it when I need it. Forget holsters, they are a PITA with packs.May 17, 2018 at 9:31 pm #3536286idesterMember
@doug-iLocale: The Cascades
“if it eats garbage. . .”
Which is why I’m never concerned about a zombie apocalypse. What zombie wants to eat a human that tastes like garbage?May 17, 2018 at 9:36 pm #3536288William KerberMember
@wkerberLocale: South East US
If you are not a gun person (they scare you), you might be better off leaving them alone. I grew up hunting and fishing, so they seem pretty normal to me. I tried to get my wife into target shooting and even bought her a .380. After our first trip to the range, I could just tell by her eyes that it wasn’t for her. A couple of days later she came up to me and told me that she didn’t want anything to do with guns, because they scared her. So, that was our last trip to the range.
Now, if that’s not how you feel and you really want to learn, I’d go find some classes at a local range. I had a CCW instructor tell me a couple of years ago that his classes are 70% female now days. You can always try a class and stop, if it’s not for you.May 17, 2018 at 9:56 pm #3536297jscottMember
@bookLocale: Northern California
It’s never, ever, occurred to me to carry a gun backpacking. But I don’t hike in grizzly country. I’ve seen lots and lots of black bears however. I follow standard procedure in camp and in my tent and have never had an issue. I don’t see where the OP mentions what her or her friend’s concerns are that they feel they need a hand gun while hiking; that might help the discussion.May 18, 2018 at 12:25 am #3536325jimmyjamMember
@jimmyjamLocale: Mid Atlantic
I’ve carried a few times. I own several concealed carry guns and have a concealed carry permit. When I have carried on the trail its been my Ruger 380 because it’s light, small, very concealable and packs enough of a punch. I carried in my pants pocket or hipbelt pocket. As others have said, take a class and start with a 22.
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