Firearms when Backpacking
Apr 9, 2019 at 2:09 pm #3587868
What is your opinion regarding carrying when backpacking (with proper license and within the law) for personal protection? Anyone here carry? (Strictly philosophial, no gun debates please)Apr 9, 2019 at 2:18 pm #3587872KatttBPL Member
But you are not trolling or anything, right?Apr 9, 2019 at 2:24 pm #3587873
No… Its a legitamate question.Apr 9, 2019 at 2:34 pm #3587875KatttBPL Member
Yes it is and there are many threads on the subject.
This, the prepper/survivalist thread…all legitimate but at the same time I wonder.Apr 9, 2019 at 2:56 pm #3587883
One of the top questions I get when people realize I backpack is do you carry a gun. The answer is an astounding no, I do not carry a gun. What for? For defense against people? First off, I often try and backpack in areas where there aren’t a lot of people, but even somewhere more populated like the JMT or GSMNP (I think firearms are prohibited both places anyways) but you are much more likely to run into an altercation in a city than on the trail. In my thousands of miles of backpacking, I’ve only run into one person that I was un-nerved by, at a shelter near Watauga on the AT, and I just moved on and got water somewhere else. Even then, I’m sure the guy (who I think was homeless) probably didn’t want to hurt anyone, he was just hanging out looking for his next 40oz.
For protection against animals? Before a trip to Alaska I researched bear protection quite a bit. I had done a lot of hiking in black bear territory, and had backpacking in Grizz country a few times before and not thought much about it, but I expected to see some bears in Alaska (ended up seeing 5 grizzlies). What I discovered is if you want to take a firearm, you would need a high caliber pistol, and not only that you would need to hit the bear in about a 4″x4″ section of the skull to kill it – and by the way the bear is moving at up to 35 mph and you are under duress. Bears often false charge and stop, but if you shoot it and wound it, it is coming after you. I ended up taking bear spray, which was the recommended method as it was deemed the most effective – most bears run after getting a whiff of the spray – meaning you don’t have to have sniper precision under duress. I’m not sure it would have mattered anyways – I have been false charged by a black bear and it all happed so quickly that I can almost guarantee that if I had a gun or bear spray in an easily accessible location (I’m amazing that many people that carry a weapon or bear spray carry it very inaccessibly) I know there is no way I could un holster it, aim and get a good shot off – especially a gun, where a good shot is mandatory.
By the way – I never felt threatened by any of the grizzlies I saw in Alaska including this female that stood on her hind legs to get a good look. She then returned to digging up ground squirrels.
You are much more likely to get seriously injured in the backcountry by falling, getting hit by rockfall (I’ve had a softball size rock whiz by my head – it was probably really 15 feet away, but it felt like it was right by my head), break a leg on talus, etc than be attacked by an animal or another person.
I am 1000 times more likely to die driving to the trailhead than I am to get attacked and need a gun on the trail. I am probably 100 times more likely to need a gun walking to a football game on any college campus, or going to a concert, or the grocery store. Bringing a gun is packing your fears.
What exactly do you think you need a gun for?Apr 9, 2019 at 3:13 pm #3587889
That is an interesting response thank you! I can’t argue with any of that, statisticly you will likely never have a need for a firearm.
But… Having grown up with firearms and the outdoors, I see it as an effective preventative tool, given proper training, and the proper firearm. If you don’t need it there is no harm in carrying one (besides a little weight), but if you do, it might be the last mistake you make. Specially since no police will be near to assist you if things do go south. I see it as wearing a seatbelt, and was curious on other’s take on it.Apr 9, 2019 at 3:23 pm #3587893
In my opinion you would be much better off taking that weight and carrying a satellite phone, and/or inreach type device and a fully stocked first aid kit.
Now that I am married and have kids, I have decided that it is the responsible thing to do for me to carry an inreach. I haven’t done anything significant with it except on one trip the Bush Plane pilot was able to send me a message that he was going to be 6 hours late to pick us up. Instead of sitting around wondering what happened, we knew and planned for his late arrival. I carried a Sat Phone on both trips in Alaska and used it to coordinate a bush plane pickup for a group member that twisted a knee on one trip.
I carry a minimal first aid kit, but rather than carry a gun, I would carry a fully stocked kit with blood clotting agents, a sam splint, etc for that weight as I think they are much more likely to be used.Apr 9, 2019 at 3:25 pm #3587894MattBPL Member
@mhrLocale: San Juan Mtns.
If I see a hiker carrying a gun, it’s very creepy. That’s a person I avoid at all costs. A gun appears to me to be a threat, not protection. So if a gun owner values other hikers’ company, perhaps there is a cost besides a little weight.
The only hiker I am likely to run away from faster, is one wearing bear bells.Apr 9, 2019 at 3:30 pm #3587897
True on both the gun and bear bells!Apr 9, 2019 at 3:34 pm #3587898JacobBPL Member
To add to Katt’s point here is a recent and active thread on this topic https://backpackinglight.com/forums/topic/a-few-questions-to-those-who-carry-a-gun-while-hiking-backpacking/
P.S. I googled “guns site:backpackinglight.com” and that was just the first link, there are other relevant threads too, tons of opinions on protection efficacy :)Apr 9, 2019 at 7:59 pm #3587922ArthurBPL Member
This topic comes up so often. One thing you can always count on. Those who want to carry a weapon are going to carry a weapon no matter what logic is presented. There seems to be a desire to have confirmation and rationalization, not discussion.Apr 9, 2019 at 8:26 pm #3587929AK GranolaBPL Member
Very cute bear picture Brad! As much as I love seeing that little head pop up, it also makes my heart race. Always has, always will.
If you want to carry a gun on a backpacking trail, do it. I’ll avoid you, but we’ll both be better off! I don’t feel the same way in the Alaska backcountry, where many folks carry guns and aren’t trying to show off. If I saw someone carrying on the JMT or another popular trail – other than a ranger – I’d be long gone.Apr 9, 2019 at 8:32 pm #3587931Kevin BuggieBPL Member
@kbugLocale: NW New Mexico
I carry a Glock 20 when “backpacking” with an additional trip objective beyond just walking with a pack (ie. archery hunts). Good luck with this discussion when non-participants like Arthur chime in. Check the thread linked in an earlier post by Jacob for a respectful discussion.
My gun gets quite a bit of dust and grime while hiking during the day so I disassemble and clean the slide and barrel each night before bed.
I also take the glock on day hikes in the side-country around my home town due to a large transient population and recurrence of violence in that community (FBI says I live in the most dangerous city in one of the more dangerous states in the U.S.
YMMVApr 9, 2019 at 9:11 pm #3587944Jeff M.BPL Member
I carry most days at home but haven’t felt the need or desire to carry while backpacking. That could change, but for now, I prefer to leave the weight at home. I think avoiding people because they are carrying (assuming you would ever know), is silly, but I generally avoid people while backpacking anyway, so HYOH and have a good time.Apr 9, 2019 at 9:42 pm #3587956
Jeff, If you don’t carry on your shoulder strap, or hip – somewhere you can get to it quickly, it likely wouldn’t do you any good anyways, so people are likely to know. I backpacked with a guy once who said he had a gun – carried it packed in his pack. I’m not sure what he was going to do if he needed it stop, take his pack off, and get it out of his pack.
Anyways, I am still convinced that there are no reason to carry in 99.999% of backpacking situations.Apr 9, 2019 at 11:50 pm #3587988MattBPL Member
@mhrLocale: San Juan Mtns.
“Silly” as charged.
It seems to me that two classes of hikers carry lethal weapons – homicidal nut jobs and those wishing to protect themselves from homicidal nut jobs. What is the test to determine which one of the two you are?Apr 10, 2019 at 12:34 am #3587996MJ HBPL Member
An awful lot of homicidal nuts jobs say they are protecting themselves from homicidal nuts jobs.Apr 10, 2019 at 12:58 am #3588002AK GranolaBPL Member
I feel sorry for those of you living in places where you need – or think you need – to carry guns every day. Day in and day out. What a horrible life! Always tense, fearful, defensive, on the lookout. Isn’t it sad if this is what the U.S. has become?! No wonder you need the woods as a reprieve. No one should need to carry a gun in daily life, like a war zone or something. And we think we’re civilized?! and this is a good way to live?!
I worry a bit hiking in the lower 48, but I think it’s not necessary most places, as long as I’m away from towns and roads.
At home I am so lucky – I can walk out my door, and disappear into the woods with no weapons of any kind. I can just relax and go wherever I want. I carry bear spray if I’m going into areas with lots of grizzlies. I think if I really believed I needed a gun for my daily survival for defense against humans, I’d move to Portugal. or maybe Denmark, someplace where people don’t have shootouts.Apr 10, 2019 at 1:44 am #3588009Jeff M.BPL Member
Brad, that may be the case – I have rarely run into anyone carrying and when I have it was concealed (I only knew because they told me). I agree with you, which is why I don’t carry while backpacking, but I don’t really see a problem with people doing it either if they choose to do so.
Matt, plenty of homicidal nut jobs don’t carry guns. What test do you use for them? I think most people assume you aren’t going to run into or be harmed by a homicidal nut job on the trails most of us here frequent when out backpacking. In my opinion, it’s “silly” to change that assumption just because someone is carrying a gun while backpacking. Others may disagree and that’s fine.
Karen, I think a better descriptor would be prepared. I don’t think most people who choose to carry are always tense or fearful. I do have to say, if you can disappear into the woods from your front door I am quite jealous!Apr 10, 2019 at 1:48 am #3588010BlackHatGuySpectator
@sleepingLocale: The Cascades
“I feel sorry for those of you living in places where you need – or think you need – to carry guns every day. Day in and day out. What a horrible life! Always tense, fearful, defensive, on the lookout.”
I’m not sure that accurately reflects the majority of people who daily carry. For some, perhaps many, it’s simply a cultural thing. They grew up with guns, have always been around guns, etc. For some others it’s simply an expression of their support for how they view the second amendment. Lots of different reasons that have little to do with being tense, fearful, etc.
It’s kinda like saying – I feel sorry for those of you living in places where you need, or think you need, to clamp on your seatbelt nice and tight day in and day out. What a horrible life! Always tense, fearful, defensive, on the lookout.
:-)Apr 10, 2019 at 1:54 am #3588011Bruce TolleyBPL Member
@btolleyLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
Can we now close the thread? or morph it into super lightweight BPL hunting???Apr 10, 2019 at 2:20 am #3588013Kevin BuggieBPL Member
@kbugLocale: NW New Mexico
I’ve never taken my piece on any of the UL packraft, bikepacking, nor SUL backpacking trips I’ve posted trip reports on this site in the past.
I wish more people would post trip reports, and judge less…Apr 10, 2019 at 2:41 am #3588017Tipi WalterBPL Member
Not a troll??? Huh? Carlos C says—
But… Having grown up with firearms and the outdoors, I see it as an effective preventative tool, given proper training, and the proper firearm. If you don’t need it there is no harm in carrying one (besides a little weight), but if you do, it might be the last mistake you make. Specially since no police will be near to assist you if things do go south. I see it as wearing a seatbelt, and was curious on other’s take on it.
If I don’t carry a gun while backpacking it could be the last mistake I make??? Huh??? Come on. My preventative tools are my tent and my down sleeping bag and my map and my stove and my food and water container.
There’s an old Backpacker’s saying—Don’t carry something you don’t use everyday.
I thoroughly agree with Arthur—
This topic comes up so often. One thing you can always count on. Those who want to carry a weapon are going to carry a weapon no matter what logic is presented. There seems to be a desire to have confirmation and rationalization, not discussion.
</div>Apr 10, 2019 at 2:44 am #3588021John S.BPL Member
I take my bazooka everwhereApr 10, 2019 at 3:14 am #3588029MJ HBPL Member
A bazooka has a shaped charge designed to punch through armor. That’s not what you need since bears can’t make metal and people can’t carry very much of it in the woods. A grenade is what you need. All the usual objections, like other people being around and cars parked nearby, don’t really apply if you’re hiking by yourself. It’s just you, the grenade, and the bear/homicidal maniac/Golden Retriever/deer tick/other threat.
(Don’t crush the tick with your fingers, because it will spread germs to your hand. I just learned that today.)
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
Our Community Posts are Moderated
Backpacking Light community posts are moderated and here to foster helpful and positive discussions about lightweight backpacking. Please be mindful of our values and boundaries and review our Community Guidelines prior to posting.