Weapons

12:56 a.m. on August 22, 2017 (EDT)
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I would like to know people's opinions about carrying weapons.  I'm talking anything, knives, pistols, shotguns, slingshots, you name it. This is a touchy topic that has legal and ethical components so I would like to keep it as civil as possible yet still remain honest and open. I hike in the Midwest were the bear and wolf populations are growing adjacent to humans so they show less fear of us. There are dog problems and there is the fear of human attacks.   I sometimes carry a military style knife by Gerber.

9:44 a.m. on August 22, 2017 (EDT)
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There's an old Backpacker's Adage---Don't carry anything you don't use everyday. 

This is for the most part true although only partly so---We carry rain flys for our tents which go unused on sunny days/nights---but are needed nonetheless.  We carry headnets and repair kits and microspikes which may or may not be needed or used.  We carry rain jackets which in a drought are never used.

In decades of backpacking and living outdoors I have never carried a "weapon" for self-defense.  Too much "dead weight"---especially in the firearm category.  And I live in black bear/coyote/rattlesnake country.

The worst threats I face are yellow jackets, falling trees and limbs, lightning strikes, tough creek crossings with an 80 lb pack, and simple falling.  Would a gun kill the hornets?  In a lightning storm can I shoot out the sky?  Does a dead snag tree need to be stabbed first?

10:01 a.m. on August 22, 2017 (EDT)
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Agreed,almost always a weapon is unnecessary dead weight.

For the record, I am a firearms owner, including handguns.  At one point in my career, I was a commissioned LEO, and I have worked in various national parks.  For many years, I was an active SAR volunteer, more than 450 missions.  I have never encountered an incident involving a wild beast - its always about falling, drowning, drug overuse, failure to prepare for the weather,etc.

The stats are very clear - wild animal attacks do occur, but they are rare.  Preventive measures are quite effective, as are non-firearm tools (bear spray).  The great outdoors is not crime free, but you are probably safer out on the trail than you are in the average urban environment.  The deeper into the wild, the safer you are.

10:16 a.m. on August 22, 2017 (EDT)
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Double ditto to the two posts above.  I would also add that the occasions where you might conceivably want to use a weapon almost always requite having that weapon immediately at hand, rather than buried somewhere in your pack.  Which adds the complication of where you are going to carry it.  Hip holster?  Shoulder holster?  How do you wear a pack like that...?

10:55 a.m. on August 22, 2017 (EDT)
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Good posts, guys.  When I go out backpacking I generally stay in my "hippie bubble" for the entire trip---meaning---I love the woods and love my gear and love hiking and whistling while I walk and deeply appreciate Miss Nature and her beautiful body---which I get to sleep against every night.

I don't EVER go out with the mindset to kill stuff or fight to the death or battle the elements or fearfully cower against all threats etc.  If I was so fearful I'd just stay home and be a couch potato.

I see all sorts of nasty things---scorpions, big spiders (several inside my tent on occasion), ticks galore, midges and noseeums (which will drive you nuts), horse flies, rattlesnakes and copperheads galore, rodents and skunks and raccoons --- and the holy Black Bear---and of course the vicious yellow jackets.

My policy generally is to Live And Let Live---except for the occasional horse fly or biting midges.


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Saw this guy come into my tent vestibule on a trip to Warrior's Passage.  We had a friendly conversation and exchanged emails etc etc.


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On my last July trip in a heatwave I sat resting next to my pack and saw this guy (Johnny) walk up to me and we compared notes on the furnace Tennessee temperatures.  I didn't fumble for a weapon although I did fumble for my camera.


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Also on my last trip I nearly stumbled over Jimmy sunning himself in the trail.  We talked.  No weapon needed.  Have a nice day.  The only time I get out of my hippie bubble is when I see these guys---and I've seen many.  Then I get into my "dick cheney bubble" but it's only for an hour or so.

12:00 p.m. on August 22, 2017 (EDT)
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There are lots of right answers to questions like this. We have heard some good ones.  I carry a small light weight revolver, a Ruger LCR in .357 mag which weighs a pound. It goes in the pocket of my ULA Circuit so no one can see it.    

I have spent a lot of time with bears in my career and the pistol gives me some comfort.  Firing a warning shot has stopped plenty of charges.  The worst episodes in my outdoor career have inolved young men threatening my spouse. It happened twice when I was not armed, so now it is a habit.

3:44 p.m. on August 22, 2017 (EDT)
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I have a knife along to cut sausage and cheese on most trips, but I'd hate to get blood all over it so if I had to I guess I'd use my hiking poles as a weapon, though a staff would probably work better in that application ;)

Animals don't scare me out there, though I do appreciate the adrenaline rush a coyote or owl hoot can produce when they sneak up close. A covey of grouse got me the other day by waiting almost til I was on top of them before launching one at a time. Animals don't pose any real threat unless provoked or baited, though those grouse always seem to be trying to give me a heart attack.

People are less predictable I'd say and pose a more real threat. I prefer to camp and hike where they aren't, but these days it is getting harder and harder to find spots like that. Taking something to feel safe isn't wrong if you feel you need it. Just make sure you are safe with what you bring. Shooting in my general direction might make me reconsider how important keeping my cheese knife clean is to me.

3:59 p.m. on August 22, 2017 (EDT)
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I don't carry weapons but have nothing against them or those that do carry them. As mentioned I just can't justify the dead weight. 

I do enjoy target shooting occasionally and have some guns but don't carry them in the back-country around here. I could see where it might give peace of mind if you're in remote areas with dangerous predators but I don't frequent such areas (that I know of).

I do think of that guy in Glacier NP a few years ago that surprised a grizz on the trail and didn't even have time to pull his holstered bear spray before it was on him. That being said, I had a night at that same park last year when I lost my bear spray while off trail in a meadow. I admit, I was unnerved to not have it and when I found it the next morning I did experience a sense of relief even though my brain knows bear spray is largely a placebo.  

4:29 p.m. on August 22, 2017 (EDT)
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i haven't carried a weapon in ten years for a career..I own firearms..I also own knives..The knife I carry is for my food..I am not particularly scared of wildlife or people..The wildlife its their home and I am just visiting..Mind you I am not saying dont be aware of your surroundings..I am saying be aware and let the fears flow away...I know it sounds quit hippy like..But I try and get away from society that has pint up fears...I  just trying to balance life we lead...But if you carry thats your business...

5:31 p.m. on August 22, 2017 (EDT)
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I have my digital scale to weigh each piece I carry on my back. It can be a bit harder to weigh the load between my ears.  

Thanks hippie friends, both of my burdens will be lighter on next weekends overnighter.

10:09 p.m. on August 22, 2017 (EDT)
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Curtis, I've been hiking the River to River Trail for years. I've never had need of anything other than a pocket knife. Last January I had a pack of coyotes thunder through my campsite in the middle of the night. One stopped to sniff around. I started yelling from my hammock, and it hightailed out of there. 

I'm curious where you are a bike mechanic. If you don't want to answer publicly, message me. 

11:58 p.m. on August 22, 2017 (EDT)
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I can't see ever carrying a firearm on a backpacking trip due to the weight and if I was going into an area where I thought there was a real possibility I would need a gun, I would probably rethink going on that trip.  While I own a number of firearms, the general problem with carrying a weapon is that you need to carry it where you have very easy access because if something were to happen it would be over and done with before you ever had time to dig it out of your pack. 

I think the only time I have ever thought it might be worthwhile to carry a gun is when hiking with my wife on local trails where there has been a lot of theft/crime at the trailheads.  For me its easier just to avoid those areas and go where I know I'll have a safe and enjoyable trip.

I'm not to concerned with getting attacked by bears or mountain lions (but seeing a mountain up close I think would spook the hell out of me...) as I generally go to areas where there are a regular flow of people, so most animals are happy to be elsewhere. 

 I don't have any issues with people who do choose to carry if it gives them some peace of mind and allows them to enjoy their trip.

7:58 a.m. on August 23, 2017 (EDT)
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If something threatens me I just launch into my trekking pole versus walking staff lecture - bores them to death every time;)

Your chances of getting assaulted by humans three miles or more from the trailhead are extremely remote.  Getting stroked by lightning is more probable.  No one in my party was carrying weapons the few times we were in grizzly country in remote Alaska.  Safety in numbers is highly effective, bears don't like the odds.  Making noise is good etiquette, the animals show their appreciation by giving you wide berth.

I noticed I get visited frequently at night by bears in the Sierra, probably 30% of the nights.  I see their track the next morning.  I think they have a Yogi Bear route, checking all the usual lakes and flats known to be used by humans as camp (food) locations.  If there is nothing appetizing that is easy to get, they silently move on.

I carry two M-80 fire crackers just in case.  The only time I used one was in the 1980s to encourage an obstinate sow with cub to leave one of the crowded car camp facilities at Mammoth Lakes before someone got hurt.  VERY EFFECTIVE!  I don't think that sow stopped running until she was over the Sierra Crest.  Also managed to scare the crap out of a bunch of people too, the price they paid to have a good story to tell back home.

I had a real interesting experience this summer while car camping at the Four Jeffreys campground in the Sierra above Bishop.  Four Jefferys was fully occupied.  It was the very very last light of twilight at sunset.  I was walking along the camp road.  For no particular reason I am conscious of I impulsively turned to look behind me, just in time to see a puma slink across the road less than three feet to my rear, silently disappearing into the brush.  It obviously wasn't after me or any other adults for that matter, but I am not so sure about all the juicy little family pets or unattended little children...  Needless to say I spread the word.  It was my first puma sighting in the "wilds".

Ed

3:23 p.m. on August 23, 2017 (EDT)
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I don't hike with firearms, but i don't need them in the places i normally hike. I see moose rarely, and they are easy to avoid, and the bear I very occasionally see are the type that avoid confrontation - best way to deal with black bear is to make yourself big and loud (and avoid getting between mom and cubs).

If I were consistently in certain western states or Alaska, i might reconsider. I have carried bear spray in areas with grizzly and wolves, and it crossed my mind that if it's remotely windy out, who knows if that spray will work. in those circumstances, i might appreciate being able to make a very loud noise by firing a warning shot. i figure most handguns couldn't stop a grizzly easily anyway.

11:49 a.m. on August 25, 2017 (EDT)
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Hikermore...you are correct to say that you are safer on the trail than you are when in an urban environment...but why use "urban environment" as the point of comparison since most violent crime happens IN THE HOME (see BJS link below)? A more apt comparison would be "one is safer on the trail than they are in their own home and near friends and family (violent crimes with "strangers" as offenders only accounts for 11% of all violent crime...see FBI UCR link below)." Using urban as a proxy for the most dangerous of locations is statistically misleading...adds to the misinformation about crime and by process our policies regarding crime...as well as stereotypes about race and crime (since most people conflate urban and black...see link to my friend's newest book on religion and race).

https://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp&tid=44

https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2014/crime-in-the-u.s.-2014/tables/expanded-homicide-data/expanded_homicide_data_table_10_murder_circumstances_by_relationship_2014.xls

https://nyupress.org/books/9781479887101/

2:05 p.m. on August 25, 2017 (EDT)
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If I read some of the data correctly it does seem that crime is higher in "Metropolitan Counties" and lower in "Nonmetropolitan Counties". I found this under the FBI tab "Offenses known to Law Enforcement" and to the right was "Table 2" that broke down crimes by community type.  The feeling that cities are more crime prone does seem to be backed up by the crime statistics.

That being said, and in todays' political climate I can see how some words can be charged with meaning not intended by the person using the word.  "Urban" can be a code word for "black" or it just might mean urban as in city.

Weapons are often carried out of fear.  Fear of wild animals that live in the wild and fear of of other humans we might encounter out there as well.  Sometimes the fear of other people is greater when they don't look like ourselves.  

So far the discussion has been about smaller firearms, pistols.  How about non-lethal forms of self protection?  Has anyone carried a sling to lob rocks or a sling-shot?  I did like the idea of loud fireworks mentioned earlier.  There is also a discussion in the forums about pepper spray against dogs and bears.

So, what have you actually carried when you where far from help and needing to protect yourself or your party?  As I mentioned I sometimes carry a military style knife.

2:22 p.m. on August 25, 2017 (EDT)
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Curtis Evans said:

 Has anyone carried a sling to lob rocks or a sling-shot? 

 
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:-)

3:43 p.m. on August 25, 2017 (EDT)
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Guys,

As a mod I don't normally follow threads closely, except threads with topics that often breakdown into arguments. Let's stay focused on the main question--do you need a weapon in the backcountry. There are other forums to discuss crime statistics off the trail. 

Thanks!

~Jeffery

4:29 p.m. on August 25, 2017 (EDT)
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BigRed said:

Curtis Evans said:

 Has anyone carried a sling to lob rocks or a sling-shot? 

 
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:-)

 Peaked my interest,,,What were you studying and what were you doing when you took this? LOL

5:41 p.m. on August 25, 2017 (EDT)
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I read "one is safer on the trail than they are in their own home and near friends and family" and realized that I should spend more time alone in the outdoors in order to provide greater safety for my loved ones.

"Honey, statistically it would be safer for you if I go backpacking for a week. I'm only thinking of your safety..." I wonder if that might be misunderstood?

8:28 p.m. on August 25, 2017 (EDT)
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That's an arborist's slingshot, we were collecting aspen branches to measure photosynthesis and then various leaf traits. Research question: do trait-environment relationships within a species and within clones of a species vary in similar ways as they do between species. Relevant to ecological responses to climate change.

10:36 a.m. on August 26, 2017 (EDT)
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Urban - of, relating to, or designating a city or town. - absolutely no other meaning implied.  Crimes are social interactions of a sort and the fewer people, the less the opportunity for those kinds of interactions.

What I carry to protect myself and others when outside help is not readily available?  Primarily a first aid kit, along with training and experience in its use.  Other gear depends upon the terrain and environment - may be anything from a PFD to technical climbing gear and usually includes a bit of bad weather clothing and the ability to make a fire.  For many years I carried a Swiss Army Knife (now a Leatherman of some sort) - Could that be construed as a military style knife?

 

 

11:42 a.m. on August 26, 2017 (EDT)
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I started carrying bear spray a long time ago and 5 years ago I was fully charged by a large boar Grizzly in the Shoshone National Forest 5 years ago, 2 years before they dug a guy out of 3 holes just a few miles away in the Bridger-Teton National Forest's Teton Wilderness. They don't know if he was killed by a grizzly or a blackie. He apparently refused to take Bearspray and bragged about how he ran off trail. There is absolutely NO WAY I could have made a decent shot but my bearspray worked great and he rolled up a little under 6' in front of me, turned, and ran away. I also hike with an airhorn. Bearpsray is not a 100% guarantee, particularly with sows with cubs, but it is the better option for almost all of us.

I was a bit shocked to see ppine say he carried a .357 for bears. I mean no disrespect and I'm not familiar with your career. I was a horse outfitter as a boy and young man and again for 10 years after 911. I remain a frequent hiker and sometimes rider here on the southern half of Greater Yellowstone. If you are only in Black Bear country and only expect it to be a noisemaker I can kind of appreciate it but when it comes to grizzlies in my understanding the minimum round is a .454 Casull and the gun to fire that weighs considerably more. Grizzlies have incredibly thick skulls and when they are charging do not present a heart-lung shot. In other words with a "conventional" handgun you have two targets, eyes the size of dimes, bobbing up and down closing in on you at +/- 25 MPH. I have however heard of guys using little shotgun shells in .357s or.44s but never heard of them being successfully used to physically redirect let alone drop a charging bear. Remember, most charges are bluff charges. Bearpsray is good for us and saves the lives of bears. That might not set well with the testosterone encumbered but it's the way it is.

As to the guy in Glacier that couldn't draw his bearspray in time: I fired mine from the hip in the holster because I was indeed surprised on pretty open trail. When I'm in willows or anywhere else with short sight distance I usually have it in hand with the safety off and make noise.

When it comes to protecting ourselves from other humans there is a serious variable that most gun proponents are apparently incredibly ignorant of. If you have a gun in your hoster and pass someone on the trail they can jump you. If they are within striking distance [less than 12' for most capable folks] and the gun isn't drawn it will also likely be useless. Defensible space requires that for a gun to be truly reliable as a protective tool that it be drawn and pointed in the direction of the threat. Otherwise anybody just might beat the !@#$ out you. 

This is the most civil forum discussion I've ever seen on this subject. Thanks folks.

2:54 p.m. on August 26, 2017 (EDT)
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I am of an age with ppine and I'll bet he got a 357 for the same reason I did.  Back in the 60s and for some time thereafter, the 357 was the most powerful handgun available.  The 454 Casull is a fairly recent development.

I bought my 357 in 1964 and i have had to deploy it only once - non wilderness setting on a dark Texas highway many moons ago.  I have never carried it when in the wilderness.

4:43 p.m. on August 26, 2017 (EDT)
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I'm struggling with how the addition of crime statistics is off-topic when the OP specifically mentions "human attacks" under a topic titled "weapons?" I am so confused

7:37 a.m. on August 27, 2017 (EDT)
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I have to agree with Joseph on this..Crime statistics would come into play..Also this is an evolving conversation just like you would have with your friends on the topic..Its been nothing but peaceful and respectful....

3:49 p.m. on August 27, 2017 (EDT)
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This is my tally of the responses so far:

   18 different people have spoken.

   10 people said they did not carry a weapon in the back country.

     4 people did carry weapons ( if you count bear spray, my local cops sure would consider         it to be a weapon ).

     4 people posted but did not mention whether they carried weapons.

10:56 a.m. on August 28, 2017 (EDT)
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I personally don't carry a weapon. I think people do for protecting themselves from two-legged threat rather than wild animals.

11:54 a.m. on August 28, 2017 (EDT)
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I was a cop for a few years and carried a gun or two everyplace (church, shopping, hiking, etc.) for a long time.  I hardly ever do so any more. 

I felt stupid obsessing over a few ounces in my backpack or boots then strapping some heavy gun on top of it, it or some full-tang tactical bushcraft ninja knife. 

Then again I often carry a ukulele and a hip flask as well which are completely unnecessary.

As I always say though, as long as you don't make me carry it, bring whatever you want. 

3:04 p.m. on August 28, 2017 (EDT)
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Ukulele?  That made me smile.  A banjo or a bagpipe could  be considered a weapon but definitely not a Uke.  

4:32 p.m. on August 28, 2017 (EDT)
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Curtis,

I can confirm the bagpipe as a weapon. I used to frequent the Grandfather Mountain Highland games in NC with some family. I turned in early one night only to be awoken by pipe and drums right outside my tent along with about 500 party goers that had followed my drunken cousin back to our camp at his invitation.  It was absolutely an assault.

5:47 p.m. on August 28, 2017 (EDT)
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FromSagetoSnow said:

I was a cop for a few years and carried a gun or two everyplace (church, shopping, hiking, etc.) for a long time.  I hardly ever do so any more. 

I felt stupid obsessing over a few ounces in my backpack or boots then strapping some heavy gun on top of it, it or some full-tang tactical bushcraft ninja knife. 

Then again I often carry a ukulele and a hip flask as well which are completely unnecessary.

As I always say though, as long as you don't make me carry it, bring whatever you want. 

 "They" say items you don't use every trip should be left home. So long as you play the uke and drink from the flask, but don't feel the need to shoot anything/one I'd say you are packing properly for your adventures.

On that note, I found we had a few ounces of Irish left in the whiskey bag when we got back to the car this afternoon. I'd been so proud about how we'd used up all of our supplies right on schedule and felt a bit bad about missing that :)

7:58 p.m. on August 29, 2017 (EDT)
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I go years without using my compass, sewing kit, fire starter, first aid kit, etc. but you'll have to forgive me for them being in my pack 'til I die. I've spent unexpected nights out , don't like the prospect of doing without taking simple precautions that could end up saving my life.

Hikermoor,

I'm in my mid 50s and lots of guys carried .357s here [Teton and Washakie Wildernesses, etc.] back in the 70s and earlier 80s. They never saw a half dozen .357 slugs on a healthy grizzly's forehead. 

I've carried a shotgun packing out elk. I always say HYOH but when we know better why not change things up?

I also agree that crime statisitics are pertinent to this discussion. Whether or not we carry on the trail we all know for a fact that in the United States having a gun in a home makes the occupants and visitors of that home far more at risk of gun injury/death than a home without a firearm. 

9:18 p.m. on August 29, 2017 (EDT)
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I can confirm the bagpipe as a weapon. I used to frequent the Grandfather Mountain Highland games in NC with some family. I turned in early one night only to be awoken by pipe and drums right outside my tent along with about 500 party goers that had followed my drunken cousin back to our camp at his invitation.  It was absolutely an assault.

Patrick...as a proud Scot (born in Inverness) I feel compelled to explain that what you experienced was a loose clan of Scotsmen trying to play you a lullaby to help you sleep. Could easily be interpreted as an assault to the uninitiated or sober. However I may be biased as my ringtone is bagpipes playing Scotland the Brave, and I consider it one of the world's greatest musical instruments! A little too bulky for backpacking though...

11:05 p.m. on August 29, 2017 (EDT)
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Didn't Scotts carry bagpipes to war?  I know I'd run if I was on the receiving end of that assault.

7:18 a.m. on August 30, 2017 (EDT)
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Certainly be concerned if your bagpiper is followed by a clan of tartan wearing folks with swords...but much maligned bagpipe music is not cats being tortured. On retirement I plan to learn to play...I am sure my neighbors can't wait!

1:35 p.m. on August 31, 2017 (EDT)
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Keep an eye out for "tactical" bagpipes in the near future I am sure.  No doubt to be covered in black Velcro and loop attachment points.

Coming to a prepper website near you. 

3:18 p.m. on August 31, 2017 (EDT)
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funny stuff guys,

Hey Phil here is old trip report of mine from 2011 from one of those trips, scroll further down for the games part :https://www.trailspace.com/forums/trip-reports/topics/94507.html

4:10 p.m. on September 1, 2017 (EDT)
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Hey Curtis, congratulation for successfully posting a weapons topic thread without it bursting into flame wars!  A rare feat on any web forum.  Very civil and respectful participation by all for that matter.  We all should CC this thread and send it to our representatives in Washington as an example that people can get along despite their differences; time they did likewise. 

Ed

8:17 p.m. on September 1, 2017 (EDT)
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Now you blew it and brought politics into a civil conversation.  

Out west they say "Whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting". To paraphrase I might say "Guns are for talking and politics are for fighting".

7:22 a.m. on September 2, 2017 (EDT)
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Patrick...nice trip report...I enjoy the games occasionally but have a genetic objection to the idea of Scottish games in a dry county!

One of the great things about TS is that discussions rarely get contentious. Enjoying this discussion and agree that our elected officials could learn from this...and maybe should have some whisky instead of water during debates...

10:01 a.m. on November 30, 2017 (EST)
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I'll jump in with a few of my own thoughts.  I've been a police officer for over 20 years.  I usually carry (concealed) wherever I go.  The argument that convinced me of this was - You are trained to use your weapon.  What if there was a situation that threatened your family and the only thing that could have protected them from serious harm was you using your weapon.  Could you live with yourself if you did have your weapon and they were harmed?

Now I'll tell a story that might make you think.  One of my fellow officers was off duty in another town behind a car stopped at a traffic light.  The light changed and the car in front of her didn't move so she gave a quick tap on the horn to let him know the light had changed.  They both turned into a parking lot and he stopped in the lane of travel front of her.  He then got out of his car, reached back in the car, and put something under his jacket and kept his hand there.  He then walked back to her car and told her he was a cop and she could be arrested for honking her horn at him.  She was not carrying her weapon, and had to use "verbal Judo" to diffuse the situation.  He eventually got back in his car and she was him to in to an AT&T store.  She called the real police and a short time later he was was later arrested in the store when they showed up to question him.  He ignored their directions and attempted to "show" them his gun (he was lucky he wasn't killed then - the video from the store was pretty entertaining).

The point of that story is - if this had happened to me and I was carrying:  At the point he stopped his car in front of me in traffic and got out, I would have had my gun in my hand out of sight.  At the point he reached back in his car and appeared to be concealing a weapon and coming towards me (assuming I couldn't just back up and drive away) I would have been out of and behind that metal coffin, and had him at gunpoint.  Probably one of us would have ended up shot.  However, since she didn't have a weapon it didn't end that way.

I was hiking in the NW when we were talking about bears and I mentioned that if the bear spray failed I had a pound or so of led to deploy.  My sister pointed out it was illegal to kill bears and I said I didn't really give a crap it if was chewing on my or her leg.  Would a 36 rounds of 40 cal be effective?  Again, if it's the last resort I'd probably be glad I had it.

There is little more terrifying that an untrained person with a weapon. Also, if, as people have pointed out, the weapon is not "handy" it is useless.  (I carry mine concealed on my hip or my ankle and there is a place on my pack that I can conceal it and get to it without taking my pack off.)  If you are not prepared to kill someone it is likely your weapon will be taken away from you and possibly even used on you.  You also have to be accountable for each bullet you fire and be able to defend your actions in court for both criminal and civil purposes.

My gun will always be my "last resort".  In bear country I carry bear spray as well.  It is important for anyone carrying a weapon to go through "what if" scenarios constantly so that they react quickly and appropriately to a situation that threatens them.  My first response will be to retreat or use less than deadly force if at all possible, but when the time comes to use deadly force, use it without hesitation.  As has been pointed out in other posts, violence usually does not send an invitation ahead of time with a date and time specified.

I rarely hike more than several miles but I weighed all the gear in my pack and put it in a spreadsheet.  For each trip I put a check next to the gear I am carrying for that trip to get a total pack weight.  The lightest pack I could carry (summertime) would be 16 lbs (no food/water/weapons).  My heaviest pack (again no food/water/weapons) would be around 23lbs.  The extra weight is winter bedding and a gas stove.  The heaviest part of my pack since I've upgraded to a down bag is my 6lb 35 year old Camp Trails pack (I know it's heavy but I love the pack and haven't found a pack I would trade it for).  My Glock weighs 2.3 lbs.  I'm a 280 lb guy and a few pounds to me is different than a few pounds to a 150 lb person.

Another thing I carry that I rarely "legitimately" use is my Buckmaster "Rambo Style" knife.  I "justify" carrying it because if I had to have one thing with me (leaving all else behind), the Buckmaster would be it.  It can be a knife, hammer, grapling hook, and it has fire starting and fishing equipment in it.  The Buckmaster and my Glock 22 weigh the same - 2.3 lbs.  If I were hiking the AT, I would probably obsess more about that 5lbs...

I just read over my post and thought "Boy, it sounds like some nutcase that loves his guns".  I never go out expecting or wanting to have to use a gun - but I'm prepared to.  I'm also prepared NOT to!  Aside from the argument in the first paragraph, I usally refrain from encouraging someone to or discouraging someone from carrying a weapon - it's a personal choice.  Maybe it would be better to aspire to be like "Tipi" and retreat into the hippie bubble.  That's what getting out is all about, right?

Sorry for the long post.  It seems I ramble.

10:46 a.m. on November 30, 2017 (EST)
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John B,

Your best defense against bears is your brain and understanding their behavior.   I carry a .357 mag for hiking nearly all the time.  It is a last resort as a warning shot for a black bear charge or to kill one in my tent at five feet. 

This spring I will visiting a friend over by Yellowstone. I may be hiking alone some of the time and will carry a .44 mag then. 

When I was younger I worked in SE Alaska over a period of two years. I was around the salmon eating coastal brownies all the time. I only carried a pistol once. After that I always carried a rifle. I saw bears every day for months often at less than 50 yards in the deep brush of Alaska.  I only had the safety off a couple of times and never fired a shot.  Bear spray did not exist then, but I believe it is a good idea, especially for those that do not carry firearms. 

6:36 p.m. on November 30, 2017 (EST)
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I'd carry a firearm if I felt like it but haven't in a long time. I do carry a knife big enough to be used for defense but it is normally in my pack, not on my belt, so its mostly useless regarding defense unless I had the pack off and was eating or camping.

I've never felt a firearm was too heavy to carry and believe me I walked thousands of miles with one.

11:32 a.m. on December 2, 2017 (EST)
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A knife, a gun or bear spray in your pack will never do you any good.  When things go wrong it happens fast most of the time.

9:59 a.m. on December 3, 2017 (EST)
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...but if you carry in your pack a stick of C4, wrapped in bacon, and have a remote detonator... Just saying...

12:38 a.m. on December 20, 2017 (EST)
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Here is my two cents.

If you live anywhere where bears, coyotes, mountain cats, or whatever large animal could possibly be a threat, carry bear spray before you consider anything else first. Bear spray is light, completely legal, easily obtained, and you won't scare kids off of the trail when you go hiking. Of course, you should have at least a pocket knife on you regardless, but any sort of knife will put you at no chance against a bear. 

Now, handguns...

I'm all for guns, I own one myself. I work at Cabelas so I have no problem. That being said, I personally don't think they're needed on trails. To take down any bear, you'd need a caliber from a handgun that's packing, like a .40 S&W, .45, .44 Mag, etc. And you better have some devastating bullets coming out of those bigger calibers. A 9mm or something used for daily carry ain't gonna stop that bear from charging you. It may kill it eventually, but you'll be long dead before it bleeds out. Plus, handgun + a mag weigh more than a can of bear spray usually. 

Bear spray, on the other hand, is meant to stop a bear from charging at you. Its designed to be sprayed to blind that sucker so he doesn't know what's going on. Plus, you won't have to call the state Parks and Wildlife to come out and inspect the bear if you've decided to use a handgun on it and kill it.

But at the end of the day, you should be focusing more on avoiding bears, and how to make sure you don't piss one off. More than likely, those bears don't want anything to do with you.

And honestly, I'm sure anyone on a hiking trail isn't going to be aggressive and want to attack you. Everyone out there is having a good time enjoying nature.

Side note: Carrying a handgun while hunting is something I can see as acceptable. At that point, you're in territory that belongs to these giant creatures and they might not be used to people.

8:29 a.m. on December 20, 2017 (EST)
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Jordan Hufford said:

Bear spray is...completely legal

 Not everywhere.

8:50 a.m. on December 20, 2017 (EST)
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JRinGeorgia said:

Jordan Hufford said:

Bear spray is...completely legal

 Not everywhere.

 I did not know that! Where and why not?

10:04 a.m. on December 20, 2017 (EST)
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Experienced people use what has worked for them in the past. 

4:42 p.m. on December 20, 2017 (EST)
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Bear spray is illegal in Yosemite, for one. The reason is that it's not needed, bears there aren't a threat to humans. However, the ban specifically falls under illegal "weapons."

10:18 p.m. on December 22, 2017 (EST)
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I carry a rifle virtually every time I walk out and have, if the location was amenable to it, for the past 55 years. Sometimes, it is only a .22; sometimes a high powered rifle. Occasionally, I might carry a pistol but only in specific circumstances (fishing in a grizzly's territory might be one.). Where I hike, in fact, where I live, is grizzly country but I've carried a rifle even where it wasn't. It's just part of my gear. On one wilderness hike, the .22 rifle I carried killed the grouse which added variety to my diet for fifteen days. On others, the .35 Whelen provided peace of mind as I made boot tracks right on top of the tracks left by a pretty big grizzly. Close to home, I carry the rifle just because but it has been put to use in saving the dog from a coyote.

When I was a kid, I covered many miles every weekend and always carried a .22 which was used to slay pine cones, pebbles, and the occasional ground squirrel. Today, on every walk, I carry a rifle for no more reason than I just like to. When it wasn't possible for me to carry a rifle, due to locality, I always had a stout staff as a substitute. So, in the end, I suppose I always carry a "weapon", not out of necessity but due to familiarity. It's part of who I am.     GD

5:31 a.m. on December 23, 2017 (EST)
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All this talk about lions, tigers and bears.  Oh my! 

Some of you have me scared!  Me thinks I'll take to carrying a full on sleeping cot - something to hide under when the night goes bump...

Ed

12:01 p.m. on December 23, 2017 (EST)
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I don't worry unduly about bears although I have seen more grizzlies than sheep on most of my hunts. In general, the bears seek to avoid me as I do them. I hike and camp solo in very remote areas and, as mentioned, a firearm is an important part of my food gathering equipment, just like the fishing tackle. As I said, I've done this since I was a kid. I don't necessarily have the rifle for protection but, if I was to ever need it, it would be nice that I have it.

Several years ago, at Liard Hot Springs, off the Alaska Highway, a man was killed by a black bear while unarmed people looked on. In Glacier park, years before that, unarmed people listened while a grizzly carried a crying woman off into the night. So, although I may not worry unduly about bears or other predators, I don't belittle those who may. In addition, if I'm travelling, I probably have a rifle in the truck. If I'm hiking in a remote area, I'll always have one in my hand. With the rifle in the truck, I have finished off numerous crippled deer and elk over the years. I have shot a coyote which was worrying a newborn calf (angus). With the rifle in my hand, I've saved nothing more than my beagle but that was pretty important to me; the beagle was a good friend.

Many years ago, I was in the unenviable position of having to try and herd a black bear, who was belligerent and unwilling to go, from a semi-remote schoolyard (This school was thirty miles from the nearest town. I was working for the BC Forest Service at the time) while armed with nothing but an axe. After this, I always had a rifle behind the seat; just as I always had a chainsaw in the back.  GD  

4:32 p.m. on December 23, 2017 (EST)
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"Several years ago," years before that" bear out (so to speak) the statistical profile that attacks by wild critters, of all kinds, are fairly rare and are dwarfed by the big three killers- falls, drowning, and auto accidents. Let's not even consider bad weather, often a contributing factor to the Big Three.

What is most important is the knowledge and good sense to properly train equip yourself and your party to deal with the appropriate hazards presented by the terrain into which you venture.  Generally one can stuff only so much into a pack and choices must be made.  Chose wisely as you pack....

For me, I am drawn to mountain summits and steep country where a good climbing rope can (and has been) a life saver. As with firearms, just possessing the rope and associated doodads is not enough.  You must know how to use the stuff correctly.  and skills weigh nothing, as has been observed, and will do much more to get you home safely and unmarred, than any number of things,whatever they may be...

5:35 p.m. on December 23, 2017 (EST)
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I am sorry Greydog, if my comments were offensive, I was mainly trying to be funny.  I think your POV is mainly you carry because it is part of what defines you in your own mind, and to a lesser degree because it avails the opportunity to enjoy fresh meat in the back country.  Those thoughts come honestly, need no further explanation, and are beyond anyone else's ability to weigh in on, regarding their merits. 

(The following is directed at the forum at large - please no one take my statements as a personal affront.) 

But I also was alluding to an observation - one also shared by The Wizzard of Oz movie - that there are far more imminent threats that lurk around us than the creatures of the forest.  For every person mauled by a bear, there are hundreds who perished hypothermic, and thousands who careened off the curve of a mountain road, and tens of thousands who had their food lauder raided.  Yet the threads addressing these less fascinating hazards receive far less attention or passionate participation. 

It intrigues me how we are fascinated about fire starters, guns and other "masculine" preoccupations, and obsess over their significance, regardless exceedingly few of us will ever confront the situation where these tools will influence an outcome.  Often advice regarding these "shiny objects" is not only overemphasized, it is often downright misleading.  For example flint & steel fire starters are USELESS if you just endured a cold water emersion, because your hands will be trembling so severely you can't coordinate them to operate that kind of fire starter.  Worse, if you are hypothermic, your fingers will lack the strength required to effectively operate both the steel and flint.  Yet folks continue to tout the virtues of this tool as the go-to for when things get hairy.  And as others have already stated, even a holstered gun cannot be accessed quick enough if you happen to stumble upon a bear and find yourself 20 some odd yards away in the encounter.  Regarding those who think they will somehow manage to un-holster their side arm while in the midst of an animal attack: keep in mind your throat or head will be in a cat's jaws, and the bear will be violently rag dolling you, such that you will have little control over any part of your body, other than to scream bloody murder.  At that point you are better off trying to poke at the creature's eyes than perform the sequences necessary to un-holster and operate a gun.

Ed      

6:56 p.m. on December 23, 2017 (EST)
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9:47 p.m. on December 23, 2017 (EST)
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Not offended at all and agree that the most important tool for anyone to have, as far as survival is concerned, is a positive attitude. State-of-mind probably weighs more heavily than anything else. For me a weapon is part of my gear, but it will be useless if I'm not in the right state-of-mind. One hears of people who have abandoned their gear and who have exhausted themselves simply because their brain switched off. I have been on trips where, at the end of the day, I was totally used up and ended up camping in spots I would normally have avoided. From being too tired, I have made errors in judgement which could have had serious repercussions and that they did not was only due to good luck; not good management.

The decision as to what is or is not important is, of course, up to each individual. If I was hiking on the Appalachian trail, I wouldn't bother carrying my rifle. Hiking up on the North Fork of the Flathead river I'll carry. In either case, I carry a whole bunch of matches, wrapped in Saran Wrap, zipped into baggies, and stored in different pockets so I always have some and they are dry.   GD

3:28 a.m. on December 24, 2017 (EST)
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G00SE said:

Ed,

Check this firestriker

https://www.trailspace.com/gear/ultimate-survival-technologies/sparkie/?review=29304

Two issues I have with these kind of strikers:

  1. They require dry flammable material to work.  You may have lost your tinder box or it became waterlogged in an emersion event.
  2. Working around the dry combustible material issue and suitable striking surface both require moderate mental functions, as does working with a multipart (striker, striker surface, and tinder) system.  I know the technique seems simple, but when your brain is freezing into ice cream thought processes become so impaired even this simple system may confound minimal cognition.  You will be fortunate to find your fire starter.  Finding both starter and your stash of dry tinder to ignite may be beyond impaired mental capabilities, even if both are stored in the same pocket, not to mention solving the problem of inadequate hard striking surfaces.

I had the misfortune (stupid judgment) of experiencing hypothermia as a young adult.  My arms were numb from the shoulders down, and function of my fingers so impaired I cold not grasp the zipper to open my tent.  Thus any device for starting a fire must consider the user may have no strength in their hands, or coordination.  Prior to attempting to enter my tent, however, I stood outside it for probably 30 minutes after getting to my camp, before I mustered the mental focus to commit to the act of actually entering the tent.  Thus any fire starter solution must consider the user has reduced mental capacity about equal that of a rock.  Piezo electric start hurricane lighters are stupid simple to use, don't require any physical coordination or strength, and burn long enough to dry and ignite kindling.  Their drawback is they burn butane fuel which must kept warm on your person to work, and can be inefficient to ineffective in cold, high altitudes.  Then again there is nothing to burn high up so this is a non-sequitur.  Select a lighter with a good windscreen, capable of producing a jet-like flame.  This type of lighter should be like a cigar lighter on steroids.  I found the more effective ones have multiple fuel nozzles in the torch tip.  These lighter are small, light and cheap.  Often you can find them at filling stations for a few bucks.

Just in case I have some degree of mental capacity, and can actually manage a system, I also carry paraffin dipped, rolled, news paper tubes that contain paper match heads in the center.  The tubes are about 2" long, 1/2" diameter, and burn at least five minutes.  Thus four tubes lit sequentially yield 20 minutes of continuously burning tinder.  This coupled with the hurricane lighter can ignite almost any combustible almost anywhere, except under water.

Then again one can just break out their canister stove and use it to ignite the wet wood pile, soon to be your camp fire, or pour white gas on the pile for an instant blaze.  Flame on!

Ed  

2:57 p.m. on December 28, 2017 (EST)
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I own many types and styles of firearms and am licensed to conceal-carry, and I shoot routinely to hone skills .... very important.

That said, I rarely take a handgun when backpacking due to to weight concerns. When I do, it's either because I'm soloing in a remote area, or if I'm in a particular area known for bears, like Glacier-Waterton. 

I utilize a chest-rig, which conceals the loaded weapon but allows for quick access.  It also allows me to discard my pack, if necessary, without removing the weapon. I believe in discretion, and I've never had anyone on the trail recognize that I'm carrying in the chest rig because it doesn't resemble a holster.

When I'm in bear country, I carry bear spray in a belt holster. Other than that, I only carry a folding camp knife. On rare occasions I'll take a small machete for clearing tangles while brush-popping, but again I usually leave this behind due to weight concerns.

6:53 p.m. on December 28, 2017 (EST)
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OnceI took my wife and two teenage daughters backpacking in the Allegheny National Forest (now the Allegheny National Clearcut). We camped and soon heard MANY motorcycles illegally roaring up the gas well road we passed a half mile back. They made camp at a gas well clearing further into the woods and partied far into the night.

It was then that I was very happy that I'd packed my Glock 17, something I have never done before. 

so the answer is, "Sometimes you need a firearm when backpacking".

But I very much doubt I'll ever carry my smaller Ruger LC9s 9mm.

Eric B.

12:02 p.m. on December 29, 2017 (EST)
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Thanks to Ed for describing his experience with hypothermia. It sneaks up on people.  I had a couple of canoeists get wet on a spring trip.  They were wearing the wrong clothes and went downhill all day. They hid it well, until they became not very functional. 

1:37 p.m. on January 2, 2018 (EST)
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Happy new year to y'all.

I was surprised to see that this discussion has continued.  There have been some great posts and wonderful politeness for differing opinions.

What I have learned is that brains and bearspray are probably the best protection when far from any outside help.

I especially appreciate the posts from Tipi Walter and Whomeworry.  I don't go out in nature as an opponent but as a willing participant in the life around me.  The things that may threaten me are more subtle than a bear but as deadly as getting to cold for to long. (The last time I experienced hypothermia was kayak fishing alone on a remote lake the day before it iced over.  The fish were biting like crazy and I didn't want to leave.  I barely made it to shore.).

May 20, 2019
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