Protecting yourself on the trail.

1:02 p.m. on August 13, 2018 (EDT)
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Many years ago, my brother, a friend, and I did a backpack down a section of the Dirty Devil River, in Utah.  Several years later, I canoed the Dirty Devil, from Hanksville, to Lake Powell, but that's another story.  On the second or third day, we turned up a side canyon that was supposed to have a spring.  We planned to spend the night here, so we looked around for a suitable campsite, then dropped our packs, grabbed our water bottles, and headed up the canyon to the spring.  It is important to note, that I was the only one that left his pack in plain view, but we hadn't seen another soul since leaving the car.  I was the first to finish filling bottles and headed back to my pack.  When I came around a corner, I was surprised to see a young couple on horseback.  I said hi, as I passed, but they just looked at me funny and said nothing.  A couple minutes later, when they came tearing down the canyon, nearly nocking me over, I knew something was up and picked up my pace.  When I got to my pack, it was obvious that the sleeping bag had been taken.  I took off after them.  When I got to the Dirty Devil, I saw that they had met up with what looked like an outfitter with loaded horses about half a mile away. and they were starting up a trail out of the canyon.  I started yelling at them to give me back my sleeping bag.  The outfitter stopped and I saw that he was talking with the young couple.  He then got off his horse and I saw him put something on the ground.  By now, I was getting close, and gave them an earful.  But they just rode on.  What he had put on the ground was my sleeping bag and my headlamp, which I didn't know was missing, also.

It is possible, even likely, that the outfitter was armed.  I probably should have just let it go.  My life is worth more than a sleeping bag.  What if I'd had a gun?  Would I have used it?  Maybe it's better I didn't have a gun.  But I think about my safety more.

2:51 p.m. on August 13, 2018 (EDT)
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Best not to use a gun for sure. 

Any commercial packer would get drummed out of the corps for dispicable  behavior like you described. 

Horse and mule packers built the trails, firetowers, bridges and have fought fires for 115 years.  They have supported people living in wild country since the beginning. 

Did you report what happened?

7:52 p.m. on August 13, 2018 (EDT)
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Luckily you didn’t have a gun! It’s terrible what happened to you and fortunately it came out ok. But you should ask yourself if a sleeping bad is really worth talking someones life.

There is nothing in my pack worth that! Life is worth defending that way, not our toys. Now if you were at the North Pole it might be a different matter as in that case it becomes a matter of survival. 

Just my 2 cents worth 

10:36 p.m. on August 13, 2018 (EDT)
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I am not known to run from a fight.But I agree with John on this..Lifes one thing..Gear I can replace...Believe me I be angry and I would have tried to find them after...But I don't think I would put a round in someone for that..

9:52 a.m. on August 14, 2018 (EDT)
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You certainly should report this incident, or similar.

Unless there are unusual circumstances, a firearm is about the most useless item you can carry (and I own, use, and appreciate firearms in their proper place0.

Dropping your pack and walking away is a poor practice, and your incident is just one of the bad things that could have occurred.  Even more likely is that some critter or another would have explored your pack for food and goodies, leaving things in a real pickle..

10:29 a.m. on August 14, 2018 (EDT)
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I agree with hikermor as usual  You pack is your lifeline.  Treat it like one and never let it out of your sight.  I put my pack down last year up in the Pine Nut Mountains behind the house.  There are no trails.  I went to look for a campsite. Found one and had trouble locating the pack again. All the pinon and juniper trees started to look the same.  A wave of panic went through me.  Oh there it is. 

One of the common scenarios of people that perish on backcountry trips is putting down their pack and never finding it again.  Critters are the other problem.  They can rip your outfit to shreds and eat all of your food. 

10:31 a.m. on August 14, 2018 (EDT)
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I don't own firearms, so I obviously don't carry one into the hills. If I were regularly hiking in areas where wildlife could be a real threat to life and limb - grizzly and polar bear are the primary predators that come to mind - I might consider it. However, my very occasional experience in places where grizzly might live, i felt fine carrying a can of bear spray instead of a firearm.  

I also have never had any gear stolen, but it happens from time to time. I have seen vehicles with smashed windows at trailheads, for example. While person-to-person crime on the trails (in the US, anyway) is relatively rare, it does occur. A handful of people have been murdered while hiking the Appalachian trail, and there were several unsolved homicides in a nearby national forest in Virginia (spanning several years). There is reportedly an assault or two annually and quite a few thefts of hiking gear, wallets, food etc. Most of the time, basic safety measures should keep people safe.

-traveling in groups is safer than hiking alone

-exercise the same care about strangers that you would anywhere else

-value your life above your gear. if someone wants to steal something from you in person, let it go

Sometimes, much more rarely than our disturbed President claims, there are bad people out there who intend to harm other people. Exceedingly rare when it comes to hiking. Not sure what I would do if confronted with that situation, but I do carry a knife, and I might use it in self-defense.  

3:43 p.m. on August 14, 2018 (EDT)
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Yeah here is a trip report I wrote six years ago and it was the last time I ever left my pack laying around. busted!

4:06 p.m. on August 14, 2018 (EDT)
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I work in very remote areas with no cell service, and I don't carry a gun (I wouldn't be allowed to if I wanted to). I've been creeped out by strangers before, and I've wondered about what would happen if they had bad intentions. In the end, I think dealing with sketchy people is just one of the hazards of being out in the middle of nowhere, and the last thing I'd ever want to do is escalate a situation by bringing a gun into the mix. If I thought someone was armed and potentially a threat, I would just leave - even if it meant abandoning valuable gear.

4:30 p.m. on August 14, 2018 (EDT)
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Thanks for your story Patman. I bet you keep your pack with you now. 

4:48 p.m. on August 14, 2018 (EDT)
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Meeting odd people in the backcountry is much different that meeting them in a town. There is no one around out there.  Here is a old and strange story from 40 years ago. 

I was with a friend in some rugged mountains on a National Forest in California many years ago.  We were in our local area but all the fire roads were locked. We rode horses from the house into the mountains looking for a friend of a friend that could be in some trouble  . We had to lay down some fences to get in there but put them all back.  We were quietly sitting next to a creek after setting up a simple camp when a Sheriff's Deputy showed up in a patrol car and started reading us the riot act.  Then he noticed we were both wearing revolvers.  His demeanor completely changed.  Uh oh. He realized his back up was 2 hours away.  He decided to let us off if we left right now.  Well it was about 1700 and we had many hours to go to get home.  It was in late fall and we had little daylight. Compared to the possibility of going to jail leaving was a great alternative so we left.

Each person has to decide is own opinion about firearms.  I would be very reluctant to ever use one against a person or a wild animal.  But there have been times in my life when carrying one in the open has been a deterrent.  It can put you on a level playing field. I am much more careful now about who I ride with and where I go. 

11:36 p.m. on August 14, 2018 (EDT)
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I own a Ruger LC9s (9mm "pocket" pistol) and I have a carry permit for my state. So far I have not felt the need to take it backpacking. Plus I am very loathe to carry the extra weight. very loathe. 

In grizzly country however, I definitely would carry a 4" barrel 44 magnum revolver in addition to my bear spray. Jus' sayin'...

However my buddy and I were backpacking the AT in Virginia in the late '90s when two gay women backpackers were murdered. We were interviewed by Park Service Rangers at a trailhead as to our whereabouts on the day of the murder. It was all very strange and made me wish I had my, at that time, 32 Beretta Tomcat pistol. As far as I know the murderer was never caught.

"To carry or not to carry, that is the question." 

EX. One day I was going to the north side of the Las Vegas valley to Sportsman's Warehouse. I decided it was a straight shot to a good part of town so I left my pistol at home. On the way a guy passed me on the right in the bicycle lane. I was very surprised and gave him just a "blip" of my horn as if to say "What the heck?". He stopped at a light in the right turn lane. As I pulled up and stopped beside him in the adjacent lane to go straight ahead the young guy looked at me, pulled out a revolver and pointed it toward me but aimed a bit above my head. 

Had I had my Ruger LC9 on me he would have been dead. Just that simple. I am professionally trained on how to react to a drawn firearm. Lucky for him that I decided to leave my weapon at home on that day. And lucky for me as well because I would have taken a life and all the rest of the terrible moral/ legal experience that goes with that tragedy. (The experience prompted me to practice with my pistol much more frequently and take more training sessions.)

I called the police with his car description and license number. He was gone but they said he was a felon and not permitted to carry a firearm so they notified the police in the jurisdiction where he lived. I hope he was arrested and sent back to prison.

Eric B.

10:11 a.m. on August 15, 2018 (EDT)
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Eric , not sure if this is the same as you mention but I've seen a documentary on a shooting of two lesbians (one died) hiking the AT and the guy was caught. Here is the wiki:


11:03 a.m. on August 15, 2018 (EDT)
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Eric B,

Thanks for relating your story.  I find it chilling that you would be so quick to kill someone. Your life would be changed forever.  You would be in court and likely lose your house and your marriage if you have one.  Even if you were not convicted. 

I believe carrying firearms should be a lot like being martial arts expert. The more training you have, the more reluctant you should be to use lethal force. 

With all due respect, I would suggest you do not carry until to get better impulse control.

10:25 a.m. on August 16, 2018 (EDT)
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PPine says---"I agree with hikermor as usual  You pack is your lifeline.  Treat it like one and never let it out of your sight.  I put my pack down last year up in the Pine Nut Mountains behind the house.  There are no trails.  I went to look for a campsite. Found one and had trouble locating the pack again. All the pinon and juniper trees started to look the same.  A wave of panic went through me.  Oh there it is. 

One of the common scenarios of people that perish on backcountry trips is putting down their pack and never finding it again.  Critters are the other problem.  They can rip your outfit to shreds and eat all of your food."


This hits all the important notes.  Never let your pack out of your sight, not only from miscreant horseback riders but per Patman's example---black bears.

And setting down a pack and losing it HAPPENS.  It happened to me on the backside of Huckleberry Knob in a high January winter windstorm and fog.  Like an idiot I put my ginormous pack down in the trees and thought I could find a better spot---so I left it and got lost.  I panicked of course---it was the beginning of a 20 day trip---and after some weird posturings I finally stumbled on the thing.  Phew, never again.

And to Randell Purrett---Why didn't you leave someone with the packs when you pulled your water run? 

As far as carrying a weapon on a trail, well, if it's the Ho Chi Minh Trail I can understand the need, or pulling a wonderful 30 day trek thru the mountains of Afghanistan--- otherwise it's a big waste of time and unneeded dead weight in an already heavy pack. 

"We Pack Our Fears" really hits home in this discussion.  I guess the reason I'm so vehement against carrying a weapon is because in 40 years of backpacking and hitchhiking thru the Southeast mountains I never had any experience even remotely threatening to pack a gun. And as a reminder---all these years have all been spent in Deliverance country.

1:59 p.m. on August 16, 2018 (EDT)
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the only significant situation i can recall leaving my pack alone was going up one of the presidentials in the white mountains, front end of a long-ish multi-day winter hike.  the backpack was heavy, i was coming off a last-minute work trip to and from Singapore, and i was ridiculously exhausted before we got started. my quads started cramping maybe 500 vertical feet from where we were camping the first night.  i dropped the pack, took a few essentials in my summit bag, then headed up with the rest of the group. my sister and her husband emptied her pack, hiked down to where i dropped mine, they split up the contents of mine & trudged back. 

i didn't like doing that but figured mid-february in the whites, foot traffic is scarce. besides, i didn't have a choice - winter hike, everyone was carrying a full load.  had my mystery ranch pack 'walked away,' i would have been pretty bummed out!

3:21 p.m. on August 16, 2018 (EDT)
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Patman, No,this was a double murder in the Shennandoah NAtionalPArk, Virginia. 

ppine, Sorry you feel I need "impulse control". I did explain it was my training that would have caused me to fire on the threat, not my impulse. I was trained well at Front Sight Training Center and practice a lot. In situations like that training takes over.

And yes, we were also taught that, regardless of fault, in a shooting we would likely face a civil suit from the victim's family. And that would cost at least $50,000. So yes, I am fully aware of the legal situations that could arise. And as a moral person, (former Peace Corps Volunteer, father, Ski Patroller, teacher, armed guard) I am very aware of the moral heavy implications. You need to get to know me before you call me out. Jus' sayin'...

9:56 a.m. on August 17, 2018 (EDT)
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Bad training. Jus sayin. 

Killing some one for driving in the bike lane makes no sense no matter who you are or how well I know you. 

10:44 a.m. on August 17, 2018 (EDT)
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I'm not sure I agree with Eric, but he did not say he would kill someone for driving in the bike lane. He said he would kill someone for pointing a gun at him and posing (or seeming to pose) a credible and immediate threat to his own life.

10:53 a.m. on August 17, 2018 (EDT)
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Re: leaving a pack, reminds of something that happened a few years back. In March, 2012, a German couple, one of whom was a post doc at my university, were skiing into a small, remote hut in the Trollheimen mountains near here. Late in the day, when they were on an icy, steep traverse about 1 km from the hut, the woman fell and was injured. They decided to leave behind her skis and pack and just get to the hut. The next evening the man went out in bad weather to get the pack. It's not clear what happened between then and when he was finally found dead near the pack, with skis on, two days later, after the woman got a mobile phone signal and called for help. It looks like he spent the night in a sleeping bag that was in the pack, but eventually froze to death. In this case it may have been necessary to abandon the pack if the woman wasn't able to carry it, but the decision to go out alone and look for it, late in the day and in bad weather, appears to have been fatal. I had to go back and find the newspaper articles about the incident to get some of the details, I'd bit in a link but they are in Norwegian.

8:53 p.m. on August 17, 2018 (EDT)
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Thanks to JR for the distinction. "pointed it toward me but pointed it a bit above my head."  Ease up Frances. 

8:54 a.m. on August 18, 2018 (EDT)
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I am not sure about the precise figures, but I am confident that the crime rate in roadless areas is less than that of more settled regions.  I have the impression that incidents cluster around trail heads.  Does anyone have good data or studies?

Basically, you are safer in the woods than n town.  We should start a thread on strangers helping those in distress while out on the trail.  That happens a lot, as well.

4:34 p.m. on August 18, 2018 (EDT)
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This is my last explanation to you.

PLEASE read my original story. It appears you had not read it closely.

I had a pistol pointed at me! At any second he could have fired on me. I felt to be in imminent mortal danger. My fear for my life has nothing to do with him driving in the bicycle lane other than he was pissed off that I blipped my horn at him in the briefest way. I was boxed in by other cars and had no way of exiting in time to prevent him shooting at me. Only luck kept me alive. Perhaps unlike you, I prefer not to depend on luck in those circumstances.

The OP of this thread posited a question regarding carrying firearms in the backcountry and I responded with two different situations from my life. You must understand that t 75 I have had ample opportunity to have a lot of life experiences.

Eric B.

8:44 p.m. on August 18, 2018 (EDT)
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Well I'd love to chime in on this self defense debate, but instead compell TS moderators close this thread before we all start taking pot shot remarks at each other.


5:31 p.m. on August 19, 2018 (EDT)
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OK, only once in my life have I carried a pistol while backpacking. It was in the mid '90s in the Allegheny National Forest in NW Pennsylvania when my wife and two teenage daughters went along for a short trip. 

Late in the afternoon, after our tents were up and we were fixing dinner we heard the roar of dozens of motorcycles illegally entering a logging road about 1/2 mile from us and setting up their camp about another 1/2 mile from us in a clearing.

We were afraid to pack out B/C we felt we might be spotted by new bikers coming in. It was an unsettling night as the bikers partied 'til 3 AM but I had my Glock 17 and spare magazine with me and was grateful for it. 

The next day the bilkers left by 10 AM and we had the place to ourselves again so we did a day hike from our camp - but I carried the Gock 17 anyway, loathe to leave it in camp, naturally.

I regularly carry a rifle backpacking when I'm hunting but that's totally different.

Eric B.

8:48 p.m. on August 19, 2018 (EDT)
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ppine said:

Bad training. Jus sayin. 

Killing some one for driving in the bike lane makes no sense no matter who you are or how well I know you. 

 He wouldn’t have been killing someone for driving in the bike lane, he would have been killing someone for pointing a gun at him. Would you trust someone with a gun pointed at you not to shoot you?

9:39 p.m. on August 19, 2018 (EDT)
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Brandishing occurs sometimes. 

The crucial part of this is "pointed a bit above my head."

I am going backpacking tomorrow and I will be bringing a revolver.  We are going to an area with a bear population, but I will be very reluctant to even fire a warning shot. 

10:20 a.m. on August 20, 2018 (EDT)
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People in gun stores and gun shows now are very casual about where they point the muzzles of their guns.  It is the main reason I avoid them at all costs.  If I shot everyone that has pointed a gun in my direction in my lifetime there would be a long list. 

Recently in a gun store it happened.  I told the owner that it was not acceptable.  He told me "to expect it to happen in a gun store. "  I had a talk with the sheriff and asked him to talk with the owner. 

Life is not a Clint Eastwood movie. 

I have deliberately pointed loaded guns at humans only a few times.  They all deserved it. Those are stories for another time. No shots were fired, and the incidents ended peacefully. 

6:33 p.m. on August 22, 2018 (EDT)
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I made my point, and at .300 Winchester magnum's request I am done with this one. 

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