Imagine it is dusk and you are on hiking back to your car through Red Rock National Park and you come across a large mountain lion. The lion is aggressive and is in its hunting position. What do you do? Do you grab your knife, play dead, run or maybe pull out a gun. Protection can be one of the most important things out on trail. It can be the difference of an amazing experience or a life altering event. Protection might also be false security that will never help you but comforts you on trail.
Protection is not only for wildlife, it is also from other travelers and yourself. Depending on your personal beliefs and needs you might choose either a non-weapon or a weapon form of protection. Be aware, of different government regulations subject to different types of protection. As I prepare to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, I am having difficulty deciding if I should bring a form of protection and the type I should choose.
There are multiple forms of non-weapon protections you can have that will discourage animals away. Most reliable of these is hiking with a buddy. Hiking with someone is by far the safest option you can chose. You are significantly less likely to be attack by an animal or person if you are not alone and less likely to hurt yourself. Hiking with someone also provides you with a resource that can help you or find help if you are hurt or are in a bad situation.
If you are hiking in bear country, bear spray is an option. Bear spray lets out a gas that is designed to detour bears away if you come across their path. Having bells attached to your pack is also a great way, like talking, to let animals and fellow, whom are up trail, know someone is coming. These are great options and if you feel comfortable on trail with them they are effective and don’t have the ability to hurt you by having them.
Personally I think knives are a crucial item that every hiker should carry. Whether you are using a Leatherman or a straight blade, a knife is a tool you might need on your travels. In society we look at knives as a weapon but as soon as you step out of society and you’re in the wild the weapon now becomes a tool like an ice axe. It could be used as a hammer, wood cutter, or even a fire starter. Knives can also be a form of protection, so you should be familiar pulling it out to avoid injury.
The final form of protection is surrounded by a lot of controversy and legal red tape. It is carrying a gun or sidearm while on trail. I never thought about carrying a gun until my dad suggested I did. Guns statistically have hurt more hikers than they have helped. This is due to hikers and campers improperly using them and the individual’s lack of safety training. I am personally not against hiking with a sidearm. It can be used to scare away a predator by shooting a round in the air or it can take it down if you are attacked. Hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail I might enter into California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Canada. Each state and country has different rules about firearms. Please be aware of these regulations before you care to avoid fines and imprisonment.
Personally I plan to hike the Pacific Crest Trail with my Gerber Knife, which is attached to my pack, and hopefully a fellow backpacker. I am still undecided if I will carry a gun because of the regulations in California and taking one over an international border.
If you have any suggestions please send me a message on Twitter or leave your comment here. As we approach the weekend, I want all of you to get outside, enjoy the spring weather, and share your experiences on my Twitter account.
Photo contributed to the Peanuts Wiki