The debate around women hiking with guns is one that has been ongoing for many years. Some people believe that guns offer a sense of security, and can be used to defend oneself in the event of an attack. Others believe that guns are unnecessary and dangerous, and that carrying a firearm only increases the risks of injury or death.
There are reasonable facts that support both sides of the argument, but ultimately it is up to each individual woman to decide whether or not she feels comfortable carrying a gun while hiking. Whatever decision is made, it is important to be well-informed about the risks and rewards of doing so. In this article, we aim to take an unbiased approach to explain the pros, cons, and situations where carrying a gun makes sense, vs when it may not.
Before diving into this article, you may be interested in other related and helpful content:
Training Of The Hiker
When we talk about training, we are talking about firearm operation and safety. No one should be carrying a firearm unless they are trained on how to use it, and feel comfortable using the weapon. It is the duty of a firearm owner to practice, be fully capable of operating the weapon effectively, and be fully aware of gun safety practices. If someone isn’t properly trained and comfortable, they shouldn’t be carrying the weapon.
Location Of The Hiking
We believe one of the most impactful criteria for determining whether a firearm should be carried is location.
There are parts of the world, and the country, where a firearm, is highly recommended to protect against predatory animals, or other animals that can be of danger. This can be protection against:
- Moose in Rut
- Cougars / Mountain Lions
- Other large game
For example, areas of Alaska have massive populations of Grizzly bear, where guides and locals will always be carrying a weapon just in case.
With this being said, most of the areas of the world that have these types of dangers have other methods for staying safe. For example, bear spray is considered more effective and protective against bear attacks. (It can also be effective on a human attacker if needed.)
Here is a study on the effectiveness of bear spray: https://wildlife.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.2193/2006-452
And another comparing the effectiveness of bear spray vs guns:
Moose conflicts can be avoided by ensuring proper distance is kept, and enough noise is made while traveling through the woods. You’ll nearly never hear of a cougar or wolf attack of a group of people, and nearly all large game incidents could have been prevented by following best practices while being around large game.
All this being said, carrying a firearm in some of these areas can be an added layer of defense that has saved people’s lives before, and there is validity to carrying a gun where game like this is present.
Human & Crime Dangers
In addition to dangers from wild animals, the second primary danger to hikers is other people. Everyone has head of the horror stories on the AT, or the PCT. While crimes committed while hiking are extremely rare, they have occured. It is possible that a trained individual with a firearm, could have prevented these crimes from occuring, and therefore, an individual with training, certainly has a valid argument for carrying a firearm just about anywhere.
Another common item for defense against other people is a taser. This is generally not a common self defense weapon on trails, but it could be an alternative as women can easily carry either a gun, a taser, or pepper spray.
What are the key considerations for women when choosing a gun for hiking?
When hiking with a gun, there are a few key considerations for women to keep in mind. First, it is important to select the right gun for the situation. If you are hiking in an area with large predators, a larger caliber gun may be necessary. Second, you will need to practice shooting your gun in order to be accurate in a stressful situation. Third, you will need to be comfortable carrying your gun while hiking. A holster that attaches to your belt or backpack is often a good option.
In addition, a weapon should be designed to handle the elements for hiking. It should be able to get wet, get frozen, and dropped, and still operate without fail.
To summarize, the key considerations should be:
- Proper caliber
- Weight and size for packing
- Holstering in a position that is comfortable and easy to access.
- Weapon durability and reliability
Statistics On Crime And Violence Against Women Hikers
According to a study by the Outdoor Industry Association, 43% of women who hike have experienced some form of violence or harassment while on the trail. This includes everything from unwanted comments or advances to actual physical assault. And while most of these incidents occur during daylight hours, and are often not physically threatening, it’s important to be aware that in the wilderness, their is vulnerability from other humans as well.
There are not a ton of statistics to point to regarding incidents could have been prevented, stopped in their tracks, or even made worse by the presence of a gun. Therefore, the argument related to this in the outdoors, is more theoretical, and less backed by statistics.
How To Reduce The Risk Of Needing To Use Your Weapon
There are some steps that hikers can take to reduce their risk of becoming a victim of crime. First and foremost, it’s always best to hike with a partner or group. If you must hike alone, make sure to let someone know your planned route and when you expect to return. It’s also a good idea to avoid isolated areas and to stay on well-traveled trails. And finally, trust your instincts – if something feels wrong, it probably is. By taking some simple precautions, hikers can help keep themselves safe and reduce their chances of becoming victims of crime.
Carrying devices that can make loud noises, GPS devices to allow others not with you to track you, and simply being aware of surroundings will reduce the likelihood of a life threatening event.
Benefits Of Carrying A Gun While Hiking
The main benefit of carrying a gun is the added sense of security it can provide. In the event that an attacker or dangerous animal is encountered, a gun can be used to defend oneself.
In addition, guns can be used to deter attacks from happening in the first place. The mere presence of a gun can be enough to scare off an attacker, or make them think twice about attacking. With animals, firing a weapon into the ground can cause game to flee, preventing someone from needing to kill an animal to remain safe.
Another benefit of carrying a gun is that it can be used for other purposes besides self-defense. Guns can be used for hunting, and in some cases are necessary for doing so. They can also be used for recreation, such as target shooting, or even in emergency situations as a tool.
Drawbacks Of Carrying A Gun While Hiking
The main drawback of carrying a gun is the increased risk of injury or death that comes with it.
Guns are dangerous, and even when handled properly, accidents can happen. In situations where another method of protection may be more effective, a gun could make the situation worse. For example, when bear spray could be used, it is often a better alternative than a gun.
With human to human interactions, guns can escalate situations beyond where they would have escalated to if there were no guns present.
Each of these concerns aren’t facts, they are just possibilities, and that’s why this is a debate, and up to personal preference.
In conclusion, there are valid arguments for and against carrying a gun while hiking. It is important to evaluate the risks and consider the key considerations before making a decision. For some women, carrying a gun may provide an extra layer of protection and peace of mind. Others may prefer to avoid guns altogether. Ultimately, it is up to each individual to decide what is best for them.
Max DesMarais is the founder of hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued his frequent adventures in the mountains, always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about