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Carrying Handguns While Hiking: Pros vs. Cons

Carrying Handguns While Hiking: Pros vs. Cons

So you are all set to go into the remote backwoods to see exactly what you are made of. You have your pack, your food and a bunch of items that you hope you will need…but suspect their only function will be the production of back pain 15 miles down the game trail. As you cram all of your gear into a bag you may just realize that not only will you be far outside of cell phone service, but you also will no longer be at the top of the food chain! So like any rational human being you consider protection and mentally enter the debate…..

“Should I bring a gun on my hike?”

This has always been one of my favorite debates, and as you read the words of an NRA member and author I’m sure you already know my stance. However, let’s go ahead and weigh some pros and cons on the subject.

Pro # 1: Protection from animals

Yes, the majority of times that you see wildlife you are looking at the back end of it as it runs away. This doesn’t mean bears, mountain lions and coyotes don’t ever attack; the best hiking weather just also happens to be the best birthing weather, and should you find yourself on a trail where mama is on one side and the cubs are on the other you just became a threat to their family. Hey, we carry a gun on the city streets because we never know when we might inadvertently find ourselves in a hostile situation, so why not apply the same mindset in the woods?

Pro# 2: Protection from people

Sadly, bad people can lace up hiking boots as easily as we can. When you are miles away from civilization you are an easy target for a violent crime or mugging. Many hikers carry bags that are worth in excess of $200 and filled with high-end gear. A friend of mine spent more for his bag, tent and sleeping bag than I did for an entire hunt…including rifle and scope! In addition to your gear ,you also likely have your car keys and wallet. When you are off the grid there is very little that you can do about it should someone decide what’s yours should be theirs.

Pro # 3: Hunting

If you are hiking during hunting season it would behoove you to pick up a hunting license and get your own food while underway. Small and medium game is an excellent supplement to your freeze dried dinner and nothing is better than fresh game roasted on a stick…besides, hunting is fun! You are going to be in the woods for first and last light anyway, so why not take advantage of it when and where it’s legal?

Con # 1: The weight

It is hard to argue with gravity. Yes, a gun and ammunition will add weight to your pack or your outfit. On trips where I am cutting a toothbrush in half to save weight, I do indeed hold my gun in my hand and consider leaving it home, especially when I know I’m going to be hiking somewhere that is densely traveled. Carrying a lightweight handgun in a compact size will help reduce this effect, but there is no denying that it is going to add a pound or two.

Con # 2: The law (where applicable)

Firearms laws change from state to state and even season to season. When hiking gun-friendly states that border not-so-friendly gun states, crossing into a restricted state might land you in hot water. This is something to consider when you are planning out your route.

Con # 3: Discomfort

You could arguably roll this into weight, but I’m not talking about that kind of discomfort, I’m talking about a gun digging into your side or chest because it is interfering with your pack’s rigging system. If you are considering taking a gun, make sure that you have it stowed in such a way that it is 100 percent clear of all straps and obstructions. I would recommend that you go on a test hike that includes uphill and downhill walking.

My solution is my ALPS Commander pack and Uncle Mike’s thumb-break holster. The pack actually has loops to mount a holster right on the waist belt. This leaves my Uncle Mike’s thumb-break holster on the very outside of my kit, making it readily accessible and clear of any interference with any of my other equipment.  A gun and holster that bothers you just a little on mile 1 will become excruciating at mile 10.

While the preceding isn’t even close to a comprehensive list, these are the six points that I and a hiking companion discussed during our first mile. Both sides made valid points and a lot was learned that day. In the end we are both fortunate enough to live in a country where we can decide for ourselves how we want to approach the topic of protection on trail.


When shopping before your trek, consider a hunting-style pack if you are thinking about carrying a handgun. This ALPS Commander Pack has purpose-built lashings for your holster so you don’t have to wear it on your belt.

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