Am I taking a Gun on the Appalachian Trail

One of the first things many people ask me when I say I’m getting ready to hike the trail is “Are you taking a gun?”.  To be fair, it’s one of the first questions I asked when I started researching.  So although the answer seems obvious to me now, it’s a normal question.  So, although I’m hardly the first to do so, I’m going to cover the topic today.

Long Story Short: no I will not carry a gun

Guns are Heavy

Listen, one of my number one concerns preparing to hike the trail is how much (or preferably little) my pack will weigh.  So I am not lugging a gun with me for more than two thousand miles.  Ain’t gonna happen.  My target pack weight is 12lbs.  A gun weighs around 5lbs.  So, despite being comfortable with American’s rights to own and carry guns, for me the trail is not a place to have one.

 

The Trail is Low Crime

There have only been a handful of murders on the Appalachian Trail since the 1970s, and it was likely less frequent before then.  This is certainly a lower crime rate than what I face in my home city.  Statistically, I’ll be safer on the AT than I am walking home from work.  As for robbery, I’ll reduce the risks for this by not taking jewelry and not camping near roads.  A gun is not something I would want to involve in a robbery anyways.

I Want Other Hikers to Hang out with Me

I’ve joined a lot of hiker forums and groups (such as the Trek, hey thanks for having me) and the general consensus is that guns have no place on the Appalachian Trail.  If you’re carrying a gun strapped to your pack people may well avoid you.  Best case scenario you’ll get a trail name related to the gun.  So carrying a gun might alienate me, but more than that carrying guns on the trail won’t foster the kind of community I want to see out there.  I want the Appalachian Trail to continue to be the kind of place where we don’t bring those kinds of outside concerns. Yes, we should be safe, stay in communication with other hikers as well as home, and hike away from people that give a bad vibe.

They’re Impractical

Okay, let’s say I’m in a scenario on the trail where I want to use a gun.  I wouldn’t want it if I was being robbed.  In the case of a robbery, I’m always just going to give up whatever I have because no physical possessions are worth my life.  So someone is trying to kill me or my dog, or abduct me somehow.  How is the gun going to help me?  If it’s inside my pack I’d have to unstrap it, dig through it, find the gun… It would be too late by the time I got it.  Even if it were strapped to the outside of my pack I’d have to get the pack off to get to it, and again we run into the problem of other hikers being deterred from sharing their company with me.

I Won’t Use it Everyday

There are so many “what-if” items I could take on the trail.  If I took all of them I’d never finish the trail because my pack would be too heavy to enjoy anything.  So I’ve come up with criteria things must meet to make it into my pack.  Do I need it to survive?  Does it have multiple functions?  Can something else in my pack replace this item?  Will I use it every day?  Actually, I could probably make a flow chart about this.  Expect a flow chart.

State Laws Vary

While it is now legal to carry a gun through national parks with the correct permits, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy discourages carrying firearms on the trail.  Then there’s the matter of having the correct permits for all the states, and having concealed carry permits.  Sure, I could carry a gun on my belt, but what about when I have my coat on, or my poncho?  Can I take it into shops?  For me, it’s not worth worrying about all of this.

Other Things I Won’t Carry

There are many things that people ask if I’ll be taking or suggest I should take.  I’m not taking most of them because I’m going minimalist.  Which is part of the essence of the trail.   In particular, I won’t be taking a knife, or bear spray, or any other sort of weapon.  Well, I might take a pocket knife for opening food packages or spreading peanut butter, but even that is iffy.  I’m getting close to putting up a finalized pack list though, so expect that soon.  (As final as a pack list can be this far out from my start date.)

What I will do to Stay Safe

I won’t hitchhike alone.  I will check in my family at home on a regular basis.  I’ll sign into log books, and read the log books to know what’s coming ahead.  The AT has a fairly tight community and during last year’s through hiking season I kept close tabs on many hiker forums, and saw how quickly reports of someone being suspicious or even disrespectful on the trail on the trail travels, and that hostel owners and ridge runners follow up on these reports to help make sure the trail is safe.  I will be acutely aware of my surroundings and move away from situations that seem off.  Finally, I plan to connect with other hikers and be a part of the community. We watch out for each other out there.

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Comments 152

  • Wow : Jan 4th

    ” So someone is trying to kill me or my dog, or abduct me somehow. How is the gun going to help me?”

    WOW, just.. wow!

    Reply
    • Joe D Ward : Jan 5th

      Never make it with a 12 pound pack and be self sufficient. Sorry.

      Reply
      • Griz Grizzleton : Jan 7th

        I had a 10lb base weight on the AT and was completely self sufficient. You obviously don’t have much experience long distance hiking.

        Reply
    • Andrew : Jan 6th

      Yes. I was going to comment on the gun issue, but when I saw that this hiker didn’t even plan to take a knife necessarily, I realized that that was probably a completely inaccessible issue in her case.

      It’s difficult for me to imagine the mindset behind hiking 2000 miles without taking a knife. There’s no way I could explain to her the option of taking along a small handgun for personal protection.

      Reply
      • Margaret : Jan 6th

        I understand it’s an option, I just don’t believe it’s necessary.

        Reply
        • Harry Flashman : Jan 6th

          Nothing is ever necessary….until it’s actually needed. Hear how silly your argument is yet?

          Reply
          • Jason : Jan 7th

            Sure, murders have occurred on the AT, but more people have died due to falling coconuts. Do you wear a helmet at the beach too? You probably won’t need it…”until it’s actually needed”. Some people choose to live their life in a state of fear (I’m sure you call it “preparedness”), some people can assess the risks for what they are.

            Reply
        • Jess : Jan 7th

          Margaret, no offense but your article sets up strawman arguments with how and why someone would carry a firearm or knife. By your criteria, knowing some basic self defense is not necessary, vigilance is not necessary and indeed more generally, extra water is not necessary, a med kit is not necessary, more advanced navigation tools are not necessary, etc.

          The media estimates of peer reviewed studies on how many crimes are prevented by non-LEO with firearms per year is about 1.7 million (estimates run from a low of 500,000 to a high of three million per year, per 2013 National Academy of Science metastudy, in National Academy Press). Now you certainly do not want to deploy a firearm if you are not reasonably threatened enough with bodily harm to use it, but in fact the data show over 99% of the time, simply showing the firearm stops a violent crime attempt.

          I’m with a federal agency, 5’6″, quite fit, and have trained in non weapons self defense, and still carry a small firearm to protect myself and my family when on hikes or camping whenever the law allows (and on the majority of the Appalachians the law allows it for both off duty LEO and for civilians). The fact is even in cities and dense towns responders arrive in time to interdict violent crime under 3% of the time. On the trail it is going to be 0% of the time.

          Setting up a strawman or red herring by (correctly) stating a handgun is not going to protect you 100% of the time and therefore of no utility or benefit, is not helpful to any discourse. The fact is, on average, it will make you safer to one degree or another.

          By the way consider a small .380, my backup/off-duty, with six rounds, weighs under one pound.

          Reply
          • Marty : Jan 8th

            Excellent response.

            Reply
        • Engine : Jan 14th

          Because it isn’t necessary. In 2017 Caboose and I knew a few hikers who started in Georgia with a gun in their pack. Without exception, they all sent it home within a month. I carry concealed in the real world, but would not consider it on a thru hike.

          Reply
      • Griz Grizzleton : Jan 7th

        I hiked the entire Appalachian trail with a mini swiss army knife. I used it to cut paracord once and it was mainly used to slice cheese. So yeah. You can easily hike AT without a knife. Some people bring just 1 razorblade. Have you ever thru hiked?

        Reply
        • Frank : Jan 7th

          Wow, look at you, Mr. Eliteist. You’re accomplishment is so amazing.

          Reply
        • Wayne S : Jan 13th

          Ditto the small Swiss Army knife. Used the scissors more than the blade!

          Reply
        • Carla Robertson : Jan 13th

          I’m with you, Griz. I also thruhiked by myself with a mini Swiss Army knife and used it to cut salami. I wish that people who weren’t thru hikers would not comment here. There is no need to carry a firearm on the AT. It scares me to think that people are carrying – there are already so many instances of people in regular life accidentally shooting friends and family members who they think are intruders, of firearms accidentally discharging – I would hate to be camped near a jumpy hiker who was holding a gun while they listen to every rustle and strange noise in the woods. Margaret, I am with you and your decision is completely reasonable. This isn’t elitist to not carry a gun or a heavy knife.

          Reply
          • Chad : Jan 14th

            I was going to give a serious response to your comment. Then I read the end of your comment and realized you have zero experience with guns or people who carry guns. You base your entire reasoning on some bs you got from the news or an anti gun politician. I agree you don’t need a gun on the trail but your reasons are complete bs based on phobia. As for a knife I wouldn’t go anywhere without a knife. It not a protection thing it a tool and usefulness thing. I use a knife everyday for all kind of things and could survive weeks with just a knife.

            Reply
    • Trail blue : Jan 6th

      I’ve only done the Ga. part of the AT. But you damn right I and my partner had a gun, extra ammo and a big knife. These remarks about not taking a gun are hilarious. Obviously you anti trail gun people probably don’t even own one. The statement of being in more danger in your home town is correct especially my home town. However if you are trained to be a survivor you know evil can strike anywhere and I stay prepared weather it’s in church or the trail. You must know what you are doing however and have the right mind set to go with what ever weapon you choose. No if you taking a hand gun don’t pack it in the bottom of your pack , that’s useless. I bought a nylon pouch , not a holster that hangs from front of my pack very easy to reach. As far as letting your self get robbed , that’s a lame state of mind. Yea if you inexperienced enough to let someone get the drop on you then yea you might have to go along and pray they don’t kill you and they probably will in that trail setting. Tip, don’t let strangers get close watch their eyes and hands. People aren’t the only threat occasionally there is a rouge black bear. I will say this we were heavy and the 40. Cal Glocks were part of being over weight . By the way they don’t weigh 5 pounds unless you taking a cannon. I will concede the next time I will not take the 40. I will only take my pocket rocket as they are known, which is a tiny .22 cal magnum fits hidden in a closed hand so small. But it will get someone or something off of you in a desperate situation. Oh but yes you do need a weapons carry license at least from your state. But don’t worry about the law keep it hid , don’t show it , it’s there to save your life . Better to be tried by 12 than carried by 6

      Reply
      • Margaret : Jan 6th

        Hike your own hike. I hope you make it back out there soon.

        Reply
        • Gun Hero : Jan 8th

          You can get an AR-15 that weighs 2-3 pounds. Other styles of rifle can be had that weigh less than 5lb. A lot of handguns weigh between 13 to 25 oz (unloaded), well under the purported 5lb weight you claim.

          Reply
          • Gun Hero : Jan 8th

            Kel-Tec offers 4 models under 1lb in weight:
            P-32: 6oz
            P3-AT 8.3oz
            P-11 14oz
            PMR-30 14oz

            And this is just from one manufacturer, there are 100s more. Smith and Wesson offers a nice variety of Air-weight revolvers which fire more powerful rounds than the kel-tecs and weigh in around 14oz.

            Reply
            • Gun Hero : Jan 13th

              Smith and Wesson’s MODEL 340 PD weighs 11oz and fires a 357magnum or 38 special or 38 special +p. Well under 1 pound and could stop a bear.

              Reply
    • Reality : Jan 6th

      She’s right. The gun wouldn’t help her in this situation. A gun is just a tool, and with the stated mindset of the blogger, would be useless. You must be willing to kill to protect yourself and your loved ones. Without the will the gun is merely a paperweight. I applaud her sense of self. Just another contender for a shiny Darwin Award.

      Reply
    • Bereal : Jan 13th

      Lets be real, she is 23, within the first 2 weeks she is going to either fall on a dick and be with that person and group for the rest of the trail.. or fall in with a group of guys that are Hoping!!! she falls on their dick… she wont have to ever “defend herself” because some idiot 18-25 year old dude who trying to get some will “defend” her…. and everyone that has hiked the AT knows its true…… very few single female hikers make it all the way without sleeping with at least one of their fellow hikers.

      There is nothing wrong with being anti gun on the AT, but the reason listed are stupid…

      Guns are Heavy 5lbs – Wrong mine is less then 1.5 pounds

      The Trail is Low Crime- I live in a “low crime” area, last year less then a block away 5 guys broke into a house armed with knifes …. lucky the single lady living there had a gun, she fired 2 shots, missed, but they ran away. Maybe she should of just welcomed them and given them whatever they wanted, even her life. Huge difference between Low Crime and NO Crime

      I Want Other Hikers to Hang out with Me- I carried on my 2012 thru, and for 70 days in the summer of 2014 while on the AT, know how many people knew I had a gun ?? 0, guns aren’t toys they shouldn’t be out for people to see, I had no issues making friends on the trail. If you see someone openly playing with a gun at a camp or shelter LEAVE, and that’s my advice for people armed and unarmed

      They’re Impractical- they are only impractical till you need one…. door lock are impractical….until you need them to stop someone from getting in.

      Reply
  • Kamakazee : Jan 4th

    I agree about the gun, no reason to carry especially if your not proficient. A knife thou is something I would refuse to go anywhere outdoors without especially hiking. I carry a Morakniv Fixed Blade fieldcraft blade. It has a carbon steel blade, blade measures 3 1/4 inch and weighs only 4 ounces with its sheath. It has multiple uses and only costs around $14.00. I just can’t figure out why anyone would go on a long hike without a minimum of a pocket knife or both a pocket knife and a small fixed blade knife. Even our pioneer ancestors carried a blade at a minimum not only for basic security, but as a essential tool for fieldcraft. Of course if your hiking with a group of people 24/7 on the AT you might not have to worry about carrying a knife for basic security or fieldcraft. You know, making tinder for fires, sharpening a stick for cooking, making a splint, making a tent pole, wood hiking stick, cutting food, etc. 4 ounces extra weight won’t kill you or your impare your hiking fun! It might just save your life at a maximum.

    Reply
    • Margaret : Jan 4th

      I appreciate your concerns, but a blade or pepper/bear spray run into many of the same concerns as a gun in terms of practicality. I’m not going to have them in my hands at all times and they’re likely to be inaccessible should I need them for self-defense. I’ll seek to avoid needing them by being aware of my surroundings instead. I am hiking with my dog and that should be enough deterrent for most people who may wish me ill will. Especially on a trail that sees 2-3 million hikers (many of them female and solo) every year and has had less than 20 reported murders or assaults since the 1970s.

      I do own a carbon steel blade pocket knife, and it was on some early drafts of my gear list but it didn’t make the final cut. Mostly based on suggestions from trail runners and successful thru-hikers. If you look at pack lists it’s not uncommon to forgo a pocket knife, and certainly, I don’t need one that’s more than 3″ long.

      Technology has advanced since the pioneers and I will be carrying a lighter, waterproof matches, and solid fuel tablets.

      4 ounces might not seem like much to you, but I think that kind of mentality is how people end up with 20lbs+ for their base weight. 4oz is 2% of my goal base weight. And considering I’ll be carrying food and water for me and my dog, at least for the first couple hundred miles, that still puts me at around 20lbs for my total pack weight.

      It’s a personal preference, I don’t expect everyone to go without a pocket knife, but I’ve never yet needed one on a camping or backpacking trip.

      Reply
      • Tap : Jan 4th

        Obviously this is a “hike your own hike” thing and it seems like you’ve done a lot of reading, but for what it’s worth I found a knife very helpful on my 2017 NOBO. I’m not a knife guy and don’t carry one on me in everyday life, and I tried to keep my pack light (11 lb base weight) but for cutting cord, opening food, slicing cheese, etc. I was glad I opted to bring one.

        https://www.gerbergear.com/Knives/Folding/US1_31-003040

        It was a well worth the ounce for all of the small encounters it helped out with. Hopefully this doesn’t seem like me trying to complicate one of a thousand decisions you have to make between now and when you start your hike. Like anything else, you can always change it up once you get started. Best of luck to you. Hopefully this year is drier than last year was.

        Reply
      • Maverick : Jan 5th

        Shouldn’t your dog be carrying it’s own food, water, coat, and dog bowls in a pack. I’ve down a handful of trips with my dog and she carries all her own things including a first aid kit for herself in her own pack. We have never done anything in a scale like your aboit to do with the AT (although it is a dream of mine) but she loves to have a pack on. Goodluck to the both of you, and take a knife at the very least. It’s a fantastic tool if nothing else

        Reply
        • Frost : Jan 5th

          Please take a warm pad for your dog to sleep on. I recall a woman who expected her dog (Tucker) to sleep on the cold ground in winter! How about a dog size sleeping bag?

          Reply
          • Margaret : Jan 5th

            Rosco will actually fit into my sleeping bag with me, I chose a wide EE with this in mind.

            Though I must say, it depends on the dog. If I was taking my mom’s lab for example he’d be happy to sleep on the ground in anything but sub zero temperatures.

            Reply
            • John Davies : Jan 6th

              Sleep with your dog? That will be really entertaining when he is soaking wet, muddy and shivering. Have you really thought this part through?

              Reply
              • Margaret : Jan 6th

                Not only have I thought it through I’ve enacted it in the past.

            • Robin : Jan 7th

              Curious, what do you plan to do with your dog when you get to Maine where no dogs are allowed?

              Reply
              • Margaret : Jan 7th

                My mom’s actually coming up to Maine for two weeks to camp, and she’ll take Rosco while I’m hiking Kathadin. But there are also doggie daycares nearby.

        • Margaret : Jan 5th

          Rosco might start carrying a pack later in the trip, but I’m going to carry everything to start and see how he’s handling it first. I figure hiking 10+ miles a day for months on end is different from anything we’ve done before, and since I can reduce his risk of injury while keeping my pack weight well within a safe range I’m going to.

          Reply
      • Greg m : Jan 5th

        Heads up. Dogs aren’t allowed on the Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains. I hike there weekly and on the AT. Back country rangers are present at times on the trail.

        Reply
        • Margaret : Jan 5th

          They’re also not allowed in Baxter State Park.

          Reply
      • Tony : Jan 6th

        The truth is a gun is pretty much useless on a thru hike. The chance of being attacked by a wild animal is almost none existent and you wouldn’t have time to get it out anyway. If a human wants to harm you he’s not gonna meet you at high noon for a gun fight. They would attack you when you had your back turned like evil people always do. Just be careful. Use your common sense just like you do in the real world and you’ll be fine.

        Reply
      • Gordon : Jan 7th

        It is not that you chose not to carry a weapon (which is very reasonable) it is that you employed strawman arguments (with the exception of the weight issue where you instead greatly exaggerated the weight of an adequate firearm) to get to the conclusion you wanted on the matter. Am I correct in assuming that you have never carried a firearm for protection in your short life, not just on this trip? It sure sounds that way.

        Reply
  • Kamakazee : Jan 4th

    Additionally I just wanted to say, there are weird people out there who are smart enough to stay under a radar if their looking to cause dire consequences to a female hiking alone on a wilderness teail with multiple access points, and blogs posted online. There are other things that might and could happen besides being robbed. Security is an ongoing issue no matter where you’re going. As soon as you get complacent, bang, you get had. I think it’s absolutely stupid not to have a minimum of protection along with you be it a blade, or pepper spray.

    Reply
  • Kamakazee : Jan 4th

    Snowflake, good luck! You may regret not carrying a knife.

    Reply
    • Griz Grizzleton : Jan 7th

      If she does she can easily stop at any one of the thousands of towns the trail passes through and buy one. It’s comments like this that make it obvious that the majority of commenters on this thread have never done a long distance hike.

      Reply
      • Frank : Jan 7th

        Similar to how many anti-gun carriers have never been proficient or even knowledgeable with a firearm? or even self defense for that matter? You’re silly.

        Reply
        • Griz Grizzleton : Jan 7th

          I’m silly? I’m a gun owner and am very proficient with fire arms. You make the assumptikn thay because I am anti gun kn trail, that I am in all facets of life. You couldn’t be more wrong. I’ve already thru hiked the AT and am about to do it again. If you’ve never thru hiked the AT, then you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about and are in no position to offer ANY advice on the matter.

          Reply
          • Frank : Jan 10th

            I absolutely can offer an “opinion” on anything without any experience. This site does nothing to vet who posts about what with no back up. Silly.

            Reply
            • Margaret : Jan 10th

              There absolutely is a vetting process for writers and bloggers on this site

              Reply
    • Jason : Jan 7th

      If everyone who thru-hiked the AT without a gun were a snowflake, this trail would be snowier than the south pole.

      There have been 11 murders in the history of the AT, despite the fact that 3-4 million people hike the trail in some capacity every year. People have also died due to trees falling on their tent in their sleep. Is your tent tree proof? You can’t prepare for every situation, and not everyone let’s an improbable risk dictate their decisions on gear.

      Reply
      • Frank : Jan 7th

        Those are number since 1974. How many proceed that? Also, how many have occurred since 1990? Not to mention assaults, rape, disappearances under questionable circumstances?

        Better start checking my trees.

        Reply
  • Craig : Jan 5th

    If not carrying a knife, at least consider a Gerber or Victorinox multitool. It will prove invaluable may times every day
    . I also did the 9 to 5 for many years. Then at the age of 40 yrs. I quit work for New Year 1987 and left Canada to live in the Himalayas of Northwestern India and thirty one years later I have enjoyed every moment of every day. Good and bad, it is all an experience. I have learned the True meaning on pure, free, forever!

    Reply
    • Margaret : Jan 5th

      That’s amazing Craig! Sounds like it’s been very satisfying for you.

      I’m likely to carry a small pocket knife I got from my grandmother that has a few tool attachments, just not something I’m carrying with the intent of self defence.

      Reply
      • Tony : Jan 6th

        A good small knife comes in handy. I carry one every where I go. But there’s always someone who has one if you need it. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone used mine to cut a string or open a box. Not a necessity just like to have one.

        Reply
  • Joe D Ward : Jan 5th

    Never make it with a 12 pound pack and be self sufficient. Sorry.

    Reply
    • Chris Metheny : Jan 5th

      Joe D Ward = Clueless

      Reply
      • Joe D Ward : Jan 5th

        1999 thru hike Ga to Me. Smoky Joe. Talk to me when you finish! “Best laid plans of mice and men”

        Reply
        • Margaret : Jan 5th

          I’ve said it before, I’m planning for my plans to fail. Keep following, I intend to post updates throughout and then when I continue on to the PCT.

          Reply
    • Margaret : Jan 5th

      I’d hardly be the first to do so. Many have done it with less.

      Reply
      • Joe D Ward : Jan 5th

        Blue Blazing, Yellow Blazing, Slack Packing, What Ever.

        Reply
        • Frost : Jan 5th

          If you are going to yellow blaze, why not just take the Greyhound bus????

          Reply
        • Margaret : Jan 5th

          Not sure what that has to do with the article about guns though.

          Reply
          • Frost : Jan 5th

            :-)I was responding to Joe about yellow blazing. Honestly I don’t spend my day commenting on sites. But since I’m on the subject, and you want a triple crown…. You should always, always have your response ready regardless of how cold, tired hungry, or and this is really big… Peer pressure (very big) you are. When a car pulls up with air conditioning, a bucket of chicken, great music,. And offers a ride, and all of your friends pile in the car for a ride.. You You are ready because you anticipated this seneraio. You say. “No thanks, I am thru hiking the AT, and riding with you would make me not a thru hiker but I would now be a common section hiker”. You could kid yourself that you didn’t catch that ride north and many do. It’s like running 1/2 the Boston Marathon and telling everyone that you finnished. You will know you cheated.

            Reply
    • Jason : Jan 7th

      Hey Joe,

      Congrats on your thru-hike 18 years ago. What an accomplishment.

      However, your assessment is just flat out wrong. Many people hike the AT with 12-pound packs or less each year. There’s an entire category for this type of setup called “Ultralight”. Google it. You’ll learn a thing or two about how things have changed in the last 18 years.

      Reply
  • Frost : Jan 5th

    My name is Frost, and I am a triple crown hiker ( every step).
    I never carried a knife, but a few razor blades came in handy to repair my pack etc. The idea of a gun is ridiculous.

    Reply
    • Margaret : Jan 5th

      I’ll be carrying dental floss (thread), needle, and duct tape. I’m likely to take a small multi tool pocket knife, but not something I’m carrying with the intent of self defence. Razor blade is a good lightweight solution.

      I hope to be a triple crown hiker someday, kudos.

      Reply
      • Frost : Jan 5th

        Look into a product called Tenacious Tape. It’s expensive but for repairs to fabric, tent, clothes it’s amazing. You can find it at REI

        Reply
        • Margaret : Jan 5th

          I’ll check it out, thanks.

          Reply
      • buck : Jan 5th

        Margret clearly stated in her first post that she would likely carry a pocket knife.

        As for the gun. Nobody will likely ever need it.
        Some cops have been on the force their entire careers and never needed to pull there gun.

        BUT , I’d be willing to bet Molly and Geoff wish they had been trained to carry one.

        Your right, you’ll never get to it in time if it’s strapped on or in your back pack.
        You must have it on you. You must be able to pull it smoothly with one hand and fire in 1 second or less. If you cannot do that. No use carrying one.
        Safe travels
        Buck

        Reply
  • Christina Crescimanno (Maybelline) : Jan 5th

    I agree with not bringing a gun, but I’d advise you to pack pepper spray and have it in your pocket when you hitch-hike/next to you while you sleep (if you ever separate from your trail-family and are camping in the woods alone). I never intended to hitch-hike alone, but I found myself in that situation a handful of times, and its likely you will too. When hitch-hiking, always keep your ID, Money, Etc in your pocket in case your gear gets stolen.

    Also, you’re going to want a pocket-knife to cut avocados, cheese, string, etc.

    Reply
    • Margaret : Jan 5th

      That’s a good point on the keeping the ID on person instead of pack, though it occurs to me none of my hiking clothes have pockets! Hmm.

      I think I’ll be limited on hitch hiking anyways since I have the dog, so I might have to rely on shuttles or Uber more often than the average hiker.

      I have a little multi tool I’ll probably take but I’m not taking it with the intention of self defence.

      Reply
  • Jim : Jan 5th

    I hike the A.T. and I disagree. I’ve had hunters point guns in my face, 300 LB black bears raid my camp sites, and going without a survival knife is nuts! That’s a really good way to get into trouble.
    I carry a gun on the trail, disassembled. I piece it back together when it’s legal to carry and when I sleep in my tent made of absolutely nothing that’s going to save you from a hungry 300 LB bear at 2:00am!
    No one has to know you have a weapon if you don’t want them to and it’s perfectly legal.👌

    Reply
    • Margaret : Jan 5th

      Hike your own hike.

      Reply
    • Jason : Jan 7th

      Three to four million people hiked the AT every year. Zero of them have died to black bear attack.

      Reply
  • Steve : Jan 6th

    A fully-loaded Glock 20 weights 39.5 oz (just over 2 pounds).

    A handful of the states on the trail do not recognize concealed carry, but fortunately there is a law pending in the Senate that would force them to…because the Constitution.

    If all you’re worried about is crime on the trail, perhaps outdoor recreation isn’t for you.

    Reply
    • Margaret : Jan 6th

      I’m sorry, outdoor recreation isn’t for me because I don’t want to carry a gun on the Appalachian Trail? Surely I must have misunderstood you?

      Reply
    • Frost : Jan 6th

      Sure Steve, why not take an anvil ? Never know when you will need one.

      Reply
      • Jess : Jan 7th

        Frost,The average of peer reviewed estimates of crimes prevented by non law enforcement civilians with firearms is over one million crimes prevented per year. closer to 1.5 million. since you are into red herrings, anvils don’t stop any crimes. My off duty/backup .380 pistol weighs in at under 16 ozs loaded.

        Reply
    • Frost : Jan 9th

      Steve don’t be ridiculous.

      Reply
  • charles ray : Jan 6th

    God knows how many IQ points I just lost reading this idiocy.

    Reply
    • God : Jan 7th

      You lost four IQ points, you have three left. Better get five more guns to protect them.

      Reply
  • Jeff Adamson : Jan 6th

    I carry when I hike. That 2lb never bothers me. I suggest that the author is simply antigun

    Reply
    • Griz Grizzleton : Jan 7th

      Do you often go hike for 6 months straight?
      Comparing what you do kn a hike bs a thu hike is apples to oranges. 2 completely different situations.

      Reply
  • Wayne : Jan 6th

    Whether you carry a gun or bear spray, they’re useless unless you can access them at a moments notice. If I’m hiking with my wife or daughter, I will have one or both of these. I am also very aware of anyone I encounter that appears a little odd. While carrying a gun won’t guarantee your safety, I think most people, when put in an uncomfortable position, would feel much safer knowing they had one. I know I have on several occasions. It’s an individual’s decision and what you’re comfortable with. Just because you choose not to carry, for whatever reason, shouldn’t affect someone else’s decision to.

    Reply
    • Margaret : Jan 6th

      Of course it shouldn’t. This article isn’t about advising someone else, it’s simply to answer the question and explain to family and friends why I choose not to carry one.

      Reply
  • Gun Hero : Jan 6th

    http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2018/01/robert-farago/why-you-shouldnt-take-a-gun-when-hiking-on-the-appalachian-trail-imi-systems-quote-of-the-day/

    Reply
    • Margaret : Jan 6th

      Thanks for the publicity I guess. Interesting that it was shared as “why you shouldn’t take a gun on the Appalachian Trail” when that’s not the topic of my article at all.

      Reply
      • David : Jan 6th

        Don’t read too much into all the traffic that is getting funnled here from that site. That site runs the gammit from providing good information to pure clickbait. For the clickbait one thing the site’s owner (Robert Ferago) loves to do is find quotes from people that could be misrepresented as being “antigun” and then post it.

        Reply
  • Lester Armstead : Jan 6th

    I’m all in favor of carrying a firearm, and frequently carry one. I have been trained, by the US Navy to use a firearm and have found them useful in the past. I won’t be carrying a gun on the AT this year because I don’t anticipate using it, and I am only bringing things that are essential. There are a lot of places that a firearm would be a liability. What if I need to fly home? Would I just throw it in the trash? Would I be breaking the law every time I walked into a post office? Some states don’t allow concealed carry without a permit from that state. I see it as an asset in a very improbable situation, and a liability for most of the trip. No thanks.

    Reply
  • Conan Bolonan : Jan 6th

    This has got to be a joke. No knife, no pockets, no acceptance of wisdom from those with real experience.

    The OP will almost certainly not complete the entire AT, and has absolutely zero chance of living through the PCT.

    Been there – done that.

    Reply
    • John Winder : Jan 7th

      Yeah, a human being couldn’t possibly walk around in the world without force multipliers. This guys the pinnacle of trail experience, he must know.

      Reply
    • Griz Grizzleton : Jan 7th

      She’s actually getting her information from former thru hikers. You know, people with experience. These are all pretty common opinions on the AT AND PCT. If you’d hiked either you’d already know this.

      Reply
  • When The AT Trails : Jan 6th

    I’m going to answer for Margaret:

    Hike your own hike.

    Quite a chip on this young lady’s shoulder. Might get heavy out there on the trail.

    Reply
  • baggss : Jan 6th

    I appreciate her 23 year old optimism and naïveté. Let hope that they don’t keep her from making it to 30.

    Reply
    • Griz Grizzleton : Jan 7th

      I’m 43 and hiked the entire AT without a firearm and with a mini swiss army knife. I cut paracord with my knife once and sliced some cheese with it. Ever thru hiked? I doubt it.

      Reply
  • Gordon : Jan 6th

    They have thee things called “holsters,” that let you safety carry a pistol on your waist (usually) that can be accessed in under 2 seconds with practice.

    As for weight, an empty Glock 43 is 17.95 ounces and each loaded magazine is 4.41 ounces. A far cry from your claim of 5 pounds.

    Reply
    • David West : Jan 7th

      Man, all you people invading this article from that crappy “The Truth About Guns” post are morons and CLEARLY have no experience with actual backpacking. Have you ever even WORN a backpacking backpack? Probably not, because you don’t seem to realize that they have hip straps that make it almost impossible to comfortably carry a handgun on your waist. And suggesting a Glock for the trail is just hilarious. Carrying one magazine would be silly, and who wants to deal with the weight, hassle, and space of multiple magazines? If you’re going to be so obnoxious as to suggest a gun to someone who just clearly explained why they don’t feel the need to carry one, at least suggest something that might make some sense like a small .357 revolver.

      I carry a Ruger SP101 all the time, even when I’m backpacking. I like chest holsters, personally. But I recognize that I’ll probably never have to use it and—like a normal, well adjust person—I have no problem whatsoever with other people choosing not to carry. Getting all triggered because someone else doesn’t want to do something is real snowflake shit.

      Reply
  • David : Jan 6th

    You do you Margaret. Personally I think your reasoning is perfectly fine (about the gun, anyway…disagree with you about the knife…a good fix-blade knife is invaluable).

    Crime on the AT is very low. Last trail death was in 2015 and that was from a fallen tree. Biggest dangers out there are gonna be the weather and accidents. Don’t skimp on your rain gear and have a good first aid kit at the ready. Those kinds of preparations are going to serve you much better than any one-in-a-million scenario where you could use a gun to protect yourself.

    Reply
  • David : Jan 6th

    Woops. Last trail death was 2017. It was due to a fall.

    Reply
  • Bob : Jan 6th

    Margaret–I appreciate that you articulated your opinion without feeling the need to denigrate others who might choose firearms for personal defense. While I carry a firearm almost everyday in my regular life, I chose not to carry a firearm on my Colorado Trail thru-hike for a few of the same reasons you mentioned–weight, and a concern about my ability to keep it secure in hostels, etc. I carried bear spray because the risks from animals was higher than the risk from humans.

    I also agree with you that the odds of being a violent crime (or animal attack) victim on a long trail are exceedingly low. (There are about 1 million violent crimes annually in the U.S.) However, I disagree with your conclusion that a firearm would be unreachable or ineffective if your number did come up. You’ll spend 33% of your time in camp or in your tent, where a firearm would be easily accessible if it were on your or near you, and external pockets or pouches are easily accessible. It’s true that those who commit violent crimes sometimes get the drop on their victims; however, that’s not the way all violent crime encounters start, and many potential victims–using their situational awareness–are able to bring a firearm to bear in time. With proper training and situational awareness, firearms are very effective in stopping violent crime

    Enjoy your hike! I can’t wait to get back out there myself.

    Reply
  • Ian : Jan 6th

    Not taking a knife into ANY wilderness situation is just dumb.

    Reply
  • Mark : Jan 6th

    Margaret, I hope your hike is amazing. I love to hike and have done many miles both with and without a firearm. It’s always a constant act of continuous repacking and reevaluating my gear. You are correct, the likelihood of using a gun is low (thankfully) but there still have been a few situations (for me) in which the hike justified the weight of a self defense weapon. It’s your hike and many MANY people do the AT yearly without needing to defend their lives. I hope you are one of those people. But just for your situational awareness I’m gonna leave a link to the dedicated pack that I use, I believe it side-steps a few if not all of your concerns about carrying for defense (except weight) and when I’m not carrying a gun, it makes carrying a whole lot of other things way easier. Give it a look.

    http://hillpeoplegear.com/Products/CategoryID/1/ProductID/6

    Reply
    • Mark : Jan 6th

      Ps. I don’t carry a knife either. A razor blade wrapped in cardboard does everything you’ll need a knife for and weighs a tenth of an ounce.

      Reply
  • I Carrey : Jan 6th

    It’s true, you can’t fix Stupid!!!

    Reply
  • Jon : Jan 6th

    Wow…just wow at all of these people afraid to do anything without a gun. I hope to never get to that point in my life, but I doubt I will. A life lived in fear is a life not truly live. You have the right idea, Margaret. It’s your hike and you’ll be totally fine. Stay strong amongst these trolls!

    Reply
  • M Helm : Jan 6th

    I understand you rational for not bringing a gun. I am preparing to do the AT myself this year. Could you share what you intend on taking in your bag? I hike a lot and I know i will have different essentials but I always learn a new thing here or there that I may not have considered. Good luck.

    Reply
  • PavePusher : Jan 6th

    Kid, your ignorance, arrogance and exagerated feelings of self-importance are noted. Some of us have worn out far more pairs of hiking boots than you’ve had birthdays. Your attempt at moral superiority and condescension are noted and, while mildly amusing, dismissed. Have a great trip, but deflate your ego a bit. You aren’t doing anything original or daring, or even exceptionally note-worthy. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s still a worthy endevour, if only to explore your own physical and mental limits. But your lack of experience, while extolling your own superiority, is glaring.

    Judging by your bio, you’re another coddled Millenial who can’t understand why your exceptionality hasn’t won you a +$100K/year job instead of an entry-level training/learning/experience-gaining position, despite your glowing social justice/modern media qualifications, thus explaining the ‘chuck it all and go hiking’ mentality. Heck, you don’t even plan to be off-line for more than a day or two at a time, or equipped to prepare non-pre-packaged foods en-route. This sounds a lot like boutique hiking rather then actually getting into wilderness.

    Enjoy yourself, but learn some modesty.

    Reply
    • Griz Grizzleton : Jan 7th

      “Kid, your ignorance, arrogance and exagerated feelings of self-importance are noted. Some of us have worn out far more pairs of hiking boots than you’ve had birthdays. Your attempt at moral superiority and condescension are noted and, while mildly amusing, dismissed. Have a great trip, but deflate your ego a bit. ”

      Seems like you’re the one that needs to check your ego. Ever thru hiked in any of those hundred of pairs of hiking boots youve worn through? I doubt it. More likely a 400lb keyboard warrior who dreams of days past when you could lift your leg high enough to walk up a step. Pull your fat lazy ass up out of the computer chair and go walk 2200 consecutive miles if your hip allows it. Bring a 2lb gun and a 10lb bowie knife with ya while you’re at it. See how useful it is. You’ll need a hip replacement before you make it out of Georgia.

      Reply
  • T R U M A R T Y R : Jan 7th

    The ‘idealism’ of this lady is ridiculous to say the least!

    In 2016 I had planned to do the TruHike. Starting from the approach trail I only made it to Neel Gap (Blood Mountain). I did not bring a gun due to I did not have a conceal licenses. But I still brought a Bowie knife just incase, which was on my hip (accessible). Well to set the mood for you guys. It had been gloomy the whole trek and just felt like some bad ish was going to happen. Especially after finding out a girl had hung her self on Springer mountain the night before. Miles behind me.

    So that was a bit uneasy already….well long story short.. I get off Blood Mountain at sun down. Meet two college hikers at Neels and we hit it off and drink some Dew and Logan (store owner) let’s up grab a free pizza. He locks up…and it’s night by this time. The folks in the hostile are asleep. 10pm comes around and this guy comes off the road and approaches us… “You guys Christian’s”. My heart drops…”yeah, what’s up” I say….so he apparently need some guidance with his marriage. The whole time I’m shaking my water bottle. He yells “will you stop”.. I say sorry and look at Ian (college kid) he knows to his pocket. He had his hand gun in his pocket with the hammer pulled back! Ready just in case!!! Well this weird dude had alternative motives than just talking about good and his marriage. He demanded I come with him and get in his car…I told him no and he yelled at me . Ethan the other hiker….yelled back “he’s not going” finally the dude left…walking away he turns around and says..”I thought you wanted to be a disciple” wtf….. Moral of story I was much more comfortable knowing Ian had a gun. That weird dude…would had killed me if I was alone… I’m 100% sure. So No…the AT isn’t always safe..

    Reply
    • John Winder : Jan 7th

      Nothing happened outside your own head…

      Reply
    • Griz Grizzleton : Jan 7th

      Nice story. So your friend had a gun, never felt threatened enough to pull out the gun, and the entire thing was resolved without the need for a gun. But man, it was sure nice to have that gun. Lol

      Reply
  • lee enfield : Jan 7th

    “I won’t hitchhike alone.”

    I’ll leave it up to the other person to try to save the day.
    When seconds count help is only a cell tower and 5 hours away.

    Reply
  • Griz Grizzleton : Jan 7th

    I’ve already hiked the AT and all the people saying how you have to carry guns and bowie knives for protection are hilarious. I guarantee the majority of the people commenting have never even stepped foot on the AT. It’s funny how afraid everyone is. Afraid of bears, afraid of strangers, fear, fear, fear. All these gun advocates sounds like a bunch of fearful little crybabies. Oh no! A spider! Git yer gun! Oh no bear running away from you. Git yer gun! He might look back. Oh No! Poison ivy in the wild! Git yer gun! Shoot the vine! Rough estimate but I’d say about 70 percent of the people I saw carrying big bowie knives had 60lb packs and were either off trail by Virginia or had switched over to UL gear and a mini swiss army knife. It’s easy to make assumptions until you’re out there. Once you are, you quickly realize how impractical a firearm is on the AT.

    Reply
    • Why Do You Care So Much Griz? : Jan 7th

      Why are you repeating the same mocking comment?

      Reply
  • Sarah Southard : Jan 7th

    Margaret,

    Wow! Some people sure do get their panties in a bunch don’t they? I personally loved your post since I get the SAME question all the dang time. No, I’m not carrying a gun. No, I will not have bear spray. Yes, I have a very small knife to open things or cut rock tape to bandage my feet, or cut cheese & salami. What will I be armed with? Why, my sharp wit of course!! Obviously most of the commenters have never hiked long distances before.

    Maybe they’re jealous because a solo badass woman is attempting such an epic adventure. That WE solo badass women don’t need a gun to feel safe in the woods just because they do.

    Whatever the reason, the trolls will be crouching under their bridges while we are out conquering the AT with our fellow non- judgy, awesome, supportive class of 2018. If you carry a gun or don’t, we are all family and we all have each other’s backs. And that’s all the protection we need.

    Froggy

    Reply
    • Margaret : Jan 7th

      Aw thanks I appreciate this.

      Reply
  • David West : Jan 7th

    Margaret, as a backpacker and gun rights absolutist who carries everyday, I am sincerely sorry that your comments section has been invaded by all these jackasses who don’t know what they’re talking about. This is an absolute embarrassment to gun owners. Some crappy clickbait “gun rights” page on Facebook shared your article and that’s why you’re being invaded now. We aren’t all like this, I promise! 🙁

    Reply
    • Margaret : Jan 7th

      Oh I know, don’t worry.

      Reply
  • Elle : Jan 7th

    Hi Margaret,
    Are you hiking with your dog? It is my dream to through hike soon and with my dog.

    Reply
    • Margaret : Jan 7th

      I am! There’s a Facebook group for through hikers with dogs.

      Reply
  • Don from CT : Jan 7th

    Wow. The author’s ignorance is staggering.
    1) I carry a gun.
    2) If I’m robbed, I will try to diffuse the situation by giving the thief my stuff. But the gun will be ready.
    3) I’m not going to rely on the charity of a violent criminal to survive.
    4) A defensive firearm can weigh as little as 8 ounces and be carried in a pocket.
    5) Said defensive firearm can be deployed in seconds. It can even be shot from within the pocket if total surprise is necessary.

    Stick with writing about your hiking. You clearly have no clue when it comes to tactics and ethics of self defense.

    Don Mei
    Arlington, MA

    Reply
  • patrulje68 : Jan 7th

    Originally I had intended to make an argument for the need to carry a firearm, until I found that the writer wasn’t even going to carry a knife. This is when I realized that the writer, rather than making an informed logical decision, was rationalizing not being armed based upon an emotional, ethical or philosophical aversion to weapons. Anyone choosing to carry a weapon, should do so after identifying the potential threat, selecting the appropriate weapon to deal with the threat, training to use it and then preparing yourself mentally to use it. Finally said weapon should be carried in a manner that allows its ready access based upon the threat. I hope that the writer becomes a statistic of just another successful AT hike. That she does not meet one of the predators on the trail that make her the other kind of statistic or that she does not have to watch her dog mauled by a momma bear because it got too close to her cubs and she just had to watch it happen because she was unarmed. “Hike your own hike” is no excuse for improper planning and poor judgment.

    Reply
    • Margaret : Jan 7th

      I do not have an emotional, ethical, or philosophical aversion to weapons. I’m simply educated enough to know what I do and don’t need to be a successful through hiker.

      Reply
  • Flash : Jan 7th

    The granite rocks in the White Mountains can be really tough on a dogs pads. They can get really chewed up. Consider booties for this stretch or at least having them if needed. Most dogs don’t like them at first but its better than cut up pads. We use ruff wear brand.

    Reply
  • d griffin : Jan 7th

    I look forward to reading about your experiences on the trail, M. It’s long been a dream of mine, but work, kids and life got in the way, and now I think I’m too old at 59. Going with my dog would be the way I’d do it, too. I might bring a small gun, and a small neck-knife in easy reach, but I doubt I’d ever need either for self defense. I’m proficient in martial arts and not a little person, so I wouldn’t be an easy target. Take care, and write often. Write a book about it, too. Good luck!

    Reply
    • Margaret : Jan 7th

      I hope to write a book, at least for myself.

      There’s a lot more that goes into with a dog but for me the trade off is worth it.

      I say if you want to do it start planning it, you’re not getting any younger. And you wouldn’t be the oldest one out there. I met a gentleman I estimate to be a bit older than you who had been hiking the trail but wasn’t getting enough miles every day to finish in one summer so he hiked about 400 miles that year and he’s going to keep hiking a section of it every year until he’s done it all.

      Reply
      • d griffin : Jan 7th

        You’re very right — I’m not getting any younger. I still have some financial commitments that require me to keep on keeping on with the career, for the time being. I’m going to think about this thing, though. I’m in good shape, the knees are good, no physical ailments that would stop me, at least none that I know about. Hmm.

        I’ve read a lot of people’s accounts of hiking the AT, as well as the PCT, and other adventure-type journals. Crossing the ocean in a rowboat, doing 30 marathons in 30 days, climbing Mt. Everest with no oxygen, etc. I suppose you have, too. Some of them get pretty gnarly at times, as it isn’t an easy walk in the woods, and people do get tired and hungry and broke. Just have to keep going, and have some kind of support network to call on — sounds like you have your Mom, which is great.

        You’re smart to do this now, before circumstances make it impossible. I have two daughters about your age, both graduated from college and in the workforce, both in committed relationships, about to make decisions that will have them busy for decades. I wouldn’t mind a bit if they’d take a break to do something “crazy” like hike for six months or more, and spend some time by themselves thinking about things. I wish I had done the same at that age.

        Reply
        • Margaret : Jan 8th

          Try and see if you can find a way to make money remotely so you can keep up the financial commitments.

          Or just take a two week vacation and hike. Or row a canoe across one the Great Lakes 😉 whatever you have to do. Hell, ask your daughters to go on a two week adventure with you.

          One of my favourite things about my hike so far has been the people I’m close to who have said “oh I’ve always wanted to do something like that” and now as many of 6 of them might be joining me for small stretches of the trail.

          Reply
  • kaf : Jan 7th

    Okay, I’ll bite: Who are these people who can take off work for months to go hiking?

    It sounds like fun and all, but coming home to find all your shit repossessed would kind of blow.

    Reply
    • Amy : Jan 7th

      We plan and save and train and priortize.

      Reply
      • d griffin : Jan 7th

        Now that’s crazy talk, Amy! Planning and saving and prioritizing…you must be some kind of zealot. 😉

        Reply
      • kaf : Jan 8th

        So, you have to be job-, family-, and mortgage-free to start with?

        Dang.

        I’m out.

        Reply
        • Margaret : Jan 8th

          Haha not hardly. You just have to be creative and dedicated.

          For me personally, it did mean being debt free and quitting my job. But I’m young, haven’t finished college, and am not entrenched in a career that I can’t leave.

          But there are many who hike the trail because they’re already retired and their income will keep coming in.

          Others do it when they’re at a cross roads, right before a big career or job changes and they have plenty of savings before they start to cover mortgage payments.

          Many jobs actually give you the option to request a leave of abscence and will let you go chase your dreams, at least once, and come back.

          Others, have a job they work remotely, such as coding. Some of us are writers. If you feel a calling you find a way to make it happen.

          I thinn it’s fair to say moat of us who hike are looking for something. We won’t find it physically on the trail, but the mental journey we go through that echoes the physical is what helps us find it.

          Many of us are going through some sort of big change, a divorce, just finished college, just lost someone, just retired, about to go back to school…

          Reply
          • kaf : Jan 9th

            Margaret, that sounds exactly like a “yes”.

            I guess I’m still out.

            Reply
  • Chainsaw '08 : Jan 7th

    Good lord, so many pocket fascists in here. Since when did the *right* to bear arms turn into the *obligation* to bear arms, whether you want to or not?

    I have no patience for the jerks who want to tell me or anyone else when and where someone needs to carry self defense — but that goes for those lecturing me on when I do just as much as those lecturing on when I don’t. Screw the lot of ’em. If you can’t handle the idea that another freeborn citizen might have different priorities and make different choices than you, that’s between you and your therapist.

    Margaret, as a thru-hiker and a CCW permit holder, I agree 100% with your logic. Even if I didn’t, I’d tell you to ignore the chuckleheads and hike your own hike. But then, you already knew that. 🙂

    Reply
    • d griffin : Jan 7th

      “Pocket fascists” — that’s a good one. I skimmed through the self-righteous blather above myself. People telling other people they’re wrong on the internet is beyond boring by now.

      Reply
  • Dave : Jan 8th

    If you don’t want to carry a gun, that is your business. But you can find a gun for less than five pounds. The Smith and Wesson Shield weighs about 21 ounces. The loaded gun plus two extra magazines will be less than 3 pounds. And I agree that it would useless to bury it in your pack. The Kenai holster is made for hunters and hikers. It will hold the gun securely, protect the trigger from being accidentally pulled, but it puts the gun on your chest instead of around your belt line.

    I don’t think you would necessarily freak out your fellow hikers, but I’ve never attempted a long trek like the Appalachian Trail. Have fun and be safe.

    Reply
  • grayswindir : Jan 8th

    ” I wouldn’t want it if I was being robbed. In the case of a robbery, I’m always just going to give up whatever I have because no physical possessions are worth my life. ”

    Here’s the problem- unless you’re a mind reader, you have no assurance it will remain just a robbery. You have no idea how far an evil person is willing to take things, what their intentions are.

    Other than that, I think your thought process is sound, it comes down to a simple risk decision. How likely is it to occur? How bad will the consequences be if it occurs? What can I do to prevent/mitigate and are those costs reasonable for the individual? A very valid point that a firearm can get you into legal trouble as you travel between jurisdictions, so could be more of a negative risk than a positive benefit. Particularly given the other ways you’re mitigating the risk. Your life, your decision. Have fun, and best wishes on your travels.

    Reply
    • Margaret : Jan 8th

      Even if I’m carrying a gun, if someone attempts to rob me I’m giving them my things. The gun doesn’t factor into that scenario.

      As soon as they try to harm me it’s not just a robbery anymore and that’s when I start looking at self defence.

      Reply
      • Jeff : Jan 8th

        Kid, by that time you HAVE no viable defense. You’re screwed – figuratively and possibly literally.

        There’s a saying going around in self defense circles: “It’s not the odds; it’s the stakes.” Simple questions: Please answer carefully.
        Are there evil people out there who will rob, rape, kill you if they have the opportunity?
        Is there anything so special about you that you will never encounter such people?
        If “No”, when do you suppose that could happen? Are there no such people on the trail?
        You are not thousands of people. You are a sample of one. On any given day your odds will be either zero or 100%.
        At what level of violence are you willing to let your assailant(s) do as he/they wish?

        Can you get caught alone on the trail?
        Could you pick the wrong Happy Wanderer(s) for mutual support and security?
        How would you know, really?

        The odds are very high that nothing bad happens. The stakes, if something does go wrong, are prohibitive. Whistling “Kumbaya” past the graveyard is not a effective tactic.

        There is a phrase in the defensively oriented community: VBC = Victim By Choice. AKA Snowflake; AKA Sheeple. As in “I never thought it would happen to me.” Relax and enjoy. Nothing bad is going to happen. Unless, of course it does. Odds vs Stakes. Your hike; your choice. What could be more fair than that?

        Don’t carry a gun. You’re not ready. A light woodcraft knife could be a lifesaver if you roll an ankle in some unicorn crap and have to shelter in place through a cold wet night. Heat tabs only go so far. Split kindling burns better than wet wood.

        Interesting topic. We have two mindsets talking past each other.
        “Nothing bad happens out here. Those who tote weapons are just fearful and foolish.”
        “Bad things can happen anywhere. Certain precautions are in order.”
        Each side is trying to prognosticate against their own visions of an unknowable future.

        Jeff

        Reply
        • Margaret : Jan 8th

          Uh, “if”? I’m going to be camping on the trail every night for a six months. Many places on the trail don’t allow fire.

          And if I needed a fire to stay warm/dry/Alive I’d seriously have to reconsider the rest of my kit 🙄

          Reply
          • Jeff : Jan 8th

            “And if I needed a fire to stay warm/dry/Alive I’d have to seriously reconsider the rest of my kit?”

            No dry tinder? Fire starter? Lightweight Moraknife? To avoid hyperthermia in an emergency? We’re headed down the rabbit hole here. I’m out of this conversation. Good luck and God bless on your hike. Seriously. You’re leaving yourself no room for bad luck.

            Jeff

            Reply
  • Jeff : Jan 8th

    To those who recommend ignoring any posts originating from that gun related website, I’d suggest you google the Genetic Fallacy, whereby arguments or information are accepted or rejected solely on the basis of their source.

    Jeff

    Reply
    • Bryce : Jan 8th

      To those who recommend to carry a gun on an AT thru-hike, I’d suggest you Google “thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail”, whereby you can learn just how few thru-hikers carry guns. It’s next to none. This isn’t a 2nd amendment debate, it’s a debate on whether people should carry a gun on a very specific endeavor- an endeavor in which many comments know nothing about.

      Reply
  • J Eric : Jan 8th

    Margaret,
    Came here via TTAG. Close as I’ve gotten to the AT was a sign for the trail in north GA. Looks and sounds awesome though. I’ve only been car camping and would love someday to finally get with my knuckle headed friends to take a few days on ANY trail. Can’t imagine the preparedness process that goes into REAL hiking like that on the AT, etc. I can tell it’s an art in choosing gear beyond my understanding. I find it refreshing that you wouldn’t try to keep me from carrying my Glock (that I consider essential) if I had the chance to hike the AT and I’m not going to try to demean you over your meticulously and obviously well thought out gear that you’d take based on experience. Be careful out there and God bless!

    Reply
    • Margaret : Jan 8th

      Thanks I appreciate this comment. I also understand feeling passionately about something and rushing to defend it.

      I was where you are for a long time and could never get friends organised to do it with me and one day I had an unplanned four day weekend ahead of me and I finally decided I don’t need anyone else I just want to do it!

      https://lighterpack.com/r/bjug8x

      That’s my gear list if you’re interested. Love talking about my gear, researching gear, buying gear. Will probably fine tune it between now and April but that’s about the size of it. I don’t think I have a 13L food sack on their or my cord to hang it. But other than that it’s all there.

      Reply
  • Mark Stanavage : Jan 13th

    A lot of chatter! Must have hit a nerve! HYOH. If you need it, bring it. If not, leave at home. I’ve pushed on more often because I smelled pot, not because they had a gun. In many years I’ve run into only one nut job. And I warned all I came across about him. If you get weird vibes, buddy with someone who shares concerns. Enjoy your hike. We do look after our own.

    Reply
    • Margaret : Jan 14th

      Thanks Mark.

      Reply
  • Mic : Jan 13th

    I agree with you. I’m not a thru hiker, but I did the lower 800 miles of the AT last winter. After about a week of hiking I had stripped pretty much everything extra off my body except for the pack itself and the clothes I was wearing. Even my wallet and cell ended up in the pack because it became to uncomfortable to carry on my person. If I had carried my pistol, it would have ended up in the pack also.

    A pistol in the pack probably won’t help much in a crisis situation because it would take too long to drop the pack, open the pack, safely unholster the weapon, point it, then fire it. That is too many steps. Too, I honestly cannot think of a good compromise between comfort and accessibility to effectively conceal carry one.

    I did, however, carry a skeleton 4″ knife strapped to my shoulder strap. It weighs only a few ounces. Everybody saw it, but it wasnt threatening enough for anybody to say anything about it.

    I never had issue with the people on the trail. Even though last winter was a warm one and the bears were out, the only wildlife I had issue with were the shelter mice.

    Reply
  • Holly : Jan 13th

    Looking forward to following your posts! Have fun out there.

    Reply
    • Margaret : Jan 14th

      Thanks! Happy trails.

      Reply
  • Slo-go'en : Jan 14th

    Seems like this article attracted a lot of gun nuts who want to militarize the AT. Over the last 15 years I have hiked about 7,000 miles of the AT and never once felt the need for a gun. Well, once when I was surrounded by three aggressive day hiker dogs off leash, barking, growling and snapping at me. But then the owner came along and called them off. If I had a gun there would have been three dead dogs and day hiker. Speaking of dogs, you should leave it home too. Dogs are more of a pain then people with guns. Hikers with a dog and a gun (one of which I meet last spring in GA) rarely get very far.

    A knife is a necessary tool though. Doesn’t need to be a big one. I carry a 3″ Buck with carbon fiber handle since I like to trim back brush which sticks out into the trail. If a branch tries to poke me in the eye, I stop and cut it out.

    12 pound base weight with a dog? I guess your not leaving in March.

    Reply
    • Margaret : Jan 14th

      You probably don’t know if most people who are carrying a gun even have one. As for my dog, he’s a canine good citizen and will always be leashed. I won’t let him disrupt anyone else’s hike. I certainly won’t be leaving him at home, that would defeat the entire purpose for me.

      Won’t be carrying a 3″ knife as a covered in my article, that kind of knife simple isn’t necessary. Will have a small multi tool. I’m going to let trail maintainers and ridge runners worry about things like trimming branches, my focus will be more on leave no trace.

      For most people having a dog doesn’t add much to their pack weight since the dog can carry most of its own food and water.

      Reply
  • Donna Guzman : Jan 14th

    Great Article. At middle age I look back now and wish I’d been as inspired to be independent at your age. If you can pull off your dream of working independently and having more ‘life’ to do the things you find inspiring, more power to you! Regarding guns and men….any man who’d suggest that a woman is going to ‘fall on a d…k’ or just uses men for protection….is again, that so typical sort of man that one should strive to stay away from. Sadly, they seem to think so highly of themselves. I also find it interesting that so many preach ‘Hike your own hike’ until someone wants to actually do that…then they’re oh so critical. LOL Just more people to stay away from. Margret, Hike your own hike. Stay away from negative people. Dream your dreams. Peace and happy journey to you!

    Reply
    • Margaret : Jan 14th

      I’m lucky to have an amazing mother who has always encouraged me and my siblings to be independent while providing a “safety net” for us should we need help or advice. Now that I’m a little bit older I have a pretty good safety net in the form of emergency savings. But my mom’s still always there if I need her. She’s helping me out a lot with this trip too, taking me down to Georgia, and meeting me at the end in Maine.

      I think most of the people so up in arms (heh) about whether I carry a gun aren’t long distance hikers. But it is funny that some hikers tell people they’ll never make it if they take their dog or if they don’t take a stove.

      Thanks for reading, happy trails.

      Reply
  • Arnold "Bloodhound" Guzman : Jan 14th

    Dear Margaret:
    I’m an author at the Trek. I’m also an avid trail angel who lives near the northern end of the Smokies, taking my two bloodhounds out two or three days a week doing trail magic; i.e. doing trail maintenance, picking up trash on the trail and at shelters, giving hikers good food and drink and rides to places. Over the last few years of doing this, I’ve met all kinds of hikers with diverse views on what to bring, and how to hike the trail, ranging from: Cooked food vs no cook system, weapon vs no weapon, ultralight vs having everything you THINK you’ll need, tent vs hammock, dog vs no dog, etc…
    Looks like your article has definitely set off a shitstorm of controversy. I just want to encourage by saying, “Take heart; this is normal and to be expected”. I know that many have taken offense to the anti-gun points you made in your article, trolling you with critical and sometimes crude comments. Though it may hurt, try not to let their criticisms bother you too much and try to understand that most of these people have strongly held beliefs that they are extremely passionate about and that, for the most part, they are good, caring people who are genuinely concerned for the welfare of our society. After listening to both sides of this gun/weapon issue, I’ve come to realize that people on both sides of this issue make valid, well thought-out points. Nobody is inherently wrong or right. Even though statistics actually don’t yet bear out the dangers of being attacked on the trail enough to warrant a gun, if this were ever to change, those who regularly hike with guns, with the proper training and the will to use them, might be able to save themselves and others. What it boils down to is freedom, caring and respect. I’ve found the hiking community, for the most part, to be a caring, responsible group of individuals who, for the most part, look out for their own. They are all doing their own thing their own way–that’s the good thing about freedom. Though I’ve not yet seen a hiker toting a gun, I have seen plenty carrying big honking Bowie-type knives and even machetes on their hips who seem like the nicest people you’d ever want to meet. I respect them for their choices even if my choice doesn’t always coincide with theirs and am glad that we live in a society where they are free to do so. I’ve also met a few unsavory people; they type that give you a feeling of ill will; whom you wouldn’t want to turn your back on. I’ve met women who’ve told me of having to fake entries in the shelter journals so as to throw off hikers who were stalking them. There is no doubt in my mind the potential for danger present on the trail–particularly for women.
    As for each person’s personal choices on how to hike and what to bring, it works better if everyone does their own thing, makes their own mistakes and learns from them. There will be many who offer unsolicited advice and it is best to not reject or criticize them, but to be polite and listen, for you never know whether down the trail you may need to rely on them to help in time of need.
    As a trail angel, I too have made choices about what I will and will not bring on the trail–we all do–but the main thing is to ‘get out there and hike’. Hope to meet you and your dog as I roam up and down the trail this year bringing good things to hikers deep in the backcountry.
    Happy Trails! Bloodhound, aka #backcountrytrailangel

    Reply

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