A little follow-up on last week’s post about self-defense in the backcountry…
First of all, thanks to everyone who participated in the poll. I asked the question, “What do you do for self-defense in the backcountry?” Four possible answers were listed.
Of the 85 votes cast, 41 (48 percent) said they carry a firearm. Twenty people (24 percent) said they don’t worry about self-defense in the backcountry. Sixteen said they would use a knife, axe or hiking poles to defend themselves (19 percent) and another eight (9 percent) bring pepper spray.
The topic is diverse, as you have to think about defense against animals as well as people.
Most people agree that people are the bigger threat, but when it comes to backcountry risks, attacks – human or animal – are extremely rare.
In addition to the comments I received here, I got more via Facebook and still more on the 14ers.com forum. A sampling:
Ian from Tecumseh writes that he would take a shotgun. After living in Alaska for some time, he opts for something with power, albeit something bulky. “If there was a bear it would be very light then. I carried one in Alaska, came across a bear. I did not shoot, it ran off. It (the gun) was very light from that point on.”
Steven from Shawnee had one word of advice: “Prevention!”
Augie from Denver goes for a handgun, something light enough not to be a bother. “I have a small .380 that I take. It’s just enough for me to be comfortable with.”
Jim from Colorado Springs gives this perspective: “In my mind, it’s a matter of probabilities and cost/benefit. You’re far more likely to be injured or killed in a fall than in an attack (human or animal) in the … backcountry. Also, in the unlikely event of an attack, it’s possible to defend yourself to some extent with materials on hand (sticks and rocks), so it’s not as helpful to carry a weapon around. An ice axe (or whippet) is a good compromise, since it’s a general safety tool as well as a sharp pointy thing, so you’re not just wasting pack weight on something that will be used once every 100 years.”
Leigh from Chicago says this: “I just hope for safety in numbers — I have yet to backpack solo, but I would likely prefer to be armed if I choose to do so. When dayhiking alone, I usually carry mace and a small knife.”
Lots of food for thought. In my experience, I’ve found that my grade school playground was more threatening than the backcountry. I even went to a church volleyball game where I faced a greater threat (from a person) than anything I’ve run up against on the trail.
Preparation, however, is not something to be undervalued. Whatever length you go to accomplish that, the end result should be constant: to be safe.