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When you’re out in the wild there are a lot of things you need to worry about. Do you have enough food, water & the right gear to keep out of the elements? Do you have the clothes you need? What about protection from wild animals or other people you may encounter? To protect from bears, mountain lions or other predators should you bring a gun with you to the campsite?
As with most questions about firearms, the direct answer to whether you can carry a gun while camping is: “It depends.” There isn’t a straight-forward answer because different situations need different solutions. We’ll discuss why you might want to carry, when you should, and some of the reasoning around it (justification, data & discussion)
Can you carry a gun while camping?
In most areas, you can open carry while camping and in most states. But you should research your local laws to make sure. So the most basic answer, if you live in the United States, is that you CAN. It’s your right.
But should you carry a gun while in the wilderness? Maybe.
It depends on you. Do you feel safer & more confident when you carry? Do you have the right training to make a gun a useful tool and not a liability in an emergency? And are you in an area where having a gun is necessary?
What do people need protection from?
Animals can pose a danger. The odds of getting attacked by an animal are very slim unless a person is tempting them by carrying food. Even bears will not bother campers as long as they clean up after themselves.
I would still rather have protection than to be without. As for protection from criminals, some people may be a little on the paranoid side.
I have been in the woods sometimes alone for more than 20 years and have never felt threatened by another hiker.
Every now and then something happens to make people feel uneasy. But remember, a gun, in the wrong hands, can turn a bad situation into an even worse one – especially in the wrong hands.
There are other reasons why people would not want to carry a gun. They are heavy to carry and they are hard to store.
But, I would rather have something that may not be easy to carry with me rather than be put into a situation where I would need a gun. I do not want to worry that something was too heavy or too bulky to carry when it could have been able to save my life.
Why would you want to carry a gun while camping?
Most people feel they need to pack a gun to protect from animals or strangers while camping. The quick response from most Second Amendment lovers is that they want to carry because they can. And they want to have their weapon “just in case”. It’s a tool after all and is useful when dealing with predators or someone who wants to do you harm.
But is this justification rational and is it backed by data?
When I was young, the big fear for every mother was that their child would be picked up by a white van and never seen from again. My mom constantly warned about the dangers of strangers and kidnappers. Obviously, I never got kidnapped. None of my friends did either. I did, however, run from a lot of white vans while walking through the neighborhood!
What does this have to with carrying a gun in the woods?
It has to do with irrational fear.
The Washington Post wrote a story in 2015 (using data available from the National Parks Service), discussing the main causes of death in National Parks. It might surprise you to learn that the most common cause of death in national parks is drowning. Followed by vehicle accidents.
Being killed by a bear or other wildlife? Least likely event on the list. During the period of the study, there were 4 deaths by a bear attack. You read that right, four. Based on the data, there is a one in over two million chance that you would go into the woods and be killed by an animal.
The odds are in favor of the humans. In the unlikely event that you were attacked by an animal, would a gun help? It could.
What about other humans? Subconsciously we all know that there are multiple Ted Bundys lurking about the woods looking for their next victim. Right?
The data doesn’t support that either.
Just because the data doesn’t support the NEED for a gun, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t carry while hiking or camping. I don’t always need my driver’s license, but I carry it with me every day. I don’t always need my spare tire, but I have one of those too.
As we’ve said often, a gun is a tool. In the event of an emergency, it’s the tool I would want to have in most cases. Just like I pack a first aid kit when I camp, I think some people would want to bring their gun.
Who should carry a gun while camping?
This is a website about guns, transporting them and using them to protect yourself. It would be foolish to ignore that fact. Recognizing this, it is important to think about who might benefit from carrying a firearm while camping.
The first that come to mind are those who would gain an advantage from having a gun. A gun is a great equalizing tool. It can keep animals and people from getting too close. It can give protection to those who might not be physically able to withstand an attack. It can put distance between the victim & the attacker.
A gun can also give someone confidence and security.
If you need any of those things, then you should consider taking a gun with you when you go out.
There are many reasonable gun owners, who have training as well as the requisite permits, who would want to carry. There have been hikers that have carried guns for many years and wouldn’t go out without them. Same with other nature lovers. Many people may feel the need to carry.
It boils down to this: If you need it, and want it, you should carry a gun while camping.
What can help you to carry responsibly?
When you’re out there are a few things you should have with you if you plan on carrying.
- The right gun for the occasion. Sporting a .22 pistol in the woods with grizzlies is dumb. Bring the right-sized gun for the area. And, for crying out loud, don’t forget to bring ammo!
- The right holster. Clearly it should fit your gun. But you should make sure that you’re bringing the right holster for the area as well. I would recommend a belt or pocket holster for quick access. While an openly carried gun won’t intimidate a mountain lion, it will make a “bad guy” think twice in picking you as a target.
- The right training. Proper training and practice drawing your weapon and shooting will help in an urgent situation. If a bear is charging you, you don’t have time to practice. And you want to make sure your nerves don’t cause you to shoot yourself in the leg.
- Know your laws. Don’t carry if you shouldn’t. We all have a reputation to uphold. We obey the law and we’re responsible. If you’re not allowed to have a gun in a certain area (or with a certain group) don’t bring it.
- Educate your party that you have a gun. Make sure others know where you keep it so they can access in an emergency (if you don’t have it on you). Also, when camping with small children, it’s a good idea to keep it locked in a solid gun case.
Do you carry a gun while camping?
I do. Now.
The bottom line to whether a hiker or camper should carry a gun with them when they go out into the woods is that you can & should in most cases. There is no reason to have a gun while backpacking in areas that have a low risk. This includes a low risk for animal attacks. In other places where they are potential threats than a person should be packing something to help keep them safe and something that may possibly save their life.
If you can legally carry a gun then you should – because you can.
Do you carry & will you start if you currently don’t? Let me know below.