Mar 3rd, 2022 Hiking & Camping

Weapon Pros and Cons for Hiking and Backpacking

Weapon Pros and Cons for Hiking and Backpacking

There is no other time when you are farther away from help or other people than when you are out in nature and while hiking and backpacking are extremely safe activities when we look at how likely you are to be attacked by wildlife or another human. No matter how safe you are in nature you are still extremely far away from help should anything go wrong and we highly recommend carrying a form of protection when out hiking or backpacking. In this blog, we will go over the pros and cons of different methods people use to protect themselves.

Dog – Having a big dog is always a great deterrent against someone who wants to do harm, even better if your dog is actually trained to protect (to learn more about how we can help you with a protection dog email us). However, a dog is a major responsibility and you must be 100% ready to take care of a dog. Dogs have been known to fend off bears and humans alike in fact studies are shown that dogs are hard wired to rescue their owners.

Pros – An excellent deterrent against humans, depending on the breed a good defense against wildlife, loyal companion, and helps with loneliness on solo hikes.

Cons – Off-leash dogs have been known to chase after wildlife and end up bringing angry wildlife right to their owners creating confrontations that could’ve been avoided, you will have to carry extra water and food, and having a dog will cause your monthly budget to increase (in our opinion it 100% worth it but we understand not everyone has the budget for a dog).

Before we move on to the next option let’s discuss hiking vs backpacking with a dog; when you are doing a short hike, 1-2 days, hiking with a dog shouldn’t be an issue as food and water for 1-2 days for you and your dog isn’t very heavy and you shouldn’t be too far from civilization if anything should go wrong. The issue arises when you are backpacking with a dog you will now have to carry more weight even though some dogs can carry up to 25% of their weight or you will have to plan a route with more stops. Another issue that can arise with backpacking with a dog is that some areas do not allow dogs.


Handgun – Some will say that we are biased towards a handgun because we run a firearms training company, maybe they are right but we think a gun is one of the best options possible. A handgun in the right hands is an incredibly powerful tool and obviously one needs training, to think that one can buy a gun from a store and be good to go is absolutely crazy talk. We always hike with a handgun for 2 reasons: 1 for safety 2 because we carry everywhere so that means that on the way to the hike we are carrying and the gun remains on our person and not in the vehicle. Guns stop an estimated 2.5 million crimes every year.

Pros – An excellent method of defense, a semi-good deterrent if carrying openly (make sure to use a holster with 2nd level retention), better percentage rate at stopping bear attacks

Cons – Generally most guns that people carry arent the right size or caliber for wildlife defense and you will have to spend more money on a new gun and accessories, weight can be a factor if you are trying to keep it minimal, 

If you are planning to do a multi-state hike then you must be up to date on carry laws for each state you will be in, USCCA has a very detailed list of carry laws for each state and a CCW permit reciprocity map you can access for free.


Knife – You know what the first rule of a knife fight is? You will get injured, think about it when you are fighting with a knife you are in extreme close quarters and that is always a terrible idea. Another issue with knife fighting is that it takes many years to master now let’s say you took the time to master knife fighting and are an expert, what will you do if you are accosted by someone with a gun? You have no advantage over the attacker, unfortunately, even in nature there are attackers, it’s sad but it’s the reality. What about a knife against a bear? Those aren’t very good odds. This is why we believe that carrying a knife for safety is one of the dumbest pieces of advice we have heard, carry a knife but use it for cooking, bushwacking, and whatever you need but don’t carry one for safety.

Pros – None

Cons – Everything


Beer Spray – While bear spray is marketed as a one-stop solution for bears unfortunately this is not the case. Its a known “fact” that bear spray has a 98% success rate against bears and various media sources promote bear spray over firearms however this isnt the case a 1998 study, “Field Use of Capsicum as a Bear Deterrent” It analyzed 66 field uses of bear spray deployment between 1984 and 1994, and the bear spray was effective in stopping 15 out of 16 bears for a 94% success rate, however they counted the 6 bears that hung around after being sprayed and the 3 bears that attacked as successfully stopped by the bear spray, if we count those bear spray now has a 44% success rate while firearms against bears have a 95% success rate in that same time period. Another issue with bear spray is that a bear or attacker can recover from the spray and continue to stalk you on your hike.

Pros – Semi-effective at stopping wildlife and a bit more effective at stopping people

Cons – If you wind up downwind of the spray you too will be affected by the spray 

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