Hiking with a Handgun: 6 Things to Consider

The weapon does you NO good if you cannot reach it. This is the bottom line.

Maybe you can't reach it because it is buried in your backpack, or you left it in the truck, or--worse still--it's sitting in the safe at home. This is the ultimate irony of all ironies: To own something that could save your life and not have it with you in an emergency. The topic of bears, bear spray and self-defense came up in one of my survival classes last week when someone asked if it's smart to hike and backpack with a handgun. I said yes, absolutely, if they own a handgun that they are experienced with, and if they can safely carry it within easy reach.

If you are already walking around in your day-to-day life with a concealed handgun in a low-profile holster, then you are already halfway there. All you need to do to add a concealed carry option to your outdoor gear is to simply change the holster.

For years I have worn a small belt pack while carrying my backpack. I put the belt pack on first, with the buckle worn in the back. Then I'll put on the backpack and flop the belt pack over the backpack's buckle. In my belt pack I carry a fairly generous survival kit so that I'll have some equipment if I have to ditch the backpack for whatever reason. Belt packs from tactical suppliers like Maxpedition or Voodoo Tactical provide room for survival gear and a proper handgun holster. This is the best of both worlds. And it wouldn't look out of place if you wore the pack around town either. But before you run out and buy a pack, you need to do your concealed carry homework for where you live and for areas you'll be travelling through or visiting.

  • Are you required to present your concealed handgun license?
  • Is there a requirement to retreat before using deadly force?
  • Are you required to keep the weapon concealed, or can it be visible?
  • Are there ammunition requirements, loading requirements, requirements for holsters, type and number of firearms, etc.?
  • Does your state have laws that supersede local ordinances forbidding concealed carry?
  • What are the places where carry is prohibited even with a CHL?

Clearly, there is a lot of research to do, but don't let that stop you from properly defending yourself. Do you carry? Tell us about your experiences--good and bad--in the comments.