This article is not advocating for or against the practice of carrying a firearm while hiking the back trails.
This article is talking about a traditional hiking expedition along marked trails and it asks the question “should you carry and do you need to carry a firearm”.
Those opposed to firearms will of course say there is absolutely no reason to carry one under any circumstance. Then there are those that believe that a person should be able to carry one anywhere at any time, and that there should never be any restrictions.
Then there are those in the middle that may wonder is there a reason to carry one in a particular circumstance, and those same people may realize that logic should dictate actions in some cases when it comes to firearms.
Some are of the mind that you are either hunting or hiking, and a firearm is just additional weight in a backpack when you are not out looking to put food on the table.
Some new to hiking or to the wilderness in general may believe that if they wander into the woods wild animals will immediately attack them. This can happen of course, but it is rare even though stories of animal and human encounters generally make the news. The reason they do make the news is that encounters of this sort are relatively rare. Of course, if you really are in the back woods and not along a well marked hiking trail then encounters are more apt to happen.
A handgun while maybe a comfort would not be effective against a bear, mountain lion or moose. In some cases the fact a person has, a firearm may make them task risks with animals that they would not normally take. Taking selfies with wild animals is a very dumb idea whether you have a suitable firearm or not.
You are more likely to be robbed or mugged closer to home than you are along a hiking trail, but again it is not unheard of. If you feel strongly about this and you can legally carry a handgun in the particular area you are hiking then do so, if for nothing more than your peace of mind. Again, if you were in a very remote area of the backcountry, then a firearm would make sense, for more than just self-defense.
Before beginning any outdoor adventure, you have to plan for what ifs. What happens if you get lost, are injured, or encounter severe weather, will a firearm help you.
A firearm can be used to signal for help as long as you are not in avalanche country. Three shots is a standard distress signal and a firearm can be used to kill game for food and for self-defense in some extreme cases as well, while lost or stranded.
What are the various laws concerning concealed and open carry in the areas you are hiking. Established trails are usually on federal or state land, so it is important that you know the laws. A handgun in a backpack would be considered a concealed weapon by most standards. Forty percent of the Appalachian Trail (AT) for example is owned by the National Parks System, and the trail meanders through several different states and jurisdictions.
Discharging a firearm in avalanche country is dangerous for obvious reasons. You may lose your firearm if it is in your pack and your pack is lost in a river crossing or while canoeing or kayaking. These things must be considered before you leave on any adventure with your firearm.
For the average day hiker a firearm would not be useful. A handgun is no match for bears and other large animals, and it would be rare to have to fend off a mugger or some other criminal along the trail. Your best defense is avoidance when it comes to wild animals and knowing something about the animals that you would expect to find in the areas you are hiking.
You may violate state or federal laws and not even know it if you are carrying a firearm on certain hiking trails. The penalties can be stiff and not knowing the law is not an excuse.
To make a decision on whether to carry or not would depend on the threat you feel may be out along the trail. Of course, the fact you can legally carry one may be enough reason for some to carry one and this is fine as long as your wanderings do not move you in and out of various jurisdictions where the laws may vary.
There is a difference between open carry and concealed, and the laws do vary depending on the firearm and method of carry.
Understand why you want to carry one, but if you are new to hiking and think you need a pistol to scare off or kill wild animals you and the firearm should stay home. If you fear being robbed or assaulted along the trail, then again you are better off staying home with your firearm.
It is a personal choice but it should not be an afterthought, it must be given careful consideration and take all laws in to account before setting off on your adventure.