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  1. #1
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    Default Worried about personal safety

    Recently I have been falling upon these articles and posts about people who were mugged, killed, or assaulted on the trail. Even a few people who steal your gear while you sleep. I know this is few and far between, but it has me a bit worried. I am still definitely going on my AT thru in 2013, but I do have serious concerns about my safety and moreso the safety of my wife. The fact that the name "pink blazers" even exists tells me there are more than a handful of guys with less than great intentions towards female hikers. If, say, there were 100 guys like this on the trail (especially in the beginning) I would think 1 or 2 of them (if not more) have their mind in a place that doesn't bode well for women in the woods. Hopefully seeing 6'4 215lb me walking beside my wife will deter them, but that's not a guarantee. I know there's a minuscule chance I'll be in a situation where I need to defend my wife or myself from some creeps, but its enough that I'm considering options.

    Is bringing some form of personal defense equipment (I won't list them here) completely out of the question? I don't really want to be the guy who brings a fist to a knife fight should it come to that.

    or are my fears totally ridiculous?

  2. #2

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    Don't worry about it. You will have trekking poles. I've never been stabbed by one but I can assume it hurts.

  3. #3
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    Indeed. I'll be using some ski poles, but same principle applies. I'll have a standard pocket knife as well as base equipment and a can of bear spray (to make my wife happy) and that should be enough IMO. but more research and more stories are making me think twice. obviously I would have all applicable permits and licenses, and follow each jurisdictions individual laws, should I decide to conceal carry. My biggest concern should I go that route is making other hikers uneasy, so I would need to conceal it well, and hopefully no one would ever know I have it. If someone does know, they earned it.

    I actually don't like the idea of concealed carry at all, as its too easy to pass the safety class, and I've known a few people who aren't in the right mindset to have it. Thankfully I have had significant training in necessary use of force, so I'll have a few other options before it comes to that. again, should I decide to go that route.

    does anyone know people who do carry, and have filed all the applicable paperwork?

  4. #4

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    I have a lifetime permit to carry. I have not even considered a gun in my pack. If you don't feel safe carrying a can of bear spray then you aren't going to feel safe. Pepper spray means business. Hundreds of people thru hike yearly without issue. Don't believe the hype. I personally think the spray is overkill. Where would you have a gun concealed to where you could easily draw on someone should you need to, while wearing hiking clothes?

  5. #5
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    There's two of you, and with your size more than highly unlikely that you'd need a firearm. Is it possible? Sure, but so is you getting hit by lightening or being swept away in a flash flood.

    I would be very surprised if you or anyone can find a legal way to conceal carry a handgun through ALL of the A.T.
    In many states, weapon laws vary by county and/or towns. Certainly you'll have issues in state and federal lands. Then there's hunting times, certain public places, etc.

    Yeah, I'd like to hear from you, or anyone who has carried a weapon the entire length of the A.T. legally.
    This is NOT a "for or against" issue at all. I'm curious now.

    I wonder if it would be easier to take a 20" barreled shotgun? Ha.

  6. #6

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    As Winds said, it would be very hard to legally carry a handgun the length of the trail. Normally I am in the mindset it is better to not need a gun and have it than to need a gun and not have it. However, if I have to carry an extra pound for 2184 miles and keep it somewhere that could make it effective I am going to pass. Being that you are hiking with your wife makes her less of a target. I have yet to hear a crime against two or more people. Being solo makes you more of a target, but even being by yourself you are going to be okay. You can more than likely carry a gun the whole trail and never get caught breaking state or local laws. The question is are you worried enough to try and do it? For me, hiking SoBo solo this year, no I won't carry one. The choice is yours. Just remember bad news is sensationalized. When you most need a gun is when you must defend yourself against a gun. I have not heard about any recent gun crimes on the trail. I personally am choosing to focus my energy on my own physical shape, resupplies, gear, and the miles. If you do carry the whole trail do yourself a favor and make sure you are a lifetime NRA member. The NRA loves to help defend 2nd amendment cases.

  7. #7

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    Step back a minute and consider the source of the news and commentary. Not many are going to click on a "I went on a hike and nothing happened link" very often but they will click on a "I went on a hike and something unusual happened link". The probability of a injury or criminal act is minimal to an average thruhiker, the likelyhood of a injury due to slipping, sliding or overuse is much higher. I would worry far more about getting hit at a road crossing by a speeding car.

    Feel free to bring self defense weapons, but realize the most likely outcome is that they will leave the trail with you and your gear after a few days when you quite the trail or they will get sent home at Mountain crossings or left in a hiker box. If you do insist on "carrying" and do make it up north, realize that its very difficult to bring a handgun into Mass and if you try, its usually mandatory jail time (I am not up with recent law changes)

  8. #8
    Registered User Monkeywrench's Avatar
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    Seriously?

    You live your daily life in a large city filled with all kinds of lunatics, but you're worried that your wife won't be safe walking in the woods?

    I see you're in Honolulu. A quick look shows that in 2010 there were 19 murders, 218 forcible rapes, 891 robberies, 1,420 aggravated assaults, and 5,760 burglaries there. Yet I'll bet Honolulu is a rather nice place to be, and neither you nor your wife are afraid to be out and about in town. The trail is like that, only more so. There is crime there, but it is extremely rare.

    As for pink blazers, the term refers to guys who long for some female company and will hike long miles to catch up to a female hiker that is ahead of them, but it does not mean they harbor evil intentions.

    I've a feeling it's really a bit of fear of the unknown that is getting to you more so than anything rational. Once you are actually on the trail and become used to the environs and life-style, you'll likely realize these fears are unfounded. If you are thru-hiking, after a rather short while you know most of the people hiking around you, and it is a lot like life in a small village where everybody knows everybody, and there's really not much to fear.
    ~~
    Allen "Monkeywrench" Freeman
    NOBO 3-18-09 - 9-27-09
    blog.allenf.com
    allen@allenf.com
    www.allenf.com

  9. #9

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    I certainly wouldn't let my fears stand in the way of my dreams, but, if you are really worried, just keep the bear spray handy, keep everything inside your tent at night and don't leave your packs unattended.
    You'll have more problems with cold and wet and dogs than bears or people.

  10. #10

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    Simple: "Prepare for the worst, Pray for the Best"! Enough said!
    Cherokee Bill ..... previously known as "billyboy"

  11. #11
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    monkeywrench, technically I live in honolulu, but I'm actually on an air force base. My official (as the government sees it) home is in PA, where I will be returning at the end of my enlistment. When I go down town I do have a fear of getting mugged or getting in a bad situation. if I go with my wife, we go to small establishments, and ALWAYS have a group of some large friends or "locals" with me. there's areas I avoid to mitigate the risk even further. Granted, no matter how much planning things can sneak up on you, but I've always been the cautious type. I don't like getting caught off gaurd, and it won't deter me from doing what I want to do (I still go down town after all), but I do try to plan for every circumstance.

    Yes, I know i have more to worry about the wet and the cold, and the slip and falls, but how do you best prepare for that? For the wet and cold, bring rain gear and a good sleeping bag. Don't wanna slip and fall, have poles and good shoes, and just in case a good med kit and a cell phone for emergencies. I prepare for all those things, so why not prepare for the (albeit highly improbable) eventuality I end up in a bad situation with a bad person?

    also as for pink blazers, HYOH. if they prefer female company, have at it. as long as they're welcome by whatever company they choose to follow, that's all well and good. But compare it to honolulu again. There's THOUSANDS of people at the bars or clubs every night. some want to have a few drinks with friends, many want to try and go home with someones. That's fine as long as its reciprocal. But we all know there are the few shady characters out there. The few who don't know they're not wanted. or worse the few who know they're not wanted and do it anyway. I don't want to find the 1 guy on the whole trail who thinks he can get away with stuff like that. That goes not just for my wife, but if I see it happen to any other woman on the trail I will have something to say about it. AGAIN 99.999% of the time this won't happen. but like a few above have said, prepare for the worst, hope for the best. or have it and not need it. I don't want to be the guy who needs it but doesn't have it.

    That's a lot of typing to defend a cause I'm going against. bear spray will work fine.

  12. #12
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    The trail is a microcosm of society.
    If it makes you feel secure, bring whatever you want. Just realize that having it in a pack makes it useless most of the time
    You cannot totally eliminate risk. Not at home, and not on the trail.
    Statistically, the most dangerous thing we do is drive a car everyday, but it doesnt bother us because we are accustomed to it.
    Your fears are a bit overblown. Especially regarding your wife.
    Relax

  13. #13
    Registered User Capt Nat's Avatar
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    Default

    The idea that a gun will make you safe is just a folly. An attack will come all of a sudden, unexpected, with no warning. You wont even have time to get free of the straps on your hiking poles. If the attacker doesn't take the gun, it will be found on your body.

    As a law enforcement officer with full retirement, I can carry conceiled nationally. I wouldn't even consider lugging a gun and ammo on the trail. As another poster said, Leki's and bear spray are overkill. I feel safer in an environment where everyone is armed, I'm just not going to deal with the weight. With your size and age, you should be the most fearsome thing on the trail. Martial arts training would be much more beneficial!

  14. #14

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    Many times stories are told where a victim must have known there attacker based on certain forensic evidence.By this I mean to say you can meet someone,(say at a diner)and have a wonderful conversation,and even share a cup of coffee,only to find later your in a situation,one where later you'll tell your friends,but they seemed so nice,how could this happen.Crooks,weirdos,and the like don't always announce there intentions by throwing off a bad vibe,being careful where you go,and what you say is just a part of your personal safety.Learning what to do when your in a fix is paramount.Maybe take a self defense class,it could save your life.Learn to fight with what is on your persons,a pair of sunglasses,a bandana,tent stake,pack stave.....or a heater if you like.

  15. #15
    Registered User soulrebel's Avatar
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    Like what are they trying to get from you...Money, food, gear? If you're willing to risk your freedom in this country for petty theft - you're probably in a desperate situation and I'm just gonna give you my stuff or money. Prolly give you my jacket too, it gets cold out there. I don't want to hurt somebody that's already hurtin'.

    On the other hand if physical assault is on the perps mind. You'll soon find me using anything and everything to open up orifices on your body. and a lil work on your soft spots... I've swung a stick often in my life and I'm pretty sure I can hit the mark. Usually I sleep with a nice wood clubber, if I think bears are in the area, or you're a nut. My wife keeps her knife handy it's 3 inch flip blade and I think that's overkill. There's a lot of nice rocks too. A slingshot might not be bad...but I find most are intimidated by the 1000yard stare from hiking all day, a good beard, and a fit body...and lest i forgot the stench you're drowning in.
    See ya when I get there.

  16. #16
    Hiker bigcranky's Avatar
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    Oh, good Lord, really? You're worried about some dude hitting on your wife while you're on the trail together? Or what, shooting you then attacking her? The AT isn't some dystopian video game, it's a social hiking trail where you'll meet very nice people from all walks of life. As in any group, some of the young men are interested in some of the young women, but there is hardly an epidemic of sexual assault, or any other kind, on the trail.

    Now I'm a little concerned about you being out there with a firearm, randomly blasting away at hikers coming into the shelter late at night. Dude, that guy climbing over your wife is just trying to get to the top bunk. Put the gun away.

    Your fears are totally ridiculous.
    Ken B
    'Big Cranky'
    Our Long Trail journal

  17. #17

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    I gonna double dip and just say,you need to find some piece in all this because at the end of the days your gonna lay down and go to sleep,you'll go to sleep,or you'll have to leave the trail,plain and simple.You can only do so much,or be proactive to only a degree,because any more than that,well whats the point,just go home.

  18. #18
    ME => GA 19AT3 rickb's Avatar
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    Here is book that the ATC deemed worthy of sale on their website you might be interested in. I posted a link to a free PDF of it on Whiteblaze once. The book is thought provoking and goes way beyond the typical advise offered up.

    https://www.atctrailstore.org/catalo...d=231&compid=1

    An alternative to bear spray might be a smaller OC canister. Some are slightly larger than a lipstick. If you go that route you would want the OC concentration used by police. Talk to a gun nut in a gun store or police supply store and they will help you out. Obviously a small size has advantages and disadvantages. Some states regulate the OC concentration level that can be sold to the public. In my sate of Massachusetts possession of unregistered spray is illegal. Spraying the wrong person's golden retriever is definitely not recommended here.

    Common online wisdom (and certainly the official position of the ATC) is the number of hikers murdered on the trail is small considering the millions of people who hike the AT each year. That said, more thru hikers have died in the middle of their thru hikesl at the hands of a stranger than have die in the middle of their thru hikes by falls, lightening, bears, snakes, bees, drowning, hypothermia, and heatstroke combined.

    You may take note that of the 5 THRU HIKERS killed on the AT 4 were part of a male/female couples. Both those killings happened years ago at shelters and occurred outside of the traditional northbound wave.

    On a more optimistic note, the trail removes you from a host of other dangers at home (drunk drivers, etc). If your hike leads to a heathy lifestyle long-term (this is not a given, there are a lot of obese former thu hikers, not sure why so many) you have the opportunity to add years to your lives.

    Just my take. Different from most, I am sure.

  19. #19

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    Ok,I have not a clue,what is OC canister?

  20. #20
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    Nothing in life is guaranteed. Listen to the same "inner voice" you use everyday to survive in the real world- common sense.

    Now get on with planning your fantastic thru hike......

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