It’s something that’s always in the back of my mind, especially when I head out into the backcountry.
Safety from wild animals and predators.
Safety from extreme weather.
Safety from hazardous terrain.
Safety driving to and from the trailhead.
Safety from people who may have bad motives.
We all do what we can to stay safe.
We take first-aid classes and self-defense classes.
We pack and repack our first-aid kits.
We throw a whistle around our neck and a reflective blanket in our packs.
We hike with things like bear spray to fend off wild animals and trekking poles not just to help us bag a peak but also to fend off anyone who creeps us out.
Here in Wyoming, I have a pretty good understanding about the risks on my local trails and how to mitigate them.
But I realize that we all live in different locations throughout the world and have different perspectives on how to have a safe solo hike.
Heck, just how to be safe on a hike in general.
So, a few weeks ago I asked #teamHLAW to share their feelings and a few of their best tips for safe hiking.
Some hike with firearms. Some hike with knives. Some with pepper spray or mace. Others hike with a dog or don’t hike alone at all.
I’ll admit that rarely do I hike with any form of self-defense other than my intuition, so it’s good to see what other women do to stay safe.
I’ll let #teamHLAW take it away!
“Hiking alone does put your senses at a higher level of awareness and may not always lead to a relaxing hike. On a scary trail, you do feel that way though, even if others are hiking with you. Weekly I walk past a group in a park and if a man is walking beside me-silence. If not then comments are being said. It is disheartening that it happens, but I just walk past boldly with my chin up and act deaf to it although my guards are on sensory overload. Yes, I do carry also. My last resort but sets the thumping heart to ease sometimes. Especially in remote areas when someone drives up on you who should not be out there driving. I don’t think alone vs with others makes a difference with my personal heightened senses once they are put on guard though.”
“This is a massive problem in South Africa 🙁 Honestly, I don’t really like to dwell on it, but I do always carry mace and I try to hike with a group if possible. If I do hike or run on my own I try to do it during popular times when the trails are more likely to have other people on them. I have to say that I often veer away from talking about safety tips, because it sometimes starts to feel a bit too much like victim-blaming 🙁 As in: “Oh, if only she’d been carrying this wouldn’t have happened,” or “If you hike by yourself you have to do xyz otherwise what do you expect?” I fully realise that people don’t mean for their advice to come across this way, but I also know that it is often too easy to interpret it in that light. I wish that this wasn’t something we had to think about, and I wish we weren’t the ones who had to come up with more and more paranoid precautions to stay safe 🙁 “
“I hike with a very protective dog. But I would also like my concealed carry. I’m thinking of doing a two-week solo trek in the spring. My sister doesn’t think I should go alone. But if I waited for someone to go with me, I’d never get to go.”
“I’m almost always carrying a gun and bear spray which are easily accessible if needed. I shoot regularly and have taken concealed carry classes which make you significantly more comfortable if a situation were to arise. I usually have one or two dogs with me along with my horse who, believe it or not, is surprisingly protective (he’s got great instincts after living wild for the first half of his life!).
“I carry mace and a whistle. But, if I’m honest, it’s more to make others comfortable with my hiking/running alone. I feel safer on the trails than I do at some places in town. My work location is in between the Mission (local homeless shelter) and the bus station. I walk alone in the area daily. I’m not afraid, but I also don’t hang out alone after dark. I don’t carry guns or knives. Solo female safety is a touchy subject, because, yes, sometimes safety suggestions do come off like victim blaming. Perhaps touchy is not the right adjective, but y’all get my gist. I’m always alert and avoid groups of unknown men in the city. I too would be uncomfortable alone around a group of men, in an area like you described before daylight. I don’t find the homeless frightening, per say. I’m surrounded by them daily. However, it does make a great hiding place for those with nefarious intentions. I have so many choices here for places to hike and run or paddle that it’s easy to avoid places I don’t feel safe.”
“I don’t like hiking alone – I just enjoy the company of others way too much! In my area, our trails are so remote, if you meet someone, 9 times out of 10, it’ll be someone you know. That being said, I am curious as to what problems have arisen while hiking alone.”
“Being prepared and aware of your surroundings I think it key. In addition, I’ve taken an 8-hour women specific self-defense class, and always carry my gun, on my person, when hiking alone. I’m also a practicing martial arts student :)”
“I generally don’t hike alone, but do keep a switchblade, whistle and mace with me on the majority of my hikes. Always when alone of course.”
“I carry a small pepper spray with me. I can use it when I encounter stray dogs that are aggressive or any other aggressive animals actually. My theory is that if I see an aggressive animal I will spray it in the air and as animals have a super sensitive sense of smell they do not want to approach it. I am also ready to use it against persons with bad intentions. I haven’t used it and hopefully I do not have to but certainly, it keeps my mind at ease when hiking alone.
“Understanding your own limitations and building adequate training in the realm of self-defense will ultimately be your biggest first step. Pepper spray, a knife, or even a handgun will do you no good in a situation of defense unless adequate training has previously been implemented. Knowing your route, identifying it to others, and training your body to fight when needed will bring a full circle of safety in the face of many dangers the trail may old. I personally carry pepper spray, bear spray, multiple knives (boot/hip/neck), as well as a tazer that doubles as a flashlight.”
But let’s not let the conversation end here…if you have a tip, head on over to our facebook page or leave a comment below. Let’s hear it. As a community of outdoor women I think that talking about this topic is one of the best things we can do for each other.