Originally Published: September 6, 2017 5:58 a.m.
In Ted Johnson’s Aug. 24 hiking column, he tells women wanting to feel safe hiking solo to “hike with a gun or a big dog.” As a solo female hiker/backpacker, I feel safer with neither accoutrement. A gun would be excess weight, and add a danger of it harming me. The “weapon” I carry is my hiking poles, which are my tent poles, have been used as crutches, and to ward off loose dogs. Hiking with a dog would prevent seeing many of the animals I’ve enjoyed, including foxes, mountain lions and bears.
I carry the “10 Essentials,” but my first essential is my attitude. I start out feeling secure, assuming everyone I meet will be harmless. I’ve never had an uncomfortable encounter with a person on a trail in 47 years of hiking. I do stay aware of my surroundings and am prepared to change my plans if I feel unsafe. I carry a personal locator beacon ever since I fell while solo backpacking and broke my scapula. I was able to self-rescue in that situation, but thought, “what if I’d been unable to walk out?” The beacon is a more worthwhile 5 ounces in my pack than a gun would be.
It takes time to become comfortable alone in the wilderness, but it’s wonderful not to be tied to another’s pace or sleep/wake times. It’s a personal choice as to what makes anyone feel safe hiking alone, but a gun and/or big dog are not every woman’s choice.