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Can women safely camp alone on a 14er?

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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Re: Can women safely camp alone on a 14er?

Postby screeman57 » Fri Aug 17, 2012 9:14 am

susanjoypaul wrote:
ironman11 wrote:This is highly debated recommendation...

Most def... and if you really want to ruffle some feathers, hike with a gun, a dog, a bible, and Paul Ryan. And don't forget to poop on the summit!


Lol! Whaddaya think this, the Appalachians?
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Re: Can women safely camp alone on a 14er?

Postby bvhiker12 » Fri Aug 17, 2012 9:24 am

What a shame! Woman asked a real question and gets alot of nonsense in response. Although I have been a backpacker hooked on the solitude of wilderness for over 30 years, I have never gone overnight alone. I have had the luxury of a husband and family that share the love of wilderness. That said, I have known many women that have gone solo. However, you have a long way to go before you should be taking a long trip in the wilderness alone. Here are my suggestions for getting to that point.
1. Go to some of the classes offered by REI to learn some basics about being outdoors and being prepared for the weather. The right gear makes a huge difference in your enjoyment and comfort.
2. First try a backpacking trip with an outfitter or Sierra Club. Some even have women only trips. That will help you learn a lot of basics, especially about Leave No Trace practices. You can even rent the gear your first time out.
3. After you have been on a longer (week) group trip try a 2 night by yourself. If you go in a area of Colorado with 14ers there will be plenty of other people around, which I agree can give you peace of mind when you first start out.
4. Consider a dog. Many women I know that hike or camp alone have a dog which gives them a level of comfort along with quiet companionship.
5. Talk to people while you are out and about. Most people in wilderness areas that are not heavily frequented love to talk to people they meet to find out more about the area. Hikers and backpackers tend to be the cream of the crop in society, IMHO. Usually those who want to hurt people have plenty of easy choices without the work of the going to the backcountry.
6. Leave your gun at home, but get some bear spray. Should you encounter an animal that is threatening, the bear spray will be more useful, and is lighter to carry.

You're off to good start by asking the right questions. Now get educated. There are good books to introduce you to backpacking, and good books with information about where to go. If you find other good companions to go with don't feel like you have to go by yourself. Wilderness backpacking will give you a solitude you have never experienced before, even if one or 2 other people are experiencing it with you. It is worth the effort to get the experience so you can handle whatever unforseen things happens when you are hours away from help.

Generally the 14er areas of CO are not the best places to go looking for time in the mountains by yourself - too many people. Go have fun and learn some great new skills.

Chris

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Re: Can women safely camp alone on a 14er?

Postby madbuck » Fri Aug 17, 2012 9:31 am

The "data" suggests that it's very safe compared to many other activities, and that other risks are higher. But I do get that women have an increased risk in general of being attacked, which makes me sick. The female-specific incidents I've seen/remembered in the last couple years in No. Colorado were frontcountry hiking (2 incidents in or around RMNP, one near FC) -- with attacks being opportunistic and closer to more popular trails, rather than deep in the mountains. In those cases, the victims were able to flee from potential attacks (with a knee to the groin or hitting the attacker with hiking sticks or just running away).

I don't recall anything specific to tent camping, especially not gender-specific, since that's how your question is framed. My wife always camps with me (at least that's my impression!) but sometimes I'll go restlessly wandering away from camp in the morning or afternoon so she's alone for a few hours. In either case, it would be unusual for another person to stumble upon a tent and know specifically that a female was alone.

Which brings me back to the beginning: history suggests most people are safe in a tent from being attacked. Any increase in danger from being attacked, IMHO, is mostly when being on the trail itself, not as much just being in a tent. Choose protection as you wish. Situational awareness (no headphones) can help a bit, that's a good way to roll anyway for awareness (rattlesnakes, whoomping snow, mt. lions, other people) and enjoyment.
In any case, lots and lots of miles and days are enjoyed in the wilderness without the nasty human risks we face in the city. Here's hoping to more enjoyment of the mountains!

EDIT: Just saw bvhiker12's response. A good one, it seems to me, to build up comfort level.

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Re: Can women safely camp alone on a 14er?

Postby mountaintan » Fri Aug 17, 2012 9:38 am

As others have mentioned, you might want to start closer to home in your comfort zone and then work your way up. I think there are many positives to solo hiking/camping. When you are alone, you can’t take anything for granted. You alone are responsible for setting the pace, route finding, assessing risk, being prepared with the proper gear for unexpected situations and so forth. If I had to find a partner every time I wanted to venture out in the backcountry, I would rarely get out the door! However, I always leave my plans with my husband and keep in contact whenever possible. I also discuss my “bail out” plans and a time frame of when “late” is “too late”! I am prepared to protect myself if necessary, but hope I will never have to! Also, remember that you are as much a stranger to the folks you encounter on the trail as they are to you. For all the stranger knows…you may have a partner in the area. Some of my most rewarding, peaceful 14er hikes have been solo and I would not trade them! Take Care and Happy Hiking :D

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Re: Can women safely camp alone on a 14er?

Postby Stereotype » Fri Aug 17, 2012 10:40 am

Thanks everyone for your responses! I do intend to go out with others before I go out alone, especially since I'd love to get into camping in the winter and I wasn't taught much about avalanches in Miami. I don't have a handgun already, not because of any political opinions, just my personal love of knives.

I do mean to get into some books later, but after a few years in school and a year working on my undergrad thesis, I am happily looking forward to a training course or just a conversation with a living person. That being said, would a woman's only course deal with the kind of conversation I brought up here? I believe you all answered my question pretty thoroughly, especially since I was mostly looking for a general feel of the area, it just seems like that would be the only bonus for taking a woman-course. Unless they train us to make good sammiches for that man I'm trying to catch. :wink:

Just as a response to the tent-specific question: I have envisioned myself in my little camping tent in the dark wilderness, alone, worrying about that single weird-looking hiker who passed me on the trail. Then not sleeping for fear that he will find my little tent and put on his hockey mask. And pull out a machete. You get the idea! I am more just trying to address these fears before I'm sitting in them.

Again, thank you so much for all your replies, it's really putting me at ease. Feel free to reply to this if you know of a serial killer that no one remembered to mention.
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Re: Can women safely camp alone on a 14er?

Postby Stereotype » Fri Aug 17, 2012 10:41 am

Oh, and P.S. - I have a dog! Can't you tell from my avatar? She's like a sea-singing-siren for alligators. I'm just hoping that dog barks don't attract bears too! I guess that I'll do a search on that....
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Re: Can women safely camp alone on a 14er?

Postby Brian C » Fri Aug 17, 2012 11:35 am

Stereotype wrote:...I am more just trying to address these fears before I'm sitting in them...


I think if you went on a few overnight trips with some folks you know/trust these fears will completely dissolve. It always seems the scariest when you're not sure what to expect.
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Re: Can women safely camp alone on a 14er?

Postby Oldskool70 » Fri Aug 17, 2012 12:04 pm

bvhiker12 wrote:What a shame! Woman asked a real question and gets alot of nonsense in response. Although I have been a backpacker hooked on the solitude of wilderness for over 30 years, I have never gone overnight alone. I have had the luxury of a husband and family that share the love of wilderness. That said, I have known many women that have gone solo. However, you have a long way to go before you should be taking a long trip in the wilderness alone. Here are my suggestions for getting to that point.
Generally the 14er areas of CO are not the best places to go looking for time in the mountains by yourself - too many people. Go have fun and learn some great new skills.

Chris



I think you are missing the point here . The 'nonsense' you speak is of a Jovial nature...meant to calm her and not make the woods a "scary place". People here are covering the things she needs to be scared of : slides, weather, preperation.

Weirdo's are no different than a burglar. IE : Look for easy targets. Bad guys don't want to work that hard. So they are prown to such activities near home such as KOA campground, parks near the front range,etc. Logisticlly most 14er's are hard to get to, hence I believe the people you run into out there are up to the same thing as yourself...hiking

She is not a long way to go It's more of a mindset...& preperation. It helps not to look like a target. I hike/camp alone most of the time. I don't carry a gun, or spray, or GPS, or a cell phone. I do carry a CB radio, a real map & compass. Do your homework (which helps you know your abilities) and yer' good. :wink:
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Re: Can women safely camp alone on a 14er?

Postby MountainHiker » Fri Aug 17, 2012 12:12 pm

There have been some well publicized incidences of dirtbags attacking women on trails. Those crimes, while relatively rare tend to make national news. But your chances of being attacked in the city are far greater.

There are a lot of things that can happen to a person in the back country. Being attacked by a person or animal is far less likely than many other hazards.

I understand the draw of heading out alone. But there’s a lot of skill sets involved in enjoying our mountains. It would be best work on gaining those skillsets before doing solo trips.

Take a gun if you learn how to use it and it makes you feel better. But realize your weight budget could include many safety items you are far more likely to use.
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Re: Can women safely camp alone on a 14er?

Postby skiwall » Fri Aug 17, 2012 12:19 pm

Stereotype wrote:Just as a response to the tent-specific question: I have envisioned myself in my little camping tent in the dark wilderness, alone, worrying about that single weird-looking hiker who passed me on the trail. Then not sleeping for fear that he will find my little tent and put on his hockey mask. And pull out a machete.


I backpack solo a few times a year by myself. The only times I have ever sat in the dark worrying about getting hurt was last year in the Uintas when I kept hearing large animals walking around my tent (I had a friend who nearly got trampled by elk in the night). Turns out they were cows. So much for that wilderness experience.

I used to have a dog, so the first few times I took her with me, and I definitely felt better having her there.

One thing I did at first was go alone to places where I knew there would be other groups. I felt better knowing there would be other people within yelling distance, but still being on my own.

I also take one of those smaller cans of bear spray. I'm not really worried about bears, but I attach it to the outside of my pack. I have met other individuals hiking before that gave me that weird creepy feeling, and if they talk to me, I just make sure they see the bear spray. I also think it's important to portray confidence in yourself. My dad used to tell me that if I get lost traveling, don't ever look lost... give people the impression that you know where you're going, and people are less likely to mess with you.

I don't think you should be afraid to go solo! It's very rewarding. :)
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Re: Can women safely camp alone on a 14er?

Postby coloradokevin » Fri Aug 17, 2012 12:45 pm

Stereotype wrote:Hi, I'm new here. I did a search and I didn't find anything on this subject, which either means it's incredibly obvious that it's safe or incredibly obvious that it isn't. I am not experienced, I have a lot to learn, and I am not trying to reach some of my climbing/hiking goals for a long time. The thing that I've been dreaming of doing (eventually) is to spend a few weeks in the mountains, alone. I'm originally from Miami, so the idea of being alone (as a woman) in a flimsy tent without a gun seems incredibly dangerous.

I have looked over some of the warnings about hiking alone in general, but those warnings all seem to be related to environmental safety issues. I'm more worried about escaped insane asylum inmates with hooks for hands and an addiction to human flesh. :oops:

Should I give up on this idea? I admit, I haven't searched for tent alarms or tent master locks, but I'm more interested in whether I'd need one in CO.



1) You are safer in the mountains than you are in the city (from a violent crime perspective).

2) You shouldn't let fear of criminals keep you from a life changing experience in the mountains.

3) While you are less likely to encounter a criminal in the mountains, you are admittedly far more vulnerable in the mountains if you should happen to encounter a violent criminal.

4) Whether you are male or female, you can take steps to ensure your own safety. Whether you choose to take those steps is up to you. You can adjust how and where you camp, you can learn to use a gun and carry one with you, you can choose to only travel in the safety of a group, etc. If you are worried about this problem, but still want to travel alone, I guess I'd encourage you to do some soul searching to decide what kind of steps you're willing to take to ensure your safety.


The only reason I bring guns into this thread (and I honestly cringe as I do so, thanks to the many threads that have already run on that subject around here), is the fact that you mentioned "being alone in a flimsy tent without a gun". If you are concerned about an encounter with a violent criminal, and don't feel that you can physically overpower such a criminal, then why wouldn't you consider carrying a gun? Being a gun owner doesn't make you a whack-job (as so many others might have you believe), and my girlfriend often carries her gun with her when she's hiking alone in areas where she feels like she might be vulnerable. It's always an option. Many people consider it to be a paranoid option, but many of those same people aren't posting threads in which they express a concern for their own personal security.

Just my $0.02 on the subject.



Brian C wrote:Just out of curiosity, has there ever been an instance where a hiker saved themselves from another human with a gun in the modern world (in the wilderness)? I guess hiking around with a gun on your hip could likely deter would-be attackers but it seems like it could also deter would-be nice folks from wanting to talk to you. I don't know the statistics, but it seems like walking around on a CO trail is safer than a lot of other places you could be and the only realistic thing you might ever need to defend yourself against would be black bear, maybe a lion, or the boogie men you create inside your head. I'd say if you're worried about it and it makes you feel better, carry bear spray. You'll almost be guaranteed to never have to use it and it'll give you some peace of mind while being much cheaper than a handgun (and you don't have to worry about shooting yourself).



Sir,

Your post seems to demonstrate a fear of guns, and a bit of ignorance to the subject. A trained and responsible shooter doesn't need to worry about shooting themselves. I quite literally shoot thousands (sometimes tens of thousands) of rounds per year, and have carried a gun on a daily basis for about a decade now. I've never had a negligent discharge of any kind. The same can be said for the friends/colleagues I usually shoot with. I've literally trained dozens of people to shoot, and none of these people have ever had an accident with a firearm.

Additionally, no one is saying that you need to openly carry a gun. I've met dozens of 14'ers.com members over the years, and none of them (who didn't know me personally) would have known that I was armed. I've even been armed at the Happy Hour events without this fact being noticed. Is that weird? I really don't think so, especially since my job specifically requires that I am armed 24/7. Nevertheless, no one has been endangered by the fact that I carry a gun, and no one has noticed that fact, either. More to the point of the OP's situation, I've often found that women who carry guns are looked at with a bit less scrutiny than men. If I carry openly, people seem to notice. If my girlfriend carries openly, no one seems to care (that's obviously a statement that is totally anecdotal in nature, but it has been my observation).

Speaking in terms of raw numbers, hikers aren't attacked on a very regular basis. However, attacks do occur, and a number of these incidents have been documented by news stories that have been shared on this very forum. When you compare the number of hikers with the number of residents in any given city, it is perhaps even possible to believe that hikers are attacked with the same statistical frequency as non-hikers in an urban environment (I'm thinking in terms of assaults per 100,000 individuals). This may not be the case (it quite possibly isn't), but I don't think we have enough data to support or deny such a theory. In the past five years there have been instances where hikers have been injured, assaulted, murdered, and sexually assaulted here in Colorado. It does occasionally happen.

I feel safer in the mountain environment than I do in the city, but I also feel prepared to address threats to my safety in either area.
Last edited by coloradokevin on Fri Aug 17, 2012 1:16 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Can women safely camp alone on a 14er?

Postby coloradokevin » Fri Aug 17, 2012 12:48 pm

susanjoypaul wrote:
ironman11 wrote:This is highly debated recommendation...

Most def... and if you really want to ruffle some feathers, hike with a gun, a dog, a bible, and Paul Ryan. And don't forget to poop on the summit!

If you get any flack, just blame it all on Bill.


LOL. That just had to be repeated.

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