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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 shredthegnar10 » Fri Aug 17, 2012 11:56 am

Short answer: Yes.

I've hiked over half of Colorado's 14ers solo, and camped alone plenty of times (both at trailheads and after hiking in). I'd say the vast majority of crazy serial killer types aren't going to hike up, say, to Willow Lake on the off-chance that there might be a woman camping alone up there.

I've only ever carried my handgun once while hiking in Colorado, and the only time I carry it now is when I'm in grizzly bear country (and yes, I know they're pretty ineffective against grizzlies unless you have something like a Desert Eagle, but if I ran into a grizzly who decided he wanted to maul me, I'd feel better at least being able to make a last-ditch attempt to defend myself than just standing there like an idiot). Still, I don't think wildlife is that much of a threat. I've never actually seen a grizzly bear, and I've only seen black bears twice (and only once in Colorado).
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Re: Can women safely camp alone on a 14er?

Postby KizH » Fri Aug 17, 2012 12:11 pm

First, this is a pretty impressive thread. It's great that so many women are out there and then posting here.

A few suggestions:

Learn the difference between the fear you get when you tell yourself stories about the boogeyman and the feeling you get when your instincts are talking and then pay attention to the instincts.

Make sure someone off-trail knows where you are and when you'll be back.

Carry a cell phone and some bear spray unless you're quick enough on the draw that whoever you shoot is going to feel the bullet before they see the gun (from what I've heard, drawing any weapon changes the stakes in a fight)... otoh, the point about liking knives might have been a well-played "just nutty enough" remark (true or not, and I take it as true) to buy you some space.

Let your skill and confidence defend you; be able to climb well enough and to know the wilderness well enough that someone would have to be pretty skilled to get where you are. (Moutaineering: Freedom of the Hills is a great book to help study mountaineering).

My experience was from a solo x/c bicycle ride and what I found was that there are good folks all over who will keep half an eye out for you. Mentioning that you know where you're going and have someone to call when you get there is comforting for them and a deterrent for anyone else.

Grandma Gatewood hiked the Appalachian Trail several times... The Barefoot Sisters wrote about their AT journey, and "Wild": is another memoir of hiking the PCT mostly alone. Have a blast!
Last edited by KizH on Sat Aug 18, 2012 5:16 am, edited 2 times in total.

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

Postby B[3] » Fri Aug 17, 2012 12:23 pm

If you're looking for a longer trip, you might want to consider part of the Colorado Trail. This past summer, my husband and I spent several weeks backpacking in the San Juans. We saw several women through-hiking the Colorado Trail alone and there were plenty of women hiking with one other woman. We went 4.5 days without seeing another person on the CDT but saw plenty of other backpackers each day on the Colorado Trail.

When I've camped alone, I have made sure to pitch my tent in a place that is far from the trail and difficult to spot. Over the years, I have found that I feel alot safer camping in the wilderness than staying in a hotel. :D
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Re: Can women safely camp alone on a 14er?

Postby Brian C » Fri Aug 17, 2012 1:11 pm

coloradokevin wrote:
Brian C wrote:Just out of curiosity, ... (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...


Haha. I'm sorry but this made me laugh! Sensitive much? Nowhere in my post did I say anything about whether or not folks should carry a firearm in the woods or around town nor did I mention what my beliefs on firearms are. Did you click on my link? The only reason I mentioned "shooting yourself" was a reference to one of the first recorded deaths on Longs peak when a climber's pistol went off in his pocket coming down the homestretch. I find it astounding that folks are so ready to pounce on any topic about firearms regardless of their position/beliefs. I only asked an honest question about whether or not there was a recorded instance in which a gun saved somebody's bacon in the backcountry, and suggested that bear spray is just as viable method of defense as compared to a firearm in the woods.

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

Postby coloradokevin » Fri Aug 17, 2012 1:55 pm

Brian C wrote:
coloradokevin wrote:
Brian C wrote:Just out of curiosity, ... (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...


Haha. I'm sorry but this made me laugh! Sensitive much? Nowhere in my post did I say anything about whether or not folks should carry a firearm in the woods or around town nor did I mention what my beliefs on firearms are. Did you click on my link? The only reason I mentioned "shooting yourself" was a reference to one of the first recorded deaths on Longs peak when a climber's pistol went off in his pocket coming down the homestretch. I find it astounding that folks are so ready to pounce on any topic about firearms regardless of their position/beliefs. I only asked an honest question about whether or not there was a recorded instance in which a gun saved somebody's bacon in the backcountry, and suggested that bear spray is just as viable method of defense as compared to a firearm in the woods.

Brian


My response to your post was based on a couple of items (most of which you didn't include in your cropped response):

1) you made it sound as if you don't believe guns are ever used in the backcountry for self-preservation. There are plenty of documented instances where this has occurred, both against man and animal. I don't have the time or interest to go looking for them right now, but if I feel the need later tonight maybe I'll look up some documented examples for you (or you can go searching for them yourself in the mean time).

2) You made a point of saying that you don't need to worry about shooting yourself when carrying bear spray. You don't need to worry about it at all as long as you're responsible. Maybe you intended that comment in jest, but I don't think it was a relevant statement in answering the age old question about guns in the backcountry. The case you linked to involved an incident that happened well over 100 years ago.

3) You talked about how the nice people on the trails won't want to talk with you if you carry a gun. I don't believe that this is necessarily true, or that they even need to know that you are carrying a gun.


I'll admit that gun threads do get heated around here, and I may have jumped the gun (pun intended) with my response. But, your post seemed to be painting a picture of someone who felt that carrying a gun was not a viable option for a backcountry traveler. Perhaps I was wrong in that assumption. Please feel free to clarify if I was incorrect in that belief. Regardless, every point in your previous post was giving reasons NOT to carry guns. I merely presented a dissenting opinion to your post.

As far as the pepper spray vs gun debate is concerned, I don't consider bear spray to be the best option for self-defense against humans in an environment where you are alone and a long way from help. I've been sprayed with a variety of products in training (some that are more concentrated than bear spray) and I've been able to fight through the effects of the product to accomplish my goals (the same can be said for fellow trainees in these classes). We train to overcome this stuff because it is not truly debilitating. If I can fight through pepper spray in a training environment, I have no doubt that a dedicated psychotic can fight through the effects if he is trying to harm a lone female in a tent in the wilderness. I've had this experience while working the streets, and there's nothing less satisfying than dosing an aggressive attacker with a dose of pepper spray, only to see that it just makes him fight that much harder.

That doesn't even begin to address the point that the person who sprays an attacker in her tent is going to be just as severely impacted by the spray as the person she sprayed (the OP posted that she was concerned about safety in her tent, so this is a valid situational concern). This stuff is bad enough when you spray it on someone inside of a house from a bottle that releases a concentrated stream pattern, let alone spraying it in a small tent from a fogger. If you don't believe me, sit in the back of your tent sometime and unload your bear spray canister in the general direction of the tent door. I'm fairly certain you'll wish you hadn't done so if you ever try that experiment.

Pepper spray is definitely unpleasant, there is no doubt about that. And, I'll admit that I routinely recommend pepper spray to people who are looking for a non-firearm defensive option in a spray-then-run defensive situation. But, I don't even like using this stuff at work (since I'm in a spray-then-wrestle environment) because of the unpleasant effects that this stuff has once it gets on me.

Your mileage may vary, and I sincerely apologize if my comment came across to you as insulting, as that was not my intention. The fact remains that many people have a fear of guns due to a lack of exposure to these tools, and many people form strong opinions about self defense strategies, despite having never encountered a violent human predator in their natural environment. Perhaps you aren't one of those people.

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

Postby bking14ers » Fri Aug 17, 2012 2:06 pm

I think the USA (in general) and the great outdoors is still a safe place. Just don't advertise your presents... I would make sure not to dress to revealing. Keep the merchandise covered up. I carry a gun on some trips with my wife because it makes her feel safer.

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

Postby SilverLynx » Fri Aug 17, 2012 2:06 pm

Camping alone is a really a matter of personal preference. I know gender can be a factor, but camping alone poses risks for both men and women.

I used to think I'd like camping alone, but a lot of things deter me from it: bears, mountain lions, strange people, etc. Plus I think it's just really helpful to have at least one other person around - to talk to, to share food with, to help set up and clean up. No doubt it can be done safely, but I wouldn't get a very good night sleep doing it. Maybe it just takes getting used to.

I don't think getting some kind of gun would be a bad idea. I've thought about it. An ice axe is a nice weapon, too!

Make sure someone knows where you are going, when you'll be back. Maybe don't camp in a conspicuous place if you don't want people bothering you. And of course pack up your food and trash and be sure to keep it out of your tent.
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Re: Can women safely camp alone on a 14er?

Postby MtnClimber82 » Fri Aug 17, 2012 4:57 pm

My friend just returned safely from 5 weeks on a thru-hike of the Colorado Trail. She did almost the entire thing solo with a few people doing short sections with her.

So yes, I think it can be a safe (and rewarding) endeavor. However, I think luck and chance have almost as much to do with your safety as anything.

As other have said, being assertive on the trail and around camp and not making your presence fully known are good ideas. Hope it works out well for you!

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

Postby Stereotype » Fri Aug 17, 2012 5:03 pm

Again, thank you all for your full responses! I am taking it all under advisement. I do know a woman who was attacked (in Miami) and the pepper spray didn't even slow the guy down. I was hoping that bear mace could be an alternative, but after truly considering using it in a tent, it doesn't make sense. A gun just seems like an expensive option.

It does seem like the advice is geared towards just using street-wisdom in the wild. Which I think I can handle, I was just concerned about the vulnerable sleep times. I am excited to get more involved, and I will have to make new friends to go camping and work my way towards my long-term goal.

Now I just need to find some free safety courses. 8)
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Re: Can women safely camp alone on a 14er?

Postby Brian C » Fri Aug 17, 2012 6:23 pm

coloradokevin wrote:...(most of which you didn't include in your cropped response):

The reason why I cropped the response is so it doesn't take up as much space in the forum and repeat already stated information. I guess it's a moot point since I'm going to be quoting a bunch here.

coloradokevin wrote:1)...There are plenty of documented instances where this has occurred, both against man and animal...

Where? I did look into this and could not find one instance of somebody in the backcountry successfully defending themselves from a human attacker with a gun. I did find instances of hikers (here is one example) attempting to defend themselves with a gun against a bear to tragic ends.

coloradokevin wrote:2) You made a point of saying that you don't need to worry about shooting yourself when carrying bear spray. You don't need to worry about it at all as long as you're responsible. Maybe you intended that comment in jest, but I don't think it was a relevant statement in answering the age old question about guns in the backcountry. The case you linked to involved an incident that happened well over 100 years ago.

I did post this because I thought it was funny and interesting but now that we're discussing it, do you assume the OP has the training/experience to safely/responsibly/effectively use a gun to defend themselves? Even if trained in firearms, there is no arguing that the regulations for pepper spray are much more relaxed than for firearms.

coloradokevin wrote:3) You talked about how the nice people on the trails won't want to talk with you if you carry a gun. I don't believe that this is necessarily true, or that they even need to know that you are carrying a gun.

It is true that many people are uncomfortable around guns. Concealed-carry permits bring on a whole new level of legal certification and training that is unrealistic for your average hiker to obtain.

coloradokevin wrote:...But, your post seemed to be painting a picture of someone who felt that carrying a gun was not a viable option for a backcountry traveler. Perhaps I was wrong in that assumption.
You were incorrect and jumped the gun for sure. My beliefs on firearms aside (note: feel free to assume, but I still have not said my actual feelings on the subject), I do believe that in this situation spray is a much more viable option for the OP than going through all the hoops/training to carry a firearm. Here is an interesting article on hiking with guns.
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Re: Can women safely camp alone on a 14er?

Postby Brian C » Fri Aug 17, 2012 6:24 pm

For the original poster: Do you what makes you comfortable! You'll have a great time and meet some wonderful people.
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Re: Can women safely camp alone on a 14er?

Postby mtn_hikin » Fri Aug 17, 2012 6:56 pm

Stereotype wrote:Again, thank you all for your full responses! I am taking it all under advisement. I do know a woman who was attacked (in Miami) and the pepper spray didn't even slow the guy down. I was hoping that bear mace could be an alternative, but after truly considering using it in a tent, it doesn't make sense. A gun just seems like an expensive option.

It does seem like the advice is geared towards just using street-wisdom in the wild. Which I think I can handle, I was just concerned about the vulnerable sleep times. I am excited to get more involved, and I will have to make new friends to go camping and work my way towards my long-term goal.

Now I just need to find some free safety courses. 8)

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