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  1. #1

    Default Knives AND self-defense on A.T.

    So, when I first (the only time) went on the A.T., I thought I felt pretty comfortable with the place, and the safety aspect. I'm an east coaster, from Quebec, I'm perfectly bilingual, I'm white, I blend in as a chubby American.
    I'm a pretty big guy, AND I knew consciously that the A.T. was very non-violent, and that I would generally be very safe, AND that the area I was going into did not really have natural predators... Bears in MD and PA being few and far in between.

    But I still brought a 'small' (heavy AF) foldable Gerber knife I thought was very nice, and a tiny pepper-spray canister. On top of my Victorinox Spartan knife, and of course my Victorinox Classic SD knife.

    Honestly, I think that the 'visiting the US' factor encouraged me to bring the spray. In fact, over just some 130-150 miles, I got asked numerous times whether I was carrying a gun... (what??)... and got told that they would not ever hike like that without a gun. Holy moley. Man, guns scare the hell out of me, and I would never want to own one even if I could...

    Today, though, I seriously think that I would go with ONLY the Victorinox Classic SD. I think that the only features I'd be missing are the can opener and the wine bottle opener. The first being EASILY replaced with a super light-weight army opener, and the second being totally useless, as anybody offering me wine will have one, lol.

    In fact, one of the most stressful aspects of my hike was feeling like I had to dispose of the bloody dog spray before getting on the train back to Canada, in NYC. I ended up tossing it into a garbage bin on advice of port authority officers, and I felt really, really awful doing that (what if it pops? what if someone takes it and assaults somebody? urghhh!).

    I would like to know how you people feel about safety, then. There was one night when, and I feel really stupid for it, I told two people I'd judged to be weird rednecks (they were just two nice people day-hiking with little gear, lol) that I was thinking of camping at that shelter (alone) and hiking faster to catch up with some trail friends the next day. That whole night, I kept getting paranoid and thinking that maybe they were coming back to kill me or something. I discovered that I have a big, irrational fear of being alone in the woods... I always knew I was afraid of the dark woods, but that night really made it all very concrete.

    How do you deal with safety, AND, HOW do you deal with being alone in the woods, especially on a trail where others can find you?

    Thank you
    -A humble and very open Spork

  2. #2

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    Who is trying to find you?...
    If you are alone in the woods that sounds pretty safe lol

    I feel real safe on the AT. A lot safer then at the grocery store. The most unsafe time I feel is when I am in a unfamiliar town for resupply. Here are some rules that I follow:

    -I do not camp near roads. Even gravel roads. Good rule of thumb that can not ALWAYS be followed but most of the time you can is 1 mile from a road.
    -Morning and nighttime check ins with family or loved ones when service allows. It gives them a piece of mind that you are okay, and a last known location in case something goes wrong.
    -Be weary of what kind of help you accept. Some folks have taken accommodation offers along the trail and ended having really creepy experiences. If you haven't heard of good reports/ experiences from the person, if they are not in the guide books then probably would be smart to at least not take the advance solo. As in if other hikers are going, go but I would not go alone off of the "good trail vibes".
    -Trust your gut, if you get to a shelter or campsite and the folks there give you a bad vibe, always be prepared to go a little further but try and get that gut feeling prior to setting up camp and the sun is setting. If I have chosen a site that I can not have my space, and others are around I try to get a feel for the crowd with my pack still on so that if i don't like what I see I can simply appear to only be stopping for a break and then move along.
    -Lastly, trust your gut! Listen to yourself. Got a bad feeling? Act on it before you have to react.
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  3. #3
    illabelle's Avatar
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    The kind of hiker that makes me nervous are those that carry big scary knives and talk about how dangerous the trail is.


    Seriously, the primary danger to hikers is falling. All of us fall. Most of the time it's a little slip, maybe a bruised ego, or a stubbed toe. But sometimes it's the kind of fall where you get hurt. And if you're alone and/or unprepared, being hurt can precipitate a cascade of difficulties. Like an unintended night without a way to stay warm and dry, and being unable to call or signal for help.

  4. #4
    Garlic
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    I guess I deal with safety by getting out of town as much as I can. The woods are a peaceful place.

    I feel most exposed if I have to drive to a trailhead. Now that's scary.
    "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." John Muir on expedition planning

  5. #5

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    Good advice from Gambit.

    I go go with statistics. I believe the most dangerous part about a hike is the drive to the trail head. Yup, I know random murders have happened on the AT but, statistically speaking, they are very rare.

    To put it into a bit of a ridiculous perspective, awhile back, I got into a discussion about relative risk with someone who knew a guy down in the Caribbean that wore a hard hat anytime he was under a coconut palm. He had sustained a traumatic brain injury as a young man from being struck on the head by a coconut. According to that most scientific of sources, Google, there are around 4 fatalities per year, worldwide from shark attacks. There are around 80 fatalities per year, worldwide from injuries sustained by falling coconuts. So, statistically speaking, one is 20 times more likely to die from a falling coconut to the head than a shark attack.

    What's a person to do who wants to stay safe? Wear your seatbelt, don't swim where there has been shark activity reported and look overhead if there are coconut palms around. On the AT, do what Gambit suggests, listen to your gut and look overhead . . . not for coconuts but, for widow makers before you set up your tent or hammock.

  6. #6
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    While you can't argue that 'stranger danger' is non-existent on the trail, I'd certainly agree with all of the previous posts that in general there are MUCH greater concerns. Injury, illness from water and fecal matter, etc. Use your best judgement about the people you interact with and move on when the voice of reason tells you to get away from someone. As far as knives and self defense? I carry a dermasafe knife. It's basically a razor blade in a plastic carrier. Enough to do what I need on the trail, but hardly a fighting knife. I'd rather carry an extra granola bar than a bigger knife.

  7. #7
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    Hard to kill them ticks with a knife ! They are your biggest danger hiking.

    thom

  8. #8

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    We pack our fears. They tell more about us than they do about any real issues on the trail.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cheyou View Post
    Hard to kill them ticks with a knife ! They are your biggest danger hiking.

    thom
    Reminds me of the way to get rid of body lice which I "learned" in the Army. Shave half your crotch and light the remaining hair on fire, then stab them with an ice pick when they come running out. I know, TMI.
    "It goes to show you never can tell." - Charles Edward Anderson Berry

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sporky View Post
    ...I discovered that I have a big, irrational fear of being alone in the woods... I always knew I was afraid of the dark woods, but that night really made it all very concrete.

    How do you deal with safety, AND, HOW do you deal with being alone in the woods, especially on a trail where others can find you?...
    Safety? Camp away from roads and party spots. Don't discuss timetable/camp plans with others who don't fit a fellow hiker profile. Move on if other people around me make me uncomfortable (pretty rare in my experience).

    The irrational fear part is likely going to take time to overcome - precisely because it's irrational. You can't reason it away quickly or you already would have. But the more time you spend in the woods without being killed by a crazed maniac should lessen the fear. It's not an unusual fear. We are fed stories all our lives of vicious animals, people, and monsters in the dark spooky woods. Most are just fiction, but obviously a small fraction are true. So, will the fear ever go away COMPLETELY? Probably not. Add that we all have some degree of instinctive fears - the two biggest being falling and loud noises. But we also tend to fear the unknown mostly because we loose control. We are more at the mercy of other things. The woods are dark and silent. So, if say, we hear a noise that we can't identify (as an owl or squirrel or ?) it raises our anxiety a bit. And then we remember those two redneck day hikers we talked to, and then the relatively few real tragic events that have taken place, and the irrational fear spirals on from there.

  11. #11
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    "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself "

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by JNI64 View Post
    "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself "
    For me it's "The only Gear you have to Fear is Gear Itself."

  13. #13
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    Like so many others, I've been asked if I carry a gun with me...and like so many others, I say no and can offer different reasons for not doing so. Then they'll ask, "Well do you at least carry a knife?", and they don't think it's one bit funny when I pull out my little swiss classic.

    The truth is, if you're going to carry a knife for self-defense, you'd better be darn sure you know how to use it, or more likely you'll be the one who gets hurt. Just like a gun, simply carrying a knife doesn't necessarily make you any safer. You still have to use your wits, and as everyone says, trust your gut.
    fortis fortuna adjuvat

  14. #14

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    We had a case with a local guy out for a stroll near the Ocmulgee River on public lands who was attacked by a rabid coyote.Fortunately this individual had a pocket knife on him big enough to get the job done.Although the damage from the attack was not catastrophic,what nearly killed him was his reaction to the rabies vaccine.Stuff can happen out there even if it's rare.....................

  15. #15

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    Let me start a response with an old Journal Entry...... https://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/ent...rrational-Fear

    Now let me inform you that I have learned to travel alone and hike alone and fear seldom, if ever, comes into the equation anymore. That trepidation, even panic, happens to all at some point, but apart from being a useful warning, with time and experience it should be less and less frequent.

    You'll be fine. Oh, and don't frighten others by carrying weapons...ie large knives & guns
    ...the maddest of all is to see life as it is, and not as it should be. Cervantes

  16. #16
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    Self defense against? You said it - irrational fear. Unless specifically trained in using a knife for self defense, NO. You're not going to scare everyone off with the knife options you listed. Pulling a knife on another might actually result in someone else pulling a knife, gun, crossbow, slingshot, tuba, foot or fist on you.


    Despite sometimes maybe never backpacking with a concealed sidearm for me it's most about situational awareness. Krav maga and taekwondo um maybe help... lol. I don't unnecessarily fret about it.



    With today's tech and other resources it's made it harder to truly disappear. Very few have the resources to go off grid long term stepping 100% away from their previous life. Next time out, while laying in your sleeping bag look up. Satellite facial recognition. We see you. Dont assume that wall you're hiding behind, and certainly not nylon tent fabric, makes you a ghost either. Looking through walls is a reality. It's not in the future. It's being increasingly developed and utilized right now. China and the U.S. are some of the biggest players vying for global data surveillance and analysis. It has been known to even help get some elected or find people thinking they are hiding in caves.

  17. #17
    A proper quick, brave, steady, ready gentleman! ocourse's Avatar
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    Lots of silly posts. There is always, and anywhere a chance of danger. Be safe and protect yourself.
    I've learned....
    That a smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks.

  18. #18
    ME => GA 19AT3 rickb's Avatar
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    Seven thru hikers (yes, thru hikers) have been murdered on the AT, each many hundreds of miles into their respective journeys.

    How one wishes to interpret that is up to them.

  19. #19
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    Am I correct the murder at the cow camp shelter has never been solved?

  20. #20

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    The odds are much higher that you will die on the way to the trailhead. What's your defense?

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