One of the main reasons that people don’t go into the wilderness is because they are too afraid of things like getting eaten by a bear. Most of these fears are completely irrational and, statistically, you are a lot safer in the wilderness than in a big city. But it still pays to be prepared and take precautions, so you should know what the best wilderness weapons are.
What Threats Are We Talking About?
Before we talk about what weapons are best for wilderness survival, we’ve got to break down which threats we are talking about.
Animal attacks in the wilderness are actually very rare. Most animals have learned that people are dangerous and will keep their distance from you. If you are smart while in the wilderness (such as by hanging a bear bag and keeping food away from the campsite), then you are probably not going to have any problems with wild animals. Note that a weapon is useless against some dangerous wild animals (like snakes or poisonous spiders). However, a weapon can help with these animals (to name just a few):
- Mountain lions
What about people?
My neighbors are constantly saying that they won’t go into the wild because there might be thieves, rapists, murderers, jail escapees, or other creepy weirdoes lurking about. In a SHTF situation where you’ve got to Bug Out in the wilderness, then I’d definitely want a weapon against starving masses of people you might encounter. But, in general, the wilderness is a lot safer than the city in terms of crime rates.
As Backpacker Magazine points out, on the Appalachian Trail, there is only 1 crime per 800,000 users! And there have only been 7 people killed there in the past 50 years. Consider that the Appalachian Trail has over 4 million users yearly and you start to realize how much safer the wilderness is than cities. Los Angeles has a population of about 4 million and has about 250 homicides yearly!
Unfortunately, there is no weapon which can protect against the biggest threat in the wild. That threat is STUPIDITY. Most people do not die in the wild from bear attacks (there were only 5 fatal cases in all of the 2000s), or even from snake bites. Most people die because they overestimate their abilities, push their limits too far, or are just straight-up unprepared. Please don’t go on some insane survivalist trek without first learning essential outdoor survival skills, like how to find water, how to purify water, what to pack, and basic first aid. If you are new to camping and hiking, take it slow! You don’t have to become a wilderness pro overnight!
Best Weapons for Wilderness Survival
1. Bear Pepper Spray
In my experienced opinion, this is the absolute best weapon for survival in the wilderness? Why? First off, you aren’t going to kill yourself or a friend if it goes off accidentally. Pepper spray is also very lightweight and can be carried on the side of your pack so it is easily accessible.
Pepper spray is also the BEST WEAPON AGAINST BEARS. I’m not talking about your typical pepper spray, but 1-2% capsicum spray. Bear spray will coat the eyes, lungs, and nose of a bear. If a bear is charging at you, a gun won’t stop it – but bear spray probably will. Bear spray is also effective against most other dangerous wild animals, and against people too. So, if you want an all-around good wilderness weapon, then bear pepper spray is it.
2. Rocks and Sticks
Why are rocks and sticks such good weapons in the wilderness? Because they are likely to be the only weapon within arm’s reach. As Outdoor Hub advises, you will simply want to back away slowly from most wild animals. With some, you need to stand your ground to show that you are not prey – such as by making yourself look as large as possible and speaking out loud to the animal. With some animals, such as cougars and coyotes, you should throw rocks at them to scare them off. If the rare case that the animal starts attacking, grab a branch and swing it at the animal. Aim for the nose and eyes when fighting off animals. Most will back down quickly when you fight back.
*Please note that each animal is different, and there are different things you should do when encountering them. For example, if standing your ground doesn’t work with a grizzly, then you should play dead. With black bears though, you should fight back.
I know a lot of people are going to disagree with me on this one, but a gun is generally NOT a good weapon for wilderness survival (I’m talking about your typical hike in the woods, not a SHTF Bug Out situation – for that, you’d want all the weapons you could muster up).
Some pro-gun enthusiasts will argue that a gun is a good weapon in the wilderness to defend against crazy people who might be living there, or against wild animals. But, statistically, you are lot more likely to injure yourself with a gun in the wilderness than protect yourself with one.
Still, I get why people would want a gun in the wilderness. You can’t call 911 in the wilderness! But there are a lot of practical reasons why a gun is at the bottom of this list of wilderness weapons:
- You have to carry the gun, and they are heavy! When every ounce matters, I don’t have room in my pack for a gun.
- A gun is only useful if you can access it quickly, which means you will have to keep it on the outside of your pack.
- Most wilderness animals are afraid of humans. And, if they do attack you, let’s hope that you are a really good shot. It isn’t easy to hit a bear, moose, wild boar, etc. when it is charging at you!
- A gun is pretty much useless against a bear. Bears can take multiple shots and still come gore you to death.
It is your right to carry a gun and, if it makes you feel more secure, then okay. But, if you want a gun to actually help you in a survival situation, then follow this advice from Truth About Guns:
- Nothing less than a .357 Magnum for black bears
- Nothing less than a .44 Magnum for grizzlies
- For Canadian brown bears, you better have a big bore rifle!
- Use bear spray as the first line of defense, a holster pistol as the second line of defense, and your large caliber revolver as the final line of defense