Top 3 Weapons for Wilderness Survival

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 using a bear canister), 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):

  • Bears
  • Wolves
  • Coyotes
  • Cougars
  • Mountain lions
  • Moose

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.


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 it is. It can be had on Amazon here.


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.


3. Gun

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, you can’t call 911 in the backcountry!

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

Do you carry a weapon into the wilderness?  Let us know in the comments below.

I’m Jacob Hunter, founder of Primal Survivor.
I believe in empowering people with the knowledge to prepare and survive in the modern world.

More about Jacob here.

Leave a comment

  1. I do carry a gun on hikes thru the woods. I’ve come across idiots there too. Here’s a reality check, they are everywhere!

  2. I always carry a handgun in the woods. It is only pulled in dire emergencies. It can be used for several emergency situations. Fire starting, a sinan tool. And peace of mind.

  3. If I have clothes on I have a gun.
    If you are in the woods carry a revolver with the first chamber having snake shot ( Bye Bye Snake ) and good hunting rounds in the rest.
    Trust me if you hit a bear at 75 yards that is coming at you I promise (.357) you won’t have to hit him but twice, He won’t necessarily die , But he won’t hang around to get shot a 3rd time either.
    If one comes out of nowhere and is on you.?
    Pray to God, Because as a Born again Christian you will either be delivered from the Bear or be going to your Heavenly Home.
    But I did enjoy and agree with 99.999% of what you said.
    Hey, That’s more than I believe myself

  4. The only bear that ever charged me, a large black boar, was sure as hell stopped right in his tracks with one shot, (a .50 muzzle loader), I carry a single shot shotgun (20 or 12),as bear protection when wilderness camping and canoeing and feel confident it will work fine.

  5. I am from Alaska and when we are in bear country we carry pepper spray if needed for bears and moose, and someone has either a .44 or 12 gauge with slugs and 00. However, if we are out in the wilderness miles away from assistance, we also have a .22 for ptarmigan or hare. That is the best meat getter. It would be pretty dumb to shoot a moose in a survival circumstance, and really difficult to explain – it’s illegal out of season and wighout tags. Besides, if you’re healthy and trying to hike out, a hunk of moose or caribou will spoil. Think spray and as a last resort a gun, because attacks when they do happen are often from close range, sudden, violent, and spray is probably your better line of initial defense.

  6. A guy I worked with and his wife generally camp and back-pack in the Rockies in Colorado. They both carry bear spray. They also both carry a side arm. .357 mags. with 20 extra rounds in loops on their belts. On the side of his pack he also carried a sawed-off, stock shortened 12 gauge w/bird shot. perfect weapon to shoot a predator in the face to put their eyes out. And if your weapons are part of your everytime gear…you will get used to carrying them. Just make sure you have a comfortable side rig. A Sam Brown strap helps.

    2 years ago they were threatened by a large black bear that ran around a tree and confronted them. He looked as though he was going to attack one of them but was trying to decide which.
    He hit him with his pepper spray and he immediately started to rub his face in the dirt. He was pissed. Knowing that they had to come back that way in a couple of days……He shot the bear twice in the head. Pushed it’s body over an embankment. They could’ve just left. But they decided he wasn’t safe for their return or any others that may come that way.

  7. The guides I’ve traveled with in Alaska carry bear spray and a large bore rifle or shotgun. The only time I’ve ever seen either used in the field is when a guide mistakenly fired his weapon at a rock on the side of the trail, and a bullet fragment hit another hiker in the arm.

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