Packin’ For Backcountry Carry

If you’re venturing into the backcountry of America to hike, fish, camp or otherwise romp far off the beaten path, the option to arm yourself may become more prevalent.  While there is wide range of opinions on what to carry, there is more agreement on how to carry your weapon of choice during visits into the more remote sections of the country.

Part of that choice is tied into the type and level of activity in which you are engaged. Are you scouting out an area for a fall hunt somewhere in rattlesnake country? If so, having a sidearm handy might protect you from a biting encounter. Similarly, checking out the high country where mountain lions stalk might cause you to arm yourself as well. Even confronting an angry black bear as you visit the latrine is not out of the realm of possibilities in some areas.

In other cases, it’s not the furry, four-legged, teeth-and-claws variety of varmint you might need protection against. There are areas in remote mountain valleys or uninhabited stretches near national borders where you might inadvertently come across people growing illegal substances or even trafficking humans through areas where you don’t want to be. Whatever your concern, how to carry your sidearm into the backcountry offers the armed adventurer several options.

Standard waist or hip holsters positioned at your belt line, or hanging off your upper thigh when wearing a backpack can limit access while compromising comfort. Wide and/or padded shoulder and waist belts typical come into contact with your body at points also occupied by the belt or strap on some holsters.  If immediate access is not a concern, stowing a firearm in a pouch within your pack is a simple and direct method of carry.

Some manufacturers make small pouches for carrying weapons, either designed to attach to shoulder straps on large backpacks, or slung from their own shoulder straps. There are also waist/fanny packs designed specifically for smaller firearms – and include extra pockets and pouches of clips and other accessories. The size of the weapon and how it is worn relative to other gear are all factors in choosing this sort of carry.

Shoulder holsters and chest holsters are carried on the wearer’s front, upper torso. The ease of access to firearms carried by these chest type holsters makes them extremely popular for most outdoor sportsmen. They can be worn independently of the backpack straps if the configuration of the adjustable straps enables the wearer to customize how it fits. Fishermen/women wearing waders can adjust the holster depending upon the water depth and the top of the waders.

The fact that a holster can be worn independent of other body gear gives is a critical advantage over other methods of carrying. Two important factors play into the decision of where to carry your holster.

If you attach your holster or other form of gun case to the shoulder or waist strap of your backpack, you remove your weapon every time you take off that pack. Using a chest holster or pouch that attaches independently to your body keeps you armed anytime you become separated from that primary pack.

A second, life-saving consideration for utilizing a chest holster over other carrying positions is where that holster/weapon is located when you are forced to the ground – perhaps in a defense position against an animal attack. The chest holster allows you to use one hand to fight off the animal’s attack while freeing the other hand to draw the weapon.  A holster on your waist or leg may not be within reach if you have dropped into a defensive and protective fetal position.

Even a casual walk in the woods might feel safer if you are carrying a weapon. Several backpacks are designed with firearms in mind, and offer a variety of back or front pack options that protect your weapon while offering space to carry other personal or outdoor items as well.

If your sense of security in the backcountry while camping, fishing, off-roading or even just strolling includes carrying a firearm, decide upon your priorities and then look for the holster or pack that addresses those concerns. Be safe; have fun!

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One Response to “Packin’ For Backcountry Carry”

  1. William Parker

    Size matters but the small pistol you take with you is better than the larger caliber that gets left in your vehicle. Carry!