Hiking the Appalachian Trail


Brother in Arms
May 4, 2007, 07:37 PM
hello Everyone
I thought I let everyone know I am signing off of the Highroad for about 6 months starting June 1st to thru hike the Appalachian Trail. I am heading south bound from Maine to Georgia. Unfortunately carrying concealed on the AT seems like a legal imposability, considering I have to pass through Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachuesetts, Connecticut,New York, New Jersey,Pensylvania,Maryland,West Virginia, Virginia,Tennesee, North Carolina and Georgia.

That not being bad enough in several state parks it is illegal to carry a firearm.

So it seems I am out of luck as using a firearm for self defense on the trail, not to mention the variety of laws having to do with chemical and non-firearm choices.

I will be carrying a knife for certain but more as a tool than as a weapon. I may take to carrying stout stave for walking purposes which is an excellent tool for self...defense...other than that anyone have any suggestions that wont wind me up in the clink?

Brother in Arms

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May 4, 2007, 07:40 PM
A friend from work just did that. He left a few weeks ago and hopes to be done in 4 months or so.
If you run into a Thermal Analyst from LA tell him the guy that moved to CO is saying hi.

Good luck and God's speed.

May 4, 2007, 07:42 PM
Best of luck! Are you going to post to a blog along the way? Even if you don't, please let us know what trail name you adopt -- your name will probably turn up in other trail journals.

May 4, 2007, 07:49 PM
I read "A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson while I was in Kuwait last spring and the AT is a new life-goal of mine. Check it out if you haven't read it yet. Also, get yourself a nice slingshot to keep your mind busy and your aim sharp along the trail. Maybe you can harvest a fat rabbit or grouse for the evening fire along the way. A large stone to the forehead or chest would keep most would-be attackers (two or four legged) from coming any closer as well. Bear spray wouldn't be a bad idea, either.

May 4, 2007, 08:29 PM
I suggest a trash picker over a staff. A wooden handled tool 5' long with a 4'' metal spike on the end would ruin someone's day. It is also low key and looks in place. Best I can think of sorry....

May 4, 2007, 09:32 PM
Definitely a dog training whistle and an audible one just incase of emergencies. Make sure anyone hiking with you has the same as well, two friends and myself were checking traps one day on a levee and were surrounded by a group of about 18 wild dogs and we each had one. They were enough to keep a thirty yard buffer between us and them until we got to the trucks and got our guns. I hated to do it but if they were going to attack us, luckily we were prepared, they would probably do the same to others and I couldn't have a child's injury/death on my conscience so we put down as many as we could before the others ran away.

Also, an airhorn would be very handy for emergency confrontations, a couple of emergency road flares are just very handy in the woods if you have any space for them.

Just incase of an attack by a rogue bear, I would also bring a PETA member to distract them while you run away:D

I really like the garbage picker idea, too.

Have fun and be safe.

Edit: Please keep a diary of your daily events, some of us would like to hear about some of the more interesting things that occur.

ryan in maine
May 5, 2007, 01:56 AM
wow. starting with Maine? ouch! convenient tho, eh?

when I hiked the Maine portion my father carried an S&W Model 60 revolver. he hiked most of the trail (I couldn't join due to school). he carried the revolver and various loads to shoot black bears/moose, humans/coyotes/bobcats, and snakes.

I don't advocate carrying on federally maintained portions of the trail, but I ain't telling if you ain't telling (hell, we saw a couple guys carrying Marlin lever-action rifles strapped to their packs and were jealous). the chances of anyone knowing are slim to none anyways. maybe there are ways of being able to maximize your carrying potential by mailing your firearm to yourself via checkpoints. probly too complicated and not worth the effort tho.

other than that obvious exchange, others have brought up good ideas. a hiking stick/garbage sticker. bear spray. wildly loud whistle. a good pitching arm.

since I wasn't old enough to CCW @ the time I hiked the trail I took an HI khukri and a Dozier with me. no one we crossed paths with thought anything of it aside from a couple questions about the khukri and what kind of blade it was.

May 5, 2007, 02:14 AM
Good idea not to bring a handgun, even though it might sound like a good idea, it is illegal to carry a weapon in several of those states without out a state issued license. Though prosecution can very from prison to a simple fine depending on the state. In Mass it is a mandatory one year in prison for breaking the state gun laws, NY, NJ, CT and MD are not better. The other states you might get off with a warning. And I would not want to spend a minute in prison if I could have avoided it.

May 5, 2007, 03:15 AM
How about a hatchet or machete hanging on your belt. They are camp tools after all.

geim druth
May 5, 2007, 07:27 AM
A hiking stick of some kind is really handy, and you can practice spearing pine cones with it as you walk. I've heard of people using a long-handled ice axe as a hiking stick. You might have to fashion some sort of cap for the butt, but you'd have a very effective weapon right in your hand as you hike.

Have a great time!

May 5, 2007, 08:17 AM
Here's a thread you might be interested in if you haven't seen this forum.


beaucoup ammo
May 5, 2007, 08:56 AM
That's great. You'll remember this for the rest of your life. The trash pole is a very good idea..as is the hatchet. A very solid wooden staff at the least and a selection of knives. Mace perhaps? Hang your edibles at night, and enjoy..it's truely a once in a life time op.

I hope you are in good shape. Remember to keep your ankles bound tight, and don't get hurt on the trail. Tke some insect spray and plenty of water. Some sort of compact radio to call for help if the worst happens.


May 5, 2007, 09:13 AM
Well, I think you could probably bring a gun with you, it'd be the same as any other form of travel btwn. states with a firearm--would have to be locked in a case, etc. in the unfriendly areas. I don't know what some of the anti-gun states would treat it in their parks though, as protected under the federal law or not, I'm really not sure. I know VT won't be a problem carrying a gun for the most part, neither should NH if you open carry there (except on national parks that is), but MD and some of the others aren't so good..., so you could probably at least have one with you, even if not quickly accessible through much of the trip--it'd be better than nothing though...

May 5, 2007, 10:35 AM
ummm.... concealed means concealed... do you have a CHL for any state?
Have to weigh risk / reward....

May 5, 2007, 10:57 AM
Back when I did a lot of backpacking, I carried a machete strapped to the right side of my backpack. I could reach back over my right shoulder with my right hand and draw it very easily. I found a machete a lot more useful then a axe.

I also always used a hiking staff. I made my own from 1" aluminum poles of at least 1/8 thickness. I would mount a inverted coat hook at the top. The hook comes in handy for so many different things. From hanging the staff from a tree limb to hooking a small tree to help you pull yourself up a small hill. Make it about shoulder high in length. It will be your first line of defense most times, to either keep something away from you or smack something.

It will be a great adventure and I wish you luck.

May 5, 2007, 07:17 PM
I envy you. Wish I could do the same. But who has that kind of time to set aside for such an adventure?
It's a shame that a lot of laws are more geared towards preventative measures than actually punishing misdeeds.
That machete idea sounds good though.

Brother in Arms
May 6, 2007, 09:32 PM
Thanks for the interest everyone...

as for making time for the Trip..I figure it will take m 6 months to complete it and I am not currently in a the best of shape which is part of why I am taking the trip...I look at it this way I don't own anything and I don't care about my job...so why not hit the trail. As for weapons...guess a staff will have to do...

I wonder if the Mclure Volkmer act would apply in this situation...as in transporting a legal firearm from Maine to Georgia...

Brother in Arms

May 6, 2007, 10:04 PM
I am envious. I hope you have a great time and return safely, with just enough things going wrong to make a good story.

If I were in your position and unwilling to CCW then I would make or invest in a very stout stave (hickory, ash, white wax, or a resilient tropical hardwood) and fashion a spear head for it. The Cold Steel bushman could come into play very quickly if you tapered the shaft appropriately, and you could also secure it with a well placed hole and lanyard, or even a wooden peg. The knife itself is lightweight and hard wearing (more than the price would suggest) and the hollow handle helps it adapt perfectly as a thrusting weapon.

I wouldn't count on defending myself from multiple predators, or one large one, but it's better than a pointy stick. Sort of. :D

May 6, 2007, 11:01 PM
I have been really wanting to hike the AT. It is pretty much at the top of my wish to do list. Actually just hitting the road and going wherever my feet take me is pretty much at the top of my list. I am currently reading Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, which is about a Chris McCandless, aka Alex Supertramp, who hiked a large part of America, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_McCandless
On the gun issue, I would have no problem carrying some type of firearm with me, be it handgun or rifle. It is none of the governments business so I would still carry, we shouldn't let them take away our rights.

May 6, 2007, 11:08 PM
For those of you recommending large knife carry- if he intends on entering CT, carrying a knife that's got a 4"+ edged portion of the blade makes an individual a candidate for a prison term up to 3 years, a fine, and a felony conviction.

May 6, 2007, 11:09 PM
Tennis shoes, good socks, and a good walking stick.

Be sure to mail yourself out goodies at checkpoints.

May 6, 2007, 11:12 PM
Deep concealment.


It's a gun-free zone, and you know what that makes it.

May 6, 2007, 11:54 PM
Screw the law. Carry anyway. If you carry concealed who's gong to know?
I would get something like a Smith model 317 or one of their other super light weight revolvers. Something made out of that unobtainium stuff.
How's the saying go? "I'd rather be judged by twelve than carried by six."

May 7, 2007, 12:22 AM
Screw the law. Carry anyway. If you carry concealed who's gong to know?
I would get something like a Smith model 317 or one of their other super light weight revolvers. Something made out of that unobtainium stuff.
How's the saying go? "I'd rather be judged by twelve than carried by six."

yup yup, :D

May 7, 2007, 12:50 AM
Good luck "brother in arms" :)

I've spent a lot of time hiking different parts of the appalachian trail myself. There's nothing in the world like it. Take care and be safe...

May 7, 2007, 08:01 AM
isn't there a "peaceful journey" law about carrying while traveling thru non friendly states?

May 7, 2007, 09:06 AM
Remember on long trip like this, the things that weigh a lot better be the things you value for the comfort or neccesity they represent. For the staff idea, I'd substitute some modern hiking poles. Like ski poles, but adjustable for length. They have a very sharp carbide tip, and most importantly, they are light. One for each hand helps you on climbs and cushions you on decents.

Enjoy the trail. Make the most of it.


May 7, 2007, 12:59 PM
isn't there a "peaceful journey" law about carrying while traveling thru non friendly states?

Passing through in a car is one thing but hiking through is different. Second not all states recognized the Federal "Peacefully Journey" law. I know Mass, NY, and NJ do not recognize the peaceful journey laws so bringing a unlicensed firearm into one of those state is technically illegal, and police are know to confiscating weapon found in cars which are passing through the state. Peaceful journey law does not protect one hiking through a state. No matter how you slice it is not a good idea.

I should add Mass, has its own version of the Peacefully Journey laws, which make exemptions to long arms being brought into the state, but handguns are placed under severe restrictions. As only being allowed into the state if one is using it in a sanctioned competition, or LEO.

May 7, 2007, 01:15 PM
I've done a lot of day hiking on the AT and did some backpacking in the eighties. Everybody I knew carried, and that was before shall-issue. Deplorable scofflaws!

My favorite part of the trail is the stretch between the icewater springs shelter and Newfound gap, on the Tennessee/North Carolina border. Get there when the huckleberries are ripe, June or July, iirc.

May 7, 2007, 03:14 PM
Nice staff. Check it out.


May 7, 2007, 04:07 PM
Good luck on the hike. It has always been a dream of mine to throughhike the trail myself. I have done day hikes on various sections though. If I remember correctly slingshots are illegal in NJ; they, allong with airguns are considered, of all things, firearms:banghead:
NJ Firearms Laws (http://www.state.nj.us/njsp/info/pdf/firearms/njac-title13-ch54.pdf)

May 7, 2007, 05:16 PM
In recent years, hiking has become one of my true pleasures. I am lucky to live where I can step out my door and into the woods, but my hiking is mostly confined to day hikes. I really want to hike some of the great trails here in the US, and of course the Appalachian is one every hiker dreams of. I plan to start with the Superior Hiking Trail, 200 miles of trail on the ridge overlooking Lake Superior.

Good luck on your journey, and keep us posted!

May 7, 2007, 05:36 PM
I've done a lot of day hiking on the AT and did some backpacking in the eighties. Everybody I knew carried, and that was before shall-issue. Deplorable scofflaws!

a guy i went to college with did some hiking with some friends in the smoky mountains back in the early 70s.

the rangers told them they should carry a minimum of a 357 magnum with them as bear protection, and even had impromptu shooting classes for those who were not that proficient. the four of them hiking together rotated carrying the thing because it was pretty heavy. never saw any bears, so the only shooting they did was with the park rangers.

May 7, 2007, 05:36 PM

May 7, 2007, 05:50 PM
Try the PCT. Fewer obnoxious localities and actual mountains. ;)

Browns Fan
May 8, 2007, 08:09 AM
Back in the early 80's, my sister knew this guy who used to hike the AT every summer. He said the strangest people he's ever seen are the one's he's met on the trail. I'll bet there are even stranger folks out there these days.

Watch your six.

May 8, 2007, 10:03 AM
Carry. In questionable states hide it deep in your pack. If you are mature enough not to wave it around, show other people, or let other people know you have it you should be OK. Most people who get nabbed will do one of those things.

If, OTOH, you are one of those people who gets all excited about having a gun with you and has to let SOMEONE know, leave it at home.

May 8, 2007, 10:53 AM
I agree with the other comments, carry anyway. Spending 6 months in the mountains hiking a trail that runs almost the entire east cost is a VERY different situation than briefly visiting an unfriendly state in your car. A lot of bad encounters could happen in the overly isolated sections of the trail, and ultimately you may only have yourself to depend on to get out of a situation that could end far worse than getting caught for breaking any law.

As others have said, concealed means concealed, so as long you exercise discretion just like you would while carrying anywhere else and don't give LE any reason to suspicious of you, you'll likely be just fine.

May 8, 2007, 11:17 AM
He said the strangest people he's ever seen are the one's he's met on the trail. That was certainly my experience. While hiking the AT certainly sounds nifty, I will not go backcountry anywhere that forces me to be disarmed.

Also note that in many places on the AT, open fires and large sharp pointy objects are also proscribed. <sigh>

May 8, 2007, 12:10 PM
A really big can of bear pepper and a machete. But, nothing will be as effective against someone who is armed and determined to do you harm as a firearm. But even an armed hiker can be bushwhacked, so nothing is 100%.


May 8, 2007, 12:13 PM
isn't there a "peaceful journey" law about carrying while traveling thru non friendly states?

In a nutshell, no, not the way you would need it to be. A federal peaceable journey law would apply to federal law only, not to state laws.

May 8, 2007, 06:20 PM
In a nutshell, no, not the way you would need it to be. A federal peaceable journey law would apply to federal law only, not to state laws.

Sorry for the hijack.

I'm confused...How can a state law undercut a federal law?

May 8, 2007, 06:57 PM
I'm confused...How can a state law undercut a federal law?

Read and become less confused:


May 8, 2007, 07:18 PM
I have two friends that thru hiked, one in 95 the other in 89. Neither admitted to carrying anything beyond a staff and a knife. Remember that your going to be doing 2,000 miles+. Weight is the biggest enemy (ok maybe lack of water in places). I would opt for a sturdy hiking staff, a nice belt knife like the Moria's that you can carry and maybe either a trail axe or a cold steel shovel. OC Spray might be another alternative to a gun. Personally, you have the right to make choices and I would never tell someone to break the law (despite my thinking that the laws not allowing carry are idiotic and goes against our God given rights of self-defense). IF I was going to carry, an ultralight .38/.357 with a 3 inch barrel would be my choice. I wouldn't bother with snake loads (i.e. a staff works fine for that) but strictly for 2 legged human and 4 legged bear protection. I'd opt for a well built 158 grain JHP with a couple of speed strips and call it a day. Finding a hiking buddy on the trail, travelling sections with groups, watching the resupply and trailhead points would be my areas of biggest concern.

May 8, 2007, 07:24 PM
Here's what I carry in unfriendly territory.
Rock Pick. Very useful for driving tent stakes, chipping off a neat piece of quartz, breaking out side windows in an emergency, able to carry it almost ANYWHERE, even "weapons free zones" as it's not a weapon!

Sad part is, that this discussion even has to take place. We need Full Second Amendment roghts, not this liberal crap for "our" protection:cuss:

May 8, 2007, 07:37 PM
When I took my 5000 mile scooter trip through most of the western states, including California, I carried in spite of the legality of it.

As it turned out, I'm damned glad I did. I didn't need to pull it but I sure had my hand on it. Gun laws! :(

May 8, 2007, 08:37 PM
I have hiked a good bit of the AT, from GA to NC, parts of Va, Pa, all of NJ and the New England states. Not all at once, I could never bring myself to ditch it all for that long to do a thru hike, one of my biggest regrets. Many of my friends have pulled thru hikes.

Get yourself a good leatherman, a good folder (ex: CRKT m16 Carson) and a stout staff. Ash, hickory or Oak. Think of it as a project and carve it along the way.

Check this link.. http://www.the-exiles.org/manual/lang/lang.htm

Drill a hole in it and run a leather thong thru it for a wrist tie. The tie will also come in handy if and when you need to strap a fixed blade or folder to it to use as a spear.

Just keep your wits about you, camp in groups, help others if needed and have a good time.

Try to hop on at rest stops and lets us know how your doing. Trail Angels are always ready to hop up.

May 9, 2007, 12:30 AM
No useful suggestions, but if you want, give me a shout when you hit Kent in CT and I'll come buy you some Pizza.

Green Lantern
May 9, 2007, 12:46 AM
I thought I had nothing of value to add to this...really, it's just my "old-timers" setting in a few decades early:

Around 1997, a 15-year old boy murdered a couple on a lookout on the NC/TN border for the money they had. I forget the exact amount but it was less than $20. The lookout was a short way from the AT. Part of a state park "gun free zone," IIRC.

A year or so ago, a body was discovered "dumped" off the highway probably less than a mile from the AT. Apparently beaten to death in Johnson City TN.

My memory fails me, but I also think that ANOTHER body was found in the woods in that area before that as well. It was a big to-do to figure out which state (NC or TN) should have jurisdiction in the case.

IMHO, those that think that every "critter," two OR four legged, you encounter in wilderness areas is there for reasons as noble as you just because it's "nature," needs to get some more of that good mountain air to their brains somehow.

May 9, 2007, 12:51 AM
Wonder if a compound bow would be illegal? Some of the newer ones are incredibly light. Get a few out of state hunting permits, a good skinning knife and saw and you'd have the best campfire meals around.

May 23, 2007, 09:48 PM
I've hiked much of the AT w/o sidearm (over 600 miles of it) , though would have preferred one. I was much more concerned with 2-legged varmints than 4-legged ones.
*Most reassurance I got was camping in the bush well away from the car-accessible areas and the campgrounds.


dance varmint
May 23, 2007, 10:03 PM
Recall the two women murdered in their tent in Shenandoah National Park within weeks when Bill Bryson passed through there.

You should read his book, because you sound sort of like his hiking companion. And beware Rocksylvania, "where boots go to die".

May 23, 2007, 10:34 PM
either the 12 guage type or the lil pen flares

May 23, 2007, 11:00 PM

Sharpen the edges and you've got a formidable weapons that nobody will look twice at.

May 24, 2007, 12:05 AM
I hate to say it, but from what I have read about some of the people that have been attacked on the AT, I would still probably carry a gun anyway. I know some of you will have some bad things to say about me for making that comment, but I would chance it. Thats just me though. I knew a guy that did that exact same hike and he said he carried a Ruger SP101 in a "book safe" http://www.diversion-safes.com/booksafe.htm in the form of a Bible and no one ever questioned it. They just thought he was a really religious person.

Good luck to you!

May 24, 2007, 12:09 AM
Fiskars 14" Hatchet. Runs about $20 at Home Depot and Lowes. It's light but heavy enough to chop and long enough to let you get some leverage unlike their short handled backpacking axe. Along with the normal resupply items you might consider sending a separate maintenance kit with a knife/axe sharpener, seam seal, rubber cement, replacement carbide walking stick tips, needle/thread, 100 mph tape (much better than duct), etc. that you can use to tune up your gear and then mail it on to the next location.



May 24, 2007, 12:14 AM
There have been a number of sick, twisted individuals that have preyed on hikers. Feral dogs and other more natural problems occur.

Guns may be a no-no on parts of the trail, but being dead stinks no matter where you are. Use your common sense as to what equipement you need before you take that 1st step!

Brother in Arms
May 24, 2007, 07:59 PM
Hey everyone

I am getting ready for hitting the trail and this has been a good thread...June 2nd will be the day I get up to Baxter state park ( hopefully hike katahdin if the trail is open because is snowed in right now) then I am heading south...

Thanks for the thought and advice everyone

I have taken everything into consideration and I agree being dead sucks.

Brother in Arms

May 24, 2007, 08:49 PM

Be careful and watch your six. But remember to relax and enjoy the journey.

Hope on at a cybercafe and log in. Let us know how your doin.

geim druth
May 24, 2007, 11:08 PM
Good luck, and have fun!

May 26, 2007, 04:21 PM
Good luck BIA. I envy you. Enjoy.

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