Why are essential self defense tactics important for hikers? What can go wrong if you stick to the main trail and hike in national or state parks close to human habitation? Consider this story.
A few days ago a hiker in Washington State was killed by a mountain goat. He was accompanied by a few friends who witnessed the attack. The goat did not pounce on the hiker the way a mountain lion might. There was plenty of warning beforehand, and plenty of time afterward to save the hiker’s life with a few essential self defense tactics. Still, this hiker bled to death in sight of his friends.
Though hikers love the wilderness and wildlife, it is important to remember that man has no tools of self defense except the products of his mind. A goat, which should pose no threat to man’s cunning, can ram a man in the thigh with its horns and inflict a fatal wound, unless the man has the necessary self defense tools to ward off the attack and save himself in case of injury.
Here are essential self defense tactics for hikers from weapon recommendations to first aid kits that could save your life.
Carry a knife
A good knife is essential not only for self defense against wildlife but for any survival situation. If your hiking shoe becomes jammed between two rocks in the river, you can cut the laces and save yourself from drowning. In the case of an attack by wildlife, a knife that you can pull out instantly could make the difference between a skirmish and a tragedy. Aim to cut the attacking animal’s throat or nose. Even if planned self defense is impossible, a stab wound anywhere will increase your chances of frightening the attacking animals away. (In the case of the goat, the animal stood over the wounded man in sight of his terrified companions, while the man bled to death for half an hour. Plenty of time to inflict a knife wound and save the hiker’s life.) This essential self defense tactic for hikers is the most practical and effective.
Carry Pepper Spray
If you fear the sensation of cutting into a living animal even in a self defense scenario, then carry pepper spray with you. Though pepper spray may drift back to you with the wind, the initial blast of gas will be enough to reach the animal and increase your chances of disorienting it. Pepper sprays work at 12 feet distance, leaving plenty of space between a hiker and the attacking animal. This essential self defense tactic for hikers is easy to implement and will prove effective against every type of attacking animals.
Carry a Stick
If you hike with no self defense weapon at your side, at least gather up a strong stick along the way. Use the stick as a walking stick on a peaceful hike. In case of attack, this essential self defense tool will help you fight off an animal. Be fierce when you wield the stick. Don’t tell yourself, “This is only a goat”. Once you come under attack, your first loyalty should be to yourself and any other humans you’re trying to protect. The effectiveness of this essential self defense tactic for hikers is entirely up to your determination to survive.
Don’t Trust Your Cell Phone
Hikers who leave the city often rely on their cell phone as their only essential self defense tool. In case of emergency, dial 911. This view is short-sighted for several reasons. Cell phones may lose reception. You may be too wounded to reach your phone and dial. Even if you do, authorities may not be able to reach you for a long while. And a hiker can be killed by wildlife attack in a matter of seconds. In the case of the goat attack, the friends called 911 and the coast guard valiantly arrived in a chopper 30 minutes later. But 30 minutes was all it took for the wounded hiker to bleed to death, with the goat still standing over him to prevent him from fleeing. This most essential tactic for hikers comes down to this: Don’t trust others to save you. Be prepared to save yourself!
Carry a First Aid Kit
Essential self defense for hikers doesn’t always come down to violence. Whether you tried to fight off an attack or not, once you are wounded you must be able to staunch the blood and secure your position. If you are lost in the dead of winter, you may need to splint your injured leg so you can walk. At the very least, every hiker should carry blood clotting first aid to staunch severe bleeding until help can arrive. (Read this excellent article about disaster survival in the wild and what you should pack.)
The hiker who died from a goat attack teaches hikers a tragic lesson. That death should have been prevented. If every hiker adopted a few essential self defense tactics there would be fewer nature jaunts that end in disaster. In addition, learn how to avoid a coyote attack while hiking with your dog.