Adventure, The Great Adventure

Do You Take Weapons on the Great Adventure?

The Great Adventure creates opportunities for people to hurt me. I know I can be wounded, I just happen to disagree with most people about how worried I should be.

I admit I carry these with me:

Knife, pepper spray, magic charm.

Plus I’m the Rogue Priest, so there’s probably at least one trick up my sleeve.

But for some people that’s not enough. Every day I hear: carry a gun. Be ready to defend yourself.

I question whether those two statements really go together.

I approve of self defense. I wish basic self defense was taught in all grade schools. It’d be a better world if pepper spray was given out free in 5th grade, and if high schools had gun safety courses. I own a pistol and I enjoy firing it at targets with my dad and our friends. (It currently resides at his farm, unloaded.)

And, you know, swords are great. Fencing is a holy art.

So using a weapon doesn’t scare me. I wish more people owned them. The sight of a hunting rifle shouldn’t make someone flinch. But guess what: we don’t have to be creepy about it.

And carrying a gun with you is a sure-fire way to be creepy.

I’m a creative person and in 1,300 miles I can’t imagine any scenario where a gun is needed. I can imagine plenty of scenarios where I need to defend myself, but in every single one of them pepper spray will do the trick. If pepper spray or a knife won’t work, a gun wouldn’t either.

So why would I take on the added liability of a firearm?

The same goes for other sorts of weapons. When I left behind my tomahawk I mourned it as a tool. I once outpaced my dad on felling 8″ diameter trees. I got started right away with my tomahawk while he gased up and started his chain saw. I finished my row before he finished his. What an amazing tool.

Chopping firewood, making beams, building shelter, hammering or prying—the ‘hawk is a thing of beauty.

It will also kill a man dead, but I’ve never once thought of it as a weapon. If it was with me it would hang from a backpack, its blade fully covered, awkward to reach and unsheathe in an emergency.

The best tools for self defense are small, light and nonlethal. If you sleep with a gun or a hatchet you are a weirdo: your plan is to kill someone who doesn’t need to be killed, and to scare people who pose no threat at all. On the other hand someone who sleeps with a pepper spray canister is just smart. You’ll never be called psycho for carrying pepper spray on a solo hike. People understand.

And that’s really what my self-defense strategy comes down to: people. Being friendly and sincere is your greatest weapon, more effective than bullets or blades, because it prevents most assaults from ever happening. Being a decent person won’t win a fight but it may mean you never have to fight at all.

The guy who suspects everyone of trying to hurt them is not likable. Neither is the guy who fingers a gun under his pillow at night.

We can smell that shit.

Successful travel depends on transmuting yourself from stranger to friend. Anything you have that retards that process should be removed from your gear and left in a trash can.

What would you carry with you for self defense on an adventure? What do you carry with you everyday?


21 thoughts on “Do You Take Weapons on the Great Adventure?

  1. I usually walk with a long stick / branch of tree, which could be seen as a staff. This to me is generally the most effective tool/weapon against both humans and animals due to its long reach and the aid provides in walking and scaling hills is most helpful, especially if you have a leg injury. In urban areas you also look like you’re half crazy which helps with deterring anyone with possible bad intentions and it might even cause curious onlookers to approach you and inquire about your wooden companion.

    Apart from that I also have a small fold-able knife as well as my trusty throwing knife. This is more for fun and training my knife throwing skills.

  2. While I came from a hunting family I have never been afraid of guns, though I was taught how to respect them and treat them with safety. Personally I think that if you carry a gun every altercation you get mixed up in is already a potential gun fight. Where as there isn’t always a gun that will be present. So that is why I tend to stay away from them for personal safety.

    I agree with you, most likely anything you come up against will be easily handled with pepper spray. And for the most part things are peaceful. In the United States anyway I can’t say much for after you cross the boarder. But people respond well to honesty and openness. A smile and a kind word can diffuse a lot more things than a weapon could. That is just my personal outlook.

    Good luck on your adventure and I hope you find what you are looking for.

  3. Not bringing a weapon is a good choice – it just looks to hostile/ crazy and will create more problems than it’s worth.

    When are you going to start writing about your experiences and thoughts on the trip so far? I at least am eager to hear them! Btw, wish you could have stayed for the camping party in Barnum – we had gorgeous Northern Lights Saturday night!

  4. I believe just practicing good observation of people is best. Trust in your intuition always. If someone seems strange, or an overly friendly person gives you pause to doubt, follow your hunches. Every time I have, I later learned I dodged a bullet.

    Another thing I’ve learned when sleeping outdoors is how to ditch someone who starts following you. Knowing how to disappear into the trees or quickly camouflage yourself in the darkness and foliage can help you escape a tricky situation, too.

    The only thing I do worry about, a possibility that plays over and over again in my mind, is what could happen while you are asleep in your hammock. How easily visible are you in that thing? Are you so covered up that you cannot see out of it? Do you sleep too soundly to be alerted to the sound of someone sneaking up to you? I would hate to think how vulnerable of a target you would be hanging there for someone to knife you. Of course that could happen just as easily if you were on the ground in a sleeping bag as well.

    I am more worried about people than animals. Nice, friendly people can prove to be liars… I don’t want anyone to take advantage of you (even though I trust your judgement, I don’t trust *them*)

    Also, I *meant* my warning about BLUE GREEN ALGAE. Be careful about swimming in lakes and streams in Wisconsin (and in Minnesota). The current heat wave has increased the growth of blue green algae and, as a result, swimming in public parks has been prohibited and only swimming in chlorine pools is suggested. Here’s links to some information about how to spot it and what to do if you suspect you may have come in contact with it:

    You could look up more on the alerts, but just in case, whenever you do risk a dip in a lake, you MUST shower afterwards these days.

    Sorry to be such a bother, but such things don’t let me get much sleep at night because I think of you out there…

  5. Beth says:

    I don’t think the no gun rule is crazy. I rather suspect that if there’s any situation you hit that can’t be solved in another way, there’s a good chance that even a gun wouldn’t have gotten you out of it.

    Also: I got the knife and the pepper spray in the picture above…but what the heck is the third item? Apparently I need some self-defense education.

      • Oh, okay, though I was curious to see how you’d describe it! I picked it up in Seljuk, Turkey, when I was visiting Ephesus – they call them “evil eyes” though actually they’re a ward against the evil eye and bad luck in general. You see them all over Turkey; pretty much every business and taxi and bus sports one. They actually date back to ancient Greek times, when blue beads invoked Hera’s protection. I was given a few on jewelry and whatnot by my students back when I was teaching over there, and it seemed like the sort of thing best received as a gift…

  6. I am really glad you’re not carrying a gun. It’s been shown over and over that people who keep guns in the house get hurt by guns more often. It stands to reason then that people who carry guns expect to use them, and would be hurt by them more often. And yeah, carrying a gun does just seem creepy.

  7. Despite the pole arm jokes, I think you have a good, light traveling bunch. I’d still like a machette, but mainly because they’re useful. They’re probably not much good for self defense.

    I also agree the smile approach. Most people respond well to a smile, nod or wave. It disarms people faster than a kick, and is likely more effective. It won’t work every time, but then neither will a kick. You also don’t have to explain why you’re not carrying guns across the border.

    You will likely get into trouble; like you said, you’re the Rogue Priest. That doesn’t mean people have to get shot. You may have worse wares with the wildlife, but most of the time you just have to not be stupid, with any native thing you encounter.

    I have faith that you won’t. We all make mistakes and learn, of course. And that is the receipe for great stories.

  8. MercyFire says:

    For urban defense a Zebra 401 pen works quite well in place of a knife. It’s metal and has a retractable point. Can also be used for an emergency trach and doesn’t invite any suspicion from the police if it’s used.

  9. I love it Starrzan. A walking stick has often been my companion too for many of the same reasons although I can’t while biking. When I switch to foot again I’ll almost definitely get one…

  10. I used to only carry a pocket knife ( small) I have studied a martial art more to get my own anger under control than for protection. My teacher said that the best way to “win” a fight is by running away. He was right.

    Living in some very bad neighborhoods the best defense is attitude. Confident aware and looking dangerous scares away most trouble. Trouble wants an easy target. Having a knife or gun and not looking like you can and WILL use it is an open invitation. See I really cant defend myself but I am “dangerous” so I have GOT to have something worth taking.

    Now that I have problems walking I feel vulnerable and so I an much more willing to take the other guy out first because I will not have a second chance. sad.

    • I’m sorry you’re in that position Ken. I agree with your overall philosophy though and especially the confidence of how you carry yourself. It makes all the difference.

      I hope your “take the other guy out first” policy means pepper spray or a stun-gun. Both will do the trick and are unlikely to take a life.

  11. Rua Lupa says:

    If I ever needed a weapon to harm, I would likely just use my hair pin instead. My knife is a tool and I only think of it as a weapon if I get jumped by a mountain lion or bear and it is easily at hand. At most I carry bear spray, and that’s just for bears or cougars and because I’m in the woods. And that’s it. I’m a backwoods person, and live in Canada, so the whole gun thing doesn’t make any sense to me and most of my fellow citizens at that. Most Canadians are more likely to own a pocket knife than a gun for the same reason. And a lot of us don’t understand the obsession our southern neighbors have over guns. Gun protection is just not on our radars. To us it is illogical and as useless as Drew describes, and we like to use charm in the same way he describes too. Its not “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, its “why have enemies when you can be friendly?” C’est way more fun! Going about life always fearing being jumped is no way to live.

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