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Shoot, Survival / August 7, 2016

3 tips to stay murder-proof

Written by: Renee Howard

Something seemed off about the man walking toward me on Anchorage’s Coastal Trail. He looked like a vagrant—and like he’d been drinking.

By the time he was a couple steps away, it was clear that he was agitated. He weaved along the trail, delirious, and I stepped to the side. He lurched toward me and groped clumsily through the air.

I dodged him with ease, and he slurred insults at me as I sprinted off into the dusk. I was safe, but had made a naive mistake: assuming the best and failing to anticipate the worst.

What if he had a knife or a gun? What if I’d had a weapon? How threatened would I need to be to take defensive action? Would carrying a weapon make me more cautious? Would it make me irresponsible?

These aren’t easy questions. But even if I’d been carrying my EDC (Every Day Carry: a term for a personal defense kit), I would have done well to improve my situational awareness. Carrying a weapon demands an attitude of utmost consideration and responsibility because a human life could be in your hands.

To obtain my concealed carry permit, I took a course that illuminated the nuance of the law and morality. It made me question whether or not carrying a gun in populated areas was a risk I wanted to take. Ultimately, I have chosen to carry at least some form of self defense on most of my outdoor adventures.

When and whether to carry self-defense tools is a personal choice, of course. But if you do choose to make your own EDC, odds are it will consist of one or all of these things:


Trail-ready firearms

My EDC on urban trails includes a Ruger LC 9 -9mm semi-automatic pistol, an Atac A1 5.11 flashlight, mace, and a knife. Sometimes that knife is a 4” fixed blade, other times it’s just a pocket knife. I keep my gun accessible concealed on my hip, chest or a shoulder harness—never on my back or in a bag.

If bears are a concern, I carry my Ruger Super Redhawk Toklat .454 casull, a double action revolver. I attach it to my body with a chest or hip holster.

Biking a technical trail with a .454 is inconvenient for me because I am small.  I do carry it on cross country trails, where the odds of a surprise encounter are high. My partner Mark has no problem riding with the .454 on technical trails.

If you carry a gun safely, it’s not likely to discharge even after a nasty fall. Of course, it’s critical to understand how your gun works and how to carry it safely.



There are thousands of tactical and EDC knives on the market. To choose the right one, you’ll want to consider comfort, function, and accessibility. The right knife will be easy to get to but virtually invisible.

I prefer my classy hand-made 4” fixed blade. If you want to get tactical, the Benchmade 176BKSN is worth trying out. It has a 3.22” blade and is designed to be low profile while offering maximum dexterity to the user.

Another cool knife is the SOG Gambit, which is both for personal protection and utility. For a stout, practical folding knife, I’d recommend the CRKT-M21.

It’s always good form to have a knife on you regardless of whether you carry a gun. They’re often easier to access in the heat of the moment than guns, and are more psychologically intimidating. As with any weapon, it’s important to practice with it.

Pepper Spray

I carry UDAP pepper spray on almost all trails for protection across bears (or ill-behaved dogs). This is the only self defense many people carry on the trail. It’s non-lethal and makes it easy to get far from the threat without discharging a firearm.

The drawback is wind direction. Spray into the wind, and you’ll wind up a victim of your own self defense. A face full of pepper spray will leave you very vulnerable, and is sure to ruin your week.

Large canisters of pepper spray are available for use in bear country. If large carnivores are not a concern, I’d recommend a small bottle of mace. Mace is available in a multitude of functional styles.


No matter what you choose to put in your EDC, make sure you know whether it’s legal. Different countries and states have different laws about personal weapons, so do your homework before you travel.

Practice the use of all self-defense items. Remember, though, that your best weapon is situational awareness. Sure, you should soak in the scenery—but also keep your eyes open for anything out of the ordinary.

about the author

Renee Howard

Renee is a photographer and writer based out of South-central Alaska. Her interest in bridging gaps between all manner of outdoor sports, philosophy, folk culture and backwoods artistry is a significant motivation for her work.

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