Backpacking with a Rifle: Exploring the Wild with Confidence

Backpacking with a rifle

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Backpacking with a rifle is a great way to explore the wilderness and connect with nature. However, it’s always important to be prepared for any situation that may arise.

For some backpackers, this means carrying a rifle. Backpacking with a rifle can provide added safety and peace of mind, but it’s important to do so responsibly and confidently.

Carrying a firearm while hiking and camping can be a controversial topic, but with the right mindset and equipment, it can be a valuable addition to your backpacking gear.

In this article, we’ll explore the reasons why backpackers choose to carry a rifle.

The important considerations for selecting the right rifle, and the necessary gear to ensure a safe and successful backpacking trip.

Key Takeaways:

  • Backpacking with a rifle can provide added safety and peace of mind in the wilderness.
  • Choosing the right rifle for backpacking requires careful consideration of factors such as weight, durability, and ease of use.
  • Essential gear for backpacking with a rifle includes gun backpacks, lightweight backpacking packs, and hiking gear that can enhance your experience.
  • It’s important to practice responsible gun ownership and safe practices while backpacking with a rifle, including carrying bear spray as an alternative option in bear country.
  • Building essential skills for rifle backpacking, such as navigation and first aid, can help ensure a successful trip.

Why Carry a Rifle While Backpacking?

backpacking with a rifle

Backpacking with a rifle may seem like an unnecessary burden to some, but for many outdoor enthusiasts, carrying a firearm is essential for a variety of reasons.

Let’s explore why backpackers choose to carry a rifle while exploring the wilderness.


Carrying a firearm can provide a sense of security on the trail. In remote areas, where there is minimal law enforcement, having a rifle can offer peace of mind.

A gun can also provide protection against dangerous animals, such as bears, mountain lions, or coyotes, which may attack without warning.


In addition to safety concerns, carrying a rifle can also serve as a means of self-defense. 

In a worst-case scenario, if a backpacker is confronted by a threatening human, the sight of a firearm may deter an attacker.

In a situation where self-defense is necessary, a rifle can provide a backpacker with a means to protect themselves.

Potential Encounters with Wildlife

The wilderness is home to a wide variety of wildlife, and while most animals don’t pose a threat to humans, backpackers may encounter dangerous animals that require self-defense.

A rifle allows for the backpacker to quickly neutralize a threatening animal, providing an added level of protection in the wilderness.

While carrying a rifle on a backpacking trip may not be for everyone, it can provide an additional level of safety and security for those who choose to do so.

“In remote areas, where there is minimal law enforcement, having a rifle can offer peace of mind.”

Choosing the Right Rifle for Backpacking

Takedown Rifle

When it comes to selecting a rifle for backpacking, it’s important to consider various factors such as weight, accuracy, and durability.

In this section, we will take a closer look at different types of rifles, including survival rifles and takedown rifles, and provide tips for choosing the best one for your needs.

Survival Rifle

Survival rifles are lightweight and compact, making them an ideal choice for backpackers.

These rifles are designed to fold down or break apart for easy transport and can perform well in various conditions, including harsh weather.

Some popular options include the Henry AR-7, the Chiappa Little Badger, and the Ruger 10/22 Takedown.

Takedown Rifles

Takedown rifles are another great option for backpackers as they can be easily disassembled into two or more pieces for easy packing.

One popular choice is the Ruger 10/22 Takedown, which is durable, lightweight, and accurate. Other options include the Henry Repeating Arms AR-7 and the Savage Model 42 Takedown.

When choosing a rifle, it’s important to consider your level of experience and comfort with different types of firearms.

Additionally, you should always consider the weight and size of the rifle, as it will affect the overall weight of your backpack.

Remember to always prioritize safety and responsible gun ownership when selecting a rifle for backpacking.

In the next section, we will discuss the essential gear needed for backpacking with a rifle and how lightweight options can make your journey more comfortable.

Essential Gear for Backpacking with a Rifle

Backpacking with Gear

When backpacking with a rifle, it’s crucial to have the right gear to ensure both your safety and the firearm’s protection. Here are some essential items to include in your backpacking gear:

Gun BackpackA backpack designed specifically for carrying a rifle. Look for a bag with padded straps and compartments to protect the firearm and keep it secure.
Lightweight Backpacking PackA lightweight backpacking pack will help distribute the weight of your gear across your back and shoulders, making it easier to carry the additional weight of a rifle.
Hiking BootsInvest in a sturdy pair of hiking boots with ankle support to help maintain balance on uneven terrain.
Shooting GlovesProtect your hands from the elements and improve your grip on the rifle with a pair of shooting gloves.
Cleaning KitKeep your rifle in good shape with a cleaning kit designed specifically for the firearm you’re carrying.
Shooting Ear ProtectionEar protection is essential when firing a rifle. Look for earplugs or earmuffs that provide adequate protection while still allowing you to hear important sounds in the wilderness.

Remember, proper gear is key to a successful backpacking trip with a rifle. Invest in quality gear that will protect both you and your firearm, ensuring your safety and peace of mind on your adventure.

Ensuring Safety and Responsibility

Carrying a gun while backpacking

Carrying a gun while backpacking requires great responsibility, and it’s important to understand the risks associated with it. 

While the firearm provides a sense of security, it also requires proper handling, storage, and maintenance to ensure safety for yourself and others around you.

One alternative to carrying a rifle while backpacking is using bear spray, which is proven to be effective in deterring bear attacks. 

However, bear spray is not a substitute for general safety knowledge and proper precautions.

When carrying a rifle, it’s essential to invest in a high-quality rifle backpack that fits properly and is comfortable to wear for extended periods.

The backpack should have padding to protect the firearm from damage and prevent it from shifting around while hiking.

It’s also crucial to secure the firearm properly in the backpack to avoid any accidents.

Carrying a GunRifle BackpackBear Spray
 Rifle backpack for comfortable carrying 
Carrying a gun while backpacking requires great responsibilityInvest in a high-quality rifle backpack for comfort and protectionBear spray is an effective alternative to carrying a rifle

It’s also important to practice responsible gun ownership while backpacking with a rifle. This means keeping the firearm unloaded until it’s needed, being aware of your surroundings, and avoiding any situations that might be considered risky.

Additionally, learning about the local laws and regulations regarding firearms in the area you plan to visit is critical to ensuring a safe and legal trip.

Backpacking in National Parks and Wilderness Areas

backpacking in national park

National parks and wilderness areas offer some of the most breathtaking and rugged backpacking trails in the country.

When backpacking with a rifle in these areas, it’s important to be aware of the regulations and guidelines set forth by park authorities to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.

National Park Regulations

Each national park has its own specific set of regulations regarding firearms, and it’s important to research and understand these rules before embarking on a trip.

In general, firearms must be unloaded and stored in a locked container while in a vehicle or in a backpack. 

They may only be used in self-defense against a human or animal threat.

It’s also important to note that some national parks may have additional restrictions on firearms, including specific areas where they are not allowed to be carried. 

Be sure to check with park authorities before bringing a rifle into the park.

Park Trips and Backpacking Trails

When planning a backpacking trip in a national park or wilderness area, it’s important to consider the type of terrain you will be traversing and the potential wildlife encounters you may have.

Many parks offer designated backcountry camping areas, and it’s important to follow all guidelines for camping in these areas, including proper storage of food and trash to prevent unwanted wildlife encounters.

Research the trails you will be hiking and ensure that you have the proper permits and equipment for your trip. It’s also a good idea to let someone know your planned route and expected return date for added safety.

Park NamePermits RequiredFirearms Allowed?
Yellowstone National ParkBackcountry camping permitAllowed in specific areas only
Yosemite National ParkWilderness permitAllowed in specific areas only
Glacier National ParkBackcountry camping permitAllowed in specific areas only

Be sure to follow the Leave No Trace principles and pack out all trash and gear to keep the wilderness areas pristine for future visitors.

Lightening the Load: Choosing Lightweight Rifle Gear

Lightweight Backpacking Gear

One of the main challenges of backpacking with a rifle is finding gear that is both functional and lightweight. 

When every ounce counts, it’s important to choose gear that won’t weigh you down. Here are some tips for choosing lightweight backpacking gear for your rifle:

Lightweight Rifle Backpacks

Your backpack is one of the most important pieces of gear you will carry on a backpacking trip, and it’s essential that it is lightweight and comfortable.

Look for backpacks specifically designed for carrying rifles, as these will often have compartments and straps that are optimized for your firearm.

Some of the best lightweight rifle backPacks include the Eberlestock X2 Pack and the Mystery Ranch Metcalf Backpack.

Other Gear

There are several other pieces of gear that can help you lighten the load when backpacking with a rifle.

Consider investing in a lightweight bipod, such as the Caldwell XLA Pivot 6-9 Inch Bipod, or a lightweight sling like the Magpul MS1 Sling. 

Additionally, opt for a lightweight optic, such as the Vortex Optics Viper PST Gen II 5-25×50 Riflescope.

“When every ounce counts, it’s important to choose gear that won’t weigh you down.”

By selecting lightweight gear, you can reduce the overall weight of your pack and make your backpacking trip more comfortable and enjoyable. 

Keep in mind that when choosing lightweight gear, it’s important to strike a balance between functionality and weight.

Always prioritize safety and reliability over weight savings.

Tips for Hiking and Backpacking with a Rifle

backpacking with a rifle

If you’re planning a backpacking trip and intend to carry a rifle with you, there are several important tips to keep in mind.

Proper Rifle Carry Techniques

When hiking and backpacking with a rifle, it’s essential to use proper carry techniques to ensure both safety and comfort.

One popular method is the “sling carry,” where the rifle is attached to your backpack strap or worn diagonally across your back. 

This method keeps the rifle secure and accessible while keeping your hands free for other tasks.

Maintaining Balance on Challenging Terrains

Carrying a rifle can throw off your balance, especially on challenging terrains. 

To maintain stability, adjust your posture and center of gravity, and wear comfortable, supportive hiking shoes. It’s also smart to distribute weight evenly between your pack and rifle.

Integrating Your Rifle with Your Hiking Gear

Consider how your rifle will fit into your overall backpacking setup. 

For example, you’ll need a specific backpack that accommodates a rifle, or a separate bag to store and protect your firearm. 

You’ll also need to pack other hiking essentials like first aid kits, food, water, and navigation tools.

Ensure that your rifle doesn’t add too much weight to your pack, or you risk throwing off your balance and increasing fatigue.

Choose the Right Hiking Gear

It’s best to invest in high-quality hiking or backpacking gear to ensure maximum safety and comfort while carrying a rifle.

Consider gear like lightweight trekking poles, a hydration system, or comfortable hiking shoes. 

Ensure that your gear is durable and can withstand rugged terrain and changing weather conditions.


Carrying a rifle while hiking or backpacking can provide peace of mind in the wilderness. But, it’s essential to follow proper safety protocols to remain safe and comfortable while exploring. 

Use the right carry techniques, maintain balance, integrate your rifle with your hiking gear, and choose high-quality equipment to ensure a successful and enjoyable backpacking adventure.

rifle backpacking

If you’re considering backpacking with a rifle, it’s essential to choose a reliable and high-quality firearm that can withstand the rigors of the outdoors. 

Here are a few recommended rifle brands and models to consider:

RugerRuger American Rifle
BrowningBrowning X-Bolt
Savage RifleSavage 110

These brands are known for their quality and durability, making them ideal for backpacking trips where you need a firearm that can withstand some wear and tear. 

When selecting a rifle, it’s also important to consider factors such as weight, portability, and accuracy.

For example, the Ruger American Rifle is a popular choice for backpackers due to its lightweight design and accuracy. 

The Browning X-Bolt is another reliable option, known for its durability and precision. The Savage 110 is a versatile rifle that can handle a variety of terrains and weather conditions.

When choosing a rifle, take the time to research different models and brands to find the one that best fits your needs. 

Don’t skimp on quality – investing in a reliable rifle can make all the difference when you’re out on the trail.

Backpacking with a Rifle in Different Seasons

Backpacking with a rifle in different seasons requires different gear and precautions.

Winter backpacking, for example, requires adequate winter gear to protect you from the cold and other related outdoor hazards. 

In this section, we will explore the necessary gear for backpacking with a rifle in different seasons, with a focus on winter.

Additionally, we will highlight specific locations, such as New Mexico, for winter backpacking adventures.

Winter Gear Guide

Winter backpacking with a rifle requires specialized gear. The most important gear to have is adequate clothing.

Layering is key to staying warm in winter. Start with a base layer, add an insulating layer, and finish with a waterproof and breathable outer layer. 

Don’t forget gloves, warm hats, and a good pair of boots.

Additionally, you’ll need a winter sleeping bag and a sleeping pad with a good R-value to keep you warm on cold nights.

Other necessary gear includes a reliable stove to melt snow for water, a good headlamp for visibility, and a durable tent or shelter to protect you from the elements. 

Don’t forget to bring high-energy and high-calorie food, such as nuts and chocolate, to keep your body fueled in cold weather.

Backpacking in New Mexico

New Mexico is a great location for winter backpacking with a rifle. The state offers unique landscapes, high peaks, and plenty of wilderness areas to explore.

 If you plan to backpack in New Mexico during the winter, be sure to check the weather forecast before you go.

The state can experience cold temperatures and snowfall in higher elevations. The Manzano Mountains in New Mexico offer a great winter backpacking experience.

The area offers a variety of terrain, including canyons, mountains, and forests.

Backpackers can enjoy the scenic views and potential wildlife sightings, including elk, bears, and mountain lions.

Backpacking Gear

Tips for Building Essential Skills for Rifle Backpacking

Backpacking trips are exciting and adventurous, but they also require proper planning and preparation to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. 

When it comes to backpacking with a rifle, building essential skills is crucial for your safety and the safety of those around you. Here are some tips for building those skills:

Invest in a Hiking First Aid Kit

One of the most important items to have in your backpacking gear is a hiking first aid kit. Accidents can happen anywhere, and being prepared with the right supplies can make all the difference. 

Make sure to include items such as bandages, pain relievers, antihistamines, and tweezers. Check your kit before every trip to ensure that all items are up to date and in good condition.

Bring a Survival Kit for Hiking

A survival kit is another essential item for backpacking trips, especially if you’re venturing into remote areas. 

Your kit should include items like a knife, waterproof matches, a compass, a whistle, and a space blanket. It’s also a good idea to bring extra food, water, and warm clothing, just in case.

Practice Navigation Skills

Proper navigation skills are essential for backpacking with a rifle. Make sure to bring a detailed map and compass, and practice using them before your trip. 

Familiarize yourself with the terrain and landmarks in your destination so you can easily find your way around. If possible, take a navigation course to hone your skills.

Learn Basic Rifle Safety and Handling

If you’re carrying a rifle on your backpacking trip, it’s important to know how to handle it safely. 

Learn basic gun safety practices, such as always keeping the muzzle pointed in a safe direction and keeping your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot. 

Practice handling and carrying your rifle before your trip to ensure you feel comfortable and confident with it.

Take a Wilderness First Aid Course

In addition to a hiking first aid kit, it’s helpful to have some knowledge of wilderness first aid. 

Taking a wilderness first aid course can help you prepare for emergency situations that may arise on your backpacking trip. 

You’ll learn how to identify and treat common injuries and illnesses, such as hypothermia and dehydration.

Building essential skills for rifle backpacking takes time and effort, but it’s worth it for a safe and successful trip. 

By investing in the right gear, practicing navigation and gun safety, and taking courses to build your skills, you can ensure a memorable and enjoyable backpacking experience.

Hiking with firearms


Backpacking with a rifle can be a thrilling experience that allows you to explore the great outdoors with confidence. 

However, it is important to take this responsibility seriously and practice safe and responsible gun ownership.

Throughout this article, we have discussed the reasons why backpackers choose to carry a rifle, how to choose the right rifle for your needs, and the essential gear to bring on your trip. 

We have also provided tips for ensuring safety and responsibility, navigating wilderness areas and national parks, and hiking in different seasons.

Remember to always prioritize safety, and consider practicing with your rifle at a shooting range or attending a firearm safety course before taking it on a backpacking trip.

By following the tips and recommendations we’ve provided, you can be better equipped for your next backpacking adventure with a rifle. Happy exploring!


  1. Why should I carry a rifle while backpacking?

    Carrying a rifle while backpacking provides safety and security. It can help protect against potential threats from wildlife and provide a means of self-defense in emergency situations.

  2. How do I choose the right rifle for backpacking?

    When selecting a rifle for backpacking, consider factors such as weight, size, and functionality. Choose a rifle that is lightweight, easy to carry, and suitable for your intended use in the wilderness.

  3. What gear do I need for backpacking with a rifle?

    Essential gear for backpacking with a rifle includes a gun backpack or case for safe transportation, lightweight backpacking packs to distribute the weight, and other hiking gear to enhance your overall experience.

  4. How can I ensure safety while carrying a gun while backpacking?

    It is crucial to practice responsible gun ownership and follow safety guidelines when carrying a gun while backpacking. Additionally, consider alternative options like bear spray for self-defense in bear country.

  5. Are there any regulations regarding backpacking with a rifle in national parks and wilderness areas?

    Backpacking regulations may vary in different national parks and wilderness areas. It is important to familiarize yourself with the specific guidelines and plan your trips accordingly to comply with park regulations.

  6. Are there lightweight gear options available for rifle backpacking?

    Yes, there are lightweight gear options specifically designed for rifle backpacking. Look for lightweight rifle backpacks and other gear that can help reduce the overall weight of your pack.

  7. What are some tips for hiking and backpacking with a rifle?

    Tips for hiking and backpacking with a rifle include learning proper rifle carry techniques, maintaining balance on challenging terrains, and ensuring your rifle integrates well with your hiking gear.

  8. Can you recommend some rifle brands and models for backpacking?

    Reputable rifle brands for backpacking include Ruger, Browning, and Savage. Some reliable models from these brands are the Ruger American Rifle, Browning X-Bolt, and Savage 110 Lightweight Storm.

  9. How should I prepare for backpacking with a rifle in different seasons?

    Depending on the season, prepare with appropriate gear such as winter gear for cold weather backpacking. Research specific locations like New Mexico for winter adventures and ensure you have the necessary equipment and precautions in place.

  10. What skills do I need to build for rifle backpacking?

    Building essential skills for rifle backpacking includes navigation techniques, knowledge of survival kits, and first aid tips for backpacking trips. Ensure you are equipped with the necessary skills to handle various situations in the wilderness.

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