What Weapon Do You Bring Camping?

August 28, 2019

Carrying a weapon while camping poses a conundrum: Should I bring my best .308 bolt action rifle I use for hunting or my favorite concealed carry gun.

Most people, if it isn’t a hunting trip, prefer as a minimum the comfort and security of a 9mm or other caliber handgun he or she conceal carries at home.

However, the gun you carry at home may not be the correct choice for when you camp.

Legal Issues

Each state may have different rules or restrictions concerning carrying a weapon on state-owned land.

You will need to check with your local sheriff or fish and wildlife service to find out if any restrictions exist. Sometimes states may restrict the caliber, type, way the gun is carried or have other state-specific rules.

When traveling out of state on a camping trip, if you carry a concealed handgun, ensure the state you travel to or through has reciprocity regarding your state-issued concealed carry permit.

National parks permit loaded guns on federal lands, but the federal laws contain several particular restrictions.

One restriction states that for national security reasons, you cannot carry the gun into any federal facility in the park. Federal law prohibits hunting unless you have a special permit, target shooting, or discharging the weapon except under very limited circumstances.

Federal building on federal lands will have a sign clearly displaying the firearms restriction outside each federal building.

Review the federal law posted on the national park service’s website or contact the park rangers for details on the federal restrictions.

Reasons to Bring Your Handgun

Bringing a firearm with you while camping, for most prudent gun owners, is mandatory.

In addition to personal protection from others, a firearm is the best protection available to protect you and your family from predatory or dangerous wildlife.

You may use your knife or hatchet every day and never use your gun. However, as all gun-owners realize, neither of those items will do you much good should a cougar, bear, or some armed human predator attacks.

Why Not a Rifle?

A rifle certainly is a great option but has many disadvantageous for camping, especially when you are with your family or friends.

Keeping a rifle with you day and night can be cumbersome. Even light-weight, bolt action rifles would not be fun to carry while hiking a trail or taking your child to the lake for a canoe ride.

You can’t engage in as many activities if you have a slung rifle on your back as you can with a holstered handgun.

Securing a rifle in your truck most of the time may keep it safe, but it may not be handy when you need it most.

Best Caliber Handgun for Camping


Many concealed carry permit holders today carry 9 mm handguns. Glocks, Berettas, or whatever brand you prefer are great guns for personal protection in urban environments.

For the woods, however, you need to consider the potential threat before following your natural inclination to bring the gun you carry daily with you.

Larger animals require larger caliber weapons. Even if you don’t get a kill shot immediately, you want to create a large enough wound channel to have a good chance of stopping the attack.

For bears, for example, a 9 mm, unless you hit him in the heart or between the eyes, may not work as well as a .45 or .40 caliber.

The type of ammunition makes a difference also. Standard ball ammo may not have the stopping power you may require.

Final Thoughts

If your camping trip involves camping out in an area where the odds of larger predators wandering around in the vicinity are remote, then a 9 mm or smaller caliber gun may suffice.

However, if there is a chance of a bear or something as large living nearby your camping site, consider using something like a .45 ACP ammunition, or at least load your 9 mm handgun with full-metal jacket bullets.

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