Many people have concealed carry permits. It is your legal right to carry a firearm with you if you have a permit, but I think that there are some cases where you just don’t need to be armed. I can’t imagine a situation where concealed carry backpacking or hiking would really be necessary or be worth the trouble of packing your pistol.
I am not anti-gun nor do I believe people shouldn’t be able to take their pistols on a hike if they really want to. I’m just presenting the argument that you may not always need to. People usually go hiking in state and national parks most of the time, and the legality of bringing a gun is going to vary from park to park. It will be up to you to check into the laws.
Concealed carry laws in Tennessee state and national parks
Tennessee State Parks
According to tnstateparks.com you can carry a concealed firearm in a Tennessee state park if you are in compliance with TCA: 39-17-1351. Be sure to have your permit with you and follow the laws regarding carrying your firearm. Do not discharge your firearm unless you are in a situation that calls for it in order to protect yourself.
Tennessee National Parks
The following pertains to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park only, if you are visiting a different national park in Tennessee check the laws for that specific park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park allows you to carry a concealed firearm within the park as long as you are in compliance with federal, local and state laws. According to nps.gov, as of Feb 22, 2010, a new law came into effect allowing for this.
As always, be sure to have your permit on you and ready to present to a park ranger or law enforcement officer in the off chance that you are asked to present it.
There may still be areas within the park prohibiting you from carrying your firearm there, so look for signs.
Is concealed carry backpacking really worth it and should I bother bringing my gun?
Some people just like to have their firearm with them everywhere, kind of like their wallet. People can get used to taking it everywhere, I get that. I personally do own a handgun and do not carry one when hiking.
There are some unlikely situations that may justify it, but that’s what they are, unlikely. Not only are they unlikely there are probably better alternatives than carrying your pistol with you, like hiking in groups.
- you have a run in with a mountain lion (pretty unlikely)
- cross paths with an angry black bear – bear spray is a better option
- you accidentally wander into a marijuana farm that is protected by men with AK-47s (yeah… right)
- you are attacked by a fellow hiker – hikers are usually friendly and will even go out of their way to be kind to other hikers. (see post update below, my opinion has changed here)
- a rattlesnake? just walk around it, if you didn’t see it and it bites you then it’s too late for a gun
I guess ask yourself why you really want to even take it, then again… you may be saying to me, why not take it? It’s probably compact, lightweight and will take up minimal space in your bag. If that is your stance, you certainly have a point. It doesn’t hurt anyone to take it, my point is that you may not always need to.
Since first writing this article I have changed my views on this subject. Just in the last year there have been several attacks on backpackers and hikers while out on the trails. Here is one recent example of an attack on the Appalachian Trail where someone lost their life.
It’s disgusting that this happens when people are just out trying to enjoy nature and get away from their problems for a while. Because there are in fact people out there ruining such a peaceful activity such as hiking, if you have a carry permit then I support you exercising your right to use it.
If you do decide to take your hand gun hiking
If you are just going for a day hike and you don’t already have one, there are many tactical style backpacks like this one on Amazon that would be perfect for keeping your gun safe.
However if you are really out in backcountry away from civilization, what’s the need to even conceal it? Just get you a belly band holster or maybe even a tactical holster of some type. There are many options for you, some that you probably already have if you are a gun owner.