Thursday, May 03, 2012

Crimes on the Trail - Part 2 Safeguarding Your Gear

While you are resupplying (or enjoying a treat) it's important to safeguard your gear

Having hiked over 4,000 miles along the Appalachian Trail and continuing to section hike to this day, I have found it necessary to make sure my gear and valuables are safeguarded. Each year there are reports of hikers' backpacks getting lifted. Would-be thieves have no issue making off with a pack that could house some nice treasures, like a good tent or that expensive sleeping bag. One hiker even had her belongings taken out of a tent last year as she was cooking dinner a half mile away at a shelter.

So what are my tips for safeguarding your gear and personal belongings?  

  • Never leave your gear unattended at camp. Always have it within your sight.

If you plan to tent in a shelter area, don't leave your tent alone with your gear and then go make your food at the shelter, especially if it is out of eyesight and near another trail. Be sure you can see your campsite from the shelter. If you can't then choose to cook in the vicinity of your campsite. Or cook first at the shelter then set up your campsite last.

I have been known to carry my backpack down to the water source to get water for the night (I always get water first before anything else when I arrive at camp for the night). Leave your gear to get water only if you know a buddy will watch it for you at the shelter site. I have also seen hikers leave backpacks at trail junctions to take in a view. I don't do that. I carry my backpack to the viewpoint. You are carrying it many miles anyway. You can carry it a half mile round trip to a view. 

  •  Always keep your hiker wallet and cell phone on your person when you take off your backpack. 
For example, like at the shelter area when you are getting water, going to the privy, etc. Or if you are at a hostel. If for some reason someone does take your pack, you still have money, ID and a cell phone. A few hikers choose to subdivide their money into various places. That is up to you. Be sure you are not carrying a lot of cash. If a debit card, credit card and / or ID are lost or taken, report it immediately. I have also taken my camera as well. Pictures are important to me, and if my camera is stolen, a lot of memories are gone too      
  • Be careful with your gear at town stops and while in town.  
Say you are going to the store to resupply. Ask if you can store your backpack in a corner of the store or restaurant. If the store has a shopping cart, put it in the cart. Or if a convenience store or a restaurant, put it in a place outside where you can keep an eye on it. I have also asked a fellow hiker taking a break to keep an eye on it. Once or twice I did hide my gear behind a dumpster as there was no other safe place, imo. I was taking a chance. With that I kept dirty socks on my pack, etc. The more unappealing it looks, the better. 

Be careful also with your gear in open hostels. Most are safe, but still you are taking a chance if there is no way to "lock" up your gear at a hostel. Again, keep your valuables (money, cell phone) on your person at all times, even in a hostel.  


Kay said...

Excellent advice. It's too bad that there are people out there who just cannot keep their hands off of other people's property.

Pine Language said...

Thanks so much for these reminders. It's sad that this is an issue, when you just want to escape into the wilderness. I surf a lot out here in Oregon, and theft is a constant problem.

I work for KEEN footwear, and we're looking to hear about some of your favorite hiking trails. It'd be great to get your insights. Feel free to drop by the site:, and share some trails. Thanks!

KEEN recess team