How do I stay safe and avoid theft on the PCT trail?

First of all, most individuals hiking the PCT are there for the experience and have no intention of harming anyone or stealing. That being said, it still is not risk-free. In the current society we live in there are circulating crimes everywhere, even in the great outdoors. When you are making such a long journey you can’t carry a locked safe or buy heavy duty padlocks. Keeping the weight off of your backpack will suddenly become your highest concern. I’m going to start by saying you shouldn’t be carrying anything that needs a lockbox or padlock, rather the key is surviving with the basics. If you don’t carry anything exciting, you are less likely to become a target. Walking the PCT trail differs in concern compared to city living.


What makes you a target on the PCT?



  • Traveling alone
  • Traveling with a bike
  • Overly expensive gear
  • Valuables such as jewelry, watches, or fancy cameras



The PCT trail may be safer than most places, but it does not go without crime. In the wilderness, there will be times you will have no cell service. You will have no security system for your tent. There are no deadbolt locks. Firearms are discouraged on the trail and can cause more issues than keeping them locked away at home. These facts may become alarming as you read them over in one paragraph, but you are not without hope of protecting yourself on the trails. Leave valuables at home, and keep to the basics. Traveling on foot, if you want to keep your bike, is smart. Also, self awareness will save your life. Here’s what I mean when I say self-awareness.


Let someone know your travel plans. Stop at the various campsites that are spread out over the course of the trail. Give approximate timing. When should your loved ones expect to hear from you? Make calls when you are able to.


Carry a trail map and be sure you know how to read it. Appearing lost could make you a target. It’s better to know your own way then it is to trust a stranger to lead you in the right direction. Most travelers are harmless but don’t take the risk.


Do research BEFORE your trip. Make sure you are aware of the potential dangers in traveling the PCT. Mentally prepare yourself for the kinds of encounters you could experience.


Take self-defense classes before you depart on your journey. Even if you carry a weapon, it’s possible you could be taken off guard. In the chance that someone sneaks up on you, it will be good for you to know how to properly get yourself out of that situation, even if it’s just to give yourself enough time to find your weapon, i.e: Pepper Spray, knife, other heavy or sharp objects.


Get First Aid training. If you are injured you will need to tend to your injury without disabling yourself (when possible). A weak or injured person is a higher target than a healthy person who could fight back when attacked.


Dead set on going alone? Take a dog. It is not recommended to travel the PCT on your own. You should go with one or more people. It is not safe to make the trip on your own. Still, some will choose to journey by themselves, and to them I say. GET A DOG. This will be your best form of security, above anything else.


Stay on the trails, and register at all trailheads. YES, even when it’s dark and you are exhausted. This cannot be strained enough. It is necessary that park officers/ rangers are aware that you have been on the trails. In the case that you or another person comes up missing, the chances of finding a lost person are significantly higher when registered to the trails.


Avoid hitchhiking or accepting rides from strangers. For obvious reasons, this is not safe.


Don’t camp near the trailheads or roads. In the heart of the trail you will experience the company of other hikers, but near roads and trailheads, you are no longer safe from the general public.


Be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention to the details. Look around for fire smoke, there could be someone close by. While this could be a good sign in some cases, that is not always true. Be prepared, and trust your gut. Before you set up camp for the night look around. If you feel uneasy keep walking until the feeling eases. It is always better to be safe than sorry, even when you just want to sleep.

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