Concealed carry changes a bit when you switch things up and leave civilization behind. It’s not just about having your EDC firearm with you like any old day at the office. When you’re 8 miles out on an isolated trail in the rain, hopefully you planned for it.
I once had a beautiful 12-mile hiking route that offered a winding path through marshes, hills, nicely wooded areas, and conveniently lead directly from my home to my office. I'd hit that trail about once a week, and I dare say I got some of my best work done just thinking through problems on the hike. It was a perfect way to start the day, but it did mean I had to carry whatever I was going to wear at work that day – gun and all.
This is how I stumbled into my first Glock 19 Gen 4, which replaced my Springfield XD Mod 2 Subcompact in .45 ACP as my daily carry gun. I was already planning on making the shift into 9mm. I discovered along the way that the Glock 19 made a better hiking companion overall and still beats some of my newer carry guns today.
Why Glock? The Friction Factor
I’m tempted to accuse the XD Subcompact of being too “chunky,” which is a common complaint. My XD Subcompact is 1.29 inches at the widest point, with a slide that’s 1.1 inches thick. It’s also 2.1 pounds loaded with my ammunition. The Glock 19, on the other hand, is 1.25 inches at the widest point and has a slide thickness of 1 inch.
We could split some hairs here, but both are fairly comparable in overall length, height, and thickness when tucked under a decent hiking flannel. Weight is a bit more of an issue with the addition of the .45 ACP. The XD Subcompact comes in at 2.1 pounds, while the Glock 19 weighs in at just 1.8 pounds loaded.
The weight difference is noticeable, but the real winning feature for the Glock has nothing to do with the specs. If you want to pound out 10 to 20 miles on a hike, expect some rubbing on the way. A good holster will shield you from the worst of the road rash created from the grip rubbing on your hips. But the aggressive stippling segments on the XD Mod 2 acts like Velcro on my shirt. I’ve worn holes in a few shirts, and the grip tends to bunch up my flannel after a few minutes.
This problem applies to the even more aggressive grip on my Sig P320, which also takes the lead for the thickest gun at 1.35 inches at the widest point. Don’t get me wrong, these are both great guns that I refuse to release from my personal collection. The issues are both tolerable and solvable, and I now actually carry my Sig 320 more often than my Glock. Still, the Glock 19 just proved to be a more comfortable hiking companion. It doesn’t slowly bunch up my shirts, and it feels the slimmest on my hip. The grip texture is also plenty effective for controllability.
On the Trail
Pumping your legs to get up a steep hill might be the hardest part of a hike for you, but I would argue trotting downhill is the hardest part for your concealed carry gun. In general, I don’t like hyperextending my legs to briskly walk down slopes. I’ve seen plenty of people – not myself of course – take that long butt-first slide to the bottom. Jogging down most hills is just more efficient and fun for me personally.
That means I can’t have my gun flopping around like a wet fish waiting to pop out of the holster. I’ve tried leather, and I’ve tried Kydex. Neither really hit all the wickets for comfort and retention. In the end, hybrid Kydex-leather holsters proved best for me (Note: I also had to wear the holster for work after a hike). These holsters disperse the weight of the gun, protect your flesh from the grip stippling, and you can reform the Kydex shell with some heat for better retention.
Yes, the leather part of your holster will start to look like a salt lick. Yes, your Glock can rust. Consider it an achievement badge. I use just a bit of neat's-foot oil to clean and protect the leather, and baby powder works great to eliminate any squeaking that happened with the metal belt clips on the leather. The Glock 19 itself experienced only moderate wear on the slide and slide stop.
Hiking Advice 101
You never really know how all your hiking gear is going to work together until you test it out. But there are some things that I highly recommend doing before you hit the trail.
From experience, I certainly advocate testing your backpack with your concealed carry rig before you set out. Depending on how you carry, the wrong backpack can interfere with your firearm. Every step will lead to the pack hitting the butt of your gun. It is beyond annoying, but this can normally be solved by just cinching the pack higher up on your back – where it really belongs anyway.
If you want to pack out with an arsenal’s worth of ammo, you can. Extended mags certainly make that more than possible for Glocks these days. But I don’t typically feel the need for anything more than a spare 15-round mag. I’m much more apt to toss a small medical kit into my pack than a boatload of ammo. Oh, and while we’re at it, if you hike any distance with your gun but don’t bring water … you’re doing it wrong.
The last bit really comes down to clothing. I live in the northern Midwest and hike wearing a flannel in July with the sleeves rolled up. It’s comfortable, conceals well, and the sleeves can come down to keep the bugs away. I’ve also gone out with just a tank top, and the Glock 19 still concealed just fine. The real key is to just rock a sturdy belt built for the purpose. I definitely recommend a small knife as well.
I’m not a hiking guide or expert, but these little notes have served me well after far more than 500 miles; that, and always bring a hat and sunglasses.
In all transparency, I rarely carry my Glock 19 anymore. I have since moved on to my Sig P320 and Sig P365. It’s not really a knock on the Glock. I just shoot the Sigs better with the grip angle and trigger, and I appreciate the included night sights. But I have little doubt I could tweak my otherwise stock – except for the sights – Glock 19 to get it just right. Regardless, the gun gave me some great trail time and probably saved me a few shirts along the way.