The Rise of Women in the Outdoors

Everywhere I turn, I see women heading outside, trying new things, and totally getting after it.

And it’s freaking awesome.

Women in the Outdoors

Climbing Capitol Peak last summer. Photo Credit: WMRjr.com

For its May issue, Field & Stream featured Eva Shockey as the second-ever solo female to grace the cover of the magazine. The first was in June of 1976 and it was Queen Elizabeth with her hunting dogs…not quite the same thing! I’m not a hunter, but I’ve read that female hunters are increasing exponentially, and some even attribute that rise in popularity to the success of Katniss and the Hunger Games. I have no idea if that is even slightly true, but you know what? It doesn’t even matter. All that matters is that females are frolicking outside with abandon!

field and stream

What’s more, I am noticing these changes in my daily life, with people that I actually know. Both Marissa and Paige have recently discovered trail running and it’s been so fun to follow their IG photos as they explore new trails along the Front Range. After moving to Colorado a few months ago, Katie decided to take a break from her ninja-rock climbing ways and experience new outdoor adventures away from the bolts and harnesses of the rock world. Thus far, I have watched her go on some hikes, bags some peaks, and we are making plans to haul her butt to the summit of a 14er this summer. And as for Lynne? I first met her a couple years ago when she and her husband were standing on the brink of the outdoor scene, tentatively dipping their feet into the proverbial water. These days, she is an outdoor aficionado having just completed the Colorado Mountain Club’s “Basic Mountaineering” course {which is truly anything BUT basic!}

For many, these changes don’t mean much of anything but to me, they signify something greater. Although my parents took me hiking and camping as a child, I didn’t truly learn to love the outdoors until college. Attending undergrad in Boulder meant that climbing partners and peak bagging cohorts were simply a phone call away. There was always someone willing to play, and even better, they likely had the experience to show me the ropes.

Women in the Outdoors

Amy Jurries {of The Gearcaster fame} packrafting with us in Alaska last summer. Photo Credit: WMRjr.com

The catch? It was almost always a man that jumped at the prospect of a wilderness adventure!

When I tried to purchase my mountaineering boots in 2002, no one sold women’s specific boots in the entire city of Boulder. I ended up buying a demo pair in a men’s size 4 because that was the best option available. I hiked the rim-river-rim of the Grand Canyon with a half dozen men because none of my female friends had a remote interest in attempting the strenuous trek. And what’s more, one of the dudes even questioned my physical abilities and pulled the guys aside before the hike just to let them know that “the girl was the weak link so we need to watch out for her today.” His intentions were good, but sexist as hell. It gave me great pleasure to lap him on my climb out of the canyon, and then carry his backpack later when he gassed out in the hot Arizona sun.

My point is this: I have seen the evolution of the outdoor female over the past 15 years, and I couldn’t be more ecstatic at how chicas are taking the reigns. Go get em, girls!

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22 Comments

  • Reply Katie B. at

    HIGH FIVE LADIES! 🙂 Seriously, it’s so great to watch this happen — and to be among some truly amazing outdoor women here in Colorado. I can’t wait to bag that 14-er! Got up to 10k this weekend, I think I’m ready to start adding on some more elevation.

    • Reply heather at

      We need to get you above 12k– that’s when the head gets wonky 🙂

  • Reply lynne at

    YES! And this is why I appreciate social media, too – in my mountaineering class? Only one other women in my group of 12. In the whole class, only a handful! So seeing and connecting with other women who are adventurous and active as I am – even if only virtually sometimes – is really cool. (Also, YAY for all of us adventurous women in CO!)

    • Reply heather at

      It’s true! Sometimes social media helps you remember that you’re not alone 🙂

  • Reply Suzanne at

    I’m not sure I can even picture a situation in which you would be the weak link. Glad that guy had to eat his words!

    • Reply heather at

      Ha, put me in ANY team sport that requires hand-eye coordination and you’ll see a debacle of epic proportions 🙂 But thank you anyway for saying that!

  • Reply Ingunn at

    Yes! I’m seeing more and more women out there, and more and more solo women! Hiking has given me so much (sorely needed) confidence, and now that I’m expecting my first child, a daughter, I can’t wait to introduce her to those same confidence-building activities right from the start.

    • Reply heather at

      That is such a good point! We aren’t at the children stage yet, but you’re totally right– if we have girls, I want them to KNOW that they can do any of it, regardless of what other gals think 🙂

  • Reply Anagha Bharadwaj at

    This is so exciting! My family still freaks out when I try to do anything out-of-doors (the typical “no female is ever safe ever” arguments) and it makes me so happy to show them examples of women kicking ass wherever they go!

    • Reply heather at

      I bet if you continue to push the envelope, your family will eventually get used to it!

  • Reply Kate at

    I’d love to hear your recap on the R2R2R sometime! We’re planning that trip for this fall. Already got denied our permits for October so trying again tomorrow for November. We’re camping at the bottom, though I’m going to make a wild ass guess that you did the whole trip in one day…? 🙂

    • Reply heather at

      Ha yup 🙂 We were college kids who didn’t have the slightest clue when it came to organization, so we didn’t think about permits. Obviously, we got there and realized we couldn’t camp in the canyon so in true, 20-something fashion, we just decided to hike down and back in the same day. Truthfully, it wasn’t too bad if you’re accustomed to steep climbs– just a VERY hot hike out!!

  • Reply Lynn at

    I am so thankful that my dad was so big on “go play outside”. I spent a lot of time in the woods by myself from a fairly young age. Even though I’ve only really started “adventuring” in the last few years, I feel like my background has really helped me have more self-confidence outside.

    Living in somewhere like Tahoe, I see so many girls doing outdoor activities like biking and skiing and backpacking from a very young age and I love it!

  • Reply Marissa @ Barefoot Colorado at

    LOVE THIS. So happy to have all of you ladies to explore with. GIRL POWAAAAA. Haha.

  • Reply Steve at

    While living in Wyoming, I see women all of the time, Mtn biking, hiking, climbing, etc, and a lot of ’em are solo. These women are just more confident now, I think. It’s not like the female gender was ever incapable of doing well in the outdoors but mentally taking the first step was difficult because it’s so male dominated. Or maybe the girls around you were just into different stuff, like nails, and hair and shampoos and pinwheels. And that’s cool I guess.

    • Reply heather at

      Ha, I don’t think it was that I hung out with shampoo-friendly women 🙂 I think things are different now. I see solo women all the time too, and that’s exactly my point. It’s mainstream now, and women aren’t intimidated to jump in and try something new. That’s why it’s so awesome!

  • Reply Heidi @BananaBuzzbomb at

    Woot Woot!!

  • Reply Christy @My Dirt Road Anthem at

    Hahahah love that last story, love showing up boys. I think this is a lot of why I always had a lot of guy friends, they were usually the ones up for more adventure

  • Reply Audrey @ In Shape Cupcake at

    Love this! Nature/outdoors is such an amazing gift 😀

  • Reply Alyssa at

    Even though it doesn’t interest me personally, that’s awesome that women are getting into it and the industry is taking notice!

  • Reply Christine @ Love, Life, Surf at

    Love this and I do love following all of your outdoor adventures! You all inspire me (and make me wish that I lived someplace like Colorado).

  • Reply Cassie @ Rural Running Redhead at

    This is a great post! I grew up near the mountains, so hiking and car-camping were the norm for us. The husband doesn’t love camping, though, so it’s been forever since I’ve gone — since college, I think. I’d love to try backpacking, too, and he has zero interest in that, so I guess I’m gonna have to make some backpacking girlfriends!

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