Being a woman is hard. Being a woman in the wilderness is harder. We don’t have some of the luxuries that men have. We deal with menstruation, sexism, and having to squat to pee. Life can be hard for an adventurous girl. Katie Burns, the associate director of campus recreation, has some tips to make the backcountry badass feel on top of the world.
- Go with friends! If it is your first time heading out, find a gal pal who is confident in the outdoors to go with you! Get someone who will walk you through the process and help teach you some tricks and tips. Even if you have been backpacking 100 times before going with a group of ladies can be a really wonderful and refreshing trip.
- Plan ahead! If are headed up in elevation it is entirely possible for that elevation to mess with your cycle. A huge jump in activity from what is normal for you can also mess with your system. Plan ahead and bring extra supplies, you never know.
- Stay clean to stay healthy! I can hear you saying it from here, “but there’s no shower!” You can still take care of yourself and stay clean. Try using tampons or diva cup for sanitary reasons. Consider bringing a small amount of baby wipes to freshen up. Carry a few panty liners instead of lots of new sets of underwear. Consider a “pee rag” a bandana that you can use to wipe with and simply air out during the day. Every lady has a system, ask some trusted friends, and find what works for you.
- Laughter, Tears, and Chocolate! Whether you are mountain biking, backpacking, trail running, or just on a long day hike the backcountry has a way of helping all of us get back in touch with what is going on inside. Embrace it! You may find yourself giggling with joy for no apparent reason or this may be that opportunity you needed to process some hard emotions. Emotions are real and honest, allow them to happen! There is no right or wrong way to feel in the backcountry but a little bit of extra chocolate is always a good thing.
- Embrace your feminine side! If there are little things you do for yourself to make yourself feel beautiful, bring those on the trails. Some women paint their nails before they go out, some women carefully choose fun earrings to feel a little fancy. Some women won’t leave home without some dry shampoo and a small brush. I go for the skirt! Unless it’s below 0 you won’t catch me without a skirt! Whatever it is remember to celebrate you strong and beautiful!
Burns believes there are three things that make the backcountry experience a little harder than usual for women.
- Menstrual cycle: Ladies, you know your body, you know how to care for yourself. Women have been dealing with this for years (centuries) before modern bathrooms. We can handle it! Real talk: it isn’t the most enjoyable experience but it isn’t the worst experience either. A little planning and a few tricks from friends and you will be fine.
- Lack of confidence: I’ve said it before and I will say it again … LADIES YOU ARE STRONG! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, you can be in the backcountry and you definitely have a place out there. If you are lacking skills see my first tip and grab some pals to help teach you, honestly when you are learning basic skills it doesn’t matter who teaches you as long as you learn the necessities.
- Safety: I think many people believe that the outdoors aren’t safe for women but my experience has taught me the opposite. I feel so empowered while in the backcountry. So a few things here:
- First and foremost: TRUST. YOUR. GUT. If something doesn’t feel right, listen to that feeling.
- If you are going solo make sure someone knows your plan.
- Be sure you have an actual map and a compass, extra clothes, and plenty of food just in case something happens.
- Select locations and routes that are within your comfort zone; don’t commit to something you don’t have the skills to navigate safely.
- When it comes to animals, take precautions and store food and cookware properly.
- Stick to well-established campsites and trails.
- When in doubt take a friend with you!
It doesn’t matter if you have been into the backcountry tens of times or if you typically stick to adventures close to home, women oftentimes share the same struggles. Women supporting women is the best way for us to begin breaking into this previously masculine dominated community.
“Women have really amazing and really powerful bodies! For some women getting into the backcountry is a way to celebrate that and if you are new to the backcountry don’t let some of the more delicate points of life as a woman prevent you from getting outside,” Burns said.