An Open Letter to Women Who Hike Alone

    By: Erica Anderson + Save to a List

    Women are missing out on an essential life experience because we're doubting our abilities.

    Ladies,

    I really cannot fully convey to you how important it is to hike alone. Especially as a woman. We’re regularly reminded with posts about how to be safe as a solo female hiker. What to do, what to bring, tips, tricks, a sidebar ad about getting into martial arts. Absolutely, these are important facets to remember, even the part about pursuing your green belt. But above all else I want to explain why you should, at least once in your life, explore alone.

    Go at your own pace

    There is nothing more self-reassuring than going entirely at your own pace. Took a break 20 minutes ago? Take a break again! You’re not tailing or leading a single person but yourself.  It’s on the trail that you’ll learn the most important tools for successfully maneuvering life when you’re off it. Honestly, you can’t do that for yourself with another person around. You set your own speed and find the drive to follow through. This is essential because you become your own motivation. By the end, you’ll be grooving like the self-sufficient queen you are; I promise you that.

    Be entirely you, and all that entails

    Every day we’re told to look nice, the pressures of society and even ourselves push us into a pigeonhole of “pretty.” We all saw the “Be A Lady They Said” video by Cynthia-Nixon. We’re dewy, we’re the essence of rose petals, we’re perfectly dainty no matter what we do. But the real fact of the matter: we’re disgusting! We’ve got the same stink and sweat like everyone else on the planet. One of the most underrated aspects of hiking (even just working out alone) – You don’t have to look pretty doing it. Ditch the make-up, pile on the sunscreen and rock a bucket hat. Ladies, this is your chance to embrace the sweat, be out-of-breath heaving, smell all sorts of nasty and love yourself more for it.

    Safety first, then teamwork. 

    Getting down to brass tax – We’re all worried about the psycho living in the woods looking to attack a passerby (especially women.) In reality, the number of attacks on hikers is exceedingly rare. This is a community of warm and welcoming people. Friendly and quick to assist if you need it. It really didn’t take much for me to start venturing on my own. It was difficult to find hiking companions in a college town where “fun” only meant day drinking. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how many good people you meet on the trail. Some can turn into lifelong friendships others may be passerby’s in the grand scheme of life. But above all else, hikers are respectful and kind. Something in our principals, I’d say. It’s a community that we’re more than happy to keep growing and you need nothing but yourself to fit in.

    If you’re interested in statistics: peep this article by Elisabeth Kwak- Hefferan. With the information we have, women are actually less likely to be involved in on-trail crimes, have accidents, or be injured while hiking. In general, “Public lands are overwhelmingly safer places than the rest of the country—for men and women.” While she clearly explains the need for better surveying methods, her mention of the fear-gender paradox brings to light an interesting fact. Women have been taught from a very young age: we should be afraid. We are often smaller and less strong than the average male or say, an enormous bear. But that absolutely does not mean we can’t handle the situation. Using common sense and being aware of our surroundings is the most important.

    To be alone, is not to be lonely

    I’ll be real with you; I didn’t earn these white hairs at 25 by playing it safe. I’ve been on hikes I wasn’t fully prepared to do (sorry mom.) Even still, catch me scrambling rocks that I should probably have better gear for. Sometimes pride beats out my better judgement. But when you’re alone, you become responsible for yourself and your life in its entirety. In that solitude, there is an immediate understanding of humanity and being.

    To hike alone is cathartic and immensely freeing. The confidence in your own abilities is actually overwhelming. You immediately feel a sense of security, appreciation, and comfort. It was your beautiful stinky feet that took every step along the way. Your legs carrying the weight of your body and backpack. Your mind encouraging you to keep going, keep breathing. You’ll find, you’re not really alone at all, your own company is more than enough.


    Photo courtesy of Erica Anderson.

    So ladies, keep being lovely and stay sweating freely.  This is the ultimate lesson for you to embrace and you need absolutely nothing to do it:

    Whatever you like, whatever you enjoy, enjoy it on your own no matter how difficult or dangerous it may appear to be.

    When you need a friendly reminder that you absolutely can tackle this next obstacle life threw at you, see at yourself and remember what it’s like to rely on your own strength and the drive that got you where you needed to be. Apply your hike to the summit to the rest of your walk through life.

    Be smart. Watch your step. Find the supplies you need. Use that big beautiful brain I know you have and plan your next hike!

    We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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