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Women Backpacking Alone, or What Could Go Wrong?

First of all, I'm a guy.

That out of the way, I have this preconceived notion that everyone should be able to backpack alone safely whenever and wherever they choose, without being bothered by anyone else (as long as they are not doing anything illegal, that is).

However, that's not always the case for women. It seems to me that there are still way too many instances where lone women get harassed in the outdoors by men. Lone men usually don't get harassed by anyone, or if they are, they don't experience the same feeling of insecurity and vulnerability; men don't need to have a "boyfriend" or "protector" with them to be left alone. I'm raising my daughter to be able to enjoy the outdoors and I hope that some day she will organize her own epic expeditions. But I know that I'd be concerned if she went alone nowadays. I don't think the outdoors are completely safe yet for lone women (not even in the great US of A).

Women: what has been your experience backpacking alone? what are your tactical and strategic recommendations?

All: what can we do as society to make the great outdoors safe and enjoyable for everyone?

Farther. Higher. Longer.
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27 Replies

That's a great point. It also is a factor in a greater percentage of SAR missions to rescue those lost men.

That lack of map reading and other important skills is one of the reasons I invest time every summer to teach basic outdoor safety skills to elementary age children.

Get outdoors, stay safe, and happy trails!
Todd the Hiker

I have posted this paragraph before but here is a good opener for your kids:  Your coat is not warm!  Then have them come up with how this is true.  Not even sure most adults could come up with these 5:

Understand that clothes and sleeping bags are NOT WARM.  A thermometer in them would record ambient temp.  The key to keeping warm is regulating the source of heat=your own body.  There are 5 ways a body looses heat: evaporation, conduction, convection, radiation, and respiration.  Clothes will control several of those but the actual heat comes only from food and drink and conserving what heat your body can generate.  I think this is the most important thing to know about beginner backpacking.   

I love maps, my favorite book as a child was a 1906 colliers atlas when countries had names like Bechuanaland, and Ceylon. However, as a man, my ego has gotten me lost. Not often, but it has occurred. I think that a lot of guys, driving lost down a highway full of people waving maps and offering directions, would willfully remain lost. As to the whole mansplaining idea,, men in America have been raised to chivalrously protect and advise women for their own good (even when they clearly are doing just fine) . It is, often well meant but stems from an idea that women are shmucks. Raise your sons better than this. As my badass grandmother one advised..."if no one's asking your advice, they don't need it or at least they don't need it from you".

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Thanks.  I've loved my adventuring.

Also learning just the basics of orienting the map to North with a compass is really all you need. Knowing the declination of the area you plan to hike, understand the lines and symbols on a map,  and really observing your surroundings is enough.  Doing actual orienteering with all the calculating is not absolutely necessary.

In canyon country check with a detailed map at least every half hour.  A 'huge' side canyon may have an entrance of a tiny creek hidden by tall reeds.   It is so easy to get confused by similar rocks. 

 Also in the Ozarks with all the bumps of mountains looking about the same, that area requires more attention than a high mountain range.

@AmyBand all the map proponents, I am with you there!!!  I backpack with my boyfriend and when we first started and I was looking for good topos for where we were going, he poohooed it, gave me a hard time cause he had/has his Garmin.  He absolutely loves his Garmin.  We have been packpacking together for 10 years now and he still loves his Garmin and I carry a topo map (he doesn't give me a hard time about it anymore), compass, actually 2, a sighting compass and one good for putting on the map, and an altimeter.  He actually likes the maps now as he can see the detailed topography and marked trails for large expanses, but he is still really dependent on his Garmin.  Even though it's not always right and often measures more miles than we've actually walked.

I really want to go out alone and have wanted to for a long time.  But I have vision issues, almost no depth perception at times and poor depth perception the rest of the times, and a traumatic experience from camping with the Girl Scouts, that involved other people not nature, makes me almost terrified to go out of the tent at night to answer the call of nature.  I really need to get over this last one and the only way to do that will be going out alone.  I even bought a one person backpacking tent a few years ago.

Not to coop this conversation chain, but anyone got suggestions for a good place for a single 50 something woman to backpack alone in the mid-west, other than Shawnee?

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Found Myself Outside

@Luv2Kayak,

If you have the time and don't mind a bit of a drive to get there, I would recommend Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The scenery is amazing!  You need to reserve backcountry sites, and I would recommend going after Labor Day to avoid the crowds and the insects; the stable flies and mosquitoes are brutal in the summer!

IMG_20200918_111910_738.jpg

Get outdoors, stay safe, and happy trails!
Todd the Hiker

@Todd_the_Hiker. Thanks for the recommendation. We packed the entire length about three years ago. It was beautiful. Two years ago I kayaked with some other folks.
But yeah, I could easily do that hike again.

 

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Found Myself Outside

@Luv2Kayak 

Another U.P. suggestion, which you may also have done, is Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.

Get outdoors, stay safe, and happy trails!
Todd the Hiker

Yes @@Todd_the_Hiker we did Porcupine last August. We did the state park but I understand that the surrounding national forest has some nice trails as well.

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Found Myself Outside

Yes, @Luv2Kayak, there is definitely a lot of territory to explore up there! Another place on our list is Grand Island NRA off of Munising.

Get outdoors, stay safe, and happy trails!
Todd the Hiker