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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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A lot of my experience with women outdoors has been in the context of volunteer search and rescue and this experience has been very positive,  Oddly enough, my overall impression is that the group dynamic in a mixed group is smoother, more mellow, and more efficient overall than in an all male group.  This same conclusion is mirrored in my NPS career, during which women have made steady gains in the ranks, not just leading nature walks, but in positions like boat captains and commissioned law enforcement rangers.

In fact, on my last ever SAR experience, I was teamed with a female law enforcement ranger, five to six months pregnant at the time.  All went smoothly and the situation was handled quite well.

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

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

I agree that most SAR missions involve men, but that is meaningless unless you know how man men vs. women are in the wilds and can compare th percentages. 

One of my most dramatic operations involved the retrieval of the body of a young woman from a flowing waterfall while on rappel.  Yet another involved the successful recovery of a woman who had suffered a fall; her male companion, ever the gentleman, landed first and cushioned her fall.  He was DOA.  Truly heroic helicopter flying saved her.

Earlier in the first event, we had rescued two women stranded on a rock in the middle of the stream,caught by a classic desert flash flood.  Plenty of women require assistance in the outdoors, as do many males.  Save 'em first and do the stats later...

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Yes, it's safe for women to solo backpack and camp.   Cudos to share your love of the outdoors, but Not teaching fear is key.  Hard when a Dad but a main characteristic of a successful teacher.   Once on their own, your daughters will decide what makes them feel safe.  It may be to carry a gun.  It may be to sleep with a pocketknife, bear spray or set up noise alerts in their camp.   I'm late to solo backpacking/camping and have found that it's the bears, wildlife, weather that concern me, not the people.   Once you see them taking pictures of scat, or talking about paw prints, you're there Dad. 

"bears, wildlife, and weather"  -  I suspect that bad or extreme weather has killed more people in the outdoors than all the bears and wildlife combined.  In my experience, falls in rough terrain are the number one killer.  A free fall of more than forty feet is most likely fatal.  Surprisingly enough, the number two killer is drowning.  My experience is in southern Arizona, desert country, where running water is rare.

Knowledge and understanding, along with common sense prudence, would have prevented most of these deaths.  With knowledge and understanding, one will sally forth with adequate gear and clothing, hence no problem.

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

@CeciliaI'm just the opposite of you. I'm not afraid of the weather and wildlife; it's the people that terrify me.

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Found Myself Outside
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@CeciliaI totally agree with your thoughts.  Instilling love for nature and teaching confidence and safe practices is key.  Teaching fear is a huge loss for both the teacher and student.  Once fear is instilled in a child/young adult, it will go with them the rest of their lives, no matter how hard they fight against it, it will always be there.

@DavidMif you are worried about our daughter, enroll her in a good martial arts program and encourage her to progress through the program.  It will teach her confidence, build total body muscle strength and coordination, and provide her with self defense strategies.  The key is to find a good program and not one where they just hand out belts if the kids show up.

Another thing that is key it to teach her how to set boundaries without being rude, what can be perceived as flirting (you have the male perspective) even if it is not meant to be, and to not overshare whether on social media or in person especially with people she doesn't know well.

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Found Myself Outside

Allow her to be rude.  We don't always have to be nice.  We can be clear and direct and protective and how another perceives that is none of our business.

Being In Total Charge of Herself (**bleep**) can be a powerful thing and women have the right to be nasty, angry, emotional, fierce, strong, aggressive or whatever they feel.  How another puts judgment on that without knowing anything about her life is just sad and unnecessary.

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Always leave a place better than you found it, i.e, treasure dignity.  This well known scout motto seems so simple yet it is difficult in practice.  Explore it's implications while hiking with your daughter.   It applies to not just if you pick up trash with no one looking, but how you conduct yourself on the trails.  

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