Tips for Becoming a Better Outdoorswoman

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By Andrea Willingham

Whether you grew up in an outdoorsy family, or are just now discovering the joys of outdoorsmanship, there’s a lot to know and a lot to learn about this wonderful world of exploration and adventure in the great outdoors. And despite what the media and history books might have you believe, women have always been a part of this world as well, if not perhaps in different capacities at different times. Believe you me, we have always found our own ways to take part in the fun! One of my biggest pet peeves about the traditional pubic portrayal of outdoor recreation is that you have to be tough, or strong, or masculine to participate. I would argue that spending time outdoors can help you become stronger, but it is by no means a prerequisite to getting outside, challenging yourself, or adventuring.

As women, we are so often deeply socialized to believe that it’s not safe for us to be alone or outdoors without a man along with us. I think in recent years this myth has become increasingly dispelled, but I’m still frequently surprised by how many women I meet who struggle with this. That said, because many of us in the US (and many other countries) live in a culture where we do worry about these things, there are some best practices we can follow to ensure our safety, boost our confidence, and maximize the fun.

 

Do your Research

 

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Anytime I’m planning to go out on a hike (especially if I’m planning on going solo), I put in a little bit of research ahead of time. I’m looking to find out things like how long the trail is, if it closes at a certain time, how strenuous, what the conditions will be like, whether there is cell service, what the road condition is, how far away it is, and how crowded or remote it is. A simple Google search can find you most of this information, but many areas also have good guide books, visitor centers, and ranger stations to consult.

Funny story: Last June I decided to solo hike up in the mountains not far from where I live. It was a warm, sunny 80-degree F day. I thought I had done my research – I Googled it, read some blog posts about the trail, looked it up in my guide book. However, when I arrived, I found the road cut off by a wall of snow halfway up the mountain! Turned out, I had completely missed the detail about the trail only being accessible July-September. So don’t just “do” your research. Also keep in mind what to look for, depending on where you’re going! 😊

 

Be Prepared

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Fortunately when I came across that wall of snow last spring, I had come well-prepared for any conditions. I had plenty of food and water, warm layers that I had been sure I wouldn’t need, a change of shoes and socks, and even had a trekking pole in my car. I parked at the edge of the snow, and hiked in another mile or two and had myself a lovely picnic lunch! My friends often laugh at me for being overprepared whenever we go hiking, but I guarantee you about 85% of the time, someone ends up needing something that I just happen to have thought to bring.

Extra layers, rain gear, a change of socks, extra water, extra snacks, first aid supplies, and a back-up plan I think are the best ways you can be prepared for any outdoor day hike or overnight trip. Take a photo of the trail map for where you’re going, too, if there is one. Whether this is on a kiosk sign, in a guidebook, or online, get a picture of that map, because you may want to consult it later!

 

Be resourceful

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Focus on keeping your bearings as you hike. Note which way the water is flowing if there’s a stream or river (you can always backtrack upstream or downstream if you know which way you came from). Keep an eye out for landmarks. Note the direction of the slope if you’re on a mountainside or hill. Listen for traffic if you’re near a major road. If you’re a real nerd like me, you’ll probably try to learn the local flora and fauna ahead of time – what grows near water or in dry areas, which plants are edible, which are dangerous, the geology of the landscape. Being aware of your surroundings and the signs of nature around you is an enormously useful tool for becoming comfortable in the outdoors.

 

Trust yourself

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There’s a lot to be said for trusting yourself, and I think it’s actually easier to trust yourself when you’re alone rather than when you’re in a group. In recent years, I’ve become a lot more comfortable calling it quits even when the rest of the group wants to keep going. If you’re exhausted and your body says, “Nope, I’m done,” or if you have that tingling sixth sense that something just isn’t right, trust your gut. Make a plan with the rest of the group to either wait for them, or meet up at an agreed time and place. Stick with a buddy if you can (usually if you’re hiking in a group, there’s probably at least one other person who feels the same way you do!). Clear communication is essential when you’re looking out for your own needs and safety outdoors. Anyone who makes you feel bad about having to stop or turn back is not worth your time.

 

Attitude is Everything

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Whether you’re hiking alone or in a group, attitude really is everything, and it can be the difference between a great experience, or the most miserable day of your life. There’s a practical component to this as well though – having a positive attitude can actually increase your chances of survival in some emergency situations. Sometimes called “The Attitude of Survival,” having control over your state of mind can help you keep calm, clear-headed, and thinking straight even when you find yourself lost, in a sticky situation, or unsure of things. As difficult as it is sometimes, we are almost always in control of our attitudes; it can be hard to switch from being panicked or upset to feeling determined and upbeat, but it can be done and it can empower you to find the strength and resources you may need to change the situation you’re in.

These are just a few of the “tools” I keep in my own personal mental toolbox as an outdoorswoman. What are some of yours? What kinds of experiences have you had that have made you the outdoorswoman or outdoorsman you are today? What tips do you make sure to follow when you’re out adventuring? It’s always great to learn from others who enjoy similar activities and have their own tricks of the trade to share!

 

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48 thoughts on “Tips for Becoming a Better Outdoorswoman

  • November 3, 2017 at 3:44 pm
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    this is too great! I’m so not an outdoorsy woman, although i want to be! going to follow your advice 🙂

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  • November 3, 2017 at 1:18 pm
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    Great tips! I am not much of an outdoorsy type person but probably because I just don’t have very much experience with it. I remember camping with my family as a little girl and it scared me! Ill have to give it another try as an adult =)

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    • November 15, 2017 at 6:56 am
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      The funny thing about experience is the only way to get it is to just get out there and do it! 🙂 And I’ve found that camping is much less scary as an adult. It can be still be scary at times (what was that sound??) but definitely more fun and empowering than anything else.

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  • November 3, 2017 at 8:37 am
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    I’ll remember these tips and share with friends who love hiking. I love your tips and I enjoy your post.

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  • November 2, 2017 at 12:07 am
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    One day I will do this and I will keep these tips in mind! Thinking of a girls trip 🙂

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  • October 30, 2017 at 11:56 pm
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    Great tips for anyone who enjoys outdoor adventure. Be prepared is so key – I don’t know how many people I meet on the trails that have no water with them. That’s just basic knowledge! Anyway, terrific article.

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    • November 15, 2017 at 6:58 am
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      I know right? Seeing people hiking without water is one of my biggest pet peeves. I’m glad I’m not the only one. 😮 Seriously, you never know when you might get stuck out longer than you expect, or have something happen and need water to clean a wound or just rehydrate.

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  • October 30, 2017 at 4:38 pm
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    I agree with you. The media portrays outdoor sports as masculine which is a shame. I have many female friends who do high altitude treks and scuba diving with aplomb. They can give men a run for their money.

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    • November 15, 2017 at 6:59 am
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      That’s awesome! Having adventurous female friends is so inspiring, and empowering to those around them!

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  • October 30, 2017 at 2:29 pm
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    As my kids are getting older we are taking more and more trips into the great outdoors! Thank you so much for your tips and sharing your experience(:

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    • November 15, 2017 at 6:59 am
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      That is so great! I’m glad you all are getting outside, and I’m glad the tips were relevant for you!

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  • October 30, 2017 at 2:27 pm
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    These are fantastic tips to share and so important for any outdoor adventures. Interesting story you shared about the trail being cut off from July to September – so true how you should do your research. I actually faced this once in Switzerland during the winter and didn’t realise a certain train had been closed because I didn’t do my research! Trusting Yourself is another great trip – there’s always that gut feeling that is giving you a sense of what to do/not to do.

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    • November 15, 2017 at 7:00 am
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      Wow, that’s another great example of needing to do your research! It’s SO easy to overlook these things. Thanks for sharing your own story!

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  • October 30, 2017 at 7:47 am
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    With a child, it becomes little difficult to be outdoors but someday I really wish to do so. These are some great tips for the ones who love outdoors.

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    • November 15, 2017 at 7:01 am
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      I can understand that. I hope you’re able to get outdoors more as your child gets older! I think growing up surrounded by nature and learning to love it rather than fear it is so important.

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  • October 30, 2017 at 4:32 am
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    I wish I was brave enough to try camping with my kiddos!

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    • November 15, 2017 at 7:03 am
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      Maybe one day you will be! I remember when I was really little, my parents would just take my siblings and I camping in Fort Wilderness at Disney World. 🙂 It was probably good practice for them, and fun for us. When we got older, we would do more extensive trips to state parks and such. I hope you can get out camping when you feel ready!

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  • October 30, 2017 at 2:45 am
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    Great post! We love to go hiking and will be camping this summer since we missed it this past summer with my bed rest.

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    • November 15, 2017 at 7:04 am
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      Thanks for your comment, I’m glad you enjoyed the post! Hope you can get out hiking and camping again soon!

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  • October 30, 2017 at 12:04 am
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    I really enjoy outdoor activities! Unfortunately, there is a not a lot of scenic hiking in Houston. I am so impressed that you hike solo. I do a lot of things solo, but I am not sure I could hike!

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    • November 15, 2017 at 7:05 am
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      That’s one of my favorite personal challenges: to find somewhere special even in places that don’t seem “scenic.” I grew up in suburban Florida, so I know how hard that can be. 🙂 I hear Houston has some pretty great gems though, so I hope you can get out there and find some fun places to explore!

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  • October 29, 2017 at 6:27 pm
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    Outdoorswoman- love this term! These are excellent tips for anyone wanting to venture into the wild. I’m not an avid hiker but all of these apply to me too. Especially the first tip about doing research ahead of time to find out trail conditions!

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    • November 15, 2017 at 7:06 am
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      Thanks! I’m slowly trying to bring that word into mainstream lingo. 😉 Glad you enjoyed the article!

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  • October 29, 2017 at 6:21 pm
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    Wonderful tips on how to be outdoors woman as we tend to feel unsafe in an unfamiliar environment. Women take less risks compared to men. But you have given nice motivation about how to be more prepared when going solo for a hike and that too in a place where no one is around. I loved your snowy pictures.

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  • October 29, 2017 at 11:47 am
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    Great tips! I especially love the “attitude is everything” one. It’s actually so true. Being an outdoorsy person isn’t always easy. Sometimes things go wrong, we get lost or find a hike difficult or whatever, but it’s all in the attitude!!

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    • November 15, 2017 at 7:07 am
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      I’m glad that tip resonated with you! I think it’s really important and often overlooked.

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  • October 29, 2017 at 11:08 am
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    Some wonderful tips, quite a few of which I learnt as I started to hike in Germany when I was living there – was a while back. Having the right attitude and being resourceful are two suggestions that are the most important according to me. But then from personal luck I would add Luck to the list too since one time when we got lost hiking in Germany, we just happened to meet someone in the middle of the forest who spoke perfect English (we were new then and didn’t know German well) and guided us to the right path.

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    • November 15, 2017 at 7:09 am
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      Wow, great story! Thanks for sharing your experiences! Luck is definitely important to have, though not always something you can rely on. 🙂 I can’t even count the number of times luck has been a factor (good and bad!) in my outdoor experiences, but it’s definitely an important one!

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  • October 29, 2017 at 10:38 am
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    I have always wanted to hike by myself. I just want to prove something to go solo. Thanks for the great tips!

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    • November 15, 2017 at 7:10 am
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      That’s great! Try it first on a short easy trail and you’ll soon have the confidence to get out in more wild and remote places. Good luck and have fun!

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  • October 29, 2017 at 10:26 am
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    What a nice post! I think “Be resourceful” is totally important. Traveling outdoors can be dangerous, so knowing the place well in advance is a must. I just hike in group, but I’d love to go alone one day to explore the nature on my own.

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  • October 29, 2017 at 2:50 am
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    These are really great tips for outdoorsman and great to do research before any big adventure. Better safe than sorry.

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  • October 28, 2017 at 8:55 am
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    I’m probably the worst example of an outdoorswoman so I won’t even attempt to offer advice! I am however usually over-prepared when traveling, so that’s one of your tips I can relate to. I also agree that if hiking, especially in groups, you need to be around positive and like-minded people. There’s nothing worse than being around a downer for a lengthy trip.

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  • October 28, 2017 at 3:43 am
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    Good tips, Andrea! It’s awesome that you are able to hike solo and have a good time. 🙂

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  • October 28, 2017 at 1:57 am
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    This is a really cool post. Love the tips. I love hiking and camping so will for sure use some of these tips

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    • October 29, 2017 at 1:30 am
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      Awesome, thanks Ashley! Glad to hear you enjoyed the post and might find some of the tips useful! 🙂

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  • October 27, 2017 at 9:21 pm
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    Such great tips! My Dad always carries the “10 essentials” when he goes on a hike. I need to get better about this myself! When I was hiking the John Muir Trail last summer I was delighted at how many women were doing the hike solo. It’s great myths are being dispelled about the dangers of being in the outdoors alone.

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    • October 27, 2017 at 11:32 pm
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      That’s so cool, Kristin! I would love to do the JMT someday soon — it’s wonderful to hear so many women are getting out there and hiking it solo.

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