Backpacking in the great outdoors is more popular than ever before. In our opinion, there’s nothing that gives a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment quite like backpacking. It’s also a great way to reach places that are normally inaccessible by conventional means of travel. Unfortunately, women meet many obstacles while on the trail if they even dare to go backpacking in the first place. In this article, we will present some issues female backpackers face when backpacking, as well as possible solutions to overcome these problems. In the end, there will be nothing standing in the way of your next – or your very first – backpacking adventure. Let’s get going, shall we!
For the most part, backpacking is the same no matter your gender. The compass always points north, mosquitos always seem to have it in for you specifically, and there’s always that nagging feeling that you forgot something important while packing. However, there are some unique challenges that only women face on a backpacking tour.
Convincing Family, Friends, and Yourself
Before a woman embarks on a backpacking trip – or any kind of trip for that matter – she first has to convince the people around her that she’s capable. Even more important, however, is that she’s confident in herself and her abilities, which is easier said than done. Throughout their entire lives, women are taught – either consciously or subconsciously – that there’s danger waiting for them around every corner, that they are far too weak to explore the world on their own, unlike men. Her loved ones may impart these messages out of love and concern, but ultimately, they are restricting and patronizing. Women’s fears are not unwarranted, but that shouldn’t stop them from backpacking, especially since it’s so much more rewarding than it is dangerous. Backpacking not only increases your physical strength and confidence, but also improves a number of other skills, such as problem-solving, social skills, and survival skills. During a backpacking trip, you will inevitably have to confront your fears. By facing those fears, you will grow into a more self-assured and independent person. We mustn’t deprive women of this life-changing experience.
In order to alleviate some of your own and your loved ones’ fears, especially if you’re a backpacking newbie, we recommend choosing a popular route to start out with. These are usually well-maintained and easy to follow, provide reception for your cell phone, and offer plenty of accommodations. In addition, it is beneficial to travel with like-minded women who share your passion for the outdoors. You’ve probably heard of the saying: There’s strength in numbers. If you don’t have any friends interested in backpacking already, then you can find some new ones through Facebook groups, like Outdoorsy Gals, Women Who Hike, and PNW Outdoor Women.
Equipment for Female Backpackers
Just as with backpacking in general, for the most part, gear is also gender-neutral. However, there are some significant differences between men’s and women’s bodies, which affects the usefulness of the equipment. Women-specific gear is designed with the following criteria in mind:
- Shorter heights
- Lighter weights
- Smaller shoulders
- Wider hips
- Narrower feet
- Additional insulation
In that regard, female hiking clothes in particular differ greatly from their male counterparts. There are also some distinguishing features when it comes to backpacks, sleeping bags, and trekking poles. Do keep in mind though that women come in all shapes and sizes. Women-specific gear may have been designed specifically for female backpackers, but sometimes the gender-neutral alternatives can still be a better fit for you, depending on your size and body type. Make sure to try on your hiking clothes and test your gear before going on your first big backpacking tour.
Another difficulty that may arise – depending on how long you plan to travel – is your period. All the different sanitary products have advantages and disadvantages. Tampons are easy to carry and hike in, and don’t create a mess when taking them out. However, you have to take the used ones with you, as you can’t simply leave them behind in nature. Menstrual cups are reusable, but washing them might be a hassle, especially when you’re in the middle of nowhere. You also have to dig a big hole to bury the blood. Similar to tampons, you have to carry used pads with you until you can correctly dispose of them, and additionally, they are also very uncomfortable to hike in. Alternatively, you could use period underwear, which is available in many different styles and fits.
Hardships of Female Backpackers
From skin-crawling stares and catcalling to unwanted touches and stalking… The life of a female backpacker isn’t easy, whether she’s in the middle of a bustling city or walking along a hiking trail. However, don’t let such creeps stop you from living your life to the fullest! We’d like to give you some advice on how to protect yourself from other people on a backpacking tour.
First, always trust your gut. Women are socialized to be nice, polite, and accommodating towards others, even when they feel uncomfortable. If someone’s giving off creepy vibes, then tell them straight on to leave you alone. A strong attitude is half the battle, and a healthy dose of skepticism has never harmed anyone.
Second, don’t disclose any of your personal information. Don’t tell the other person where you’re going, if you’re traveling alone, or what you’re planning to do on your trip. Keep conversations vague and short. If necessary, you can also lie to the other person, for example, about any travel companions you may or may not have with you.
Third, don’t travel all by your lonesome, especially your first few times backpacking. And if you do travel alone, make sure to stay close to other groups of people. In both cases, the presence of other people will greatly reduce your chance of being harassed or assaulted. Last but not least, we recommend having a so-called “safe person” if you do travel alone. A safe person is someone you trust and who will contact the authorities in case they haven’t heard from you after a certain time period or if you haven’t reached your intended destination as planned. Although it won’t prevent something bad from happening to you, it could mean the difference between life and death to have the authorities react as quickly as possible. At any rate, it will give you peace of mind to know that your safe person has your back no matter what.
In our opinion, the pros of backpacking highly outweigh the cons. It’s one of the greatest ways to travel, as you can get to places that are usually inaccessible for conventional travelers. On a backpacking tour, you will learn and hone many skills, which will also be helpful in your everyday life. And after a successful trip, you will return as a more self-assured and independent person, and maybe even inspire other women to do the same.
On your way to become a female backpacker, there are some obstacles, starting with your own attitude and other people’s opinion about your capabilities. The first step is to start believing in yourself and your abilities. Traveling with other like-minded, more experienced women will also lead you to be more confident.
In recent years, there have also been a lot of improvements in terms of gear and equipment specifically for female backpackers. They are now designed with women’s unique physical attributes in mind, thus improving their backpacking experience considerably. Keep in mind though that women come in all shapes and sizes, so some equipment may fit some women better than others. There is also a wide variety of sanitary products to choose from to suit your personal needs and comfort levels.
Last but not least, other people may pose a danger during your backpacking trip, but that’s an exception rather than the rule. Trust your gut and keep away from people who creep you out. Additionally, don’t share any personal information with strangers. As mentioned before, traveling with other backpackers will also greatly reduce your chances of being harassed.
As you can see, by preparing properly and taking a few precautions, women can make great backpackers. If there’s one thing you should take away from this article, it’s to be confident in yourself and your abilities. You can do anything if you put your mind to it! Now go and become the best female backpacker the world has ever seen!