4 Things Female Thru-Hikers Need to Hear
Dear Female Thru-Hikers,
In 2016, I hiked the Appalachian Trail and became apparent of how my gender played a role in how my abilities were perceived. Although I hiked with my best friend, Sunshine, I am inspired by female thru-hikers who take on the trail solo. I want to remind all the female hikers out there taking on long distance trails, whether solo or with a partner, that they can do whatever they set their minds to. Two words: Girl Power. You are a #ForceOfNature.
1. Haters are the Motivators
Any solo trip, regardless of gender, can stir concerns among family and friends. But, if you encounter people questioning or commenting about you being a female or a solo female hiker, use it as an opportunity to channel frustration into determination to be apart of the one in four statistic to make it from Georgia to Maine. Be confident in your abilities and trust your decision to thru-hike. Trust me, I had moments where I questioned if I could thru-hike. And, after pushing aside these doubts I made it from Georgia to Maine. This leads me to my next point.
2. Mind Over Matter
Pro Tip 1: Tell yourself you can do something until you believe it. Science agrees with me- it’s called Stereotype Threat. This is all fancy talk for how negative stereotypes can affect how you perceive your abilities and it impacts performance.
“Before the deed comes the thought. Before the achievement comes the dream. Every mountain we climb, we first climb in our mind.”-Royal Robbins
Remember that you are prepared and like in life, the trail is one step at a time. The trail is just as much mental as physical and I am not afraid to admit I was my biggest fan at times on the AT. I had moments where I had to tell myself I could do it until I believed it. This being said, gender did not determine my ability. Personally, I think girl power got me up and over mountains. There will be challenging mountains and the best part is overcoming it, summiting the top.
3. Female Thru-Hikers can Have Fun and Be Safe
It always stood out to me how Sunshine and I were told to Be Safe rather than to Have Fun. Typically, as we parted ways from towns or shelters, we were told to Be Safe while males were told to Have fun. I always find this interesting and genuinely appreciated the concern for my safety. Regardless of gender, in order to have fun and be safe it’s important to have a plan and understand the skill set and gear requirements for the terrain and environment.
P.S. You will be asked if you are carrying a gun for your safety at some point in your thru-hike. I did not carry a gun but listened to plenty of reasons why I should have. Thankfully, the Appalachian Trail is a safe place and I never felt the need for one.
4. There are Perks
Female thru-hikers suddenly finds themselves with new best friends when it comes to hitch hiking into town. One of the perks of being a lady is you look more approachable than male thru-hikers with their trail beards. As a result, female thru-hikers are way more likely to catch a ride to town.
But, most importantly, the trail community really does look after everyone. The majority of people I met on the trail treated me as an equal and I valued this experience. The nice part about backpacking is everything you have is on your back and its hard to be anything but transparent after hiking for ten hours a day. For me, backpacking is an equalizer and gender does not determine your ability.The trail is the opportunity of a lifetime and is yours to experience and travel.
Good luck on your thru-hikes. Chase those summits, sunrises and enjoy every moment on the trail.
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