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

img_7036-jpgPro 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.

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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.

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Good luck on your thru-hikes. Chase those summits, sunrises and enjoy every moment on the trail.

With Love,

Moonshine

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Comments 46

  • Andrew : May 27th

    I don’t get women like you nowadays. Women like you behave as if there is this gigantic conspiracy against you, as if men everywhere want to rape and oppress you. Where do you people even come from? Get a life.

    Reply
    • Danielle : May 27th

      Hey Andrew, thank you for the response. I want to start off on a positive note and I’m sorry you feel this way about a “gigantic conspiracy theory”. Additionally, I want to clarify I never once said men “everywhere want to rape and oppress you.” This is offensive, untrue and I believe men actually have an important role to play in gender equality. As I said in the article, I valued how I was treated and viewed as an equal, by both men and women thru-hikers. Treating people equally and not degrading others is the way to go.

      Reply
      • Andrew : May 27th

        Why did you feel the need to bring up anything related to so-called “gender inequality” while writing an article on thru-hiking? It sounds like you have an agenda that you are trying to push. Feminism is becoming increasingly anti-male, and I am becoming rather concerned about that.

        Reply
        • T Todd : May 27th

          Then why did you read the article?

          Reply
    • Dawna Emerson-Hinton : May 27th

      If you don’t understand or agree, you are welcome to move on. Your negative comments are not needed.

      Reply
      • Danielle : May 27th

        Hey Dawna, thank you for reaching out and sharing your experience as a female in the outdoor industry. I appreciate the support and agree constructive criticism is only welcome. Let’s build bridges in conversations and not walls.

        Reply
    • Brian : May 30th

      Where did she say anything about men wanting to rape and oppress women??…Sounds like you are the one that struggles with your own ideals of manhood…
      From what I have seen men that fear feminism tend to try to over compensate for their own shortcomings in life…

      Reply
    • SmokinOkie : Jun 2nd

      Andrew, it sounds to me like she does have a life. She is hiking the Appalachian Trail while you are sitting behind a keyboard criticizing her. Women have always been regarded as a weaker sex incapable of doing things like this, or dog sledding, or race car driving, etc and it has only been in the last few decades that many women have chosen to break the boundaries and perform these long male dominated activities.

      Reply
  • Kate : May 27th

    I’m a 45 year old women and have been doing this for 20 plus years. I have no idea what my gender has to do with this? You have zero obstacles in front of you as a women in America. Please don’t pretend there is, not once have I been stopped on a trail and been told hey you’re a girl you can’t do this. As a matter of fact we seem to hold the edge in this sport.

    Reply
    • Ben : May 27th

      I am not sure what this article is even about. I normally never comment, but I feel like I just wasted a few minutes of my life and I’m not exactly sure how I feel about that. Moonshine, you might need to find another profession. Good luck to you.

      Reply
      • Danielle : May 27th

        Hey Ben, Thank you for the comment and for reaching out. I apologize if the article is confusing and hope you have the chance to check out a few other of my posts. To put it simply: it’s about my experience of hiking as a women. Hope you continue reading and find a post you enjoy!

        Reply
    • Townhouse : May 27th

      I would say people like her come from a new generation of men and women who have found many more outlets to speak to the kind of suppressive treatment that they have felt for centuries and were unable to (or limited to) speak freely and openly without fear. Yes, you as a man or yes you as a woman may personally never have felt this way, but don’t try to silence her for speaking on how she feels. Especially on a website meant for outdoor enthusiasts and lighthearted stories.

      Reply
      • Townhouse : May 27th

        In other words, rock on girl. Keep spreading the good word and inspiring others.

        Reply
      • Andrew : May 27th

        Yes, this is meant to be a light hearted website on the outdoors, not a platform for social justice warriors.

        Reply
        • Tom : May 27th

          And that’s exactly what this article was–a light-hearted article on the outdoors.

          Reply
      • Danielle : May 27th

        Thank you for the support and logical response to the article. I think the important theme is you don’t really know someones experience until you take a walk in their shoes. Ultimately was the theme, think the point was missed. Thank you again for the kind words, means a lot!

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    • Danielle : May 27th

      Hey Kate, thank you for reaching out and giving your input. I’m thankful you have not experienced gender inequality while hiking. . But one answer: empathy. I haven’t walked a day in your shoes and you have not walked in mine. Here is one article worth reading, not all women have the same experience due to different intersections of identity: https://www.outsideonline.com/2170266/solo-hiking-appalachian-trail-queer-black-woman .

      But, Gender inequality exists in backpacking. Women are making huge advancements and gaining equality which is exciting. I don’t allow my gender to define my ability but other people i.e. institutional sexism. I appreciate your input and wish you happy trails!

      Reply
  • Charlie : May 27th

    I hate the total lack of imagination and empathy from some men on here. All you have to do is look at the trail registries and see that 90% of hikers are men. Ask yourself why is that, when half of the population are women? We all grew up with cultural gender biases and stereotypes and women, when they’re seen on the trail (especially alone) confront those stereotypes for a lot of people. Hence the comments that they should carry a gun or pepper spray or they shouldn’t hike alone or they are being wreckless. It’s all based in the stereotype that females are all girls who need protecting by big strong men. If you’re a guy and you can’t see this, you need to learn how to walk a mile in other people’s shoes.

    Reply
    • Andrew : May 27th

      So because the majority of hikers are males, women have a right to feel oppressed? I am not even going to attempt to argue with you here. You sound like you potentially spend all of your time at a Starbucks browsing CNN on your Apple device. In other words, so sound like you are incapable of rational thought.

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      • Charlie : May 28th

        Andrew- Everything I said above is logical and fairly simple to I understand. Yet you’re still too thick to get it so I won’t bother trying to reason with you. You’re a moron and you always will be.

        Reply
  • Temis : May 27th

    Regardless of gender, just by looking at the stats of people that start a thru hike versus the percentage that complete such adventure. Any human being that complete a thru hike has my highest respect.

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    • Danielle : May 27th

      I totally agree! Any human being who is able to thru-hike is an impressive feat. It’s amazing the places your feet can take you!

      Reply
      • Linda : Sep 17th

        So impressed with anyone completing the AT. I am a 55 year old woman considering making the the trek myself. I have always hiked alone (mainly because I like it more than any of my friends!) Kudos to you, Moonshine!

        Reply
  • Jeff : May 27th

    I don’t normally comnent but some of the ignorant responses here triggered something. I guess that’s why they call it trolling. I’m a male backpacker and trail runner and have many female friend share encounters that are scary and as a male have never experienced. Runners world had a recent article concerning this and it’s worth a read to gain a little perspective. Google Running While Female and it should pop up. As a son, husband and father of two daughters it’s disturbing that they might experience these same situations in thier lifetime. Just because it hasn’t happened to you or you are a guy that harrasses wonen doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Ok, rip me apart.

    Reply
    • Danielle : May 27th

      Hey Jeff, thank you for commenting and offering support. From reading your response, your two daughter are lucky to have a role model like you and your wife– teaching them to move mountains and to ignore negativity. I agree, just because it doesn’t happen to you doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. That’s ignorant. Life is unpredictable, there’s a lot of factors that are out of your control and we should all be more kind. The best thing about kindness, as you’ve demonstrated, is free, and it means a lot. In high school, I read To Kill a MockingBird and one line always stuck with me, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it” Words to live by. Thank you again.

      Reply
  • Don : May 27th

    My wife and i hiked a lot a few years back . Met a lot of great people on the AT. I hope you make it the whole way . I didn’t , and now can’t . Happy trails !

    Reply
    • Dawna : May 27th

      I am a former wildlands fire fighters and timber sales Forrester. I have done alot of backpacking in my years as well. I find that being a women in the fields I have chosen, one is always treated different. I also find this to be true when out on the trails alone. Being smart, preparing for the unknown and listening to your gut is what all women should do.

      I enjoyed your article and think you are setting a good example.
      Happy Trails to you!

      Reply
    • Danielle : May 27th

      Hey Don, thank you for the kind words and support. We thru-hiked the AT in 2016 and loved the experience. As I mentioned in the post, backpacking is an equalizer and met a lot of people that were on the same page. What year did you thru-hike? Kudos to you!

      Reply
  • Sean : May 27th

    Great article. Thanks for sharing. Kudos for the through hike. I have two daughters and am glad to hear your opinion on women making the trek solo or with a partner.

    Reply
    • Danielle : May 27th

      Hey Sean, Thank you for the kind words. We firmly believe women are capable of making the trek solo or with a partner, gender does not determine ability in the backcountry. We want to see a generation of women who know they can move mountains and give them the tools in order to do so.

      Reply
  • Jev : May 28th

    I’m a firm believer that women can do anything they set their minds to and I try to instill that mindset onto my daughter, that being said, I agree with one commenter when he said it’s dangerous to encourage young girls to take those kinds of risks going solo, it has absolutely nothing to do with capability, and everything to do with precaution, someone else mentioned just because it hasn’t happened to you yet doesn’t mean it won’t or it can’t, statistics tell us that women hiking or jogging alone is dangerous. I think it’s irresponsible of you to give women false confidence, young people as a rule have the mentality that nothing can happen to them until it does and then it’s too late, it doesn’t cost anything to take a companion, not only in case you come in contact with unscrupulous people but just in case something should happen, even the most capable people can have an accident, that’s just my two cents

    Reply
    • Danielle : Jun 15th

      Thank you for your comments and I understand the dichotomy of precaution and capability for women. Undoubtedly, hiking in a group, regardless of gender is safer. If we get technical, according to Wilderness First Aid, you are safest with 4 or more people. Now, why 4 ? Well, if someone is hurt or injured, someone must stay with that person while the other 2 go for help. Pairs are important. I too agree, even capable of people can have an accident.

      All this being said, I won’t stop hiking solo. This is my choice. Trust me, my family doesn’t like it. It makes them nervous despite my backpacking experiences and wilderness first aid certifications. I apologize if you found the advice to be irresponsible and hope to follow up with safety tips we took while on the trail. Thank you again for your thoughts.

      Reply
  • Skittles : May 30th

    I’m a 2016 female solo thruhiker. I got a lot of odd looks from both being female and super small (I’m 4’10” on a good day and weigh 95lbs soaking wet). There were plenty of people, both on trail and off, that thought I couldn’t do it. I know I completely suprised one hiker when I caught up to him in Vermont.
    One of the most common comments I got was how scary it must be being alone and a women. There were some people gave me bad vibes along the trail and I would try to out him them (one dude kept popping up anyways). But for the most part I fly completely safe.

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    • Danielle : Jun 4th

      Hey Skittles, thanks for reaching out and sharing your story! I’m not sure if our paths crossed, did you hike NOBO or SOBO? I can relate to some of your experiences but I’m 5’9” and not petite so I can image some of the comments you received. I also and moments were someone gave me bad vibes but in general I felt safe. Actually, I’d have more weird situations in town than on the trail.

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  • Jim murray : Jun 3rd

    To ALL the people (especially young ones)who take the time and initiative to go out and experience the backcountry I say two thumbs up!! In this day and age where people can’t seem to disconnect from the matrix even across the room from the person they talking!!??** to–you are a breath of fresh air.There just doesn’t seem to be ANY conversation anymore that someone doesn’t feel the need to interject some political or cultural point of view,or look for slights where none were intended.You rock young lady,and you are the kind of independent thinking young woman a father would be proud to watch in her life’s journey. Happy trails wherever your path finds you and I hope to shake your hand and give you a hug if I’m fortunate enough to cross paths with you.As far as the ax grinders,take what you need and leave the rest.I only wish there were more PEOPLE like you who would develop this passion and pursue it for a lifetime.Follow your dreams!!! PEACE

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    • Danielle : Jun 4th

      Hey Jim! Thank you so much for the kind words, support and reaching out. I agree that conversations are now too polarized over one item or another. It’s important to have constructive conversation with those that share and don’t share your views. Thank you again and hope we cross paths soon. Until then, happy trails!

      Reply
  • pacificpines : Jun 6th

    Thanks for this article, Danielle! I followed along on your adventures on Instagram last summer and loved every minute of it! It definitely was a part of my inspiration to do my own thru-hike of the PCT (2018 hopefully!).
    I don’t normally comment, but some of the comments really rubbed me the wrong way – as a potential solo female thru-hiker, I find it crazy that there are strangers trying to discount my feelings and experiences, male and female! I am not so nervous to do the hike on my own, but I know my parents and grandparents (specifically my dad and grandpa… funny how I know my grandma and mom will be more supportive) will do everything in their power to convince me NOT to do the PCT, simply because I would be a solo woman.
    My grandpa recently went on a tirade when I went hiking by myself on a local trail (with my dog AND Garmin GPS device with satellite texting AND SOS activated (spoiler alert: there is cell phone service on the whole hike, but I bring the extras to give everyone a better piece of mind), and safety whistle, and map & compass and the rest of the 10 essentials!) because “there are crazy people who go out in the wilderness specifically looking to murder and rape women. Look at the vagabonds who murdered the man hiker and his dog in San Francisco last year… blah blah.” (In his opinion, my pocket knife is also worthless to fend off an attacker since its tucked away in my backpack, and I really should consider carrying pepper spray (like I’m going to be holding it in my hand, at-the-ready at all times??? No, it would also be in my backpack. #nobodygottimeforthat).) Interesting how when I brought up to him that its way more likely that I sprain my ankle on the trail and need to use my self-evacuation skills (aka hobbling back to my car, which could take hours) he didn’t seem very concerned. He also didn’t seem concerned about the fact that you are more likely to be raped on a college campus than anywhere else (where I just spent the last 4 years of my life), or more likely to be killed in an automobile accident than on a hiking trail. Only the “murderers and rapists” are concerning, instead of an orthopedic injury, or dehydration, or whatever else is 1,000x more likely to happen on trail besides a murderer/ rapist. I’ve had similar conversations with my dad. Multiple times.
    Meanwhile, when I told them about my male friend 2 years younger than me hiking the PCT this year they say “Wow, that’s great”. By the way, they know how much I hike, that I am certified in Wilderness First Aid, have a SOS device, etc. So to those who don’t think being a woman has an impact on the way people (even people you love) perceive your place in the outdoors, think again. Being a white woman raised in a liberal area, I’ve always, ALWAYS, been told by all of my family members that I can do anything I want in my life. That I am strong, smart, and I can do anything I put my mind to. Funny how the same men who tell me this also tell me I shouldn’t hike without a partner because of murderers and rapists. I love my family members, and I know most of their concerns come from a place of love and protectiveness, but I can’t help but wonder if my grandpa had a grandson who wanted to do the things I want to do, would he tell him about the potential rapists supposedly lurking in the wilderness? Food for thought.
    If you’re a woman and have never experienced this from anyone in your life, you are lucky, and if you’re a man, Danielle has already put it nicely “you don’t really know someones experience until you take a walk in their shoes”.

    Reply
    • Jim murray : Jun 7th

      pacificpines

      you go,young lady and cherish your memories of your trip for a lifetime. My wife and I have 4 boys between us(one gone now)and they brought 8 more boys into this world and just 1 girl who is my little princess who I cherish. That being said,I still nurture and encourage her to follow her dreams EXACTLY like I would the boys.I hope to mentor her in the ways of the backcountry just like the others,and Dawn nailed it with her comments on the 27th.Prepare, prepare, prepare and trust your intuition.(just as it sounds like you have) A person is MUCH more likely to be hurt on the trail or caught unprepared than to be attacked. We teach our boys to be helpful and respectful, but not to interfere or be condescending because they are supposedly the dominant gender.My wife is a force to be reckoned with and I love her for that.Parents always fear for their children (it’s our job)but I can promise you everybody will be all puffed up bragging about their kick butt daughter/granddaughter who solo hiked the
      PCT.Don’t look back,follow your heart,live life to its fullest.People always focus on the 1 shark attack or sky diving accident instead of the millions of things that go off without a hitch.I pray my granddaughter ends up being like you and Danielle in not letting fear rule her life,but I’ll love her just the same whether she loves the outdoors like me or not. (it would be cool though to be holding the sign at Paintbrush Divide in the Teton”s with her!!!) Time will tell,but every time she’s with me the two of us will be following Danielle and hopefully you.Keep being an inspiration you two,there are young girls who need role models like you to believe in their full potential. PEACE

      Reply
    • Danielle : Jun 15th

      Hey Emily, you’re post made my day! Thank you for following Hannah and I’s thru-hike and I am so excited to hear about your future PCT 2018 adventures .. the PCT is a goal of mine and I can’t wait (well my bank account can). Like you, I’m also a white woman who grew up in an incredibly liberal household. As we are able to recognize our privilege, it’s kind of alarming how others are unable to. One’s persons experience cannot speak for a groups.

      From your skills and experiences you’re SO prepared to hike. Because I hiked with a partner, my solo trips as a woman have generated interesting conversations with family and friends. Although out of concern, constantly being told what’s safe and what’s not when you understand the logistics ahead can be frustrating. Sounds like you’re off to great places and know that you are strong and capable- don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Happy trails !

      Reply
  • Doctari : Jun 14th

    I’m male, but still get similar questions as posted above.
    The one that has gotten seriously annoying is “Do you carry a gun?”
    From now on, my answer will be “YES I DO! a GE Mini gun, its 80 pounds, but throws lead at over 200 rounds a second. It will turn a bear into pate in under 5 seconds! Granted I cant carry anything else, like food & shelter, but I’ll be safe in those dangerous woods.”
    My thought is,if you don’t want a stupid answer, don’t ask stupid questions. LOL

    Reply
    • Danielle : Jun 15th

      The gun question gets old really fast. It really was one of the first questions people would ask and I thought about the logistics to give a thoughtful response. Here’s my two cents: I’m not willing to carry a gun strapped to my leg (which would freak me out if I was another hiker) and I figure if I stored it in my backpack I wouldn’t have enough time to get it out if I needed it. Plus, I’d rather take a Wilderness First Aid Class or carry a SPOT.

      Reply
  • Janey S. : Nov 3rd

    As a woman, and Triple Crowner, this victim mentality disgusts me. No one is trying to oppress you. “Gender Equality” is a ridiculous nonsense term, and the people who use it don’t even know what they mean by it. The only equality that worth talking about is LEGAL equality, and we already have that.

    Men and women are fundamentally different. Don’t confuse equal rights (an admirable concept) with trying to make men and women that same. Also, top trying to control how males talk to us, or about us. Only an oppressive, controlling personality type wants to regulate other people’s speech.

    If you want people to stop treating you differently, then stop focusing on your differences. Also, in case you haven’t noticed, nearly all male humans like female boobs, and always will!

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    • Clicks!star : Nov 3rd

      thanks for saying that! feminism has jumped the shark!

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    • Ann : Nov 25th

      You’re a mentally ill idiot, stop spewing your hatred it’ll come back at you in real life one day, take my word. I doubt you’re a female, most likely this a misogynist male troll. If you tried to run this in my face, I’d have shown you.

      Reply
      • JANEY S. : Nov 30th

        It’s really gross how aggressive you are. Do you always make outrageous accusations about people who don’t agree with you? I noticed you didn’t write anything to support your own viewpoint – no reasons, no rebuttals… Just hate – the overriding feminist emotion…. Thanks for proving my point.

        Reply
      • JANEY S. : Nov 30th

        Also, I find it hilarious when people talk tough in situations when there’s no chance of real confrontation… You’re probably the type of person who considers yourself a real badass for leaving one-star reviews on Yelp. Keep up the anonymous tough talk from the safety of your computer,

        By the way, if we were face to face, you would be insecure next to me, since I look like the kind of woman men want.

        Reply

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