Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, a 2012 memoir recounting her solo trek along the Pacific Crest Trail, sparked a movement of female outdoor enthusiasts also taking to the trails. Since then, a profusion of diverse, female outdoor influencers and woman-led outdoor groups have been making al fresco adventures more accessible to even the least adventurous among us—myself included.
I recently found myself hiking alongside two of these fearless females—photographers Noel Russell and Meghan Young—while exploring Vermejo, a Ted Turner Reserve in New Mexico. All three of us shared a genuine belief in the healing power of the outdoors, but being around these ladies revealed to me a disconnect between that harbored belief and my own experience with getting outdoors. Or, I should say, lack thereof.
With each story they shared, I felt increasingly encouraged to solo camp, climb, and hike. So, in the interest of extending that encouragement with other would-be outdoorswomen, I got back in touch with Russell and Young, along with several other outdoors influencers to gather best practices and camping tips for the novice adventurer.
If you’re ready to plan your own boundary-pushing, perspective-shifting, heart-opening wilderness trek, allow the following five insights from pros help you make it a more successful one. Pretty soon, you’ll have your own inspirational story to share.
5 camping tips from pros that every novice should bookmark.
1. Get the right gear
Stocking up on gear can feel overwhelming thanks to the long list of items (and associated price tag). “There’s a contingent of gearheads in outdoor spaces who will push products your way and tell you that your adventure won’t be successful unless you have all the latest, greatest stuff,” says Young, who warns beginners against buying into the hype. Instead, newbies would be wise to get familiar with REI’s “10 Essentials” list, then compile their own set. “You can rent, thrift, borrow, and perhaps even DIY your way into and out of most situations.”
Plus, there are hacks to make certain items multi-use. For instance, you can turn warm-weather outdoor clothing into winter-weather clothing simply by adding a solid base layer. “Base layers are a budget-friendly way of converting your three-season clothing into a winter-ready outfit,” says Russell. “For activities like snowshoeing or winter hiking, you can simply add a warm base layer beneath your favorite pair of leggings and mid-layer, and head out on the trail. Base layers are the magic addition to any outdoor wardrobe, because they allow you to extend the use of your fair-weather hiking clothes instead of spending a fortune on winter apparel.”
2. Get comfortable knowing that you don’t know everything
“Give yourself space and grace as you learn,” says Young, who, in addition to photography, teaches outdoor skills clinics to Seattle-based group PNW Outdoor Women. “Diving into the outdoor world presents a number of novel questions, and, as adults, it can be particularly difficult to be a beginner when we’re used to having a basic level of proficiency in so many things. Let go of that as you learn, and be open to the process. Ask questions, google your heart out, and hit up your local outdoor retailer and outdoor organizations for expert knowledge to supplement what you know.”
3. Stop making excuses and just go
“It took awhile for me to realize that hiking is just an intimidating word for walking,” says Lauren Monitz of the adventure travel blog The Down Lo. “Start by wandering around your neighborhood park. If you like it, see what other landscapes are around to explore; there might be a cool state or national park nearby. I always look for a trail with an end goal, like a waterfall or a viewpoint—something to help you feel accomplished.”
Outdoor storyteller Danielle Prewett agrees that state and national parks are great places for camping novices to start. “If you’re new to camping, there will likely be other people around to assist you, if needed. Fill a day-pack with a blanket, a light lunch and a bottle of rosé, and have yourself the most extraordinary outdoor picnic ever.”
4. Make it your own
Monitz’s top camping tips including bringing personal style to the outdoors. “As long as you don’t damage natural resources or endanger others in your attempt to customize your campsite, you can make camping as glam as you’d like.”
If glam isn’t your jam? Great—go with whatever is. “Take your whole self outside,” says Young. “Do you want to wear red lipstick on your first summit? Do it. Into leggings? Wear them. The representations of ‘outdoorsy’ we see in media can be so narrowly constrained that we don’t see ourselves in them. That can create pressure to look or act a certain way, but the truth is, there’s no single way to be outdoorsy.”
5. Find your people
“It is so important to find friends who crave the same kind of adventure as you do,” says outdoor adventurer Bella Bucchiotti. “Through social media, I have found so many others who enjoy the same activities that I do.”
Russell also recommends connecting on social to start, and moving those connections to IRL outings. “Facebook groups and virtual communities are accessible means of finding new friends who love getting outside too. Groups like Trail Mavens, Hike It Baby, Latino Outdoors, and Women Who Hike are consistently hosting outings nationwide, where like-minded people can connect.” Another great place to find your community? Instagram. “Communities built by [influencers] like Jenny Bruso of Unlikely Hikers, Wyn Wiley of Pattiegonia, and Kenya and Michelle of Outdoor Journal Tour often facilitate group hikes and gatherings where outside-loving people can come together and build kinship while soaking up all the beauty the outdoors has to offer.”
As the influence of and camping tips from these experts continues to catalyze the movement of adventuring, I look forward to seeing my growing sisterhood out on the trails of the world.
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