An Outdoors Embrace is A Women’s Place

©istockphoto/sanjeri

©istockphoto/sanjeri

It’s seems like a cliché to say at this point: “You go, girl!” But at Gearographer, we think it bears repeating over and over.

As Kristin Hostetter, the former long-time gear editor at Backpacker Magazine recently wrote, things are picking up for women in the outdoors, and more and more women are not only participating, but also planning and actively encouraging other women to join them. This trend isn’t limited to women—an increasing number of people of color are also finally breaking through culture barriers to get outside more, too. But there are many demographic forces at play—politically and culturally to name a few—that are driving a huge number of women back into the outdoors.

This is especially apparent when it comes to the outdoors industry. Hostetter ,who moved to SNEWS, the leading industry organization dedicated to outdoors, fitness and winter sports news, notes that more women than ever are now in upper-level management and executive positions, more are working in research and development, and as wilderness guides and in the media.

This calls for a celebration, and, in gearographer.com’s case, a new outdoorswomen blog.

womans-place-is-on-topFor people who wonder why we should focus a singular spotlight on women, consider our numbers and increasing presence and participation in outdoors travel, adventure and endurance sports. Also, our buying power and influence is considerable. Until the last decade or two, the majority of gear, apparel and footwear was designed by men, for men, and marketed to men. Today, as more women have moved into the industry and the numbers of women adventuring solo or with other women, we’re seeing more and better products designed and built specifically for women. Again, that’s something to celebrate.

What’s fascinating, though, is that there have been many women adventurers and trailblazers before us. The first women to climb Mount Hood made the ascent in 1867—albeit in skirts and everyday footwear because there was no climb gear for women at the time. In 1963, an Irish adventurer named Dervla Murphy, who was 31 at the time, rode her bike solo through Persia, Afghanistan and over the Himalayas to Pakistan and India. She followed that up with a trek (with a pack-mule) through Ethiopia’s remote and hostile regions, and came to love the Ethiopian people who aided her after she was robbed three times. Later, after many other adventures that she would go on to write about in dozens of books, Murphy trekked through Peru and Ecuador with her 9-year-old daughter.

In 1978, Arlene Blum led the first American and first women’s expedition to climb Annapurna I in the Himalayas. Blum not only organized 13 women—ranging in age from 19 to 50—but more than 150 boxes of gear, excruciating technical logistics, and thousands of pounds of food. She also had to precariously manage numerous male Nepalese guides and porters who had never before worked with women in that capacity. Most of the gear the women used was designed for men and adapted to the women’s needs.

From that mostly successful adventure (one team summited, while two women died en route), it was finally proven that women had the skill, strength, and courage necessary to accomplish the extraordinarily difficult feat of climbing the world’s 10th highest mountain. It also had a positive impact around the world, changing perceptions about women’s abilities in sports and other arenas. A T-shirt that commemorated the expedition proclaimed: A Woman’s Place is on Top.

So it is with that gravitas that we want to ignite women’s imaginations.

This new blog will focus on happenings, experiences and gear that make being outside simpler, less intimidating and crazy fun for women. We’ll fill you in on the latest developments and innovations that make being an outside woman a badge of honor you will wear proudly.

Our mission is to promote greater participation and competency in the outdoors, provide interesting news about developments geared to outdoors and endurance sports women, serve as an resource and support base for women who are interested in building greater independence in their outdoors adventures and efforts, encourage a more earth-friendly lifestyle and support efforts that preserve the earth’s natural resources and promote a strong environmental ethic and conservation practices.

We hope you’ll join us as we forge ahead with a women-friendly approach to getting outside and getting to the summit of your own life.

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Jo Ostgarden

Jo Ostgarden is a freelance journalist who has traveled around the world by plane, train, thumb, bicycle and automobile. She bicycled across Canada, the Pacific Coast Highway from Oregon to British Columbia and throughout 14 countries abroad. Additionally, she's an enthusiastic longtime backpacker who calls the Grand Canyon her own personal energy spot. She's also expert on travel in the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii and Ireland. She edited and re-wrote the final edition of Best Places Northwest Travel Guide, and has written about travel, health, nutrition and endurance sports gear for dozens of magazines and newspapers, including Bicycling Magazine.

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