Film Selections: California, September

Submitted By: Nicole Lesnett, Board Member & Wilderness Ambassador in East Bay, CA

Rediscovering a film camera that I was given as a kid has been a lesson in remembering how to look more closely. In remembering how to focus a lens. Film is often blurry. Film is expensive. Film gets me excited to inspect the dirt and to visit Walgreen’s and turn small outings into colorful somethings. I’m thinking it’s been a good project!

The following is a very small selection from a year and a half ago, romping around Northern California.

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Sun going down in Steep Ravine
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Picking over late summer scrub
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Leaving a milky pastel view at Baker Beach
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Hazy afternoon in Kirkwood
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Seafoam succulents, burgundy stems
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Day breaking from Mt. Tam
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Trekking on
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Review: Warbonnet Ridgerunner Sleeping Hammock

Submitted By: Mika Weinstein, Board Member 

On a brisk fall day, fellow Wild Woman, Sara, and I made the last minute decision to head out for a quick 23-hour trip to Annapolis Rocks in Maryland. In a stroke of luck, we made it to the overlook right in time for a sublime sunset.

We lounged in its glory and then set out to make camp in the dark. This was my first experience camping in a hammock. I’d been curious about them for a while, since it’s ultra lightweight (this one is just over 2 pounds) without being as expensive as a comparable backpacking tent. That said, Sara pitched a two-person tent just in case I needed to dive in and escape the cold or discomfort midway through the night. I was happy to have a backup plan if the whole thing turned into a debacle, but mainly I was excited about this new outlet for my hammock enthusiasm (my roommate has a permanent indoor hammock in our living room).

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I tested Warbonnet’s bridge-style Ridgerunner sleeping hammock. As a first time hammock camper, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy Warbonnet makes it to use.

After fumbling around in the dark to find trees at the right distance apart, the rest was pretty simple. Having watched the video tutorial in advance, it took a minimal amount of jiggering to get the straps set up. The simplicity of the strap setup is really nice. I’ve seen a demo of the intricate knot required for stringing up other camping hammocks, and it takes some practice. The carabiner slung around the tree takes seconds and makes for easy adjustments. That’s key for keeping the hammock off the ground while you’re still learning the ideal placement height.

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All told, I only have positive things to say about the Ridgerunner.

The mosquito net zips off for a nice open-air option (you can stuff it into a pocket near the feet), and even with it on there’s plenty of breathing room. Using the side zipper as an entrance makes for easy exit and entry without jostling your sleeping pad and bag too much (as opposed to other brands that have bottom entry).

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There are aluminum spreader bars that hook in on the two short edges, which helps keep the hammock relatively flat and broad without you having to sleep diagonally. There was plenty of space to throw in my sleeping pad, which proved to be adequate insulation for that night. The spreader bars also make the long edges of the fabric taut, so you can brace yourself by hanging onto them while you get in and out.

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The pockets (called “saddlebags” by Warbonnet) are a great bonus feature. I kept my cell phone and flashlight in there without worrying they would slide around during the night.

The only caveat is that you have to purchase a tarp separately, which can drive up the cost of the whole system ($190 for the hammock, $95-$140 for tarps). Even then, they have a 60-day return-for-any-reason policy, so there’s no risk in trying it out.

Disclaimer: Warbonnet provided a hammock in exchange for a review. The opinions shared here are an honest take from the author.

The Time I Visited Glacier National Park (aka My First Foray into the Backcountry)

This post is a reflection on Wild Wilderness Women’s first annual Babes Off the Beaten Path (BOTBP) trip to Glacier National Park. This trip was an opportunity to explore what it really means to be a “babe” while taking new and experienced backpacking women out for an exceptional outdoors experience. If you’d like to share your words on “babe-dom” with us, or if you’d like to chat about how you can support BOTBP 2017, please contact us!

Submitted By: Jamie Furlan, WWW Member

The neural pathways in my brain are on fire: they are in overdrive taking in and processing so much beauty. I look to the left—ancient mountains rise boldly to the skies; I look to the right—mirror-lakes reflect those stark mountains and eternal sky back at me. I breathe in and pull the scent of damp forest and earthy soil deep into my lungs. The air is sweet in that fresh air kind of way. The sun warms my arms, my face, my very core. The silence and the roar of nature fill my being.

I am surrounded; I am engulfed; I stand in rapture amid endless beauty.

My muscles contract and propel me forward and up, and I feel strong. It is enough to place one foot in front of the other, to climb, to take it all in.

I feel gratitude for the unadulterated experience, for the opportunity to share it with others equally in awe of the spaces we are inhabiting. I am grateful for strong breath, for trees, for boundless sky.

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It feels good to disconnect from my urban life and, instead, adopt a more deliberate routine of unpacking my pack daily, setting up camp, pitching the tent, separating my snacks and toothpaste to be hung in bear bags after dinner. In the morning, I pull down the tent, pack up my bag, prepare to do it all over again.

There is comfort in the process – in doing and undoing and doing something again. Like intricate Buddhist sand art, the beauty is in the process, in the total concentration on the moment.

Over the course of the week, we eight ladies make our own kind of sand mandala made up of laughter over attempts at hanging bear bags; of the simple pleasure of a hot beverage on a damp, chilly night; of glimpsing streaks of the Perseid meteor shower on its pilgrimage across the night sky.

These moments are ours – we lived them, we breathed them, we carry them with us. When we venture out into wild spaces, we bring a piece of it back within ourselves.

On my trip to Montana I learned that the kindness of strangers extends far and wide. That women, when they come together, can be a powerful source of support and strength. That Montana is breathtakingly, heartwarmingly beautiful. That it’s a delight to spot a marmot against the rocks in the afternoon light.

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Don’t Mind Me, I’ll Just Be Sweeping

This post is a reflection on Wild Wilderness Women’s first annual Babes Off the Beaten Path (BOTBP) trip to Glacier National Park. This trip was an opportunity to explore what it really means to be a “babe” while taking new and experienced backpacking women out for an exceptional outdoors experience. If you’d like to share your words on “babe-dom” with us, or if you’d like to chat about how you can support BOTBP 2017, please contact us!

Submitted By: Allison StraussBoard Member & Wilderness Ambassador in Portland, OR

By late morning, the rain mellowed to a mist and the wind died down. I was serving as ‘sweep’ at the time. The sweep is a steady hiker who acts as the caboose. She ensures no one is behind and unaccounted for, and by default, provides motivation to those in front of her. It was a position many of us took turns at. We took turns at the head of the pack too. I was pleased by our fluidity with this, changing positions throughout the day.

The gal in front of me and I found the rest of the gang waiting at a trail junction. Regrouped, the Babes made to start off again, turning toward the wrong branch in the trail.

“Um, I don’t think we’re going to Twin Falls…” I spoke up. I’d briefed the group on our route over a map before we broke camp.

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But there was no mistake. While waiting at the fork in the trail, the Babes had agreed Twin Falls was worth a detour. It was a third of a mile there, meaning another third of a mile to return to the junction so we could continue on our route. As I did the math, I was hit with pride. Despite our rough start that morning with the weather, the group was game to add over half a mile to the day in order to see some waterfalls. And they made the decision collectively without me. It was a leader’s dream. The falls were nice too.

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Photos credit: Sara Gassman

Accessibility in the Outdoors & The Camp Kit’s Role

What does making the outdoors accessible mean? This question was on my mind when I co-founded Wild Wilderness Women almost two years ago. We wanted to build a group that would empower more women to get outside, and do so in an intentional way that wouldn’t leave any women out. As we’ve grown, it has been a question our board has returned to again and again. How do we make sure we’re fostering an inclusive environment where socio-economic status, race, sexuality, and the variety of other characteristics that a diverse community of women may identify with don’t inadvertently prohibit them from feeling welcome outside?

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The urgency of the question for me only grew as our board began planning our inaugural Babes Off the Beaten Path trip—an annual opportunity for Wild Wilderness Women to come together and build community while having an exceptional outdoors experience. For this first year, we’d be taking eight women into the backcountry of Glacier National Park for four days. Three of these women had never been backpacking before.

My mind immediately turned to cost, and the stress I remember feeling around obtaining all the gear I needed when I started diving into the world of backpacking. The truth is that it’s expensive to get started backpacking. Just the cost of the basics adds up fast.

  • Backpack: $200
  • Sleeping pad: $60
  • Sleeping bag: $150
  • Tent: $175
  • Stove: $50
  • Headlamp: $25
  • Total: $660

The cost of gear shouldn’t be what stops a woman from trying out backpacking for the first time, and we certainly didn’t want this to be the case for the women who were courageously throwing their fears to the wind and coming with us on this wild ride to Glacier. This is where The Camp Kit came in.

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For far less than the price of buying all new gear, The Camp Kit offers easy rentals of everything a newbie may need to try out this great love affair we call backpacking. And, unlike some rental companies, it only sends high-quality gear—the type that you would want to buy for yourself. As a first-timer, this is important. Using gear that is old, smelly, heavy, or otherwise unappealing can affect the way a beginner internalizes the experience.

When Tara first joined Wild Wilderness Women, she didn’t have much experience camping. Day hikes, paddling on the Potomac, or biking along local trails were more up her alley. But, strapping a pack on your back, sleeping near wild animals, and spending multiple nights in a tent? She had some hesitations. However, when we announced our trip to Glacier, Tara excitedly signed up. She quickly embraced the opportunity to push her limits in a way that so beautifully encapsulated the ethos of our group’s mission. This was something we wanted to champion.

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Photo Credit: Nicole Lesnett

Tara headed out on the Dawson-Pitamakan Trail with us this past August thanks to a 1-person backpacking kit from The Camp Kit. She got to experience what backpacking was all about without committing to dropping hundreds of dollars on gear. And, I can’t imagine what our trip would’ve been like if something like the cost of gear had held Tara back from joining us.

Tara brought incredible spirit to the group—encouraging all of us when we began to feel tired, letting us share in her excitement of seeing her first moose, and being the first to want to learn new skills, such as bear bag hanging or backcountry dishwashing. I asked her at the end of the trip if she thought backpacking was something she’d do again, and, guess what? Even with aches in the feet and stinky armpits at the end of the trail, her answer was—yes!

Accessibility in the outdoors is important across a variety of spectrums. For me, the financial barrier of getting started is one I feel particularly passionate about breaking down. I’m grateful for options like The Camp Kit that help do just that.

XO—Korrin, Co-founder & President

Header photo credit: Nicole Lesnett

The Importance of Accessibility in Being a Babe Off the Beaten Path

This post is part of a series where Wild Wilderness Women is exploring the true definition of “babe” in preparation for our upcoming Babes Off the Beaten Path trip in Glacier National Park. Please consider supporting the babes forging paths for other outdoor women by making a donation on our fundraising page. If you’d like to share your words on “babe-dom” with us, please contact us!


Submitted By: Nicole Lesnett, VP of Engagement & East Bay Chapter President

I’ve been wondering why going to Montana for this first annual Wild Wilderness Women trip is important to me.

My first ever backpacking experience was a five-day hike through Stanislaus National Forest with U.C. Davis Outdoor Adventures. Thinking back, I made a lot of mistakes. I remember reading the clothing section of the packing list and assuming that it meant one shirt, one pair of shorts, and one pair of socks for every single day. I remember dividing up the food and not understanding why no one else grabbed the oranges and avocados. I remember trying not to cry the first day as we hiked five miles uphill in high elevation, my pack weighing over 50 pounds and resting completely on my shoulders rather than my hips.

There were so many moments where I did not believe I could continue. But as the days went on and we covered more and more miles, as we were shown how to wear our packs properly and devoured the food, as I shared my clean clothes and nursed my bruised collarbones and developed blisters, I found that I could do it. When the other participants and I finished the trail, we bought a gallon of chocolate ice cream and ate it in ten minutes flat. I was beyond content, I was sore and relieved and proud, and I was surprised to learn how disappointed I felt that it was over.

Going on that initial trek was a privilege in many ways. I was fortunate enough to have some money from graduation to cover the trip fees,  and to borrow most of the necessary gear from my outdoorsy momma. It was also a privilege to experience this challenging and awesome excursion with mostly women (though you were an irreplaceable, spectacular guide, Marshall!). Not once, with the exception of my own critical mind, was there a trace of doubt that I was capable of completing the trail. This has set the precedent for all trips since then—that women, new to backpacking or not, are unquestionably capable of such things.

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Seven years and a dozen excursions later, this notion has certainly been tested.

There was the time that my friends and I brought about half the food needed for the six of us, and desperately shared one bag of salad between us for dinner on the last night. I’ve had a lot of good burritos in my life, but the one I had for lunch after getting off that trail was something else.

There was the time that two of us set out to tackle the Presidential Range in New Hampshire and were up on the ridge, much farther behind on the route than anticipated, when we learned that thunderstorms were rolling in. We got desperately lost trying to get to shelter, and when we arrived, didn’t have enough cash for the little covered site. We stayed there anyway, but were woken up every few minutes as lightning illuminated the shelter and thunder shook the foundation. The next morning we donned our $5 ponchos—arguably the best $5 ever spent—and hiked four hours out to a small highway, where a sweet couple eventually, graciously gave our muddy selves a ride back to our car. Satisfied with our level of roughing it for the weekend, we ditched all previous plans and drove towards the hot showers awaiting us at a hotel room in Portland, ME.

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There have been so many mosquito bites and steep hills that I wonder why I keep coming back to it. I suppose there is something insanely gratifying—and supremely funny, in hindsight—about getting through the unexpected elements of backpacking. Coupled with endless endorphins, gorgeous views, and lovely views, I realize over and over again that there’s many reasons I keep coming back to it.  

My only frustration with this lucrative pastime is its inaccessibility. In my experience, it’s been easy to see that more often that not, I backpack with friends who are male, white, and/or middle-class. Needless to say, I love their company, but I’d also really love to go with my less wealthy, non-white, female friends too. It’s disappointing to see that “the outdoors” is frequently an exclusive place. Though in some fields it has begun to change, most outdoor sports are dominated by men. It feels starkly apparent each time I find myself bouldering or waiting for a wave, and realize I can count every single woman in a (literal) sea of dudes.

Misadventures Magazine, a publication “by and for adventurous women,” has some pretty enlightening graphics on gender representation in outdoor media. It’s also no secret that outdoor gear can be absurdly expensive, and that big name companies perpetuate needing the top-of-the-line equipment to do it right. Considering a range of supplies, this site found that the cost of buying the most essential components of backpacking gear could be anywhere from $300-$2,200, not to mention permits, gas, food, etc. for each excursion.

Ideal backpacking destinations are not exactly welcoming either. A heartbreaking article from Al Jazeera states that only 1% of national parks visitors are African-American, in part due to fear of racist treatment. It’s clear that backpacking can often require certain levels of privilege, and this isn’t right. Something so strangely wonderful shouldn’t be so exclusive.

What does this all have to do with being a part of “Babes Off the Beaten Path?” Naturally, I’m excited for another challenge in a completely new place. Mostly though, I’m looking forward to an experience with other women who want to change the notion of what backpacking has traditionally meant. Though I haven’t met them all yet, I admire each one for putting so much time and energy into something as challenging as weathering the elements while hauling a bunch of crap around. And more importantly, I admire them for wanting to make sure that any lady who wants to partake in this absurd, rewarding, life-changing activity can do it too.

This year’s group of gals may be a relatively privileged lot, it’s true. But hopefully we can still set a precedent that our activities are accessible to any self-identified woman, regardless of income or background. While there’s much more work to be done, establishing no barriers to participating in Babes Off the Beaten Path could be one step towards making the outdoors more inclusive.

Guest Post: Babes Off the Beaten Path

This post is part of a series where Wild Wilderness Women is exploring the true definition of “babe” in preparation for our upcoming Babes Off the Beaten Path trip in Glacier National Park. Please consider supporting the babes forging paths for other outdoor women by making a donation on our fundraising page. If you’d like to share your words on “babe-dom” with us, please contact us!


Submitted By: LJ Dawson, A Wandering Vagabond

Days spent staring at my hiking shoes stepping, one two three; hanging from ropes above valleys, watching sunrises from the bare tops of mountains, holding my breath between a rivers crashing waves, grinning smiles full of powder, these are the moments that empower me as a person and as a woman. This is how I live my life most purely.

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I was lucky, raised in the outdoors as much as the city, schooled with mountains and deserts with a bit of books and brick buildings to go along. My upbringing was incredibly unique in this way, and I often think how I would have found the wild if I my father hadn’t bestowed me with it along with my blue eyes.

I love the challenge and growth that leaving paved roads and gridded cities delivers to me. Being outdoors as a woman means being off the beaten path in more ways than physically though.

Society never talks about the path towards being an independent woman in the wilderness. It is almost a secret covered in vague references from pop culture, with features on Lynn Hill and other complete badass women in the outdoors. These stories inspire, but are rarely relatable.

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If you are lucky, you have a family with outdoorsy females in it, but that is not common. Even if you have close female role models to look up to, getting into a part of society ruled by egoism and macho-ism is incredibly difficult as a young girl or young woman. This is not because women are meek and weak, but because our intrinsic traits are not valued as much as male values in the outdoor community’s social system.

Social bush whacking is required to become a Babe off the Beaten Path. Even with my vast background, I fought and am still fighting to gain knowledge and experience that male friends have picked up with less effort and work from the climbing gym to ski mountains.

My story is not an anomaly, and it leaves me wondering how many women miss out on the empowerment and happiness I gain from being outdoors. The reasons are obvious, but the solutions less so.

This is where the babe part comes in. When I get around the outdoorsy ladies, we always commiserate at the state of ego in the outdoors: “Gawd, I was trying to boulder at the gym and this guy would not shut up about this awesome V12 he sent in Moab,” or, “We were hanging out at the bar and ran into these cute skier guys, and then they wouldn’t stop talking about this crazy near death experience in the backcountry.” Or, “This one guy would not stop screaming ‘SEND ITTTT.’ I was warming up”

Any of us babes off the beaten path have run into the issue of how much we become one of the boys. Do we assimilate into the macho culture and join the competitive, adrenaline rushing practices? I thought that was what I would have to do join the inner circle.

All the macho-ism and ego has its benefits, but very little balance. A more feminine approach to outdoor activities, though rarely encouraged, has its own upsides. There is never one way to climb a mountain, but both paths lead to the top.

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More and more women came into my life who were heavily immersed in the outdoors. I was shocked when they wore skirts, spoke quietly, and mentioned their feelings. This was allowed? I wouldn’t get voted off the island?

These role models inspired me to drop the fake attitude. Suddenly, I discovered that not only was it okay to voice a perceived weakness, to say no, I am scared, or slow down, but that often my voice was expressing others’ opinions and empowering the whole group. I saw power in the quiet words and less hells fury attack many of my male friends took towards the outdoors. I saw women treat days of backpacking with elegance, including dangly earrings and important spa days, and fellow river guides bring fashion to the river with gorgeous jewelry. These ladies shoved the macho-ism aside and were still phenomenal at the outdoors pursuits they chased. I was beyond lucky to have these women in my life to change my perception.

When we go into the woods, it becomes an intimate dance between the wild and our souls. It can only be our authentic selves dancing. As women, we must let ourselves be and interact genuinely with wilderness.

Where most men conquer, I find women dance with the environment. We are much more willing to listen to our instincts and the mountain or river telling us no. We surrender to the wild while many men try to fight and win. Embracing these attitudes will open the door to a more female inclusive community.

The outdoor community is run predominantly by a system that discourages women from participating and learning new skills. I believe it is not about overhauling the system or pointing fingers, but creating space to be filled in by women. More women participating physically and changing the dialogue of this community will create a blank page that new ladies can fill rather than fighting to cut out a space for themselves.

Being a Babe off the Beaten Path means refusing to sacrifice who we are to go places we love. A more balanced outdoor community will benefit the mountains and us.

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So, just get out into the wild, ladies. Wear that dress down that river, or rock your pants. Take a risk and own yourself. Don’t try to fit into anything that you are not. Show up as yourself and dance and crawl up that mountain. Cry, laugh, and smile just get those feet moving. Be brave enough to take that leap in your own skin. And above all, bring other ladies out. Only good can come out of more women being outside.

Instagram: @awanderingvagabond