The Red Hat

Submitted By: Allison StraussBoard Member

Last summer, as we entered Glacier National Park, Sara (WWW’s Social Media Coordinator) commented on the classic wood welcome sign, “You could watch me grow up through photos with those signs.” Sara’s family, Adventure Pass holders, stopped for a Kodak moment by the welcome sign to every park they visited.

I had something like that too, I realized. You could watch me grow up through photos with my red hat—the knit cap I always bring on outdoors trips because it’s too bright to wear in civilization. Ironically, it hails from the most urban of places, New York City. My mom bought the hat for me from a street vendor for ten bucks, when I was ten years old. Seventeen years later, I’m still wearing it. But only in landscapes too grand for it to compete for attention. Places where it becomes just a cheerful fleck of color.

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Section 16, Colorado Springs, Colorado

There are two schools of thought on apparel color in the outdoors. One is to wear muted colors and blend in with the scenery, the better to see wildlife. The other is to wear brilliant hues, because while it may be a drawback for wildlife to spot you, people spotting you is probably a good thing. Moreover, the vibrant trend seems related to the expense of new apparel. If The North Face is asking for $200 for a jacket, it had better come in appealing colors.

Because seasoned outdoors-folk already have the gear they need, and often take pride in their old threads, the color war tends to fall along generational lines. I saw this exemplified at breakfast at a hotel in Julian, California, a stopover for Pacific Crest Trail hikers. About six twenty- and thirty-somethings were like a flock of parrots in their neon puffer jackets, jabbering excitedly about their trail experiences. Meanwhile, three or four hikers in their sixties, dressed in well-worn dark fleeces, took their time sipping coffee, hardly speaking at all.

Growing up, my dad took me shopping, and since he’s of the thrifty coffee sipping generation, my outwear has always been navy blue, forest green, black, and brown. I’m still wearing the black fleece I’ve never grown into, and the brown rain shell I can barely fit layers under. (Children’s extra-larges and women’s extra-smalls tend to be a bargain.) But then there’s that red hat.

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Somewhere in Utah

Looking at my red hat/dark outerwear photos, I’m reminded of those t-shirts that say “Same shirt, different day.” The photos could almost be from the same trip except my face is changing and my hair gets longer and shorter. I wear the hat in different ways through the years—rolled like a skullcap, flipped at the edge and sticking up at the top, full length so it slouches in the back. It’s like that famous photograph of the Hole in the Wall Gang, where all the men are wearing bowler hats, but each at different angle that says everything about their personalities. I don’t know what the variations convey in my case. But no matter what phase I was in, on any given cold night, the red hat was pulled down to my nostrils, my sleeping bag drawn around my chin. In some sense, it has all been one trip.

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Age 11, summit of Mt. Massive, Colorado 2001

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Age 13, Appletree Campground, Angeles National Forest, California 2003

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Age 14, Angeles National Forest, California 2004

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Age 16, La Sal Mountains, Utah 2006

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Age 17, Weminuche Wilderness, Colorado 2007

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Age 20, near Woodland Park, Colorado 2011

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Age 26, Two Medicine Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana 2016

I’m the one in the red hat.

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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.

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.