Outdoor Women: How to Find Your Community

This is for the incredible women still seeking their outdoor community. I’ve been there too. This is the article I wish I’d found years ago to support my search for my own female adventure partners. Allow me to provide you with the map to your outdoor sisterhood. The destination is worth the journey.

When I moved to Portland, Oregon five years ago I experienced immense difficulty making new friends and finding a community. I met a few people but struggled to connect with them. I was curious about the new mountains and trails around me, but felt overwhelmed by the choices and hated feeling uninformed about the area. 

I wanted to find other women with who I could explore the trails, grab a beer, or go skiing. I knew they were out there. In my time alone at home, I started to research women’s Facebook groups, where I first learned of Pacific Northwest Outdoor Women (PNWOW)

At first I was just a silent observer, too nervous to post anything or to attend events. But I eventually realized that if I never put myself out there, I would never make new friends. I went on a group hike and it changed everything for me. 

While most of us were shy at first, connections were formed as soon as our boots hit the trail. The camaraderie felt with the other women restored the confidence I’d lost since moving to the Pacific Northwest. I soon applied to be a group ambassador to help plan and lead monthly events for women in the Portland area.

Group of outdoor women posing for photo.
Photo: Nicole Wasko

Benefits of Female Adventure Partners

Why is it important to have female adventure partners?

On a practical level, a group of trusted partners enables us to share gear and the responsibilities of trip planning. It’s also great to know that someone has our back if we forget our headlamp or ibuprofen. 

But the joy of a female adventure family goes well beyond the practical. The value of an empathic ear, a trusted partner to encourage you, and a similar set of goals in the outdoors knows no bounds. Other women are also more likely to enthusiastically participate in group sing-a-longs and embrace the wearing of on-trail tutus. 

A recent study also concludes that the presence of at least one woman reduces the risk exposure of backcountry groups. This benefit is believed to be related to differences in communication styles, approach to risk assessment, and the experience objectives of men and women when outdoors. 

Photo: Teresa Hagerty

Successful Adventure Dating

Finding your female adventure family is a bit like dating. I met my own adventure sister four years ago while leading an organized outdoor event. It quickly became clear that we shared a love of long two- and three-day day weekend adventures, terrible jokes, and mountainside sunrises. A healthy dash of stoke, a sense of wonder, and a spirit of enthusiastic positivity sealed the deal.

We have since gone on to climb six Cascade volcanoes, hiked countless miles, and laughed over innumerable post-adventure beers. Our risk tolerances, on-trail pace, and decision-making styles are compatible; and we know how to appropriately push each other towards our objectives. We show up, support each other through low-points, and share common Leave No Trace outdoor ethics.

My relationships with my outdoor lady crushers are as meaningful as my relationship with my romantic partner. These women are my treasured chosen family.

Here are some helpful tips to find your adventure family: 

  • Say yes to new opportunities when they present themselves
  • Communicate honestly about your outdoor experiences
  • Discuss short- and long-term objectives
  • Start small to minimize pressure
Photo: Alexandra Lev

Leadership

Immersing myself in the rhythm of nature with other empowering women has transformed me in ways that I never thought possible. I still have insecurities, and I still doubt myself. But with each outing I have unexpectedly become a role model for other women, which has caused me to grow in turn — as it turns out, discomfort is actually one of the most fertile places for growth. 

If you find yourself in a leadership role, it’s your responsibility to create an inclusive and welcoming environment for everyone. To do this, try:

  • Reaching out to people that are different from you
  • Hosting events that are accessible for all
  • Offering extra gear when needed
  • Providing rides to and from trailheads as needed

These are little things, but they can make a huge difference in getting people outside. 

Resources

The search for the perfect fit can be overwhelming. This is normal — we all have to start somewhere. Consider starting with:

Most regions have great volunteer-led community organizations, social media groups, and other online communities. I encourage you to explore options in your area. If you are a leader or member of one, feel free to plug your group in a comment below.

Please comment

  • How did you find your female adventure partners, and why specifically did you match up?
  • What other women outdoor groups should be highlighted?
Posted in on April 20, 2020
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3 Comments

  1. Brittney on April 20, 2020 at 9:27 pm

    I love the picture of us all in the parking lot, preparing for our winter backpacking campout that Ali led! That was the night that I met and connected with a core group of ladies who have since become some of my best friends and adventure partners. It all started in that parking lot. 🧡

  2. Betsy on April 27, 2020 at 5:37 pm

    Great content here! Being a single 30 something that works from home I can definitely relate and continue to struggle to find women but this helps me keep the faith! Cheers to all you badass women adventurers out there!

  3. Allie on April 30, 2020 at 12:19 pm

    For the last few years I’ve hiked alone. Mostly because I like to meander through the trail so groups walk too fast for me. I also hike a lot so can’t expect someone to always be available to go with me.

    That said, I have 1 female hiking partner (so far) – Jan. We met through a group formed by Hiking-for-Her of over 40 women hikers. She posted she was looking for a backpacking partner to do the AZT in March 2020 and I replied I’d do it. 3 weeks later we were on trail! Our first, what was going to be, thru-hike.

    She’s faster than me on the straight aways but I climb faster – so it’s a wash. She sings on trail, I’m quiet. We laughed a lot. Supported each other when needed. And share stories of our pasts. We clicked and it was so cool to share the trail with her!

    She’s in Wyoming and me in Arizona. We had to get off trail due to Covid-19 but keep in touch almost everyday. We both can’t wait to get back out to the trail.

    Thank you for your story, it’s so encouraging, I’d love to match up with more women that have a passion for the trail like I do.

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