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Gendered Experiences in the Backcountry

Renée A. Botta, Lynne Fitzgerald


Gender differences in outdoor participation rates persist. This study examined the self-reported issues women experience while long-distance backpacking, noting particular attention to gendered challenges and the strategies employed to handle these issues. Understanding the issues women face can inform outdoor adventure leaders and educators about how the issues may constrain women’s participation and help identify strategies for potentially managing constraints. Using data collected from backpackers who hiked on average 88% of the 220-mile John Muir Trail (JMT) in 2015 (565 completed responses), a secondary data analysis focused on questions asked of self-identified women regarding issues on the trail such as inappropriate or threatening conduct from men, menstruation, and health and hygiene. Qualitative comments (362) were analyzed via thematic analysis, revealing two key themes: the presumption of masculine dominance and gendered physical challenges for women in the backcountry. Results indicate that perceptions of gendered dominance and vulnerability arise and reinforce the idea that backpacking is a masculine pursuit.

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outdoor participation; gender; women’s hygiene; masculine dominance; feminine vulnerability

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