Meet Badass Adventurer, Solo Female Traveler, Backpacker, Writer, and Dreamer, Emily Pennington aka @brazenbackpacker
One of the things I love most about Instagram is seeing the serious outdoor bad-assery of so many women of all sizes, races, and ages from all over the world. It’s inspiring and motivates me not only to be a champion for all women in the outdoors, but to also ensure Hike It Off is a brand that inspires other women to get outside regardless of their fears, what society has told them about being a women outside, and to break out of their comfort zone. One of those bad-asses I’ve been following for a while is Emily Pennington, aka @brazenbackpacker. Not only is she a rad backpacker, but she is a solo worldwide traveler, adventurer, writer, and like most of us, a dreamer. She has a wealth of knowledge to share and has the most amazing blog at https://brazenbackpacker.com/ where she shares her extensive know how, amazing trips, and opens her heart to her readers about her struggles with anxiety, fears, and worries and how hiking saves her from all of it. Her writing style is captivating, and you literally can’t stop reading once you start- so don’t say I didn’t warn you! I was blessed with the opportunity to interview her for our blog and am so excited to share it! From her favorite hike of all time to advice to women who want to start hiking solo, here’s what Emily had to say to me- I promise its some amazing stuff!
Jaime: Have you always hiked and explored? Did you grow up doing it?
Emily: I've always been active in one way or another, whether it was cheer-leading, dance, circus, or hiking. I grew up car camping a couple of times a year and went on road trips to Colorado and New Mexico. Plus, I spent two summers as a child with my family in Sweden, where I was free to roam around these massive, old growth forests, boulder hopping, swimming in lakes, and looking for trolls. I didn't come from an outdoorsy family per se, but I think a ton of micro-adventures at a young age fueled my soul enough to really get into it now that I live in California!
Jaime: What's the one thing you won't hike without?
Emily: LIP BALM! There's nothing worse than cracked lips in a windstorm or atop a frigid summit. I recently had a bad time at altitude on a steep snow climb and sunburned my lips so badly that they blistered for days! Now, I'm religious about carrying a 50 spf stick with me at all times.
Jaime: What's the coolest place you've hiked so far?
Emily: Peru was a game-changer. I fell in love with the high-altitude peaks that jut up out of the earth and go on for miles. Because it's closer to the equator, the Peruvian Andes stay much more green as you ascend, making ventures to 16,000 feet anything but boring and lunar. I love the Sierras, since it’s so close to home, but I'm first and foremost a fan of anything lush and green, which made the Andes a real eye-opening experience.
Jaime: Do you have any upcoming trips you'd like us to share?
Emily: My next big adventure is supposed to be the High Sierra Trail in October. I've always loved the Great Western Divide, so traversing it and finishing on Mt. Whitney will be a real treat. My current bucket list items include the Haute Route, Annapurna Circuit, and Mt. Kilimanjaro. I'd also love to learn glacier travel and get up on some higher peaks in the Andes!
Jaime: What is your advice for those just starting to hike and explore?
Emily: Don't be afraid to just get out there and do it, even if that means going for an easy day hike with your dog. There will always be someone crushing it harder and faster than you, so try to shut out comparisons at all costs. I heard a great quote the other day that I think rings SO true - "Comparison is the thief of joy." I think that, too often, people don't even try a new thing because they tell themselves they aren't good enough or it's not possible. Climb the climbs you want, and explore the world for you. After all, you're the one receiving its amazing benefits!
Jaime: So many women are afraid to hike/travel/explore alone. What advice would you give them?
Emily: It's not nearly as bad as you think it is! When I first started solo trekking, I would backpack on trails I had already done. Starting off slowly to get your feet wet is a great way to begin your solo exploration. If you're really nervous, pick a country or trail that's familiar for your first solo adventure. It will feel much different when you're there by yourself, and your attention will be turned up to 11, so you'll be amazed at all the new things you notice and experience. I'm also a BIG fan of research. I obsessively read about what to do if you see a bear or rattlesnake on trail when I started venturing off solo. I also asked friends for advice and scoured blogs for tips when I went to India as a solo female. Having information in the back of your mind when things go awry is always a good plan.
Jaime: What does "Hike It Off" mean to you personally?
Emily: For me, the wild has always been the place that will accept me, day after day, no matter how tired, cranky, or heartbroken. "Hike It Off" reminds me of the true spirit of the outdoors, one where you shrug off your worries and the weight of the ordinary world as you move your body through the wilderness and emerge a bit brighter and more healed. Hiking it off is therapy!
Jaime: So many people want to start hiking and exploring but don't know where to start. What advice would you give them?
Emily: There are a ton of great resources out there if you want to start exploring but don't want to go it alone! The Sierra Club hosts frequent hikes and backpacking trips of various levels. A quick search of Meetup.com will usually also glean a bunch of hiking groups near your hometown. If you're looking to up your backcountry or mountain skills so you can tackle bigger objectives, REI has a wealth of classes on everything from rock climbing to wilderness survival.
Jaime: If you could hike any trail in the world, what trail would it be and why?
Emily: Oh man! It's impossible to choose just one. The Laugavegur trek in Iceland looks amazing. I'm really into fantasy, and it traverses a lot of the landscapes that Lord of the Rings was inspired by. I'm also dying to do something in Nepal like the Annapurna Circuit. I fell in love with the Himalayas when I went to India, and I can't wait to go back!
Jaime: Anything else you'd like to share?
Emily: I think one of the biggest reasons people (and women especially) don't get outside is because they're afraid to take the first step, because it's a big world out there, and journeying out alone can feel daunting. If I could offer one piece of advice, it would just be to start small by going on walks or short hikes every week near your town. Plan a weekend road trip to a national park with your friends when you get a day off, and keep growing your base of experience. Once you build a little momentum, it gets addictive, and you'll crave bigger challenges as you continue to grow. It's an incredibly fulfilling and life-long pursuit. Getting outside of my comfort zone on a regular basis has made me stronger, braver, and 100% more self-aware.
Make sure to follow Emily on her social media sites below as well as subscribing to her blog at:
A BIG thank you to Emily for taking time to share this with us and our followers!
“Commitment is what transforms the promise into reality. It is the words that speak boldly of your intentions. And the actions which speak louder than the words. It is making the time when there is none. Coming through time after time after time, year after year after year. Commitment is the stuff character is made of; the power to change the face of things. It is the daily triumph of integrity over skepticism.”- Urban Dictionary
Commitment seems to be one of those lost art forms, like curtsying or RSVP’ing to an event. People just don’t stay committed anymore- maybe it’s all the distractions in our modern life, but it seems so easy for many people to drop a girlfriend, block a friend, go from job to job, or just “quit” something without blinking an eye. I guess I’m old fashioned, but I strongly practice being impeccable with my word and sticking to my commitments. However, I am also really good at only committing to the things I know are good for my mind, body, and soul- like hiking.
There is no such thing as hiking without commitment, at least not any sustainable hiking anyways. If we’re not committed as hikers, we’re not going to get very far, and climbing mountains or doing multiple day backpacking trips will be nearly impossible. There is so much more than just walking down a trail to hiking. Commitment is hiking’s backbone, the needed structure to keep us standing tall when we feel like quitting. Commitment is pushing on when our legs feel like they are going to fall off and when we’re cold and hungry and are still miles from the destination. Commitment is when we have blisters and our hips are on fire and when we crest what we think is the last push before the peak only to realize we have another valley to cross and we keep going. Commitment is eating dehydrated food for days on end so we can stay another day on the trail. Commitment is unloading a small fortune on gear and spending hours upon hours in the wilderness, sometimes all alone with just our thoughts.
But as hikers, we know what the payoff for this commitment is. Absolute bliss. Absolute clarity. And a connection with ourselves and nature that nobody understands unless they have that same commitment. It is worth every time we’ve been cold, hungry, dirty, ate a nasty dehydrated meal, missed an event, had a low bank account, and survived painful blisters. It becomes our life not only on the trail, but off the trail too, and arms us with the power to do and change whatever we set out to do, just like climbing to the top of that mountain.
My goal every year is to hike as much as I can- and 2018 is no exception. Especially since my accident, I do not take being able to get outside and hike for granted, ever. You never know when that may change. I hope to inspire more people to get outside and experience the magic of hiking. I also know how perfect hiking is for me and my own inner growth and wellness. So who else is committing to more mountain peaks and getting outside as much as possible? I can’t wait to see you on the trail.
“Your life changes the moment you take a new, congruent, and committed decision”- Tony Robbins
Over Labor Day weekend we headed up to the Sierra for a 4 day/3 night backpacking trip hiking the Thousand Islands Lake Loop in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. I was lucky enough to receive a prototype Kula Cloth™ from Kula Cloth Founder and Musical Mountaineer, Anastasia Allison, to try out on this trip. Considering how much I practice Leave No Trace Principles (click here to if you don’t know what they are) and believe they are vital to keeping our trails and back country clean, I was super excited to try out the Kula Cloth™ and hopefully use much less toilet paper and have a safe antimicrobial p-cloth option. Plus I love supporting small women owned hiking businesses so the whole concept was a win/win for me.
If you haven’t noticed, toilet paper litter on trails is a major issue. On every hike I go, whether it’s just a day hike or multi-day backpacking trip, there is toilet paper all over the trail. It is so frustrating to see, especially because it’s so simple to dispose of properly. But there is a side of it I get, it’s gross to pack it out and not everyone carries a shovel to bury it properly- hence the TP strewn trails. Anastasia has created a re-useable and affordable product that addresses this and is a simple and easy way not to contribute litter the trail.
So how did it work?
Amazing! I give the Kula Cloth™ 10 bright and shiny stars. It is a great product and will become a staple piece of gear for my backpack. I can say I saved a bunch of TP and my trash bag was much lighter hiking out on day four. I highly recommend one for all women hikers, whether you’re a day hiker or backpacker. It really is an innovative and useful product that is easy to use. Anastasia hopes to see a Kula Cloth™ on every backpack and dreams of a day it will be used for more than just backpacking and outdoor related activities. She hopes it will become a piece of gear for all women military personal while in the field and an option for women in underdeveloped countries with lack of feminine hygiene resources.
So what are the benefits of using one besides using less TP on a hike?
Visit https://kulacloth.com/ to get more information or purchase yours. You can also follow on Facebook here and Instagram here. While you’re at it, check out https://www.facebook.com/themusicalmountaineers/ too!
I keep seeing an alarming discussion pop up over and over in some of the online women hiking groups I am a member of. The post comes in a few forms, and are equally ugly. They may change slightly in wording, but the core of all the posts is about wearing makeup while hiking with a barrage of women shaming other women for wearing makeup while hiking. I am shocked to see a normally supportive community of uplifting women hikers turn all colors of snarky when this topic comes up. What is so upsetting about someone wanting to wear makeup hiking?
Interestingly enough, a 2016 study published in Sage Journals discovered how straight women perceive other women’s makeup and it helps to explain why there is such a strong reaction on this topic. The top findings of the study were:
1. Women view other women who wear makeup as more dominant.
2. Women are more jealous of other women who wear makeup because they are seen as more promiscuous.
3. Women are naturally drawn to other women who wear makeup the way they do.
When we delve deep into this, it seems to boil down to the fear many of us have of not being good enough. We’ve been taught we must have perfect make-up, hair, and clothes to be beautiful by the mainstream media. We’ve learned that unless we are beautiful, we won’t get that job we want, or the friends we want, or the romantic relationship we want. According to the Association for Psychological Science, people that are seen as more attractive are treated better in most areas of their life than those deemed not as attractive. It’s a tough standard to live up to, and then throw in the other additional stresses of life and we get resentful, worn out, and maybe even a little bitter. Check out these seriously astonishing statistics posted on https://heartofleadership.org/statistics/ on just how we feel about ourselves: