Oct 12, 2020 at 11:48 pm #3679448
It was mentioned in another thread on this forum that Andrew Skurka’s website has articles by women about uncomfortable encounters with men on the trail, but none had suggested how men should act when encountering women on the trail, especially solo hikers.
When I’ve been in such situations I have tried to be friendly and conversational while maintaining more-than-usual physical distance, not ask if they are alone, ask how they are enjoying their trek, where they’ve been but not where they’re going. I try to send out a non-aggressive, “I respect you and am not a threat” vibe.
Women BPLers, how should men act when encountering you on the trail, especially if you’re alone? What works best for you, what helps you feel comfortable and safe, what makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe?Oct 13, 2020 at 4:52 am #3679452
post removed by MKOct 13, 2020 at 5:25 am #3679458Brad PBPL Member
How about smiling and saying, “Hi, how are you?”
If she starts a conversation, then chat without being creepy.
If she doesn’t, say, “Have a great hike” and move along.Oct 13, 2020 at 7:15 am #3679463Duane HallBPL Member
@pkhLocale: Nova Scotia
How about acting with simple human courtesy?Oct 13, 2020 at 7:42 am #3679466Paul WagnerBPL Member
@balzaccomLocale: Wine Country
I love the fact that the first three (now four) responses to your question to the women on this board came from men…
If you’d like, I can explain in more detail….hee heeOct 13, 2020 at 8:15 am #3679471
Thanks for bringing this up!
This is a question I had after reading that thread and the article on Skurka’s website. Simply saying, “be courteous,” and “don’t be a creep,” are missing the deeper issue. Women can, rightly, feel very vulnerable coming upon a man or men in the wilderness. At the same time when in the outdoors where information is limited and people are sparse it is normal to strike up conversations with strangers. It is good to verify you are both OK and to pass along any pertinent information about the trail ahead or behind. These two ideas are at odds with each other.
One important takeaway I got from the comments is that men can appear threatening, just because of the situation, without even trying. One guy talks about being approached by a woman because some other guy was freaking her out. After a short hike together of casual conversation she asked him to leave. He said he was baffled by the interaction at the time.
I guess one piece of advice us men should take is to not be offended by the actions of someone you might be interacting with in the wilderness. Through no fault of our own we may be viewed as a threat and as such be cognizant to give people the space they need.
What else? Their was an article posted by a women a while back who had a frightening experience with someone at a shelter along the AT. She was upset that the other men there didn’t help her. In retrospect she conceded they may have been as freaked out as she was. Following her out may have made her anxiety worse. I guess they could have acknowledged her fears and given her some modicum of control: “this guy is freaking us out too. What can we do to help you?”
I would love to hear from the dwindling number of women on these boards. What should we do?Oct 13, 2020 at 9:46 am #3679489Tipi WalterBPL Member
In 40 years of backpacking in the Southeast mountains of TN/NC/VA/Georgia I’ve only seen a handful of solo women backpackers. They are the rarest mammals in the woods. To me the better question would be—Why is this so??Oct 13, 2020 at 10:05 am #3679495
Well, Tipi the article on Skurka’s site give two studies that show about 50% of women who recreate in the outdoors report having been sexually harassed. I think that is certainly part of the answer.Oct 13, 2020 at 12:38 pm #3679515Murali CBPL Member
I don’t treat women any differently than men. Usually 99.9% of hikers are very friendly and want to talk. I have hiked with women and men I meet on the trail, eaten lunch with them on the trail or camped with them. I think women are much more friendlier and chattier than men – it’s just how women are programmed. Though you have to be able to read the signs they are giving you – men or women hikers – you will know they are not interested in talking. Everybody is out there to enjoy the trails. Give people the distance, if they need it. If they want to talk and you are in the mood to talk, then go ahead.
On the trails like PCT, CT, JMT etc – it seemed like there were actually more women than men on the trails.
I came across a 80+ year old man who didn’t want to talk one bit even though we were camping pretty close to each other – the 0.01% where they are not that friendly. Another time, a guy was giving monosyllable answers – later on I learnt that he was having stomach issues. So, you never know what is going on with hikers.
On the JMT, a women came and sat where my camp was at Guitar lake and wouldn’t stop talking for 15 minutes straight…… and I was looking for an escape – except it was my campsite……Oct 13, 2020 at 6:04 pm #3679560John S.BPL Member
And then there is the opposite. I was on a 5 day backpack with 2 friends on the CDT in New Mexico, and one day while eating lunch sitting down on some logs a little off a dirt road, a beautiful Israeli girl (in her 30s) made a beeline toward us and we all had a nice and funny conversation before she went on her way. She was thru-hiking.Oct 13, 2020 at 6:08 pm #3679563Jenny ABPL Member
@jenniferaLocale: Front Range
I am much more inclined to stop and chat briefly with a single gentleman, especially if he is carrying a fishing rod (!), than a group of guys or even two guys together. My spidey senses are on higher alert in the presence of more than one man – sorry, can’t help it. And I’ve never had a truly uncomfortable encounter in 50 years of hiking and backpacking, but I know many women who have.
It is easier to respond to quick questions like “Catch any fish?” or “Having a nice hike?” rather than information-seeking questions like “How many nights are you staying?” or “Are you by yourself?” Those strike me as threatening even if they are meant innocently enough. While it is nice to think we all love the outdoors and want to share that, I would rather err on the side of caution and not seem too friendly. Plus, I usually just want to be by myself!
Ben H., your comments are pretty spot-on particularly with regard to passing on helpful trail info and the appearance of men being threatening. That being said, I could carry bear spray or mace, which I have chosen not to do because for me it would alter the focus of being outside, and as I said I haven’t ever felt the need to, and I haven’t read the articles on Skurka’s site.Oct 13, 2020 at 6:27 pm #3679571jscottBPL Member
@bookLocale: Northern California
It’s unacceptable–but true–that women have to be concerned about men while hiking and in their daily lives. It really is on us men to change our speech and behavior and to challenge other men that celebrate behavior that’s threatening to women.
Really.Oct 13, 2020 at 6:39 pm #3679573Oct 13, 2020 at 7:07 pm #3679577Nancy HBPL Member
“When I’ve been in such situations I have tried to be friendly and conversational while maintaining more-than-usual physical distance, not ask if they are alone, ask how they are enjoying their trek, where they’ve been but not where they’re going. I try to send out a non-aggressive, “I respect you and am not a threat” vibe.”
Solo female hiker here … just finished a short section on the AT, north of Hot Springs. Only saw one other female while hiking, saw several men. I think the original poster’s comments are spot on. I am most afraid of encountering a man who is mentally unstable/delusional. Second most would be someone who is criminal, who might harm me in order to steal from me. I’m carrying cash for shuttles and a credit and debit card. I appreciate being greeted and spoken to, just as he outlines, because the interaction helps relieve this fear. Thanks so much for bringing this up.Oct 13, 2020 at 7:42 pm #3679581Todd TBPL Member
@texasbbLocale: Pacific Northwest
My spidey senses are on higher alert in the presence of more than one man – sorry, can’t help it.
No reason to be sorry. A lot of personal behaviors that often get derided as prejudice or some kind of -ism are merely our natural defense mechanisms doing their thing. Cranking up the caution around groups of men doesn’t mean you assume all or even most such groups are bad, just that there’s a large enough fraction that caution is advisable. “Large enough” may be tiny, say 1%–it’s still enough to instill reasonable caution.Oct 13, 2020 at 7:58 pm #3679586KatttBPL Member
Interesting topic. I suppose like everything else…it depends. I know women that even at my age start almost every encounter with a guy in some sort of helpless stance. That could either be out of being concerned/worried and wanting to be left alone or the opposite so I’d leave that alone and move on ( unless someone really needs help of course, which applies to both sexes). Other women have more of a neutral to “don’t eff with me” vibe and I’d just go on and try and act as if their sex were not an issue, meaning interact if it makes sense otherwise keep going. And, of course, everything in between and outside of my description.
I would rather not be treated as someone that needs too much posturing to be reassured. It’s gotten more that way with age.Oct 13, 2020 at 9:12 pm #3679598
Its an old topic, beat to death before on every forum that exists.</p>
There’s nothing new.
I’ve encountered dozens of solo women hikers on CT, JMT, AT. Too many to begin to remember.
Shared campsites with some. Shared shelters with some. Hung out for day with one and are still facebook friends. The only women I ever could tell were uneasy chatting were two young girls on the JMT who I doubt were even 18….so I said Id see them down the trail.
Oldest…..was 73 and from New Zealand. another woman she was hiking with got injured and had to be airlifted out and she continued hiking. It was funny cuz I came upon her and said hello and when she spoke I immediately said “where are you from ,you have an accent” and she looked at me funny and she said “I have an accent?, YOU have an accent.”
She got a ride into town lickity split too in the rain. Less than 5 min. First truck passing, she jumped in. While a group of four guys right behind, waited about 3 hours for a ride…..
Come to think of it I’m met another 73-year-old woman solo hiker on the AT. She made 1,000 mi to Shenandoah the first year hiking only three to five miles a dayOct 13, 2020 at 9:22 pm #3679599KarenBPL Member
Don’t approach a tent with women/a woman that you haven’t already spoken to. I had this happen when car camping. A bunch of men camped next to us, and turned up the party, lots of beer, sound system, and they all had guns. They came over after we had gone into our tent and asked if we wanted to come party with them; we graciously declined. My friend and I had our knives out and ready and didn’t sleep much! Leave people alone when in their tents.
Don’t camp directly next to a woman without other campers in the same area. If you’re drinking and smoking pot, be discreet so that women don’t think you’re going to be one of those irritating and potentially dangerous intoxicated creeps. Don’t follow at close range when hiking and announce 20 feet back if you’re going to pass so that you’re not suddenly on her heels. Don’t stare when you see someone toileting or bathing (although you’d hope they’d go further from the trail, it’s not always possible).
These are kind of good guidelines for everyone, not just for women, don’t you think? I think sometimes men stand too close to women, closer than they would to men. Keep your bubble bigger until you’ve gotten to know someone.
And yeah, no personal questions. Just talk about the weather or the wildlife you just saw.Oct 13, 2020 at 9:39 pm #3679603
Theres creepy guys i avoid. I once had what was basically a homeless person want to hike with me into town on AT to have someone to talk to. It was pretty interesting talking to him though, although I never really let my guard down.
I always ask personal questions. Where you from? What you do for living? What brought you out here? Name/trail name? You find out you got lots in common with a lot of people.
Or sometimes, absolutely nothing.
The 73-year-old New Zealand woman above I mentioned….., my son’s girlfriend is from New Zealand…. Had something to talk about.
I met a woman on the AT once… She had an accent so I asked her where she was from, she made me tell her where I was from first. She was from the Ukraine. Told her my cousin got an internet bride from the Ukraine recently……. Turns out that’s how she came to the US… 20 years ago. That was an interesting discussion people open up to strangers. Particularly….solo strangers. One of the best aspects of hiking solo is that you meet and talk to far more people than you will ever talk to when you are paired up with others. People who are afraid to solo hike are missing out on one of the best aspects of hiking.Oct 13, 2020 at 10:11 pm #3679605KatttBPL Member
Ah, indeed! Karen has great practical advice and insight.Oct 14, 2020 at 5:59 am #3679626Brad RogersBPL Member
@mocs123Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Like Tipi, I rarely encounter female hikers on the trail in the east, especially solo female hikers, however I do see a surprising amount when I hike out west particularly in the Sierras.
My usual small talk with hikers generally includes water sources, trail conditions (or pass conditions/routes if off trail), seeing who has the latest weather report, etc, but I also generally ask where a person is headed, especially if we’re traveling opposite directions as occasionally I may have some helpful information. I think I read here (or somewhere) that you should never ask a female hiker where she is headed, and to be honest I never thought about that question making female hikers uncomfortable, so I have made a conscious effort not to ask that to any female hikers I encounter. Nobody should feel uncomfortable in the back-country, and I don’t really care where they are headed anyways, unless we’re off trail where I am always curious of peoples routes. Even off trail though, I don’t ask unless they bring it up.
I did run into a bad ass woman from the Chech Republic soloing the SHR a couple of years ago. I was headed south, but she was going northbound with no microspikes and had some really bad 100K:1 maps, but I bet she was covering 20 miles a day. We talked for a while and we exchanged beta on the next few passes, and I offered her my maps for the sections I’d already completed (and the direction she was headed).Oct 14, 2020 at 8:18 am #3679645Geoff CaplanBPL Member
@geoffcaplanLocale: Lake District, Cumbria
Good advice from Karen.
Just to expand on one of her points – I always try and be considerate if I’m following a solo woman, especially if it turns out we’re going to the same place and take the same fork in the path.
Just do whatever it takes to reassure her you’re not following her.
More than once I’ve simply taken a rest or dropped back till she was of sight, so there’s no risk that she’s feeling stalked.
Same applies to urban walking – especially at night.
And as Karen says, do please give a friendly warning when you’re about to overtake someone, including males, for that matter. I was out on the fell last night in the dark and a runner suddenly swooped past me. The ground was soft and I hadn’t heard them. Gave me a bit of a turn, when you’re thinking you’re alone. For anyone but the most confident woman, it could have been quite unpleasant.Oct 14, 2020 at 9:36 am #3679655
Great advice is starting flow in. Some excellent examples from Karen! and I particularly wanted to highlight this from Brad:
I think I read here (or somewhere) that you should never ask a female hiker where she is headed, and to be honest I never thought about that question making female hikers uncomfortable, so I have made a conscious effort not to ask that to any female hikers I encounter.
That is the kind of thing that needs to be emphasized. It is not obvious (at least not to me), so that means men need to be made aware of it. MB seems to think this is all old news that has been beaten to death. I don’t think it is old news as long as it is a problem. I don’t think you can just sit back and expect the problem to go away.Oct 14, 2020 at 12:00 pm #3679678
“That is the kind of thing that needs to be emphasized. It is not obvious (at least not to me), so that means men need to be made aware of it. MB seems to think this is all old news that has been beaten to death. I don’t think it is old news as long as it is a problem. I don’t think you can just sit back and expect the problem to go away.”
What problem is there, that some people are scared of their shadow?
while I fully fully agree that nobody should behave in a way that makes people unreasonably uncomfortable……. Going out of your way to tread lightly around 50% of population is ridiculous. Women will always be on guard alone with a man they don’t know whether it makes sense or not… It’s ingrained into them. It doesn’t matter what you do, you’re not going to change that. And the less normal you act the more on guard they’re going to be.
Here’s a news flash, men are on guard around men they don’t know also…..
Attacks against women hikers… by hikers, away from trailheads on trails are so rare…. That they’re not a “problem”. People bringing unwarranted fears on the trail with them is a problem. The place where women need to worry the most, is rides into town, or near trailheads where there’s non-hikers. Thats a fact.
All hikers practice the same safety strategies. Male or female. If there’s somebody that you’re not comfortable with, you don’t tell them where you’re going. you don’t stay, you move along and get away from them. you trust your gut, if something doesn’t seem right you remove yourself from their vicinity.
anyone who hikes in the East and says they don’t see women on trail doesn’t hike on the AT, LT, or point to point trails that people like to complete. There’s tons of women, solo women. They just aren’t there going around in circles.
I’m continually amazed at the number of 60 and 70-year-old women I meet. Its awesome. Some of them make it look pretty damn easy too… Carrying on conversations while they hike.
There’s also a lot of Asian female hikers. Mostly young but it’s noticeable.
now, another salient point is that on these highly traveled trails, nobody is ever truly alone. You’re going to pass many people per day usually, and often camp with others….. Unless you specifically try to camp alone.Oct 14, 2020 at 12:23 pm #3679684
@livingontheroad: MB, you are so far off base it is staggering.
It’s not that “some people are afraid of their shadow,” it’s that too often MEN behave in a way that is threatening/uncomfortable to women and don’t even realize it. And it’s not “treading lightly” it’s being a decent person, a gentleman if you will, and taking into consideration what WOMEN have told us feels threatening to them. It sucks that it’s more dangerous for women OFF the trail than on, which must be addressed too, but that’s not the point here. The point is how to speak and behave when men encounter women ON the trail. So we can be better men. So “50% of the population” can feel safe.
Frankly, it seems you are part of the problem rather than the solution. I wouldn’t be surprised if the things you’ve said in this thread don’t come off as threatening to women or make them feel uncomfortable, but I will let them speak for themselves.
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