When I was a tween my favorite movie was Iron Will.

It’s sappy, feel-good, Disney movie about a teenage boy who enters a dog sled race hoping to win money and save his mother’s farm.

One particular quote from this movie became my mantra as I faced those awkward teenage years and beyond.

It’s a simple sentence told to Will, the hero of the story by his father.

“Don’t let fear stand in the way of reaching your dreams, son.”

the truth about fear in the backcountry

(Are there any other Iron Will fans out there? Please say yes and tell me that I’m not alone because I just outed myself as a megadork.)

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about fear. It started when I listened to this podcast episode about overcoming fear.

Then I read this article about women being scared to go to the backcountry alone.

I shared it on our facebook page and then followed the discussion.

I liked that author wasn’t afraid to admit that she’s been scared out of her mind in the backcountry. I appreciate honesty on the internet where no one wants to admit weakness.

But I didn’t like how she assumed that people are judging her for heading out alone. Frankly I don’t think most people care.

I also didn’t like her fear-based assumption that everyone was out to get her.

Or that she lumped in urban scenarios (catcalls as she walked down the street) in an article that was supposed to be about the backcountry.

I was also confused by her assumption that people are just being nice to her on the trail because she’s a woman.

Or her perception that they see her as a damsel in distress.

None of those things are okay with me.

Here’s why.


I’m kinda tired of the gender thing.

Fear is a human response to something that could potentially threaten our safety.

For me fear has nothing to do with my gender.

Fear is normal, it’s good. Sometimes fear keeps us safe.

Do I get scared because I’m a human or because I’m a woman?

Am I conditioned to be more fearful because I am a woman?

I don’t know. I don’t think so. I’ve been in plenty of situations (ie I’ve been to war) where the males I’ve been with have been just as scared as me.

Additionally, I’m married to a pretty tough guy and there are plenty of times when he’s been scared sh*tless in the backcountry too.

Have you ever walked upon a fresh mountain lion kill site, creepy person, or a steaming pile of bear scat?

Yah, those things are scary regardless of gender.

Fear doesn’t discriminate.

But at the same time, I am a woman.

I may not be as physically strong as a man. I may look vulnerable at times. I get that and I’m aware of that. But it doesn’t stop me.

Let’s stop stereotyping ourselves.


Sometimes I think we forget this one simple thing.

Outdoor adventures are supposed to be fun!

We can’t have fun if we’re so scared that we have to sleep with a knife clutched to our chest.

Or if we’re scared of having social interaction on the trail.

That’s ridiculous.

I’m all about challenging ourselves and doing something bold.

Don’t let fear stand in the way of reaching your dreams. 

But if someone (regardless of gender) isn’t comfortable going on solo adventures in the backcountry then they shouldn’t go.

Adventure with a friend.

Find (or start) a hiking group.

Get a dog.

Take a self-defense class.

And then when they’re comfortable and ready strike out on a solo adventure then they should go!

But only when they’re confident enough in themselves that they can have a healthy fear to fun ratio.

Heading into the backcountry and being so terrified that you can’t enjoy the experience just seems miserable.

I’m not an expert on gender. I’m not an expert on fear. I’m not an expert on anything.

But I do know that there are healthy ways for everyone to cope with fear and safely enjoy the outdoors.

p.s. if you’re looking to read a good article on fear check this one out 🙂

What do you think about fear in the outdoors? Do you agree or disagree with me?

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the truth about fear in the outdoors

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