Growing up, I mostly lived in the city. But, I was frequently exposed to nature and had the opportunity to explore the great outdoors on a fairly regular basis. Whether it was camping or cabins with family, staying on friends properties out in the country, or even dedicated adventures – I always knew that I loved it. And now, it has brought me to a point in my life where connecting with it helps me to thrive, while pushing myself out of my comfort zone and learning about how truly resilient I am. Combine all of that with a whole heck of a lot of memories and fun along the way, and I’m absolutely hooked for life.
I remember the first time it truly set in. I was 12 years old and staying with family at a cabin in the middle of nowhere on the East Coast of Canada. When we pulled up to the property and turned off the headlights to the car, it was absolutely pitch black. At first, I was terrified, but from the minute I looked up and saw the sky littered with a million stars, I fell in love. I remember turning to my aunt and saying, “well, I guess nature isn’t really that scary after all.” Truth be told though, it still is – it’s just the good kinda scary now. The one that makes you think on your feet and genuinely live in the moment in order to survive, explore and have fun.
Over the years, I’ve expanded my outdoors skills. The biggest push for me started when I was living in England and I decided to join some friends on a 3 month trip to tour Europe, while living in a van. There were 5 of us in total, with not enough room for us all to live and sleep in the van, so we had to be creative with our options by camping and utilizing our outdoor space as much as possible. We slept outside on mountain tops in France, we swam in many different bodies of water (and washed ourselves in them, if I’m being honest), hiked and ate almost every single meal outdoors. We lived off of the land and used what we could, while leaving nothing but memories behind.
After that adventure, I moved to New Zealand where I was blessed with an abundance of outdoor exploration opportunities. Since I didn’t know many other people who lived there, I joined an Outdoor Adventures Group through an adult learning facility in Wellington. I spent weeks trying new activities out in the wild, like orienteering, windsurfing, caving, sea kayaking, and a lot of hiking. We even finished off our time in the course by taking a big overnight hiking trip through the Tararua Range.
Moving back to Canada, I was able to further expand my periphery of options. I’ve taken up fishing again, which I loved as a kid, and I’m making a concerted effort to explore what’s right here in my own backyard, rather than constantly looking for the next best thing somewhere else. My only real issue lately has been how intimidating it is to be a woman partaking in generally very male-dominated and male-represented activities. I don’t mean to play that card, so to speak, but it’s definitely had an effect on my confidence during certain scenarios.
A good friend of mine and I were at one of my favourite outdoor shops, looking for a new fishing rod so that I could get back into it again on an RV trip we had planned with Ontario Parks around Lake Superior in the Fall. Walking around, the posters and ads were all of men taking part in activities like fishing or hunting or doing something uber-rugged and outdoorsy. It’s really intimidating to take a look around and not feel represented – like, do I actually belong here? Can I do this stuff too? Not to mention the lack of POCs and diversity in general, which is a feeling that I can’t even imagine. I’m only a small piece of this larger puzzle.
Recently, I was able to connect with a very diverse and incredible group of women who are all doing their part to empower others to get out there and explore with confidence. Amongst that group were two individuals who have continued to inspire me since that day. Sarah Bulford is a Park Ranger in British Columbia who encourages women to use power tools and to not subscribe to the idea that we need to be afraid to be alone in wilderness, just because we’re girls. Judith Kasiama is a badass powerhouse, who is a Refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo and founder of her own non-profit organization. She pushes the limits for POCs, but also women, in order to change stereotypes about who has access to the outdoors. She works with brands like Mountain Equipment Co-op as an ambassador, and has challenged them to represent true diversity, while working with them on being more inclusive overall.
We spent the day engaging in fun outdoor activities, while taking some time to connect with each other during and afterwards. We also got to interact with adventure-related companies who are working hard to push the boundaries. Since I left feeling super inspired, I thought that I would share some of these awesome products that have made my life and passion for the outdoors, way more accessible and, ultimately more fun. They’ve been helping me to squash the intimidation factor, while increasing my confidence as a woman in the outdoors.
Their goal is to create light, even in the farthest darkest corners of the world. With high quality products, breathtaking designs and performance that surpasses all expectations, these illuminating tools are build for true adventure seekers. Amongst my favourite things to bring out into the wild with me is the LedLenser MH6 – 200 Lumens rechargeable headlamp. It even has freakin’ temperature control, so you’re never gonna be stuck without visibility, no matter what the conditions. Having a light right on top of your head helps to free your hands, but also allows you to see where you’re going, no matter where you’re looking. I honestly never go on any adventure without one of these.
Anyone who knows me, knows I’m obsessed with my Leatherman Signal. I whip it out at any chance I get, for any reason. I never thought I would be the kind of person who owns such a badass multitool, but now that I do, I carry it with me everywhere. After all, a tool is just a tool until you own one. With 19 built-in tools, I can start a fire, use a saw or knife at the drop of a dime, have access to an emergency whistle or diamond-coated sharpener, needle-nose pliers or even a hammer! It also lightens your load to have everything all in one place. I always want to be prepared for that expected or even unexpected adventure, don’t you?
I’m not willing to compromise on my hydration and hot beverage intake (or even sometimes wine), while I’m adventuring. The cool part about this line of vacuum insulated stainless steel water bottles, is that you can grab many different shapes and sizes for many different purposes. Keeping your cold water cool or your hot chocolate hot is pretty darn important, while also being lightweight and leakproof. They even have a line meant specifically for your favourite wine – including a single glass serving size and one that holds and entire bottle, that has a TempShield™ double wall vacuum insulation and stainless steel walls which won’t transfer flavours. Score!
Listen, I don’t wanna be negative here, but it’s so freakin’ annoying when you’re just tryna’ get your adventure on, but your socks are letting you down. They’re rubbing, holding onto moisture, causing blisters or even not doing a great job at keeping your feet warm or cool enough. That’s why investing in quality gear makes a world of difference. I always carry a few pairs of Darn Tough socks with me. They have different styles of knitted socks with a varied range of gauges and purposes – from Merino Wool cushioned socks for long hikes, to itch-free ones that let your feet breathe, to even endurance socks with protection for performance. Honestly, they’re so insanely comfortable.
I have a confession to make. I’m a little obsessed with this footwear line. I already own 5 pairs and use them all religiously. I distinctly remember bringing a few pairs with me on the RV trip with Ontario Parks, and while I was trudging through mud and water, my friends would tiptoe around the trails while laughing at how fearless I was in my Keen shoes or boots. I’m pretty sure that they each wanted their own pair by the end of the trip. The confidence that each design gives me in every single scenario they’re meant for, allows me to focus on the things that matter – like having fun and pushing my boundaries. Not only are they incredibly made and comfortable to wear, the company itself makes a huge difference by working on challenging the status quo, doing good for the environment, giving back and inspiring others.
Now, come on ladies. It’s time to get out there, so we can keep working on pushing those boundaries. I sure as heck know I am and I will.
Photos by Catherine Sugrue & Wendy Webb
Please note that this is a sponsored post.