Review and Photos by Gale Straub
When I was given a review copy of, “A Woman’s Guide to the Wild,” I initially wondered why women needed a separate handbook from men. I thought, “Why should a guide differ by gender?” Well, sifting through the books on my shelf and searching online, I quickly noticed that the bulk of the handbooks and hiking guides were written by and (implicitly) written for men. While there are a lot of commonalities in our experiences in the outdoors, after reading Ruby McConnell’s guide, I truly appreciate her female perspective as a thorough introduction to the basics.
The truth is, men are no better (or worse) equipped than women to survive in the wilderness.
Ruby writes, “The truth is, men are no better (or worse) equipped than women to survive in the wilderness…Moreover, there is no reason to assume that just because men and women are both capable of being in the wilderness, that the way in which they approach the experience will be any more similar than how they approach anything else in life.”
Ruby is right. We have a lot to teach each other, and there’s a benefit to having a resource that feels familiar and friendly. Where you learn so much by “doing” in the outdoors, this handbook provides the underlying foundation for an outdoor life. If you’re new to hiking, camping, and backpacking, or want to brush up on the essentials, I highly recommend the guide. Here are some of the highlights:
1. Illustrations (!) – Black and white diagrams and gear illustrations both educate and inspire. They’re engaging without feeling tedious.
2. Checklists – Practical and hands-on checklists for day trips, overnights, first-aid, apparel, camp kitchen… I could go on. It’s a great reference to see if your gear closet is stocked and that you’re not over/under packing for your favorite activities.
3. Expert Advice – In each chapter, the author brings in fellow female experts to consult on specific topics. Ruby McConnell is savvy to enrich the resource with experience-based advice.
4. Quizzes – Another engaging tool employed by Ruby is including short quizzes for the dryer material like navigation.
5. Tackles the “Taboo” – The guide answers the questions we all have about being a woman in the wilderness: how to deal with periods, sex advice, hygiene, and finding a sports bra that fits. The best part is that the author doesn’t treat these subjects as taboo, just parts of life. (Because they are!)
6. Lays Out the Rules – A huge part of enjoying the outdoors is respecting the rules. It’s really great that the book includes National Forest basics, Leave No Trace Principles, and trail etiquette, among many other guidelines. As our parks (hopefully) become increasingly popular, it is so important to support them and obey the simple rules that help to preserve our wild spaces.
7. Incorporates Technology – While we often head outside to escape modern technology, it’s great that the “Woman’s Guide” recommends helpful apps as they will increasingly be incorporated into our outdoor lives.
Without giving too much away, “A Woman’s Guide to the Wild” is a refreshing perspective and a thorough beginner through intermediate resource. Ruby McConnell grew up like many of us: first curious but hesitant; later feeling like she had something to prove. But what is so great about this book is that it doesn’t feel like a reaction to there not being anything like it out there, it feels like an embrace.