We love Snowqueen & Scout—it’s hard not to with a manifesto that begins, “I believe every woman should experience the wilderness, in all of her fierce, natural glory. We will be changed by her presence.”
Snowqueen & Scout is dedicated to making wilderness backpacking simple for women who are just starting out. The site is not only an excellent resource of anyone interested in spending more time outdoors but it encourages people to take that next step and get out there! Here is a deeper look into what Snowqueen & Scout is all about from the Snowqueen herself, Liz Song.
Photos (C) 2015 Liz Song
What is Snowqueen & Scout?
Snowqueen & Scout is a website dedicated to making wilderness backpacking simple for women. It’s all about practical steps, stories as inspiration, and helping dreams become reality. My hope is that more women make the leap from thinking about going on their first backpacking trip to actually going. Snowqueen & Scout is here to help women do that.
Tell me about your first backpacking experience.
I was terrified and thrilled at the same time. My very first time backpacking was in a far-off “exotic” wilderness…30 minutes away from my Bay Area home, and only a 1.5 mile hike into the campsite. It was a sneeze, if you will. But even if this trip wasn’t in some grand location hiking epic peaks, the experience completely grabbed my attention. I loved finally doing what I had dreamt of doing. I loved taking on a new challenge. I loved seeing what I was capable of.
Why do you think women are sometimes intimidated by the idea of backpacking in the wilderness?
If you don’t have experience out in the wilderness, you just have what you’ve been told and the stories you make up in your mind. The wilderness has so many associations with danger, fear, aloneness, bacteria and viruses, challenges, vastness, large-animals-that-can-get-ya!, survival, etc. It’s the place where people have to cut off their arms, where you get attacked by bears, and where people wander lost and die…right? Well, those are all really intimidating stories!
A lot of women have expressed that they’re not sure what to do in those extreme situations. Most people wouldn’t, not just women. But the intimidation isn’t just about those rare stories of bears and losing appendages. I’ve heard many women tell me that they don’t know how to build a fire and filter water, or that they’ve never set up a tent. And of course, there’s the fear of being assaulted by someone hiding in the woods. The great news is that we can remedy those fears rather easily. All those skills are super easy to learn, and you’ll more likely than not meet some of the kindest down-to-earth people out on the trail.
Lastly, I think until recently, mainstream media has portrayed wilderness backpacking as a guy’s activity, or something you do with a male counterpart. We’ve had a fairly anemic distribution of stories of women courageously going out into the wilderness. And if we would see imagery of women backpacking, it was often in the company of men. There’s nothing wrong with going with guys, but there’s something special and powerful about seeing just women crushing it. I know I come alive – just a little more – when I see women backpacking in the wilderness.
Why are you on a mission to get more women backpacking in the wilderness?
Wilderness backpacking is like the best cocktail you’ll ever drink. It’s the perfect concoction of: fun, adventure, satisfaction, empowerment, grit, peace, distraction-free presence, resilience, beauty, and God! I feel like spending time backpacking touches on so many levels of who we are and what we deeply need. Backpacking can be enormously challenging and equally satisfying in a way we need to feel more often.
Climbing over mountains with your two little feet translates directly into our daily lives. The resilient spirit, the heart-beating fast, the fortitude, and the pure satisfaction of looking out from that mountain top isn’t just about that moment. That mountain-top experience makes us more resilient in challenging situations, it fortifies what we know we’re capable of, it gives us hope when we have to face a problem that feels as big as a 12,000′ peak.
Can you imagine if more women felt confident in their beautiful bodies (yes! we all have them!)? Can you imagine if we were completely satisfied, not wanting this or that, but believing we’re enough? How would our lives and our communities be changed?
I think wilderness backpacking provides one of the best contexts for us to explore who we are, our boundaries, and what we’re capable of. We learn to love ourselves more deeply, and therefore we learn to love those around us that much better.
How heavy do you recommend a women’s pack to be? Do you have any training tips to build up to a comfortable weight?
An alternative question I like to ask myself is: What pack weight will make my experience easier and more enjoyable? I wrote all about it here, but in a nutshell, I recommend getting your pack as light as you can. This is not just to categorize yourself as an “ultralight backpacker,” but simply because having a lighter pack will make your backpacking experience SO. MUCH. BETTER!
I think carrying up to 15% (max 20%) of your body weight is a reasonable goal. It means you’ll have to be vigilant about saying no to non-essentials. For me, the more I carry, the more I suffer. I don’t want my mind occupied by how heavy my pack is and how miserable I feel about it. I want my mind to be freed up to take my surroundings in, not focused on my bruising hips and tired shoulders.
But even getting your body ready to carry 15% of your body weight doesn’t happen at a flip of a switch without some consequence. As I inch my way into my 30s, I’m noticing the tolls I took on my 20-something’s body. (I used to just do whatever I wanted because I could. For example, I was not a runner, but suddenly started running like dozens of miles per week. It didn’t hurt then, but I’m paying now.) With that said, I would highly recommend going on hikes with small daypacks carrying just a couple pounds of stuff. Then start using your backpacking pack with a bit more poundage. Then go out with a few more pounds, etc. Get your body used to carrying more weight and hiking up and down hills. The key is to gradually increase your load so your body learn and adjusts to the new challenge. Plus, it’ll give you insight into how your gear feels before your actual backpacking trip.
Describe your ideal backpacking experience in three words.
Challenging. Satisfying. Breathtaking.