One of the things I love most about Instagram is seeing the serious outdoor bad-assery of so many women of all sizes, races, and ages from all over the world. It’s inspiring and motivates me not only to be a champion for all women in the outdoors, but to also ensure Hike It Off is a brand that inspires other women to get outside regardless of their fears, what society has told them about being a women outside, and to break out of their comfort zone. One of those bad-asses I’ve been following for a while is Emily Pennington, aka @brazenbackpacker. Not only is she a rad backpacker, but she is a solo worldwide traveler, adventurer, writer, and like most of us, a dreamer. She has a wealth of knowledge to share and has the most amazing blog at https://brazenbackpacker.com/ where she shares her extensive know how, amazing trips, and opens her heart to her readers about her struggles with anxiety, fears, and worries and how hiking saves her from all of it. Her writing style is captivating, and you literally can’t stop reading once you start- so don’t say I didn’t warn you! I was blessed with the opportunity to interview her for our blog and am so excited to share it! From her favorite hike of all time to advice to women who want to start hiking solo, here’s what Emily had to say to me- I promise its some amazing stuff!
Jaime: Have you always hiked and explored? Did you grow up doing it?
Emily: I've always been active in one way or another, whether it was cheerleading, dance, circus, or hiking. I grew up car camping a couple of times a year and went on road trips to Colorado and New Mexico. Plus, I spent two summers as a child with my family in Sweden, where I was free to roam around these massive, old growth forests, boulder hopping, swimming in lakes, and looking for trolls. I didn't come from an outdoorsy family per se, but I think a ton of micro-adventures at a young age fueled my soul enough to really get into it now that I live in California!
Jaime: What's the one thing you won't hike without?
Emily: LIP BALM! There's nothing worse than cracked lips in a windstorm or atop a frigid summit. I recently had a bad time at altitude on a steep snow climb and sunburned my lips so badly that they blistered for days! Now, I'm religious about carrying a 50 spf stick with me at all times.
Jaime: What's the coolest place you've hiked so far?
Emily: Peru was a game-changer. I fell in love with the high-altitude peaks that jut up out of the earth and go on for miles. Because it's closer to the equator, the Peruvian Andes stay much more green as you ascend, making ventures to 16,000 feet anything but boring and lunar. I love the Sierras, since it’s so close to home, but I'm first and foremost a fan of anything lush and green, which made the Andes a real eye-opening experience.
Jaime: Do you have any upcoming trips you'd like us to share?
Emily: My next big adventure is supposed to be the High Sierra Trail in October. I've always loved the Great Western Divide, so traversing it and finishing on Mt. Whitney will be a real treat. My current bucket list items include the Haute Route, Annapurna Circuit, and Mt. Kilimanjaro. I'd also love to learn glacier travel and get up on some higher peaks in the Andes!
Jaime: What is your advice for those just starting to hike and explore?
Emily: Don't be afraid to just get out there and do it, even if that means going for an easy day hike with your dog. There will always be someone crushing it harder and faster than you, so try to shut out comparisons at all costs. I heard a great quote the other day that I think rings SO true - "Comparison is the thief of joy." I think that, too often, people don't even try a new thing because they tell themselves they aren't good enough or it's not possible. Climb the climbs you want, and explore the world for you. After all, you're the one receiving its amazing benefits!
Jaime: So many women are afraid to hike/travel/explore alone. What advice would you give them?
Emily: It's not nearly as bad as you think it is! When I first started solo trekking, I would backpack on trails I had already done. Starting off slowly to get your feet wet is a great way to begin your solo exploration. If you're really nervous, pick a country or trail that's familiar for your first solo adventure. It will feel much different when you're there by yourself, and your attention will be turned up to 11, so you'll be amazed at all the new things you notice and experience. I'm also a BIG fan of research. I obsessively read about what to do if you see a bear or rattlesnake on trail when I started venturing off solo. I also asked friends for advice and scoured blogs for tips when I went to India as a solo female. Having information in the back of your mind when things go awry is always a good plan.
Jaime: What does "Hike It Off" mean to you personally?
Emily: For me, the wild has always been the place that will accept me, day after day, no matter how tired, cranky, or heartbroken. "Hike It Off" reminds me of the true spirit of the outdoors, one where you shrug off your worries and the weight of the ordinary world as you move your body through the wilderness and emerge a bit brighter and more healed. Hiking it off is therapy!
Jaime: So many people want to start hiking and exploring but don't know where to start. What advice would you give them?
Emily: There are a ton of great resources out there if you want to start exploring but don't want to go it alone! The Sierra Club hosts frequent hikes and backpacking trips of various levels. A quick search of Meetup.com will usually also glean a bunch of hiking groups near your hometown. If you're looking to up your backcountry or mountain skills so you can tackle bigger objectives, REI has a wealth of classes on everything from rock climbing to wilderness survival.
Jaime: If you could hike any trail in the world, what trail would it be and why?
Emily: Oh man! It's impossible to choose just one. The Laugavegur trek in Iceland looks amazing. I'm really into fantasy, and it traverses a lot of the landscapes that Lord of the Rings was inspired by. I'm also dying to do something in Nepal like the Annapurna Circuit. I fell in love with the Himalayas when I went to India, and I can't wait to go back!
Jaime: Anything else you'd like to share?
Emily: I think one of the biggest reasons people (and women especially) don't get outside is because they're afraid to take the first step, because it's a big world out there, and journeying out alone can feel daunting. If I could offer one piece of advice, it would just be to start small by going on walks or short hikes every week near your town. Plan a weekend road trip to a national park with your friends when you get a day off, and keep growing your base of experience. Once you build a little momentum, it gets addictive, and you'll crave bigger challenges as you continue to grow. It's an incredibly fulfilling and life-long pursuit. Getting outside of my comfort zone on a regular basis has made me stronger, braver, and 100% more self-aware.
Make sure to follow Emily on her social media sites below as well as subscribing to her blog at:
A BIG thank you to Emily for taking time to share this with us and our followers!