Do you hike like a girl? Karina’s been reflecting on what it means to be a woman on the trails and how something special is unlocked when women come together to hike.

What does it mean to ‘hike like a girl’?

You may have seen the Unilever ‘like a girl’ advert. Adults are asked to run or throw ‘like a girl’ and invariably squeal and deliberately impair their own abilities to look less than competent. Apparently to run like a girl means to flail about, and to hike like a girl means to be entirely clueless. Ah, the pitfalls of female archetypes.

So, what comes to mind for you when I say ‘hike like a girl’? Does it conjure images of a delicate flower needing a hand up on uneven ground? Someone wearing heels and a full face of makeup, woefully underprepared?

Hopefully, if you’re reading this, you’re a hiker or adventure-lover and have broken down your own stereotypes along the way, so the image of a damsel in hiking distress isn’t even on your radar.

To me there’s nothing more empowering than shouldering a pack with everything you need to eat, sleep, survive, and thrive in nature. And I have a sneaking suspicion that feeling is particularly potent for women.

Perhaps a part of this empowerment is because it takes us miles away from the advertising, media, and societal expectations that tell us who we should (or shouldn’t) be.

And from the insidious nature of this messaging that it seeps into female interactions as well; too often women are knocking each other down rather than building them up.

These trappings get left behind when we hike.


Enjoying the trail


The women I’ve met on the trail, and the crew I regularly hike with, have taught me that to hike like a girl is a mighty big compliment, because every girl I know who hikes is strong, intelligent, competent, and kind. 

So if you tell me I ‘hike like a girl’ I’m going to be proud as punch. 

Alongside my all-female hiking crew, I’ve experienced the powerful sense of togetherness and self-confidence women can unlock by shouldering overnight packs and heading out together for a new adventure. 

Humility, care, and kindness shines through on these hikes and renews my faith in people and the power of female friendships every time.

Allow me to explain.


Soaking it all in

The Power of Female Friendship on the Trail

‘Am I crazy?’ I uttered to myself as I parked behind the pub in Jindy, opened the car door, and stretched my road-trip-cramped body back into action. On a whim I’d set off to meet 12 strangers from Facebook for a three day hike in Kosciuszko National Park. It wasn’t an organised tour – we met via a group called ‘Sydney Women’s Hiking’ (at the time a small group of a few hundred) and agreed to embark on a multi-day hike together. 

When I arrived, I honestly felt nervous, like I was meeting an online date for the first time. I walked into the pub and looked around for someone who looked the part. I timidly approached a group of women outside.

Was this the group of women I’d been texting about pack your poop out strategies and sharing gear ideas with for the past two weeks? It was!

Let me tell you, there’s nothing that bonds a group of women faster than discussing ways to poop in an alpine environment (‘leave no trace’ principles in Kosciuszko National Park require you to pack it out).

We were a mixed bunch, some on their first ever overnight hike, others much more experienced. Our ages ranged widely, from a young pup of 20 to a proud grandmother pushing 70. It could’ve all gone terribly wrong – but I can honestly say that this wild idea was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

The first day we kept it short, starting at Charlottes Pass we set off on the Main Range anti-clockwise and finished with a side trip up Mount Lee. It’s a gradual incline that for the uninitiated (a lot of us) quickly turned into an uphill slog in the stretch to the Blue Lake. It was during this very first leg of the hike that I encountered something magical: women supporting women.

One of the party was a freshie and had packed a little more weight than she could carry. Just a few kilometres in and the hike was quickly becoming a struggle for her. One of the girls with an ultralight set-up checked in, realised she was overpacked, and without any fuss, took a bunch of the weight off her hands and strapped it to the outside of her own pack instead. I’ve not lived a life devoid of kindness, but I was struck deeply by that moment.


Dream team


Despite our different skill levels and capabilities, we somehow found an easeful flow. Decisions such as when and where to stop for lunch and where to camp at night were made as a collective, without any friction.

There was so little conflict and so much mutual respect that I could’ve sung with joy. These were the female friendships I didn’t know I needed.

Over the next three days we traversed the Main Range track and a bunch of side trips up the various peaks, and this group of 12 strangers became friends. We supported and encouraged each other, shared our mutual love for John West tuna packs (RIP), and got to know one another on a deeper level than we would have in day-to-day life (again, nothing like a wild pee or pack it out poop to break down boundaries).


Instant community


From blistered lips that swelled more than fillers (lesson: pack SPF chapstick) to accidentally setting up camp on a field of Wolf spider nests on night two (sorry to interrupt little dudes), we tackled the adversities together and shared in oodles of collective awe at the wonders of nature all around us.

There’s something unique about hiking with other women. It’s not competitive like many other sports, but rather confidently humble, kind, and co-operative.

In a world where we are so often pitched against each other, the trail is a space where we have each other’s backs. Even within a group of strangers you met at the pub two hours ago.

Bushwalking Buddies Who Have Each Other’s Backs

Each and every time I hike with these women, or any other women, what always strikes me is everyone’s kindness. We respect and play to each other’s strengths – the climber might lead the way, or the person who’s best at fires will spark the flame at camp.

We help without ego or judgment, laugh through the challenges, and always connect with nature and each other along the way.


Photo thanks to Nadiah Roslan


Reflecting back, I think that’s why this chance hike turned a group of mismatched women into cherished friends. Since our first hike together we’ve navigated post-flood chest-high rapids and a knee-bashing-descent on the Green Gully Track, shade-hopped our way through an unexpected heatwave on the Six Foot Track, waded through a river crossing at night in our undies while hiking Mount Solitary, been chased by leeches on the Great North Walk, and triumphantly summited the Castle, together.

We’ve gone from relative rookies to pretty darn competent hikers. 

There’s something incredibly soul-nourishing about females supporting each other to succeed within a traditionally male-dominated space. Not to mention improving our self-love along the way as we discover the amazing things our bodies are capable of doing.

But perhaps it’s even simpler than that. At the end of the day, adventures in nature strip away all the bullshit, and bring us back to what girls truly have been all along.


Gather your female friends and create some memories!