Historically, Black people have had inequitable access to nature. Systematic discrimination such as redlining has forced many Black people to live in nature-deprived neighborhoods with little or no access to paths, parks, and other green areas. It’s also no secret that hypervisibility and othering from the white outdoorsy community is very real. Enter Black Girls Trekkin’ (BGT), a Los Angeles-based community that has bloomed into a safe space for several Black women who share an affinity for nature.
The group’s co-founders, Tiffany Tharpe and Michelle Race, met in high school and have since shared their love for the outdoors with one another and the ‘gram since 2017. After receiving several messages from other women requesting a group hike, the pair finally decided to create a retreat so Black bikers, runners, swimmers, and trekkers alike could feel safe while partaking in these activities and learning about the conservation of the planet.
Today, Black Girls Trekkin’ has grown to over 30,000 followers and a team consisting of three adventure leaders who have varying expertise and skills in traveling and all things outdoorsy.
R29Unbothered spoke with the co-founders over Zoom to discuss five tips for Black women who desire to live their best lives outdoors.
Set An Intention Before Going Outdoors
There are many types of trails, so it’s essential to look into the kind you feel you can handle — especially if you plan on hiking alone. Tharpe says, “The last thing you want is to commit to a seven-mile trail because it looked pretty.” A hiking trail is a natural path, so beyond researching how long a trail is, find out how much shade a particular trail has, look to see if it’s rocky or smooth, or if other factors such as loops or steep inclines would impact your hike.
Bring Enough Water, Snacks And Sun Protection
One bottle is not enough, not in life nor on the trails. At least two liters or two water bottles is a great start, especially if you’re starting over the summer. Protect your skin; wear a long shirt and invest in sunscreen. Tharpe warns that “Black will crack if you don’t take care of your skin in the sun.” Avoid multiple layers for longer hikes unless you are in colder climates. And pack sugary snacks, says Race. Nuts can take a while to give you the energy you need, so bringing fruit gummies or candy is critical.
Be With People You Trust
When BGT hosts a hike, two of their hike leaders ensure the group stays together, one in the front and one in the back. Tharpe shares that for them, “If someone gets tired, they are offered water, snacks, and a 10-minute rest break, and if that person needs to turn around, a partner goes with them.” Most trails branch off, so a partner helps ensure you don’t get lost. Being with reliable individuals who have an upbeat personality is essential, especially if your hike is long. (You got this, sis!)
Be Comfortable, Not Branded
You don’t need to spend a lot on specialized hiking shoes or fancy backpacks and gear with brand names for hiking specifically. Not every hike is a climb on Mt. Everest. There are several different types of hiking, including trails that don’t have an incline or that last a couple of hours. Wear supportive shoes you’re comfortable with, keeping in mind the different terrains you may encounter. A string-gym backpack to hold necessary belongings would suffice. Being cute isn’t always comfortable in the great outdoors.
Don’t Have Shame in How You Experience Outdoors
Race says that one of the most important tips is to “be unapologetically you in how you want to take on the outdoors,” while, of course, being mindful of others. “If you don’t feel like going forward,” Tharpe says, “Turn around. The hike will always be there. You can always try it again.” If you want to listen to music, put in your earphones but don’t let anyone tell you how to experience the outdoors. Many people who hike are determined to push themselves to exhaustion to reach the finish line, making the hike less enjoyable. If you feel you can’t go forward, don’t force yourself. It’s okay to turn around. Nature will always be there.
For those in the Los Angeles area interested in getting to trekkin’ with BGT, follow their Instagram for group excursion updates.