Things have improved and that the suppliers of outdoor gear are starting to recognising that women leave the house too and, just like men, need to be kitted out properly. But the mix of men’s and women’s gear is still massively outbalanced and not fairly represented.
I’ve lost count of the times I go to the shops to browse for an outdoor item and leave frustrated. So much of the gear out there is patronising and reinforcing stereotypes of women (yes I’m talking about all that pink!) and it’s still impossible, as a woman, to get everything you need in an outdoor shop for your upcoming adventure. Looking for useful sanitary products for a long trek? No chance! That doesn’t fit the macho rugged image that so many of the outdoor shops put out there.
The rate of improvement in women’s outdoor clothing is far too slow. Something really does need to be done about it. Here are three things that really need to change:
1) The colours
Our current choice? Pink, purple and turquoise and always in a shade that is as bright as you can get.
It’s like a Barbie shop from the 90s (even 21st century Barbie has clued up that women also like colours that are not shades of pink). These stereotypical feminine colours literally make my skin crawl. It’s as if we are being made to wear matching colours so that the damsels in distress are easy to spot on the mountains.
Not only is it horribly sexist, but it makes it really annoying putting an outdoor outfit together as you end up head to toe in the same colour and looking like the ‘girl’ one from Power Rangers.
2) Fashion over practicality
I went into a big outdoor retailer recently to look for a summer hat that I could wear for a multi day espedition in the desert.
The shop assistant directed me to the women’s summer hat collection…
After I gave the shop assistant an ‘are you serious’ look, he directed me to the men’s summer hat section instead…
If I had wanted an impractical fashionable summer hat, I would have gone to a high street fashion shop. But I didn’t. I was looking for a summer hat that was suitable for an outdoor pursuit. A technical and essential piece of equipment. That’s why I went to an outdoor shop.
It is so insulting it makes my blood boil! I literally don’t even have the words.
In the end I tried on the men’s hats but they only had large sizes and none of them fitted. The search continues…
3) The range on offer
In so many shops the women’s section still has to share it’s space with the camping accessories (and the useless fashion items of course).
The shops and supplies are just not catering for women adventurers and providing enough variety with the gear that they make available. As a tall woman, I struggle with the lack of size options. I have resorted to buying mens cloths as there is never a shortage of gear. They are often too big for me but, as a lot of the women’s gear don’t have the variety of sizes or meet the technical requirement, I don’t have a choice.
It is a sad reality that I feel the outdoor clothing retailers reflect the general attitude towards women in the very male dominant outdoor industry. They project a damaging image of women being ignorant, unworthy and incapable. I can’t help but feel a second class citizen; like the outdoor supplies don’t take me, as a female adventurer, seriously.
I’m not the only one who feels this way. Women have been ranting on Walkhighland’s Forum, mountain runner Kate Wortek wrote a great article about how women’s gear underestimate our ability and The Gaurdian put out a piece titled Why must cycling companies saddle women in pink?.
I really hope the suppliers and retailers start to listen.
In early 2016 Bex Band quit her teaching job to set out on her first big adventure, hiking 1000km the length of Israel. Adventure is now her life and work! As well as running Love Her Wild, she also offers advice and inspiration through her blog, the Ordinary Adventurer.