Women Leading the Outdoors
These inspiring women are leading companies that help BIPOC communities experience outdoor adventure.
“It has been my experience as a person of color that these spaces are not always welcoming. There’s sometimes a sense of not belonging. And that is what prevents a lot of people of color from wanting to get out in to nature. Some may not agree or understand this, but when you go into any space and you don’t see others around that look like you, it feels uncomfortable. This is why I work on efforts to increase diversity in our outdoor spaces.”
-Teresa Baker, in a 2016 interview with Hipcamp
Aventura’s founding family, the Kirschs, place a lot of value in getting outside. Growing up in a rural area at the eastern base of the Sierra Nevada, and frequently skiing, biking, hiking, and camping, they understand the importance of the outdoors. It’s this love that propels Aventura to this day.
However, this is not the story for everyone and it makes us sad to think that there are people in this country that either don’t have access to or don’t feel comfortable stepping into outdoor spaces. That’s why we wanted to kick off Women’s History Month with these three incredible women building sustainable ways to help their BIPOC communities get outside.
Patricia Ann Cameron
“That experience of what it’s like to be self sustaining, smell awful for seven days, just walk for seven days, and depend on what’s on your back. I think it’s life changing for people.”
- Cameron, on guiding backpacking trips in a 2021 Backpacker Radio interview.
Blackpackers was started in 2019 to address the gap in representation in the outdoors. It gives opportunities to learn how to camp, swim, backpack, climb, and ski for those who would have never otherwise seen themselves outside. In 2022 alone, 94 people got to learn how to ski or snowboard plus get lift tickets, gear rentals, and even base layers through the skiing program. The organization also grants athletic scholarships to athletes of color.
Patricia wears many hats, but the one that led her to founding Colorado Blackpackers was a single mother who loved backpacking. She’s not only the founder and Executive Director of Blackpackers, but she’s also a full-time student, writer, certified interpretive guide, wilderness first responder and instructor, Heartsaver CPR instructor, Leave No Trace master educator, NOLS grad, and professional guide. To top it all off, she’s thru-hiked the Colorado Trail and Tahoe Rim Trail, along with a long section of the Pacific Crest Trail.
Get involved! If you are located in Colorado, you can volunteer with Blackpackers.
Donations are always welcome to those both in and out of state.
"I think we should pause and recognize that a lot of us have never been invited into certain spaces…if we invite people to come, learn, and do things that we love and create a safe space for them, I think it's amazing to see what can come out of it."
- Kasiama, in the CBC article 'Colour the Trails' founder wanted to see more diversity in outdoor activities.
Colour the Trails is a Canadia nonprofit aiming to not only help people get outside but also advocates for inclusive representation by working with brand partners, businesses, and organizations. The organization was founded in 2017 after Kasiama saw first hand on her outdoor adventures the disconnect in outdoor spaces and gear shops. Colour the Trails now subsidizes outdoor adventures, offering the BIPOC community lessons to bike, hike, and ski. It helps to shape the narrative in the outdoor space to be more inclusive by creating diverse content.
Kasiama is a former refugee of the Democratic Republic of Congo and settled in British Columbia in 2010. She is an outdoor athlete, participating in skiing, hiking, camping, climbing, and general exploring. In addition to founding Colour the Trails, she founded the Black Like Meis film festival, is a fellow at the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, and is a Director on the Trans Canada Trail Board.
You can help the mission of Colour the Trails by becoming a member or donating today.
Melanin Base Camp & Diversity Outdoors
“Everyone is trying to overcome that feeling of being the only one, the only person that looks like you doing whatever it is that you love to do.”
- Williams, on founding Melanin Base Camp in Episode 98 of the She Explores podcast
Melanin Base Camp was initially founded in 2016 to increase ethnic minority and LGBTQ+ participation in the outdoors. However, Williams soon found out that it wasn’t participation that needed increasing - “I realized that we already surf, hike, climb, skydive, kayak”. Instead, it was visibility that needed changing. The organization now serves as a platform where BIPOC people can share stories about the way they love the outdoors. Users can learn more about the outdoors through gear reviews, trip reports, and interviews with grassroots activists, environmentalists and educators.
Melanin Base Camp was not William’s first venture. As an avid sky diver, she first sought to increase the black sky diving community by co-founding Team Blackstar Skydivers in 2014. She’s also the founder of Diversify Outdoors, a coalition of digital influencers with a shared goal of building a more inclusive and equitable outdoors via social networks. She is currently the Senior Editor at Melanin Base Camp and enjoys a nice hike or jumping out of planes.
Become part of the conversation by keeping up on the Melanin Base Camp blog
and following #diversifyoutdoors on Instagram. You can pre-order William’s book, Melanin Base Camp, now and experience the outdoors through inspiring photographs, in-depth interviews, and essays.