The natural world is stunning, full of millions of different shapes, sizes, colors – life, in its infinite splendor. But ask the average person to describe someone at home in outdoor spaces, and they will likely depict a white, buff, able-bodied man, presumed to be heterosexual and cisgender, usually sporting a rugged sort of beard. While these men – beard included – do historically make up a majority of people getting outdoors, people who don’t fall into the “traditional” categories have always been outside doing incredible things, though their stories haven’t always been told. While the outdoors industry is beginning to understand the importance of these stories, as in campaigns like REI’s Force of Nature, the grassroots movement to create even more of these stories by featuring outdoors-people of all races, shapes, abilities, sexualities, and genders is going strong. Whether you’re browsing online or looking to get outside yourself, efforts like the ones below want to make sure you see yourself in the outdoors, no matter who you are.
While the human population of the outdoors can seem very monochrome, plenty of groups devote time and attention to getting folks of the full diversity of the human spectrum outdoors. Groups like Outdoor Afro, Latino Outdoors, and Outdoor Asian all provide events and opportunities for hikes, camping trips, and even indoor mixers to get to know the outdoorsy communities of color in your area. Some, like Brown People Camping and LatinXHikers, started as Instagram accounts, but have recently branched out into providing events and media opportunities all over the United States. Natives Outdoors works to support native communities by giving back a percentage of their merchandise sales to efforts like language and cultural revitalization. And if you need more activity-specific representation, organizations like Melanin Base Camp and Brothers of Climbing have you covered.
If you rarely see people of your fitness level and ability outdoors, you can absolutely find yourself in an organization like Fat Girls Hiking or Unlikely Hikers. Both sites focus on body positivity and deepening connections with the outdoors, and their Instagram accounts are full of storytelling surrounding the experience of getting outdoors as a full-bodied person. Unlikely Hikers also explores the intersection of race, gender, ability, and sexuality in the outdoors, and delivers a monthly newsletter full of articles on diversity in the outdoors right to your inbox.
For female-identified outdoors-people, places like the Outdoor Women’s Alliance, Mountain Chicks, or Women Outdoors might be good places to start looking for outdoors trips in your area. There’s also a lot of multimedia-focused around gender in the outdoors, including the journaling-focused Outdoor Journal Tour, the podcast She Explores and the yearly No Man’s Land Film Festival. If you need your women’s organizations to be more explicitly intersectional, plenty of organizations center the intersection of gender and especially race, like Brown Girls Climb and Native Women’s Wilderness.
LGBTQAI-identified outdoors-people are also supporting their communities by offering specific programs for folks of all ages to feel supported in the outdoors. OUT There Adventures is a non-profit primarily focused on getting LGBTQAI+ youth outdoors for everything from rafting to climbing to surfing. Queer Nature focuses more on outdoors survivalist skillcraft for folks of all ages, as well as outdoors-based rites-of-passage for queer-identified youth. The Venture Out Project offers also offers wilderness trips by and for queer people, alongside inclusion workshops for people and organizations in the outdoors industry. There’s even an LGBTQ Outdoor Summit all about advancing community issues and getting outside in supportive ways.
Even if you routinely see yourself reflected in both the people and media surrounding the outdoors, that doesn’t mean you can’t find your own way to support diversity in the outdoors. Diversify Outdoors has some great tips on active allyship, from putting your money where your heart is by supporting the outdoor businesses, non-profits, and conservation efforts led by communities of color to reposting articles about and messages of solidarity with LGBTQIA+ communities in outdoor spaces. Making under-represented communities feel equally at home in the outdoors starts with well-represented people making their own attempts to level the playing field, whether among friends or as a representative of an outdoor brand.
If you need even more examples of outdoors diversity, check out Facebooks groups like Hikers of Color, websites like Diversify Outdoors, personal accounts like Rahawa Haile’s “Going It Alone” or Eddy Harris’s Mississippi Solo, or more scholarly works like Carolyn Finney’s Black Faces, White Spaces. Now, more than ever, everyone is getting outside to experience the diversity of the wild that nature has to offer. So find an organization to participate in or support that supports you in return, and don’t let the idea of what an outdoors-person “is” keep you from experiencing what could be.