We Surveyed 2,100 Women About the Outdoors

Here's what we learned about the state of the outdoorswoman in 2017 and the still-prevalent gender gap in the outdoor world

Our survey shows that by getting outdoors and pursuing athletic passions, women are empowered to think beyond societal pressures and find themselves on a deeper level. (Louis Arevalo/Tandem)

While putting together our special women’s issue (on newsstands this May), we decided it was time we got to know our readers who identify as female or genderqueer. We put together a survey to gauge your thoughts on all kinds of topics, from the sports you love and who you hike with to competition and harassment. Here’s what we learned from the 2,011 respondents.

Your Parents Introduced You to the Outdoors at an Early Age

When we asked who was responsible for your earliest outdoor experiences, most of you said it was a parent:

  • Father: 41.1 percent
  • Mother: 23.6 percent
  • Other (most common response was both parents): 21.7 percent
  • Friend: 8.3 percent
  • Spouse/Partner: 3.6 percent
  • Peer: 1.6 percent

Eighty-three percent of you said you were exploring the outdoors since the day you were born or from a very young age. One of you even said, “I was conceived on a raft trip.”

About Half of You Were Girl Scouts

But non–Girl Scouts took the edge, with 51 percent of respondents saying they’d never worn the sash.

You’re Very Good Athletes

You characterize your ability in your sport(s) as:

  • Beginner: 8.6 percent
  • Intermediate: 48.5 percent
  • Advanced: 33.8 percent
  • Expert: 9.1 percent

And 74 percent of you have taught a sport to a man.

You’re Not So Into Competitive Events…

When asked if you compete, 68 percent of you said no.

…But You Do Consider Yourselves Competitive

Sixty percent of you do, at least.

When You Do Compete, It’s Across Sports

The most popular sports:

  1. Running or ultrarunning: 39 percent
  2. Biking (road and mountain): 17 percent
  3. Triathlon: 14 percent
  4. Skiing (downhill and ski mountaineering): 10 percent
  5. Soccer: 8 percent

The least popular sport, with just one respondent participating: sheep shearing.

Many of You Don’t Care About Professional Sports, But You Like Action Sports as Much as Traditional

The sports you follow:

  1. None: 40 percent
  2. Football: 37 percent
  3. Skiing and snowboarding: 26 percent
  4. Baseball: 18 percent
  5. Climbing: 16 percent
  6. Hockey: 15 percent
  7. Cycling: 14 percent
  8. Basketball: 12 percent
  9. Surfing: 3 percent
  10. Dogsledding: 3 percent

Should Men and Women Compete Against One Another in Professional Sports? You’re on the Fence.

  • Yes: 33.2 percent
  • No: 38.5 percent

You Love Going Solo

  • 75 percent of you have taken an international trip alone.
  • 70 percent of you have camped alone.
  • 27 percent of you have thru-hiked alone.
  • One of you has completed a 621-mile race in Mongolia alone.

But You Also Share Your Adventures With…

  • A spouse or significant other: 46.3 percent
  • Friends: 22.5 percent
  • Your dog (or cat): 12.7 percent

The Outdoors Are Important in Your Relationships, but Only to an Extent

When asked how important outdoor sports are in your romantic relationships, 73 percent of you said they’re very important. But 68 percent of you would be happy to date someone who isn’t as good an athlete as you are. “We’ll get him up to speed soon enough,” one respondent said.

And the Outdoors Might Be an Aphrodisiac

Eighty-one percent of you have had sex outside, mostly while camping or hiking.

You Love Gear…

Fifty-five percent of you fix your own gear, and 83 percent of you navigate gear shops without feeling intimidated.

We asked you how much you think you spend on gear every year. You estimated a median of $500. (“Oh god” and “I don’t want to know” showed up in responses at least 23 times. “Too much” showed up 87 times.)

…But You Wish There Were More Options for Women

While 83 percent of you buy women’s-specific gear (backpacks, clothes, shoes, and climbing gear being the most popular), 60 percent of you don’t think the selection of women’s gear is the same quality as men’s. In fact, 66 percent of you sometimes raid the men’s section, especially for skis, snowboards, jackets, and socks.

You Stay Active While Pregnant…

  • Through the first trimester: 5.4 percent
  • Through the second trimester: 38.8 percent
  • Right up until you have the baby: 55.8 percent

Performance Diets? You’re Not So Into Them

Seventy-eight percent of you have never tried a performance diet, like paleo. Among those who have tried one, the most popular were paleo (51 percent), ketogenic (14 percent), and Whole30 (12 percent).

The Outdoors Has Affected Your Self Image—Mostly for the Better

Are you happy with your body image? While 31.6 percent of you said no, and 14.7 percent said something along the lines of “mostly” or “depends on the day,” 53.7 percent said yes. And 78.1 percent of you said that participating in outdoor sports changed the way you view your body. Best of all, 92.8 percent of you said that learning adventure sports made you more confident.

Far Too Many of You Have Been Harassed in the Outdoors

Fifty-three percent of respondents said they’d been sexually harassed while recreating. Of those, 93 percent have been catcalled, 56 percent have been followed by someone (by foot, in a car, or on a bike), 18 percent have been flashed, and 4 percent have been attacked.

When asked if you’ve ever felt afraid for your safety while recreating, 66 percent said yes. What are you most concerned about when it comes to safety? Thirty-four percent said “men” or “getting assaulted/harassed.” “Bears” came in second with only 12 percent.

Most of You Have Been Condescended to as an Athlete

Sixty-nine percent of you said so. And when we asked if you ever feel like people expect less of you athletically because you’re a woman, 82 percent of you said yes. “I’ve mostly found people are ‘surprised’ at my athleticism and treat it as an exception,” one respondent said. Another said, “YES (I know there was a Yes option, but it wasn’t in all caps).”

There’s a Knowledge Gap About Adventurous Women

Only 13.3 percent of you knew that Junko Taibei was the first woman to summit Everest, while 47.9 percent of you knew that Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first men to summit.

You Give Back

Sixty-two percent of you donate an average of $232 a year to environmental groups. (This doesn’t count those of you who said you donate 1 to 5 percent of your salary every year or the many respondents who said they also work at an environmental group. Kudos!)

You Support Your Fellow Outdoorswomen

We asked about the women who inspire you—and you named so many! The most popular:

More Culture

News in a New Way

Thank you!

Pinterest Icon