Women's gear, up first
The gear company’s products and promotional videos feature real women who rip
I’ll confess: watching adventure porn is my guilty pleasure. I love to see people doing rad stuff in beautiful places, but those photos and videos overwhelmingly feature male heroes. That’s why the new video series She’s Out There from Scott, the outdoor clothing and hard-goods brand, feels so refreshing.
Other brands and filmmakers have occasionally featured kickass female athletes, but these productions are less common than you’d think. Red Bull has profiled its surfer Paige Alms and triathletes Natascha Badmann and Daniela Ryf, but they’re a small minority in a vast male-dominated video catalog. The North Face has highlighted athletes like climbers Margo Hayes and Emily Harrison, and Black Diamond launched a video campaign focused on climber Babsi Zangerl. Scott’s four-part series makes another meaningful contribution.
The She’s Out There videos look like the guy-centric stuff I typically devour, but with female protagonists. The first installment follows mountain bikers Karen Eller, Lorraine Blancher, and Monet Adams as they ride in Spain; the second shadows members of the Mitchelton-Scott pro women’s road-cycling team; the third profiles trail runner Ruth Croft, who won the UTMB’s Orsières-Champex-Chamonix (OCC) race this year. The fourth video, which will be released on October 26, highlights ski tourers Sabine Schipflinger and Laura Überbacher.
All are aspirational, in the best way.
Take episode 1. Its aerial videography showcases the rocky, mountain-ringed singletrack of Spain’s Sierra Nevada, which is definitely on my go-list now. The women positively hammer it, pulling manuals through puddles and hucking off ledges. Yeah, I like to imagine myself on those bikes, in that place.
That’s precisely Scott’s point: the company makes great women’s gear, for real, undiluted adventures. Spanning running, cycling, winter, and moto sports, Scott’s apparel collection is growing, and it now includes more than 400 women’s pieces. The company is also expanding its women’s footwear and hard goods.
That’s a big commitment to women’s products, and what I’ve tested so far has passed muster. I’ve been liking the Scott Soldier 2 Knee Guards ($70) for mountain biking, which are much more comfortable than most pads I’ve worn. Scott uses a material that hardens on impact, so the pads are flexible enough to let me pedal and sufficiently protective when I crash. I wouldn’t say they’re cooler or more ventilated than other enduro-style guards, but they stay put without pinching, and that’s a huge plus.
I’ve also liked Scott’s Trail Mtn 20 Women’s Shorts. The high-backed waistband keeps the shorts from sagging when I’m bent forward or moving around on the saddle, and it’s adjustable (with Velcro tabs) to eliminate gaps. That adjustability also lets me decide where I want the shorts to sit, from high waist to low hip or somewhere in between. The fit is fairly body-hugging but stretchy. At $100, this is a killer deal, since you get an overshort and a high-performance chamois that kept me comfortable on three-hour rides.
My ultrarunner friend tested the women’s Supertrac RC shoe ($155) and loved its sticky traction. The outsole’s particular rubber compound excels on wet terrain, and the lug pattern wraps around rough surfaces for a solid grip. She also liked the shoe’s thin tongue, which stayed in place over long runs, and its moderate cushioning. Hardly a mattress-thick platform, the sole delivers enough shielding to keep feet from feeling pummeled on runs extending beyond 35 miles. The Supertrac fits narrow feet best, and its arch support is minimal, so runners who pronate or who have high arches will want an aftermarket insole.
There’s nothing dumbed-down about this gear, or the pursuits that Scott captures in each episode of She’s Out There. Admittedly, those big-league images won’t appeal to everyone. “We’ve learned that women don’t respond to aspirational imagery like men do,” says pro angler Hilary Hutcheson, who collaborated on Orvis’s 50/50 On the Water campaign to boost women’s participation in fishing. The same image that inspires many male viewers can end up intimidating female audiences, who tell themselves, I could never do that. So Orvis, like other gear manufacturers, has been broadening its image library to include women not just landing trophies but also high-fiving and communing with nature. So has REI with its Force of Nature campaign, showing women hanging out outdoors not necessarily doing challenging things.
I like those chummy messages, but I’m glad to see Scott flying the women’s radness flag because I want to see examples of women notching gnarly descents and stamina-stretching runs. Plus, these athletes were beginners once. “You can start off and just set yourself small goals,” says ultrarunner Ruth Croft in her video. “And once you achieve them, you start thinking of the bigger picture and you can reach towards bigger goals, and along the way, you learn a lot about yourself that you probably would never have known or discovered had you not started running.”
The video pairs this commentary with shots of Croft goat-footing it along a breathtaking mountain ridge that floats above a cloud-covered valley. Later you see her straining to haul her muddy, muscled legs up the umpteenth mile of a rocky climb. (UTMB’s OCC gains 11,500 feet over 33 miles.) She has my respect.
Respect for that woman on the screen has a nifty way of bridging into respect for the woman watching. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to pull on my knee pads and go for a ride.