We like to believe the outdoors is a resource for all. But the enduring lack of plus-size gear, coupled with the outdoor recreation community’s historic reluctance to embrace all sizes, has become a major barrier for fat people wanting to enjoy themselves in outside spaces. Released this spring, Summer Michaud-Skog’s Fat Girls Hiking: An Inclusive Guide to Getting Outdoors at Any Size or Ability, aims to empower experienced and aspiring hikers alike. The book by the self-proclaimed “queer, fat, white tomboy femme and feminist” is filled with heartfelt stories, practical advice, helpful trail reviews, and personal profiles of members of Fat Girls Hiking, a community the author started in 2015 after her eponymous Instagram feed struck a chord and took off in a big way.
“When I started hiking in 2013, it was mainly because I was going along with someone I was dating at the time,” Michaud-Skog told Sierra. “I remember being on the trail, wondering why I was doing it, because it wasn’t fun for me. Slowly, nature got to me, and my bad attitude melted away. I got really into it and started making lists of places I wanted to see, hike, and camp.”
Later, on one hike with a girlfriend, Michaud-Skog noticed that fellow hikers looked at the pair strangely. She didn’t know whether it was because she was heavily tattooed, because they were lesbian, because they were fat, because her girlfriend was Latina, or perhaps the combination of it all. They made up a song that they were “just two fat girls hiking,” and the idea was born. It began with a hashtag (#FatGirlsHiking), advanced to an Instagram account, morphed to include real-life meet-ups and group hikes over the years, and now counts 37 Fat Girls Hiking chapters around the world.
“Once I got into hiking, I started to get more confident and realized that I could embrace hiking solo, as well, because I didn’t have to manage my pace. I was connecting to myself, listening to my intuition, and learning to trust myself and my body,” Michaud-Skog says. “I didn’t expect that. Ultimately, hiking turned into a passion.” The expectation to keep up on the trail or be a certain fitness level can affect someone’s enjoyment of the outdoors. …….