I belong to an online forum for long-trail hiking. People routinely post questions about what resupply, where there is low water, and the like. Recently a newbie asked, “I’m planning on hiking from (xxx) to (xxx). Is it safe for a woman hiking solo?”

To which a man replied, “What’s being a woman have to do with it?”

He followed up with, “I hear this question and it always puzzles me. I guess because I hang out with strong, fearless women and it never comes up.”

Dude. I am willing to bet my ultralight hiking butt that every one of those strong, fearless women has had a second thought when rolling up to a trailhead solo and finding a questionable character lurking around the premises. When she is out there on the trail and some guy asks, “Hey, where are you camping tonight?” In the dark, when noises are magnified.

It’s not that we don’t still go out there. It’s just that as women, we have to face a little bit of extra fear that men will never know. If you are a solo adventurer and you have never had that ripple of doubt, I’m glad for you, but I wonder. On the forum, a couple of women responded to say that on their thru-hikes they had stalkers. They had to quit posting their itineraries in their online journals and hike with others, or put on extra miles until they outdistanced the creeps. Advice from a man on the site was this: “Just post your journal like you are a week behind where you actually are.”

Good advice, but it still enrages me that no man will receive this advice,or even more enraging, that anyone has to do this. That women are routinely blamed for their own kidnappings because they were out for a run alone. That just about everyone who knows I hike alone asks if I’m scared or carrying a gun, questions they would never ask my male counterparts.

What does being a woman have to do with it? That not only are we trying to climb mountains, ford rivers, do all the things the boys do, but that we have to carry this extra burden with us. It isn’t fair. It’s scary. In a perfect world we could all really be equal.

I’m still going out there, and so are many of the strong, fearless women I know. We won’t let fear stop us. But I wish for a world when the only fears we could have are the same ones the men have. Maybe a bear. A big river crossing. You know, the ones we can handle on our own.