Today, we look at a gear-obsessed boyfriend, staying safe as a queer person while camping, and cheesy outdoor proposals. Welcome to Tough Love. Have a question of your own? My boyfriend and I are going on a monthlong thru-hike this summer to celebrate finishing grad school.
But lately, he has become obsessed with gear. First up, big kudos to him—and you also get points for taking the lead on logistics. That said, I hear you. Outdoor gear is like sex toys: Gear is cool and interesting and gives him something to focus on or talk about when people ask him about the trip. But if that question stings—even a little—take some time to process that patriarchal bullcrap and get it out of your system. Sit down together, make a list of everything that still needs to be done for the trip, and divide up responsibilities.
Does someone need to be in charge of maps and navigation? What are his hobbies, and how could they be useful on the trail? Drop your ego and learn to play along. What advice would you give to queer women camping alone or in pairs? He was clearly inebriated and acting aggressive. We felt sexually unsafe. I live in a libertarian-leaning town of people, one gas station, and no grocery store. By the end of the day, I started hearing reports from the nearest bar: They had heard about the question and were slamming their drinks on the counter.
They thought it was bullshit. Everyone should be able to feel safe camping. I hate that these things happened to you and your beloved.
I hate that you were threatened, that the integrity of your space and body were put at risk, that your sense of security in the wilderness was compromised. I could give you tips about outdoor safety , but I suspect you already know them all: The bar-goers suggested carrying a weapon, be it a knife or a gun or a two-by-four with rusty nails stuck through the end. But only you can know whether the responsibility of bringing a weapon will make you feel more or less safe.
For a while, after a man threatened me while I was backpacking, I thought a weapon would help my confidence. For two months, I carried a heavy-duty stun gun. It weighed about three pounds but felt much heavier; I was aware of it each time I lifted my pack, dug out my mess kit, or turned off my headlamp at night. The stun gun required a case and a charger and a constant stream of emotional energy, and I resented the endless reminder of what felt like my own fragility.
Now I wear a knife on my belt instead. I use it for opening snacks. The great irony of going into the wilderness in a vulnerable body—be it female, queer, brown, etc. The wilderness literalizes the sense of isolation that comes with the threat of sexual or gender violence. But wilderness distills your life into every present moment. And when you live in a vulnerable body, that feeling is also distilled.
So let me promise you this, something I know in the very deepest parts of my heart: You belong camped under the trees, wading in the chill water, watching the birds of prey. You belong with the treasures, leaves and rocks and tracks, that you find in every direction. The woods are yours.