What do you get when you combine an adventurer, a great idea and the best side of social media? The answer is Adventure Queens: the UK-based, not-for-profit women’s adventure community set up by Anna McNuff and Emma (Framps).
The outdoors is a great leveller. A mountain doesn’t care who you are or what bits you have, but there is still a lack of diversity represented in the outdoor community. Women, in particular, tend to feel like there are barriers to getting outdoors as much as they would like to. Loads of progress has been made – I could probably name more female adventurers off the top of my head than male ones, because they inspire me so much – but there is still work left to do.
Cue the first Adventure Queens community campout. I was always told never to agree to meet anyone I met online, but this was different.
The group is made up of everyone from first-time campers looking for some support, to seasoned wild campers hoping to share the joy. From hikers and cyclists to wild swimmers, from full-time adventurers to nervous but excited ladies who weren’t totally sure how they would get on in the rain, this was a campout made up of anyone who was willing to put their hand up and say ‘Yes’ to adventures of any size. You might think that such a crazy mix of women might not gel. You would be wrong.
It started in the car park. I had been a bit lost in the North Downs. I had been in the wrong lane several times coming through Guildford and I was feeling a bit on edge. The car park was surrounded by forest and anywhere could have been the campsite. I bit my lip as I turned the ignition off and thought, “What do I do now?”
Across the car park, I heard voices from two ladies who had just got out of their own cars. The end of their conversation drifted across to me: “…Adventure queens?” I looked up. Introducing yourself to strangers is scary but, this time, I could make a reasonably good guess that these people were heading in the same direction as me. I went over. They smiled.
“Hi,” I said, “Are you guys headed to the campout too?”
By seven o’clock, nearly 70 brightly coloured tents peppered the field. A handful of bivvy bags were laid out looking over the view from the hillside. A hammock was stretched between two trees. Two large campfires were surrounded by women in bobble hats and cosy jackets. We had spent the afternoon chatting, sharing gear tips, and window shopping at each other’s tents. Mugs of hot chocolate steamed between our hands as we listened to badass ladies tell their own adventure stories. As I listened, the adventure cogs started to grind in my brain. These people had done some seriously cool stuff, but they were also approachable and they were real. They were as normal as me. There was an electricity in the air. It was the end of January, but the support and the good vibes in that group gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling that not even the winter night air could take away.