Statistics Prove Women are Safe in the Wild

Glacier National Park

This week Backpacker Magazine published an article from their newest issue on their website titled “Why Women Shouldn’t Worry About Hiking Alone.”
Funny… Weren’t we just talking about this? The answer is yes, yes we were.

The article’s author, Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan, begins with an unsurprising stat that substantiates my comment that female solo hiking is taboo in our society – “46 percent of men and 54 percent of women agree it’s riskier for women to hike and backpack alone than for men.”

Though data on crime against female solo hikers is impossible to find, mostly because it just doesn’t exist, Kwak-Hefferan was able to use other valuable stats to prove her point. She found that hikers, female or male, are generally safer in areas owned by the government and the odds of being murdered, raped, or assaulted (aka the most violent of crimes) are thousands of times lower in a national park than anywhere else in the country.

As I said in my previous blog post, the same risks apply to every hiker – no matter their gender. Kwak-Hefferan echoes this, but notes that statistics prove females are less likely to be injured (or worse) on the trail. According to Robert Koester, the master behind a database of search-and-rescue data, “80 percent of searches are initiated by males, and 12 percent of men who kick off a SAR case end up dead, while only 9 percent of women suffer the same fate. In other words, women who get lost or injured in the backcountry are more likely to make it out alive.”

Maybe it’s because of the social norm that women need to live in continual fear that makes lady hikers more attentive and careful than men. Kwak-Hefferan adds, “Culutrally, females tend not to do as many of the idiotic things that solo males do. Males are more likely to try to pick up a rattlesnake.” Ah, that one deserves a slow clap.

The most prevalent crime against females, worldwide, are sexually-based, but women hiking alone don’t have much to fear in that department, according to numbers. An alarming 82 percent of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows – which means the chances of an offense caused by a stranger encountered on the trail are extremely low.

Jennifer K. Wesely, Ph. D, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of North Florida says it best, “The fear is what’s holding women back, not the reality. Women are not in more danger in wild spaces.”

To read the full article, visit Backpacker.com. After writing my blog post and coming up empty-handed when seeking some statistics, I’m pleased to see some hard-hitting evidence supporting female solo hikers. Thanks for finding these numbers, Elisabeth; I hope this helps ease women’s fears of hitting the trail alone!

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