Melbourne Girls Outside is a community group that organises free hikes for women. (Instagram: @melbgirlsoutside)
A new adventure group is having great success in encouraging more women to get out and enjoy the great outdoors.
Melbourne Girls Outside was founded nine months ago and has already racked up 2,000 members.
Co-founder Tamara Hutchins, 30, said the group was a safe space where women could feel supported to try hiking, rock-climbing, kayaking and other adventure sports.
Melbourne Girls Outside co-founder Tamara Hutchins on the Glasgow Track at Mt Dandenong. (Instagram: @tamhikes)
She said the group wanted to change the perception that adventuring was predominantly a male pursuit.
“Quite frequently when you’re out hiking you see girls just hiking with their boyfriends, you don’t really see them out on the trails by themselves,” she said.
“A lot of them can find co-ed groups to be really threatening, either they get hit on or they get mansplained to no extent.”
Although she only started hiking regularly 18 months ago, Ms Hutchins quickly became hooked.
She recently completed the 52-hike challenge, averaging one hike per week — 548km in a year — and often leads free hikes and rock-climbing events for Melbourne Girls Outside members.
Hiking can “declutter the mind”, especially when there’s a spectacular sunset like this one in Victoria’s High Country. (Instagram: @lisabsanderson)
Ms Hutchins said members joined the group for different reasons, including fitness and making new friends, but many also found it helped their mental wellbeing.
“I do know that many people who struggle with mental health, with depression and anxiety … do find that going out and being in nature and getting some vitamin D and having someone just to chat with and bounce things off, or having the time to process it yourself, can really be beneficial for your headspace.
“For many of our girls to get out and be surrounded by nature is quite decluttering for the mind. If I’ve had a really stressful week I find as the week goes on the trails start calling me.”
One of the benefits of the group is that it provides an additional safety net for women who might not feel comfortable hiking alone.
Ms Hutchins said she recently did a solo hike on a straightforward track that she’d completed before, but even that made her feel a bit on edge.
“It’s always there at the back of your mind that you might encounter someone that makes you feel uneasy or you might hurt yourself,” she said.
“Quite often you’re out of range when you’re hiking, so unless you’re hiking with a PLB [personal locator beacon] you don’t have that additional level of security.
“It’s all well and good to tell someone where you’re going and when you’re expected to be back, but if you’ve broken your leg you’re going to be sitting there in pain until then.”
Ms Hutchins encouraged everyone, especially women, to spend more time outdoors and said adventures should not be something that only happened on holidays.
“I always felt the post-holiday blues and always felt like I had to leave Australia again to get that sense of adventure.
“But then I realised I don’t have to leave Australia — I just have to leave the city.
“To be an adventurer you don’t have to be some elite sportsperson, you just have to want to go outside.”