When travel enthusiast Bex Bands started going on adventure hikes in the great outdoors, she noticed that she was often the only woman.
Each exhilarating expedition she went on left her on a high and she wanted other women to enjoy the same feeling.
So, she set up Love Her Wild – a female-only community to encourage other women to reconnect with nature and become confident hikers.
Now, it’s grown to 7,000 members across the UK and the team organises women-only adventures abroad.
Instead of focusing on competition, which she found was the issue with male expeditions, Love Her Wild is all about being a team rather than reaching a goal.
Bex explained to Metro.co.uk that men have had ‘the privilege for too long’ when it comes to enjoying adventurous travel.
‘I would join groups for hiking and training and was often the only woman in the group,’ she explained.
‘This didn’t bother me in itself except I often felt like I was treated differently because of it and even faced blatant sexism on some occasions.’
She added: ‘At the time I was also struggling with confidence and found that the groups were very competitive which was really off-putting.
‘I gained so much from challenging myself outdoors that it seemed a shame that not more women were experiencing this too.’
Many women have flocked to the group’s Facebook page where they can sign up for a trip.
Anyone who identifies as a woman is welcome to join and each year Love Her Wild hosts free or cheap meet-ups across the UK.
They also run a mentoring program (where seasoned adventurers are matched with women just starting out) and provide kit and funding for women who face barriers to getting outdoors.
There’s also a handful of bigger expeditions overseas which women can join when they are ready to take on something bigger.
Next year, they’ll be organising their most ambitious adventure yet – a women’s hiking relay that will stretch the length of the UK.
It will cover over 2000km and take 74 days to complete and women from across the country will come together to help carry the baton for sections of the hike.
All profits raised from the relay will go to help conservation work in the UK as Love Her Wild has a strong environmental focus.
But all the great successes they’re enjoying doesn’t come without criticism. Bex added that the female-only aspect of it has invited some backlash.
‘I receive regular criticism for having a women’s only group and have been called a hypocrite and a sexist.
‘Men have been dominating the adventure and outdoor scene since its beginnings so I can’t see a problem with having a group that celebrates an underrepresented group in this field.
‘Even today, there are huge gaps between genders in the outdoors in lots of areas – training (percentage of men getting outdoor qualifications vs women), sponsorship opportunities, pay and representation (one of my biggest frustrations is the small outdoor gear ranges which are usually pink!).
‘Love Her Wild is not about being ‘anti-men’ it’s about creating the space that some women need to get take those steps in the outdoors. It’s only a positive thing.’
For the most part though, it’s a great initiative enjoyed by many women. Bex has her own personal fave trips to.
She continued: ‘I think my favourite expedition was one of Love Her Wild’s first team adventures, called the Everest Adventure.
‘Six women from the community came together to try to climb the height of Everest over five days in the Lake District.
‘We’d never met before or attempted a challenge like this. We didn’t reach our target, however, it didn’t matter.
‘In the process we forged an amazing friendship and learnt so much about ourselves and our team….we remain good friends to today.’
If you’re a woman looking to join their adventures, check out the Love Her Wild website.
by – metro.co.uk