‘Unlikely Hikers’ shatters assumptions about what it looks like to be fit
If you’re a hiker who’s taken a selfie at a summit, you know what you look like. You know what you feel like. Sweaty, bedraggled, victorious, and well, you. Whoever you are. But too often what we see represented as outdoorsy and fit doesn’t look like us at all.
Thankfully, there’s a place on the internet that’s changing all of that. Behold, a certified badass and refreshingly relatable hiker Instagram account. Jenny Bruso is the “Unlikely Hiker” and self-describes as a “fat, femme, queer, writer, and former indoor kid.” She’s a Portland-based blogger who is shattering stereotypes of what a hiker looks like (white and skinny) and features people of all different shapes, sizes, races, ages, and levels of fitness and mobility.
“Whether you hike a mile or fifteen, or only a few times a year; if you use a mobility device on trails, or don’t see anyone who looks like you; You Are A Hiker,” she writes. “When we base our worth as hikers on how many miles and feet of elevation we crush, or on our physical abilities, or inabilities, we miss out on the journey, healing and connection to all-that-is that can be found in nature.”
She features herself and other hikers who completely obliterate the reductive notions and images we’ve seen of wilderness folks thus far.
“I get tired of seeing the same kind of [hiker] over and over again online. How many times can you see photos of a flawless, thin, white woman on a summit looking like she got airlifted in?” she tells Portland Monthly. “I tell you, that’s not what I look like when I’m on a summit. I look haggard and like I just worked my ass off to get up there.”
The adventurers she highlights on her Instagram feed don’t hike every weekend, they’re plus-size, they’re people of color and varying cultural backgrounds, and have different mobile abilities. The photos are relatable and inspiring all at the same time.
Her photos show us that representation does matter. Breaking down misconceptions and myths matters because seeing really is all about believing something for yourself. Your capabilities. Your potential. Your dreams.
It may be hard to believe, but Bruso actually stumbled upon hiking just five years ago in 2012. She was hiking on her first date with her partner and says “I pretended I was into it because I liked her. It changed my life right then and there.”
Since then she launched a blog and an Instagram account that has amassed over 10,000 followers.
“In this culture, being fat is one of the worst things you can be. On the trail, there’s an assumption that I don’t know what I’m doing [due to my size]. I get a lot of funny, unsolicited encouragement, like: ‘Oh, you’re almost there! You can do it!!!’ And I’m not even struggling. When I’m in gear stores I am often ignored.”
Ignored no more, at least on social media. It appears she’s receiving well-deserved attention from outdoor brands, like REI who sponsored a recent post.
It’s not just seeing someone who looks like you doing something fun and momentous. It’s the wisdom you gain on the trail. Many who have hiked know what I’m talking about, and it’s something that Bruso captures well in her posts. The nature, mind, body, and soul connection is like no other.
“It’s not about crushing miles and bagging peaks, it’s about being in nature and moving your body in any way that feels good.”