‘Becoming Outdoor Women’ aims to empower Utah women with outdoor skills

Sep 27, 2022, 5:31 PM | Updated: 6:40 pm

Enjoying the outdoors can take special skills, but a new program hopes to educate more Utahns so th...

Enjoying the outdoors can take special skills, but a new program hopes to educate more Utahns so they can.

CENTRAL, Utah — Enjoying the outdoors can take special skills, but a new program hopes to educate more Utahns so they can.

Through “Becoming Outdoor Women,” a nonprofit educational program new to the state, the goal is for Utah women to develop confidence in those skills and, in turn, themselves.

At the end of the day, women are wives, mothers, sisters, and friends. The list goes on.

Kristie Hurst, a BOW camper, checks all of the boxes as a wife, sister, friend, and girl mom.

“Married recently. I have seven daughters,” Hurst said.

With daughters ranging from nine to 19 years old, it’s a lot of fun and a lot of busy for Hurst.

That’s why she’s taking this climb, which is a first, for just herself.

“I knew in my soul I needed it. I was trying to find a way to start finding myself again,” she said.

Hurst said culturally, women tend to hold themselves to certain standards that are not always what is best for them.

“A lot of women, we were raised with that stigma and shame that taking care of yourself is just totally taboo,” Hurst said.

She said many women then start to wonder who they are in the midst.

“A lot of us get to the age where our kids start to graduate, and we’re like, who are we?” Hurst said.

Those answers are something Andrea Schmutz, BOW Program Coordinator and Utah State University Extension Professor, said may be found when you take a step away from the noise.

“When you do a skill like rock climbing, and it’s something you’ve never done, and you actually finish what you set out to do, you feel empowered. You can go conquer whatever else it is you’re facing in life,” Schmutz said.

Schmutz said people relate to stories, and her story started down South in Texas.

“I grew up in a family of ten children with five brothers. We had woods around our house. Down the road, there was no community pool. We had the swimming lake and fishing pond,” Schmutz recalled.

Summer jobs outdoors, including in Moab, brought her to Utah.

Through sharing her love for the outdoors, research, and asking questions, she found that despite Utah being an outdoorsy state where families often get out together, women are not necessarily the ones joining in on the activities or adventures themselves.

“They would pack all the food to go camping, but the man or the biggest, the son or their grandfather, did the work. I think this gives women a great place to do the things they feel like they’ve probably been doing their whole lives,” Schmutz said.

BOW included a variety of sessions with a plethora of experienced instructors to teach and offer guidance to campers.

Some of the sessions offered m included first aid, hunter safety, knot tying, and cooking outside.

Katie Wilder, a BOW camper, said she tended to gravitate toward the cooking sessions.

“I can pretty much make anything in a dutch oven that I do at home,” Wilder said.

She said through BOW, her confidence and enjoyment of the outdoors grew exponentially.

“I texted my husband and was like, ‘Honey, I think we need to invest in a dutch oven. I think we need to start using the fire pit more. I’m ready to go on a camping trip,” Wilder said.

Schmutz said stories like Wilder’s are why BOW is special and important to keep doing.

“I really do believe that women are influencers, and I think as women go out and do these things and do come back feeling empowered and confident. I think that will translate into other parts of their lives. I think that will just make them better people,” she said.

Becoming an outdoor woman means Utah women are just getting started.

“It feels so safe. I feel safe in the learning environment. I feel like it’s really important to be with other women,” Wilder said.

The program director’s big goal is to see BOW Utah grow to the point of expanding into a winter session where women can learn cold weather outdoor skills in a different part of Utah.

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‘Becoming Outdoor Women’ aims to empower Utah women with outdoor skills