Let us now praise: Women-focused adventure magazines

The Fall 2013 cover of Women's Adventure

The Fall 2013 cover of Women’s Adventure

As a media junkie, I have a tendency to develop really powerful feelings for things like magazines, TV shows and books, to the point that it sometimes feels like I have a relationship with said media product.  Usually those relationships are solid and mutually fulfilling. You know, I give them my money and my attention, they reward me with entertainment and information.  Usually it works.

But sometimes the relationship becomes more complicated, veering into frenemy territory or maybe even something resembling an unrequited crush.  A good example of the latter relationship is the one I have with Outside magazine.  I think there are so many awesome things about Outside: outstanding long-form journalism, gorgeous photos, interesting travel writing about places I’d like to see before I shuffle off this mortal coil.  But the problem is, I don’t think Outside likes me much at all. Actually, “like” assumes that Outside even knows I exist, which I often get the feeling it doesn’t.  I don’t think it thinks about me or women like me at all.

It’s not just the fact that the female athletes they profile are almost always in bikinis, whether the sport warrants it or not.   It’s that they’ll do a feature on running shorts and only include shorts for men, or they’ll make an attempt at branching into female-friendly content with a piece about style trends at the Boston Marathon.  I have nothing against a feature on running shorts for men or lists of style trends at major marathons, but it’s just part of an overall gestalt that tells me Outside thinks of itself more as a magazine for my husband and not so much for me.

Which is why I was so psyched to find Women’s Adventure several months ago.  The Colorado-based magazine bills itself as “the only sports, travel, fitness and lifestyle magazine published specifically for active women.”  I spent a couple of hours looking around the site and immediately bought myself a subscription.  I’ve received two issues so far and I have to say that I’m incredibly happy that I decided to pick it up.  Totally worth the $20 for my subscription and then some.

The editorial staff covers a wide range of sports and adventures, everything from hiking to caving to stand-up paddleboarding. They write about elite athletes as well as women who are simply doing extraordinary things.  A memorable story for me was one about a woman who had served in the military and who hiked the Appalachian Trail as a way of recovering from PTSD, as well as one written by a journalist who spent time with the Afghan women’s cycling team.

The magazine doesn’t just publish journalism and personal essays. The information about gear has been invaluable to me so far, specifically articles about feminine hygiene during long hikes and choosing the right bike saddle.  These are really important things that I don’t know are ever actually discussed in sports and adventure magazines that are supposedly aimed at all people, because I guess vaginas are icky or something.  I don’t know. Obviously the entire magazine isn’t all vaginas all the time, but I appreciate that Women’s Adventure acknowledges the importance of keeping one’s tender bits in good working order and dedicates editorial space to helping its audience do just that.

A few months later, my lady-adventure reading got even better when I learned about Misadventures, an online magazine with the following mission statement: “Mis­ad­ven­tures cham­pi­ons women who embrace cre­ativ­ity, take risks, and go out and beyond. We spot­light inspi­ra­tional feats and fig­ures, beau­ti­ful spaces, honest-to-goodness adven­tures, and dis­cov­er­ies of all sorts.” When I saw their origin statement, which references Outside’s seemingly accidental dude-centricism, I knew I had found another tribe of my people.  I sadly have not had as much time to delve into Misadventures but it looks interesting, plus I love the site design, so I wanted to mention it as well in hopes of sending more traffic its way.

I have to say, the actual content is not the only thing I love about these magazines. I love that the editorial staffs behind each publication saw a gap in the existing media landscape and then put in the effort to create something to fill that gap.  I love what they are doing, both as a woman who loves outdoor sports and as a media professional, and I’d like them to keep being able to do what they do, whether that’s through buying a subscription or writing about them on my blog or giving them page views.

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12 responses to “Let us now praise: Women-focused adventure magazines

  1. Hooray! I’m just glad that there are women-focused adventure magazines at all (with a little whiff of sad that these are probably mostly upper/middle-class white ladies). Of course, with or without magazines, there are incredible women crushing hard climbs and breaking new trails all over the world anyway. And when are you going to write for them? 🙂

  2. I love it! I just bought a digital subscription to Women’s Adventure – only $6 for a year. Thanks for the tips!

  3. Yes yes yes. A thousand times YES. I have also had a long and unrequited love for Outside for a very long time. I’ve let my subscription run out and I don’t think I’ll be renewing it. I love the writing and the photos but I don’t like the way they portray women in the outdoors. We are not novelties or delicate flowers that need to be coddled. I agree that Women’s Adventure (which I’ve been reading for a long time) and Misadventures (which I discovered last week) are great publications that actually take women in the outdoors seriously.

    • I read the website fairly regularly but I haven’t bought an issue in a while. It just always turned into a really disappointing experience for me. So it’s really nice to have alternatives that are aimed at women, because it means I can still get the kind of information and stories I love without feeling slightly icky when I’m done.

  4. Thanks for the shout out! For a quantified look at the gender disparity in outdoors and adventure-industry magazines, check out our report examining Outside, Backpacker, Bicycling, Surfer, and Surfing: misadventuresmag.com/2014/08/11/summer-2014-report-womens-representation/

  5. Hi, thanks for bringing these up! I stumbled upon WA on their start and subscribed on iPad immediately. Still reading it.

    I’ve never read Outside (I’m living in Northern Europe and I while you probably can get it, our popular selections are a bit different) but I think some honest feedback would help them in developing their offering. (I think that would further be helped by staffing the mag more with female editors, but that won’t happen if they don’t recognise the need.)

    Thanks for the blog, stumbled upon here by chance through blogrolls and I love reading your posts. A sports enthusiast myself, reading blogs about sports without the oh-how-do-i-look angle is awesome. I got into triathlon a few years ago and while my knee won’t hold up for a marathon, the half ironman has become a summer tradition 🙂

    • Hi Kirsi, thanks for your comment, and welcome! I’m actually training for my first half-ironman right now – it’s happening next month, eep! – so any advice you might have is very welcome. Looking forward to hearing more from you!

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