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"Unlikely Hikers" is the Inclusive Outdoor Community for the Underrepresented

Unlikely Hikers
YouTube/Merrell

Everyone is welcome in the inclusive community of Unlikely Hikers.

When founder Jenny Bruso dubbed her innovative outdoor community Unlikely Hikers, it was a tough-in-cheek poke at what the conventional idea of what a nature lover looks like. Because a desire for outdoor adventure is anything but unlikely for most people of all colors, shapes, and sizes.

Unlikely Hikers describes itself as "a diverse, anti-racist, body-liberating outdoor community featuring the underrepresented outdoorsperson...We are people of size, Black, Indigenous, People of Color, queer, trans and non-binary. We are people with disabilities and people who utilize the outdoors to aid our mental health. We talk about access, politics and conservation while we honor the land and its Indigenous stewards."

The Unlikely Hikers Instagram account has already amassed 139,000 followers and continues to connect outdoorsy people all across the globe. The movement encompasses not only a social media community but also a lineup of group hikes, an informative podcast, valuable resources, and gear collaborations.

A couple years ago, the shoe brand Merrell profiled Bruso and helped convey the main message of Unlikely Hikers.

Unlikely Hiker Events

While all in-person Unlikely Hiker events are currently paused due to COVID, past hikes have taken place all across the country including Dallas, Tucson, and New Orleans, with potential plans for international meetups in the future.

These slower-paced hikes are typically less than five miles and under 500 feet of elevation gain. The group travels at its own comfortable pace together, and practices "no hiker left behind" measures. These events are open to beginner hikers and completely free, although donations are accepted.

Each quarter (outside of the pandemic), Unlikely Hikers also offers accessible hikes, intended for individuals with "physical or health matters that may limit movement." While no outdoor space can be guaranteed 100 percent accessible, Jenny Bruso and the group choose locations that can accommodate people who use mobility devices or struggle with chronic pain. These events are also open to everyone, regardless of condition or skill level.

To learn about future events and updates, you can sign up for the Unlikely Hiker monthly email newsletter on the org's website.

Unlikely Hikers Podcast

The Unlikely Hikers Podcast shares stories and discussions from underrepresented groups and individuals in outdoor media and culture, hosted by Jenny Bruso. Previous episodes include a call for more plus-sized gear and an interview with the founder of Disabled Hikers.

New episodes haven't been posted this year, but you can listen to previous episodes of the Unlikely Hikers podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcast, and several other platforms or tune in with closed captions on YouTube.

Outdoor Resources

For individuals new to the world of hiking and intimidated by the need for knowledge before heading outdoors, Jenny Bruso and Unlikely Hikers provide some great resources to help newbies get started. You can find tips for choosing the right trail to start off with, dressing for comfort and practicality, listening to your body, fueling for your hike, and staying safe everywhere you go.

The quick-start guide also features a full gear list so you know just what to pack to be prepared for any situation and some etiquette tips to ensure you and everyone around you are safe, comfortable, and happy. Ever wonder what to do if nature calls mid-hike? They've got tips for that too. Not sure what passes you'll need for the national forest? You can find out from Jenny Bruso and team.

Gear Representation & Collabs

For the great outdoors to be accessible to all, Unlikely Hikers advocates for more inclusive clothing options. Many outdoor apparel brands don't offer sizes above 3X, according to Jenny Bruso, which makes the barrier to entry too high for some to get involved in an activity that could help heal, enlighten, and create connection.

Unlikely Hikers provides tips for finding gear that will actually fit, avoiding "chub rub" on backcountry treks, layering for various weather conditions, and saving some money on pricey pieces. The site also features a comprehensive list of brands that carry a wide range of sizes and options for everything from swimming suits to leggings to sports bras to jackets to underwear.

In addition to pointing out places to find plus-size apparel, Unlikely Hikers has also started collaborating with household names to create dedicated lines for these underserved individuals.

The Merrell X Unlikely Hikers collaboration features a spin on the company's popular Zion hiker, with expanded sizes and widths available to provide a comfortable fit for more men and women. The waterproof boots are perfect for new hikers or seasoned pros at just $160.

Past collaborations include the Unlikely Hikers/Gregory Packs partnership, an industry-first line of plus-size backpacks ranging from size 2X to 6X. The 14 different packs in this collection feature a waistband that's adjustable from 40 to 60 inches, with an optional extender available for even more inclusivity.

Unlikely Hikers Merch

You can also score unique Unlikely Hikers merch via their online store. Shirts are readily available in sizes from XS-6X, with other sizes upon custom order. Stickers, gaiters, and beanies are for sale as well, and Unlikely Hiker ships everywhere.

To learn more about Jenny Bruso and Unlikely Hikers or join the inclusive community, visit their website and follow them on Instagram.

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"Unlikely Hikers" is the Inclusive Outdoor Community for the Underrepresented