When I was little, I don’t remember seeing many outdoor women I could look to for inspiration. It wouldn’t be until young adulthood that I really felt I had a place on trails and in kayaks, camping in the woods and hiking up mountains. 

Today, thanks to many groups promoting greater diversity in outdoor content and working to make more welcoming outdoor spaces for everyone, it feels easier to notice the many women taking on great outdoor feats in the backcountry.

And it’s one of the things I’m proud about collaborating with Gossamer Gear. We have 12 women brand ambassadors on our team. I love following their stories and getting inspiration from their adventures. Through their own presence in the outdoors, they remind me that I can take up space there, too.

Below, you’ll get to know these 12 badasses and how they take less and do more.

1. Heather “Anish” Anderson

Anish is a long distance hiking legend. She’s the only woman to have completed the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide trails three times each. She holds the overall self-supported fastest known time (FKT) on the PCT and the female self-supported FKT on the AT and Arizona Trail (AZT).

She’s also the author of two books: Mud, Rocks, Blazes: Letting Go on the Appalachian Trail and Thirst: 2,600 Miles to Home. These reads take you on both her physical journey and also her intrapersonal journey of gaining greater confidence in herself and her abilities while on trail.

You can read a bit more about Anish in other articles on the Light Feet blog:

2. Arlette “Apple Pie” Laan

Arlette seems to always be adventuring and has an authentic style to how she shares her trail time through social media. She’s working on finishing all 11 of the national scenic trails. Just a portion of her trail resume includes:

  • Pacific Crest Trail (2003)
  • Continental Divide Trail, (2004)
  • Appalachian Trail (2005)
  • Arizona Trail (2009)
  • Grand Enchantment Trail (2012)
  • Te Araroa in New Zealand (2015)
  • The Long Trail (2015)
  • Florida Trail (2017)
  • Hayduke Trail (2017)
  • Colorado Trail (2017)
  • Benton-MacKay Trail (2018)
  • Pinhoti Trail (2018)
  • Cohos Trail (2018)
  • New England Trail (2018)
  • Pacific Northwest Trail in sections (2007, 2012, 2019)
  • Potomac Heritage Trail (2020)

She also makes some pretty fabulous fabric dolls that make great trail companions. You can read a bit more about Arlette in other articles on the Light Feet blog:

3. Sirena Rana

You can think of Sirena as the queen of all things Arizona Trail. After hiking all 800 miles of the AZT, Sirena has dedicated herself to its promotion and protection. 

She worked for a time with the Arizona Trail Association and then founded her own business, Trails Inspire, LCC, which provides public speaking, trail design, writing, and photography services centered around the outdoors. Additionally, Sirena is a champion of promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the outdoor industry.

You can read a bit more about Sirena in other articles on the Light Feet blog:

4. Christy Rosander

Christy is based in Tehachapi, California, and started backpacking over 30 years ago when a friend asked her to join. Her then-10-month-old had been sick, and with her husband able to watch their two children, she was excited for the adventure and time for some self-care in the wilderness.

Christy is a fan of off-trail routes. Some of her favorite routes and long trails she has hiked include:

  • Kings Canyon High Basin Route
  • Yosemite High Route
  • Southern Sierra High Route
  • Great Divide Trail
  • Theodore Solomons Trail
  • John Muir Trail 4x
  • Wind River High Route
  • Sierra High Route
  • Pacific Crest Trail
  • Lowest to Highest
  • Tahoe Rim Trail
  • Scotland The Great Outdoor Challenge
  • Continental Divide Trail

5. Carolyn Blessing

For the past several years, Carolyn has worked in outdoor education, including positions with Outward Bound. She met her husband, Jeff Podmayer (also a brand ambassador!), in 2016 doing Outward Bound in California. They’ve since been hiking and climbing partners who are passionate about people, mountains, learning, challenging themselves, and growing as people together.

Carolyn and Jeff took a non-traditional path (literally) to forming their marriage last year, choosing to thru-hike both the AT and the CDT together to honor their commitment to one another. You can read more about that journey on the Light Feet blog:

6. Kathy Vaughan

Kathy "OBAL Unbranded" Vaughan began hiking in her teens and took her first backpacking trip with a friend when she was 20, into the Olympic Mountain Range in Washington, which got her hooked. When she and Ras (also a brand ambassador!) had their daughter, she began setting family goals like backpacking the 97-mile Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier when she was seven and again when she was eight. They spent most weekends finding a new place to hike in the Mt. Baker area, or the North Cascades. 

When her daughter left for college, Kathy got into trail running and ultrarunning. Once she ran her first 50k and was trained to do so, she hasn’t stopped. Most notably, she’s had a 200-mile ultra finish, two 150-mile ultra finishes, a 100-mile finish, and the completion all together of around 40 ultramarathons. She won the Humble Pig award at the end of her 200 mile-finish for her attitude and performance throughout the weekend. 

You can read a bit more about Kathy in other articles on the Light Feet blog:

7. Grace Shattuck

Grace got introduced to the world of thru-hiking through her husband Steven (also a brand ambassador!). She shared that: “Having a partner to explore with and learn from increased my confidence in my own skills in the outdoors, and taught me that I am capable of so much more than I originally thought. Now we get out to the mountains of Colorado as much as we can, and I've been able to create my own goals using the knowledge I learned from Steven. It's been very rewarding!”

Some of Grace’s trail resume include:

  • Hayduke Trail thru-hike
  • Length of Scotland
  • Pyrenees from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean
  • Alta Via II in the Dolomites
  • Three Pass Trek in the Himalayas
  • Currently working on climbing all of Colorado's 14k-foot mountains

8. Michelle Zhang

Michelle grew up taking trips to the national parks with her family for car camping. These sparked a desire in her to return to them to hike more of their trails and camp in their wilderness. Since then, she’s done just that.

Michelle is a San Francisco-based ultrarunner—with her most recent ultras being the Whistler Alpine Meadows 110K, which runs up and down Whistler and Blackcomb mountain. She also has plans to run the Wonderland Trail in a single push. 

9. Nancy “Seal Mom” East

Nancy is known by some (me) as the goddess of the Smokies. Her efforts in Great Smoky Mountains National Park have been both physical and philanthropic. She holds the FKT for the Smokies 900-Miler Challenge, FKT of the Tour de LeConte for a mixed-gender team, and has completed the South Beyond 6,000 Challenge.

During her FKTs, she raised tens of thousands of dollars to support trail restoration and preventative search and rescue efforts within the Smokies. As a member of her local search and rescue team, she’s also passionate about outdoor education to keep hikers safe on the trail.

You can read a bit more about Nancy in other articles on the Light Feet blog:

10. Emily “Squishy” Schrick

Emily is an amazing photographer in addition to a badass outdoorswoman. She’s completed the PCT, John Muir Trail, Wonderland Trail, and High Sierra Trail. She also has hopes to complete the Triple Crown.

She’s a believer that the outdoors should be a safe space and empowering for everyone. Two of her favorite organizations to support in this cause are SheJumps and Outdoor Journal Tour, which are passionate about getting girls and women of all races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations outside, and using the outdoors for personal growth and healing.

You can read a bit more about Emily in other articles on the Light Feet blog:

11. Sally Phillips

Sally is our resident brand ambassador of Inverness, Scotland. She has hiked coast-to-coast across Scotland twice and has been working on bagging Scottish Munros (peaks over 3,000 feet). While Covid put a pause on Sally’s plans to thru-hike the PCT, she has been enjoying exploring her local hiking more and finds confidence and connection in the wilderness.

You can read a bit more about Sally in other articles on the Light Feet blog:

12. Zelzin Aketzalli

Zelzin is the first known Mexican national to finish the Triple Crown. In addition, she’s completed the Hayduke Trail and Arizona Trail. She loves to find ways to inspire others to experience the great outdoors in her home country and beyond, and is currently working on opening new thru-hiking routes through Mexico.

Zelzin is passionate about mentorship and making space for more women of color in the outdoors. We teamed up with her and Trail Mixed in May 2021 to offer sponsorship for one woman of color to receive ultralight gear and mentorship for backpacking adventures big and small. You can read more about Zelzin in our interview with her on the Light Feet blog.

Follow Our Women Brand Ambassadors for Inspiration and Adventure

Want to keep up with our ambassadors’ adventures? Make sure to follow us on social media (@gossamergear). You can also find links to our ambassadors’ social media accounts, websites, and other information on our Brand Ambassadors page.

March 10, 2022 — Korrin Bishop