Fat Girls Hiking is More than Just a Hiking Book

By David Krogh

Fat Girls Hiking is a new book by Summer Michaud-Skog, published by Timber Press. Its prime focus is outdoor hikes and nature walks for plus sized people. But interestingly enough, it didn’t start out as a book at all. 

A plus sized woman who loves the outdoors, Summer Michaud-Skog noticed there weren’t many people like her out hiking. In 2015 she started an Instagram account called Fat Girls Hiking.  Through this account she was able to reach out and promote hiking for plus sized women.  

Because of the large interest that she generated, Fat Girls Hiking (FGH) became an organization of plus sized people interested in the outdoors. Many of these, like the author, have been fat shamed over time, but love the outdoors and want to communicate with others who are like minded. 

To help the organization get started, Michaud-Skog began keeping track of hikes by their accessibility. She also took note of comments from others who had experienced problems in obtaining plus sized outdoor clothing and gear. Subsequently she began organizing chapters of FGH around the country. 

By 2020, there were 37 chapters in the US and three chapters abroad. She then realized she had enough material to produce a book in support of plus sized hiking when low and behold, she was contacted by Timber Press in Portland about putting a book together.

Although the name of the book and the organization are Fat Girls Hiking, the book and organization are not just about fat girls hiking. In fact, the organization had evolved. “The more people I featured, the more it was clear that Fat Girls Hiking was no longer about what I personally was doing outside—it was a community that rallied around inclusivity, fat activism and accessibility in the outdoors for all people.”  

The book does not promote dieting or weight loss and the motto, “Trails not Scales,” is clearly illustrated on the back cover of the book. “There is a 98 percent failure rate for dieting,” according to the author. “Hiking is healthy exercise that you can do at your own pace, plus you can enjoy the outdoors. Many people view hiking, or just being outdoors, as therapy during these trying times.” 

The book provides some basic “how to’s” about preparing for hiking, shares commentaries from several FGH members and describes several hikes in Oregon and elsewhere, including locations, features and accessibility.  

Both the author and the commentaries have emphasized the lack of plus sized clothing and gear appropriate for the outdoors. “This is a huge barrier to plus sized people.” Michaud-Skog is hopeful that outdoor apparel and equipment providers will take a hint from the book (as well as other people) as to just how much of a market and demand there is for plus sized outdoor apparel and gear. She has been talking with one brand name of late to promote new plus sized outdoor apparel and is hopeful.

Attributions to indigenous peoples for both the locations of hikes and the commenters’ hometowns is commendably provided. The author stated, “it is important to acknowledge the history of our country, both good and bad.” In addition, “several of the commenters have indigenous heritage and they have encouraged and helped research the attributions.”

The book is for all people, regardless of gender, culture, age or orientation who feel they are marginalized by their weight or accessibility issues. Despite the book’s name, Michaud-Skog says all are invited, including men.  

“Hiking” is a broad term and for the author, “hiking is however you define it. I prefer to define it as walking outdoors on a trail, which would definitely include nature walks.” She added that in group hikes, the slowest walker sets the pace. “No one is expected to do more than they’re comfortable with.” 

The author lives in a camper van (as do a couple of the commenters) and though the book clearly supports that lifestyle, she says she isn’t necessarily promoting van living. “But it is part of my story and influence. For me, it offers independence and makes nature more easily accessible.” She qualified this by stating “it obviously isn’t for everybody.”

The book itself is easy to read, informative and those who have been either fat or appearance shamed will find encouraging comments from kindred people. Fat Girls Hiking  is available to order online at bit.ly/BuyFGHbook or can be found in store at Powell’s Books, Barnes and Noble and Broadway Books (1714 NE Broadway).

For more information about the FGH organization, visit fatgirlshiking.com or Instagram.com/fatgirlshiking.

Fat Girls Hiking is More than Just a Hiking Book

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