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Exploring The Great Outdoors with Samantha Richardson

Exploring The Great Outdoors with Samantha Richardson

by Nicole Phillips

The model and adventurer answers our 11 questions about the best places to spend outdoors this summer

We all have that one friend who we love to follow on Instagram, who we scroll through their feed while we’re sipping coffee in bed on a Saturday morning with wanderlust every time they post photos of themselves hiking or backpacking through an amazing locale. And while we’re content remaining in our loungewear for the day, we also can’t help but get a little motivated and inspired to someday have our own rugged adventure.

Enter Samantha Richardson, a plus size model and avid adventurer who when not in front of the camera, is backpacking around the world and being in nature in some of the most sought after locations. Born in Washington but raised in Arizona, Italy and North Carolina, Richardson developed a love of adventure and nature at a very young age thanks to her father who made it a point to make sure Samantha’s summers were full of outdoor fun. The activity that she loved as a kid would eventually be how she explored the world.

“I'm in amazement of what my body can do whether it's moving in a way that feeds off light or walking for 10 to 20 miles a day. Being able to do the things we love is most important, no matter what size or shape you are.”

Here Samantha shares everything about the activity that many may dream of, but could use guidance on where to start and where to go.

Q & A with Samantha

How did you get into backpacking?

I spent most of my summers with my biological father where he always made adventure a priority. So most of my summers were spent camping, four-wheeling, hiking, boating. My first backpacking trip was when I was 12, but I didn't go out again until I was 22.

Do you backpack as a hobby or professionally?

I would love to do it professionally, but backpacking takes a lot of time, money, and experience. The wonderful thing about working in a freelance capacity is your schedule is your own, so I am lucky to have the freedom and ability to go on trail for a few days at a time, then come back home and jump onto a set for a photo shoot!

Are there any similarities between modeling and backpacking? Do you draw inspiration from either passion that translates to the other?

You have to be open to trying new things and being forgiving of yourself and others around you. I find that a lot of times people are working against themselves both on-trail and on a set but being flexible and taking the lead when needed or being open to being led by others is a great quality for both! When I am modeling I want to be backpacking when backpacking I wanna be modeling. But more than anything I'm inspired by both because I'm in amazement of what my body can do whether it's moving in a way that feeds off light or walking for 10 to 20 miles a day. Being able to do the things we love is most important, no matter what size or shape you are!

Where are your favorite places to backpack?

The Pacific Crest Trail runs along the West Coast and is great for all kinds of lengths of trips. The John Muir Trail is 3 hours north.

Where are some dream backpacking locations?

I would love to do Camino de Santiago in Spain. So much history, culture, and community involvement with that trail, it has to be on everyone's list

Have you ever been in a dangerous backpacking situation?

The most dangerous situation I have ever experienced is deciding to get off trail sooner than I wanted. I don't like to quit. In my generation, we think that quitting is seen as failure, and pushing through is seen as success. In backpacking though, that mentality could get you killed. You make a lot of decisions on trail, and leaving when you don't want to is a hard one. It hurts a lot when I've planned on doing so many miles or going out for so many weeks and then I can't fulfill it, because i've injured myself, lost essential gear, or didn't prepare well enough.

How do you navigate being a woman in a space that has historically been dominated by men?

There are so many women dominating in the backpacking world. If anything, I navigate being a plus size woman in the backpacking world. There is a lot of emphasis on mileage. Everyone wants to do 30 miles a day, but that isn't what my body can do, and I don't need it to, because it does all that I want it to! That's body positivity; if your body can do all the things you want to do with it and you fit within your definition of healthy, then I am happy for you and that's all I'm allowed to say about your body and you mine.

While this isn't a problem on trails or in my interactions with people, it is something I have to remind myself of everyday, that it's not about the mileage, it's about being out there, to begin with.

What are some of your backpacking essentials?

Guthook's App for Navigation, Rawology's Massage Corkball for rolling out my feet, and Top Ramen Chicken Flavored noodles.

What advice would you give to someone starting out backpacking?

There are so many resources online in learning how to start. Dixie, Darwin, Starburst, Second Chance Hiker are all on Instagram and Youtube and I love watching their videos to not only learn more but get motivated to go out again and again.

What is your biggest backpacking accomplishment?

I went on my first solo backpacking trip, this past May, and I learned a lot about what I love and hate about backpacking. I was planning on being gone for four weeks but ended up leaving after four days. I'm still working on seeing the 52 miles I did as an accomplishment because it was in many ways. The biggest accomplishment was going out there by myself despite being so scared of it.

What else do we need to know?

The backpacking community is filled with novices like me, and experts who have thru-hiked thousands of miles. Try what you want to try, and if this is one of the things you want to try, reach out, because I love to help others get started.

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