Hiking changes the world because it changes you. This may be the strongest belief I hold. A walk in the wilds lowers stress, deepens friendships, and transforms your perspectives and values. As Judith Kasiama, backpacker and founder of Colour the Trails, says, “When I’m out hiking or skiing, I feel like I can just be. Being outdoors allows me to pause.” But that’s only if there’s a wilderness to enjoy and all people feel welcomed in it.
BACKPACKER will always bring you inspiration and advice to help you get outside more. But when we take a hard look at how we’ve gone about accomplishing that mission, it’s clear we need to do a better job—both in our content and our operations. Climate change and racial equality are two of the main issues of our time, and we haven’t done enough. That makes us part of the problem. BACKPACKER can and will be a better advocate for the people and places we love, because, as Kasiama also says, “We’re in a pivotal moment right now to really make a change.”
So, here are some changes we’re making immediately. In regard to climate, starting with this issue, BACKPACKER will no longer be shipped in a plastic covering. This will divert 310,427 bags from the waste stream each year (one for each subscriber’s renewal mailing).
We’re also partnering with a new company called Cooler to address our carbon footprint. According to Cooler’s analysis, each issue of BACKPACKER produces 1,057 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, which is equivalent to the carbon released by 2.34 million miles of driving, or sequestered by 2 square miles of mature forest. Cooler will neutralize that impact by buying permits in pollution markets from more than a dozen states and permanently retiring them.
We are carbon neutral from now on and will report on this process, deliver useful ways you can reduce your own footprint, and grow our content stream in the climate arena. That’s a big topic and one that goes hand-in-hand with another threat to the outdoors way of life: systemic racism.
The makeup of those who use our wild spaces does not mirror the makeup of
our country. And it’s a fact that racism prevents people from feeling free to explore the outdoors. If we’re going to protect the future, we need to start now.
While BACKPACKER has had a long partnership with Big City Mountaineers, a nonprofit focused on getting disinvested youth on backpacking trips that has introduced thousands of teens to the outdoors, we haven’t been diligent when it comes to racial equality or representation in our own content. Our staff is predominately white and has been since the magazine’s inception. This has created oversights in our coverage and kept us from realizing our mission to help everyone get out into an outdoors that’s welcoming to all. We’re working to make our operations more reflective of the diverse outdoor community. That means staffing, story and contributor selection, and the subjects of our photography and video. I commit BACKPACKER’s eyes and ears to being fully open.
To that end, we need your help. Hit me at firstname.lastname@example.org with content ideas, advice, and to hold us accountable. It’s a long path to get to where we want to be, but the only way we’ll create the community we need is if we walk it together.