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A resource for women in Outdoor Education and Recreation

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Gear Resources
Gear manufacturers have realised that lots of women like the outdoors and they're different shapes from men. Here's what's out there, and where you can buy it.

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Travel Resources
A selection of travel resources especially for women who love to travel. Includes a list of online communities if you do it yourself, or companies if you need a little help.

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Surfing Resources
Listed here are some links to resources from all over the world that cater to women who love surfing.

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Hiking Resources
Extended walks are great for the mind and spirit and lots of women love to take part in them. Check out these resources and get inspired to go on a walking adventure.

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Snow Sports

Snow Sports Resources
Skiing, snowboarding, backcountry, polar expeditions - all done in the snow and all done by lots of amazing women.  Check out these resources to find out more...

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Kayaking Resources
White water, surfing, sea kayaking, sprint racing, marathon racing, multisport, fishing...is there anything you can't do from a kayak? Explore these resources!

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Cycling Resources
A list of resources for all sorts of cycling - mountain biking, road biking, touring, racing, recreation and commuting - all specific to women.

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Climbing Resources
Women can (and have) achieved incredible things in climbing. Listed in this section are a collection of climbing and moutaineering resources that are useful and inspiring for all climbers.

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A list of organisations that cater exclusively to women, or run trips exclusively for women. A great way to find a women-specific adventure in your area.

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Outdoor Industry

Outdoor Industry Resources
Looking for resources to help you plan programs, companies and organisations that cater for women or organisations you can join? Look no further...

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Heather Kirkpatrick - Outdoor Educator

Biafo Peak PakistanHeather Kirkpatrick is an extremely experienced outdoor educator and outdoor enthusiast from Tasmania, Australia.  She is passionate about the outdoors and her adventures include an incredible variety of activities and expeditions.  If you are interested in how an outdoor career can pan out, make sure you read Heather’s story.  If you’re not in the outdoor industry, you might find yourself tempted to change careers - consider yourself warned!

Heather has primarily developed her outdoor skills in the areas of mountaineering and white-water rafting but also enjoys instructing sea kayaking, bushwalking, rock climbing and cross country skiing.  Heather has a degree in Science and a Graduate Diploma in Outdoor Education.  While studying Outdoor Education in Brisbane she discovered a career path she was passionate about and has been involved in ever since. The final expedition for the course was mountaineering in the Southern Alps of New Zealand, where Heather got a taste of she knew would be her lifelong pursuit.  

Rafting in SiberiaThe next few years saw Heather working seasonally as an adventure guide with Peregrine Adventures, guiding white water rafting trips in Australia, including the Franklin, Nymboida, Gwydir and Herbert Rivers. She also developed her skills as a cross country ski instructor in the winter seasons, raft guided in France and Costa Rica, developed “Wilderness Skills for Women” courses for Adult education in Melbourne, taught outdoor education programs at secondary schools, instructed with wilderness therapy programs for youth-at-risk and on corporate leadership programs.  Heather says, “it was discovering the diversity of areas that I could work within the outdoor industry that has always kept me stimulated.  I love the choices you can make as a freelance instructor/ guide, and I have never desired a long-term regular job.”

In between contracts, Heather went on a number of personal mountaineering expeditions to places including the Andes, the European Alps, New Zealand and North America.  She worked for a season in Alaska guiding Operation Raleigh expedition members on long glacier traverses of the Chugach Mountains.  Heather then co-lead a month long sea kayak expedition in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, paddling north to the Gulf of Alaska and monitoring some impacts of the Valdez oil spill through biological transects on designated beaches.

Antarctica TrainingIn 1992-93 Heather worked her first season as a Field Training Officer for the Australian Antarctic Division at Davis Station in east Antarctica. Since then she has instructed for six seasons and feels immensely privileged to have ‘worked on the ice’. Heather has field trained and lead field parties in the Prince Charles Mountains, Casey station, as well as Heard Island and Macquarie Island in the sub-Antarctic. Heather instructs expedition members in field survival skills, including basic mountaineering skills, navigation, snow shelters, glacier travel and crevasse rescue, sea ice travel and cliff rescue systems.  Heather trains the new wintering Search and Rescue team and supports field scientists on a diversity of projects that include glaciology, wildlife biology, climate and human impact studies.

In between Antarctic seasons Heather raft guided in India, Siberia and Turkey as well as the Franklin River in her home state of Tasmania.  She has travelled on personal expeditions climbing in the Karokoram Range of Pakistan, the Indian Himalaya,  ski mountaineered in the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgystan and Kazakstan, paddled the Grand Canyon’s Colorado River and recently sea kayaked the Bass Strait home to Tasmania in 2009.  

Cataraft on Colorado RiverFor the last eight years Heather has also worked regularly for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).  They are a long established non-profit outdoor education school who run 30 to 90 day wilderness courses focusing on leadership.  Heather finds these long courses particularly rewarding because of the significant personal development participants discover through an inspiring NOLS curriculum.  She also loves the technically challenging journeys they make in some of the planet’s most remote wilderness areas. Heather has lead hiking, canoeing, sea kayaking and mountaineering courses for NOLS in New Zealand, Australia’s Kimberley, and the Cascade and Wind River mountains in the USA.

A favourite niche in the outdoor industry for Heather is training outdoor educators.  She has taught trainee instructors at Victoria’s Outdoor Education Group, a number of TAFE Outdoor Recreation courses, raft guide courses, some Victorian universities, NOLS Instructor Courses and on wilderness first aid courses for the Wilderness Medicine Institute and Equip Wilderness First Aid Institute.

Instructing rafting in SiberiaHeather says one of her most rewarding experiences in the outdoors was leading the first ever team of Russian women rafters in the international Chuya Raft Rally in 1999.  She says, “I had been offered work over email exchanges with the Siberian raft company hosting the Chuya Rally, who then ran their Raft Guides course on the Altai River.  However when I arrived on their doorstep they had no idea ‘Heather’ would be a woman, not being familiar with my name.  “Heather.  You must understand the river is a man’s place,” said my boss Misha, trying to explain his dismay.  However with a few days before the competition began at the Chuya River, I physically demonstrated the women’s team was capable of running the Grade 5 river and the officials eventually let us compete.  That was a real turning point with increasing numbers of Russian women raft teams competing nationally every year since, competing in the European championships, and participating on the raft guides courses. Russian companies are now employing women as rafting guides.  The women's team were a great hit with the Russian media as well. Heather says, “I gave the most hilarious interview for their national television speaking with my very poor Russian trying to explain what a platypus was, as I had worn a platypus hand puppet strapped on top of my helmet for the competition.”

Heard Island Crevasse (photo Doug Thost)Heather admits earlier in her career, some employers did not offer equal opportunities for women, which could be frustrating at times.  She says mountaineering and raft guiding tend to be male dominated but the situation has improved over the years with more women entering the industry, being positive both role models to both men and women.

Heather KirkpatrickSeeing plenty of good stories on the ground motivated Heather to complete a Graduate Diploma in Journalism and Media Studies in 2004 at the University of Tasmania.  She has published a handful of stories, made an ABC radio documentary whilst raft guiding and made some short documentary films from the Democratic Republic of Congo and the streets and backblocks of Rwanda and Uganda in late 2009.  She also trained up as an aid relief worker in 2010 and spent three months working as a logistician delivering food to the Pakistan Indus River flood victims until February 2011.


Heather loves her unconventional career path and says she listens to her heart and intuition, which guide her to new projects and adventures.  She admits never planning too far in advance so she can stay open to opportunities and makes a conscious effort not to let money get in the way of her decisions.


Heather shows that an unconventional path can be incredibly rewarding, and that work in the outdoors can provide a fascinating and personally fulfilling career.  Heather and her journey are a true inspiration to anyone who works or aspires to work in the outdoors, and to anyone finding their passion and following their dreams.  Look out for her adventuring in a place near you!

If you liked this article, you can access more GO! Girls Outdoors Profiles or visit the Outdoor Industry Resource Page and follow the links.

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