“I’m still here.
People always tell me ‘the outdoors is free.’
The outdoors is only as free as the people.
We are why I hike.
Let’s take a long walk.”
The above is a poetic caption from Patricia Cameron’s Juneteenth Instagram post, shared in the midst of her trek on the Pacific Crest Trail–an adventure the Colorado writer has been covering for Backpacker as their 2022 PCT correspondent.
Patricia’s the founder of Blackpackers, a non-profit that provides underrepresented and economically vulnerable populations access to outdoor adventure, education, and careers. To celebrate Labor Day, we’ve been running a win-win sale this September 1st to September 6th: use the code LABORDAY and you’ll get 10% off any purchase you make. In turn, we’ll donate 10% of proceeds to Blackpackers. We wanted to take a moment to remind you of the sale, but more so to introduce you to Patricia and her work.
Breaking Down Barriers and Building Blackpackers
Patricia’s journey into the outdoor industry has required the same attributes that propel hikers 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada: grit, endurance, vision, and courage. A few years back, Patricia, a single mother, wanted to send her young son to a YMCA camp so he could experience the great outdoors like his Colorado compatriots. “I started googling how to backpack and how to camp,” says Patricia in a must-read interview with MIC on Black creators tearing down barriers to the outdoors.
Patricia worked overtime as an EMT and saved diligently to outfit her and her son with used gear. She gave herself a crash course in fishing and put that secondhand gear to work, embarking on her first backpacking overnight solo in a snowstorm. But when she tried to share her newfound passion for outdoor adventure with peers, they faced the same overwhelming, unforgiving obstacles.
“I wanted to have more friends come with me,” Patricia explained to MIC. “But they all said the same thing: They didn’t have the gear to go out.”
The MIC piece does an excellent job of illustrating measurable inequities in the outdoors: “According to data collected by the National Parks Service, nearly 80% of Americans who visit national parks are white. Just 7% of visitors are Black, despite Black people making up 15% of the U.S. population.” And visiting parks is only a piece of the puzzle. MIC also points out that “people of color are three times more likely than their white counterparts to live in places where there is no immediate access to nature.” Factor in underrepresentation–both in mainstream outdoor media and on the trail–and the high cost of gear, and the outdoors is much less welcoming than many of us believe.
As Patricia processed her experiences, she founded Blackpackers as a 501(c)(3) in 2019, seeking to foster economic equity in outdoor recreation. To help economically vulnerable and underrepresented groups overcome and dismantle the barriers to entry she faced, Patricia dedicated the non-profit to two intertwined objectives:
- To provide gear, outdoor excursions, and outdoor education for free or at subsidized cost.
- To connect participants with volunteer opportunities, internships, jobs, and post-secondary education resources to create a pipeline from outdoor recreation to outdoor industry careers.
Today, Blackpackers hosts all sorts of rad events: monthly climbing meet-ups that cover the cost of entry and gear rentals, weekend campouts that do the same, and intro to backpacking courses (so rookies don’t have to spend their first backpacking trip solo in a snowstorm). The non-profit is also currently working on athlete scholarships–stay tuned on that front, and the rest of Blackpacker’s critical equity work, by following on social here.
We couldn’t be more excited to support Blackpackers, together with you, our Luno community, this Labor Day. We recognize the disparities pervasive in the outdoor space, and accessibility truly is at the heart of what we do here at Luno–we’re proud that our gear helps newcomers experience the great outdoors comfortably and safely. However, while it’s easy to say we’re all about accessibility, talk is cheap and actions speak louder than words. Thanks for reading, using the code LABORDAY by September 6th, and helping us put our money where our mouth is this Labor Day. Also, even if you’re all set on Luno gear, you can still support the cause by donating to Blackpackers here.
See you on the road,
The Luno Crew
Take 10% off + Donate 10% to Blackpackers:
Use Code: LABORDAY