Why We Off-Road: Stories from Women on the Trail

The number of women in the off-road world is small, we all know that. Just look at race rosters, wander through the pits, or take note of who you encounter on the trail. While that number may be small, it is growing every year. There are lots of passionate people leading the force to encourage women of all ages to get behind the wheel or handlebars of a new toy and give it a shot. There are companies, like onX Offroad, who are working hard to bring on more female influencers and racers, and include more women in branding. I’m proud of what we’re doing here at Offroad, but we couldn’t do it without all of you.

We’re constantly inspired by our entire off-road community, especially those women who are hammering down on having some moto fun no matter what. I got a chance to chat with a few of our Offroad Influencers who told me about their off-road adventures and what keeps them powering forward.

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Christina Luppi

I’m originally from New Hampshire, but I sold my house last year and hit the road full time with just my Jeep and what I could fit in and on it. I had built my Jeep for overlanding and had traveled with it for extended periods of time before, so I had little luxuries like a refrigerator and a shower. The toilet left something to be desired… but we don’t have to get into that. I had no real idea where I was going, but I knew I wanted to go West. By April I’d made my way to Utah, where I immediately fell in love with the desert and the red rocks, and I’ve been based there since. 

My father bought a Jeep Wrangler when I was a teenager and after he took me out on my first trail, I was hooked.  Fast forward 20 years and five Jeeps later, and now you can find me in my 2013 Jeep JKU Moab Edition that I lovingly refer to as “The Huntress”.  

I need the outdoors and adventure like I need air in my lungs.  That is not an exaggeration. I tried to do the “traditional life” thing and, suffice it to say, it (really) didn’t work out. I changed my entire lifestyle, sold my home, started my own business that allowed me to work remotely, and poured all my extra time and money into building up my Jeep so I could get off-road, off-grid (far, far away) and totally immerse myself in nature whenever I wanted to.  Which, if I’m honest, is pretty much all the time.  

My advice to new off-roaders: Your rig is more capable than you are.  I usually tell people who are interested in off-roading to ride along with an experienced driver first.  Get a feel for what your rig can do and how to drive it in different types of terrain, watch how they handle certain situations and obstacles.  No doubt, what your vehicle can do will surprise you.  Go along with a reputable off-road club and gain the experience and confidence to start adventuring out with a small group of friends or even on your own.  Be smart and be safe.  Never go out alone on harder trails. 

Living this lifestyle means I heavily rely on public lands and trail systems.  I’m out there almost every day, and there is nothing I hate to see more than garbage, graffiti, and waste (we’re talkin’ poop, y’all… ewww).  Nothing gets public lands and trails closed faster than turning them into dumping grounds and being disrespectful. When you’re out there and you see things like this, please, please leave trails better than you found them. I carry a trash bag on my spare tire and more often than not, it ends up full of other people’s garbage.  If you love off-roading and you want to continue to have plenty of opportunities to get out there and enjoy a beautiful trail, then please be good stewards of our public lands and trails.

Genevieve Davis

I grew up in the cold clear pacific waters of Laguna Beach, California. I currently reside in my converted sprinter van based in Costa Mesa, California. I’m a full-time freelance photographer specializing in outdoor action sports lifestyle.

Ten years ago I started riding street motorcycles. Through riding, I was exposed to dirt bikes and fell in love with riding trails alongside my dog Bandit. Right now I have a 1978 Yamaha DT 175.

Whether I’m surfing, diving, riding, hiking, snowboarding, or climbing, I love playing in and with nature. Off-roading allows me to get as deep as possible in the wilderness to explore and commune with the natural world.

Last year I took my van and my DT out to Utah and camped on national forest land near Cascade Springs. I forgot that because I was at such a high elevation, I needed to re-tune my carbs. About three miles into a trail ride with my dog, my bike died because my spark plug had been fouled. I attempted to rescue my bike with my van, and got my van stuck on a trail deep in the forest. Cue earth angels and local Utah grandparents Grady and Patti, who appeared on the wings of their ATV to a struggling Genevieve attempting to dig herself out. They spent two hours pulling my huge van out of the dirt with a winch on their little ATV, turning me around in a safe place and leading the charge up an Indiana Jones-style sand and rock trail. I needed to gun up this trail to get back to the top in a van I had no business trying to off-road in the first place. They were so kind, funny, and just a delight to spend the day with. Grady and Patti are truly the kind of people you meet off-roading.

My advice to new off-roaders? Whether it’s a Maxtrax, a buddy, or a satellite phone — have a backup plan! 

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Amanda Rider

I was born and raised in Newberg, Oregon and moved to Ashland to attend Southern Oregon University. From there I took time away from school and did a ton of traveling. I lived in Tokyo for four months with a friend, backpacked Thailand for a month, lived in Costa Rica with my sister for four months while she was studying abroad, and went on a cruise in the Caribbean. After all of that I decided to move back to Newberg where I met my boyfriend Isaac. He’s taken me on so many adventures and has really gotten me more into the off-roading scene. We actually met on a snowmobile trip and have been together for nine years now.

I’ve been into off-roading for as long as I can remember. My dad always used to load us up and take us to the woods in his old Jeep. It was just fun, no matter what we were doing. We would load everything up, drive around, make a fire and then drive around some more. It’s hard to have a bad time in the woods. I remember the first time he let me drive the Jeep was on the Cedar Tree Trail at Brown’s Camp. I smiled the WHOLE time!

Off-roading is just something we’ve always done as a family growing up. Since I’ve been with Isaac, we’ve had RZRs and CanAms. We’ve just been super into going on big trips and running new trails as often as possible. Whenever we have time off, or a free weekend, our trip planning consists of “where can we go with the CanAm”. We frequent the Oregon dunes or the woods locally – and if we have more time off, we love going over to Idaho and riding outside of Boise or making it to Moab or Sand Hollow. I also love going on night rides with the light bars on, music blasting and a cooler packed with drinks and snacks. It’s a vibe.

If you want to get into off-roading, reach out to friends or family you might already know that are into off-roading or own off-road vehicles. Most people are happy to share the stoke if you express interest. If you have the means, get a vehicle and just start exploring. (Make sure you have your onX maps downloaded first!) Oh yeah, and wear your seatbelt and stay off your phone while driving!

Julianna

I grew up in Arizona and Bend, Oregon. Oregon was where I got my love of nature. I was always out mountain biking, hiking, fishing, or foraging as a kid in the woods. I currently live in Washington and I’m doing medical assembly until I find a job that will allow me to travel full time. That’s the dream: working remote while going all over the world, being able to meet more off-road people and see more things. 

It’s a funny story how I got into off-roading. I was originally just looking for a big SUV that could carry more stuff, and the vehicles I started looking at were Hondas. The Toyota dealership I went to had a Honda Pilot I was going to test drive, but when I got there I saw this big huge green vehicle: the Toyota FJ Cruiser. Mind you, I’ve only ever driven in Civics before the FJ. I actually had no idea what 4×4 even was. Long story short – I sat in the FJ, it was love at first sight. I didn’t even test drive it, I knew right then and there it’s what I wanted. That’s how I ended up with my 2012 Toyota FJ Cruiser. It was fate, meant to be.

I off-road for many reasons. I’ve always loved nature and cars, and now that I’m able to put both together, why not! The views and the people you meet are amazing, and being able to challenge yourself on obstacles is always a blast – not to mention the adventure of being places some people only see in movies.

Recently, some friends and I went deep snow-wheeling. There was lots of getting stuck and recovering. The most exciting part was when our friend in a Tacoma decided to fall into a very deep ditch. I first attempted to get him out myself, but eventually got stuck and couldn’t move. We then tried to winch him up, but the tree that was closest couldn’t handle the pull. (I actually had to propel onto the cliff-side to hook up the winch line.) We ended up using two rigs chained together to get him out, and it took multiple attempts. The cool thing was both recovery rigs were owned and driven by ladies! 

If you’re just getting started, don’t be afraid to ask questions and just get out there. You will always find help. Some people might be rude, but ignore them. If you find a good group to help you, you’ll have fun. One thing I love is showing new people around and seeing them gain confidence – just hearing them tell me how I helped them makes me happy. I love when people ask me to guide them. If you’re new, don’t hesitate to reach out to me!

Before my FJ, I was extremely shy and had horrible anxiety. My teens, and half my adult life, I just stayed home on the computer playing video games. The FJ changed my life. I’m doing things I never thought I’d be doing. It’s made me more confident, more outgoing, and it challenges me to face my anxiety – even when I really don’t want to. It’s a totally different life and I am extremely happy to call the FJ my world, because it really is.

MAK

Hi there! My name is MAK (Mary Ashley Krogh on paper) and I work as a freelance graphic designer, illustrator, photographer, videographer, and blogger. I grew up in a military family and thus moved 20-odd times and went to a new school every year for seven years in a row. Four and a half years ago I hit the road with my husband Owen and cat Luna and we’ve been traveling full time ever since. In that time we’ve traversed all of North America and have been as far north as Labrador and as far south as Mexico.

I don’t think I ever realized I was “getting into” off-roading until people started calling me an overlander. When we hit the road, we did it so we could have constant access to the recreation activities that we love (ie. surfing, climbing, and hiking). If we wanted to reach whatever was at the end of those roads, we had to figure out how to drive it, and that is how I got into off-roading. We started in a 2WD Vanagon, which isn’t exactly the most equipped rig for being off-road, but it made me a really skilled driver. I off-road less for the act of driving and use it more as a tool for accessing things that would otherwise be hard to get to. There is no better feeling than arriving at your destination and not seeing another soul out there!

One time, I was in Bear’s Ears and wanted to go on a hike. I took our vehicle, loaded up with some friends, to the end of a long sandy 4×4 road that was incredibly fun to drive. However, when we started our return journey, there were so many little offshoot roads that I ended up on a different road than I came in on. I came around a blind turn and said, “I really hope there isn’t a drop off because I can’t see over the hood.” Right as I finished that statement the nose of the rig dropped down so far that when I turned around my passengers in the back seat were above me. I sat there for a second and steeled myself, looked around, and realized my only way out was to go forward. I slowly released the brakes and inched my rear axel up and over the ledge. As soon as my back tires were on solid ground I hopped out to look at what I had just driven down. Turns out it was a washed-out road that led into a wash. The ledge was taller than I am (5”6”) and my departure angle cleared by near inches. Make sure to always stop and look around blind turns and steep ledges. If I had seen that ledge I would have never imagined that our rig would make it down something that steep and tall, but now I know that my rig and I are capable of much more than I thought!

As a lady, I think it can be intimidating to get into off-roading, being that it’s a male-dominated community – but my best piece of advice would be to go out with others who are experienced. If you don’t know anyone who is experienced, go to a rally or event so you can meet others in the community and learn from them. When you are first getting started it’s important to push yourself in the company of others who can help you get real-life experience and be a safety net in the event that it’s needed!

Also, you don’t have to have an insane rig to get out there. Between our Vanagon and our Honda Element (another rig that we’ve lived out of), it’s pretty incredible what you can do!

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Jenny Sheets

Jenny Sheets is the copywriter and on the product marketing team for onX Offroad. She lives in Montana where she dirt bikes, trail runs, camps, and overlands with her husband and dog.