Joan West


Joan developed a lifelong passion for plants, insects, and the natural world while growing up camping with her family in Oregon. She became an avid hiker during graduate school in Maryland when she would escape to the Appalachian Trail on weekends to balance her long hours in the laboratory.

It wasn’t until Oct 2011 when she took a lightweight backpacking trip with Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassador JJ Mathes that she finally transitioned to lightweight backpacking. With an understanding of the philosophy and techniques for going lightweight, she finds she doesn’t have the bother of excess bulk and weight, and the gear she has enhances her enjoyment of the wilderness. She now hikes further and sees more, which often involves flying up remote mountains or crouching down on her belly to get a good look at wildflowers without taking off her pack.

Joan backpacks year-round in the southeast, is an avid hammock hanger, and enjoys designing and making her own gear and hiking clothes.

Since 2010, Joan has shared her love of nature by leading wildflower hikes and beginner backpacking trips for Trail Dames. She finds witnessing these women climbing mountains and achieving their fitness goals especially rewarding. She is proud of her role in helping empower women who used to see the outdoors as a scary place and now see it as a refuge of peace and healing.

Home: Athens, GA

Age: 35


Outdoor Organization Involvement: Hiking Trip Leader at Trail Dames | Trained Instructor at Leave No Trace

Favorite Training Grounds: Southern Nantahala Wilderness of North Carolina, Ellicott Rock Wilderness near the Chattooga River, the Bartram Trail, the Foothills Trail and the Appalachian Trail in Georgia.