The Outdoorsing Club Leaders: Alice Keegan
by Zoe Allison on May 16, 2023
Inspiring women to get into nature is at the heart of everything we do here at ACAI Outdoorwear.
From creating womenswear designed to give confidence, to funding free Outdoorsing Club events to bring down barriers; our mission is to put women first in the outdoors.
Working with inspirational women who live and breathe the outdoors means we can reach a wider audience with this mission. And our latest Outdoorsing Club leader to have joined the movement is Alice Keegan.
Alice is a “hiking enthusiast, wild swimmer, adventure-seeker, nature geek and proud introvert”. Through her website theadventuregirls.club Alice offers events and hikes designed for women to find their place in the outdoors with confidence.
We caught up with Alice to find out more about her story, and get some top women’s outdoorsing tips from The Adventure Girls Club leader herself...
What was behind creating The Adventure Girls Club?
Eight years ago I was living in London and had a stressful job in the music industry. My mental health was the lowest it’s ever been. I was exhausted, drinking a lot and suffering badly from anxiety and depression.
Then I made a decision that would change my life forever - I took myself on a solo camping and hiking adventure in the Lake District. I’d never felt more alive. From that moment I knew in my heart, my life's purpose was rooted in nature and leading other women to find their confidence and freedom through adventure and nature.
Since then I’ve been on incredible adventures across the world in places like Peru, Nepal and Morocco. I’ve created a life where getting out into nature is a priority; I hike at least once a week, wild swim 2-3 times a week and take myself off on monthly solo adventures. My mental health is the best it’s ever been, I’m a nicer person to be around and a much more confident person in everyday life.
What is the mission of The Adventure Girls Club?
I want to pass on everything I’ve learnt over the past eight years to help other women find freedom in adventure. I want to guide them to a place where they can confidently and passionately head out into nature and fill their soul with all its rich beauty. Where fear is something they welcome rather than run from and where life becomes an endless flow of possibilities and experiences.
Which is your best UK hiking route?
Here in the UK I loved doing the West Highland Way in Scotland; 96 miles over 6 days, along Loch Lomond and around the mountains. But aside from a more epic long distance hike there are also hikes which I revisit time and time again. Like the Dorset coastline which is one of my favourite places. The hike around Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove never gets boring and I’m frequently found in the Mendip Hills (my local stomping ground) hiking around Cheddar Gorge, Beacon Batch or Crook Peak.
I could go on! I have a spreadsheet of all my favourite hikes so that I can share them with The Adventure Girls Club.
Which has been your most epic overseas hiking route?
Ah that’s always such a hard question! I love so many different hikes for different reasons.
My favourite long distance trek abroad has to be the Cordillera Huayhuash in Peru though. It was the most challenging hike over 12 days between 4000m and 5000m altitude, but some of the most incredible scenery I have ever seen.
Can you recommend a UK wild swimming spot?
In the UK I love Buttermere in the Lake District. It’s an epic mountain swim spot.
My local go-to is a river flowing through Farleigh Hungerford in Somerset. It’s the spot that first got me into wild swimming and in the summer you can swim alongside lily pads and kingfishers. Just stunning.
Where is your most magical wild swimming spot in the world?
I’d have to say Emerald Lake in Canada at sunset. It was pretty cold but the water was so green and I was surrounded by mountains – it really was magic.
What are your five hiking essentials?
- The OS maps app and/or a paper map and compass - it’s so important to be able to navigate out on a hike. It may seem completely overwhelming but it’s actually a lot more straightforward than you think. The Adventure Girls Club has free monthly navigation days for members and everyone comes away a pro at navigation.
- A first aid kit - this doesn’t have to be a fancy one, you can simply head to a pharmacy and buy a load of plasters, painkillers, antihistamines and some other bits and pop them in a sandwich bag. I use mine all the time, like when I’m on my period, and it could save your life if something were to go wrong.
- A head torch - I take a head torch with me on every hike. I may not always use it, or plan to use it, but if anything were to ever go wrong and I found myself caught out in the dark, I’d be thankful to be able to see what I was doing.
- A waterproof coat and trousers - this is the UK after all, and you never know when it might pour down.
- Protein bars - I always take a few in my side pockets and if I ever feel a bit tired, I get lost, or it’s pouring with rain, I just shove one in my mouth and it’s guaranteed to give me some energy, help me think straight and warm up.
What barriers do you think women face to getting outdoors and how can they overcome them?
There are so many barriers, and they are different for different women, but the barriers I notice the most are lack of confidence and fear.
We are told as young girls to not walk alone; so of course we think the worst is going to happen when we do. I teach my group to lean into the fear and use it to keep them safe. We can choose what fear to listen to and what to ignore.
As women are usually more fearful, we want to feel better equipped and knowledgeable before heading out (and that’s a good thing!). So it’s important we share skills and knowledge to get out safely and confidently.
To do this, we need to share and to teach in a way that is accessible, making sure no one feels like they can’t ask “silly” questions or go at their own pace.
Clothing and kit is also a real problem for women, especially women who need bigger sizes, or women who follow a religious dress code. Good clothing can be life saving so it’s crucial that we work with women more to create items that fit and perform.
Unfortunately there is still a lot of sexism, racism and transphobia within the outdoor community which are massive barriers. I myself often get approached my men who assume I don’t know what I’m doing or where I’m going, or think we are a hen party of silly girls when I’m leading the group. And I know Muslim women, black women and trans women get a whole set of extra comments, judgment and discrimination on top of the sexism.
That’s why it’s SO important that we have these safe spaces for us all to come together and get outside together. We feel a bit safer when there are more of us and it feels like a weight has been lifted off our shoulders when we can share our similar experiences.
Can you tell us about your most inspiring moment since starting The Adventure Girls Club…
There isn’t just one moment but I am always inspired by how supportive my members are with each other. I often catch a member helping another member into cold water; or staying at the back with someone who might be struggling up a hill; or handing out sweets when everyone is feeling tired.
It makes me feel so grateful for the little group I have created and reminds me of why I started it in the first place.
The outdoors CAN be a super supportive place if we encourage the right people in. It doesn’t always have to be about who is the fastest or who has climbed the most mountains. It’s about experiencing the joys of adventure together as one and I love that.
We are thrilled to announce that Alice has teamed up with ACAI Outdoorwear to offer free Outdoorsing Club events.
Alice is dedicated to “empowering women with the knowledge and confidence to find the freedom of adventure”. Register your interest here for ACAI’s free Outdoorsing Club events and to hear when Alice will next be leading an adventure. And follow her on Instagram @alice.keeg and @theadventuregirlsclub for inspiration.