Trail Mavens


Skill-based camping and backpacking trips for groups of extraordinary women. Ready to build fires, read maps, pitch tents, hike, laugh, and drink wine around the campfire? Join one of our weekend adventures.

Introducing Caitlin Kauffman

Name: Caitlin Kauffman
Hometown: Bozeman, Montana
Superpower: A never-ending joke supply*

What's your favorite Trail Mavens lesson to teach?

Packing a backpack. Why?

Because I hate folding clothes, and I love showing folks how to use space efficiently. Yeah, your long johns do fit perfectly into that pot and no, I promise, you’re not going to want 3 shirts for a 2-day trip. I also love teaching the ABC(DEF)s of packing because I don’t remember anything unless it comes with a catchy mnemonic.

How'd you develop your prowess as an outdoorswoman?

Bozeman is a small town surrounded by peaks and rivers and not much else. If you want to stay sane, which folks there do with varying degrees of success, you have to learn to play outside.

I learned how to row a raft before I learned how to drive, and I did so next to my sister and our friends. We were surrounded by strong, fearless women who taught us how to run rivers, ski smart, climb rocks and trees, run trails and most importantly, how to play.

After many backpacking and river trips with friends and family, I took a semester-long course with NOLS, which led to more trips and a deep distaste for backcountry falafel. I eventually started guiding in Wyoming for a river company, and met more kickass women with whom I fought the macho-guiding culture with hard work, honest tears and Whitney Houston.

Prowess comes with practice and practice comes with patience. I attribute any and all skills I have (outdoors and other) to the women who raised me and the women I work and play with.

How do you spend your time when you're not leading Trail Mavens adventures?

Running, swimming, hiking, biking around the East Bay, reading classic novels, playing basketball, soccer, and frisbee, and some mediocre surfing.

I also work at a rape crisis center and do victim advocacy and prevention training on college campuses and around Alameda County.

What's different about leading Trail Mavens trips (in contrast to the guiding you've done in the past)?

You’re not signing up for a canned experience. There’s a real effort to create safe and empowering spaces for women to step into unfamiliar roles and teach each other. That doesn’t just mean outdoor skills - the unfamiliarity can be spending a whole weekend with strangers, sharing a vulnerability that you’ve been afraid to admit, or leading a group of tone-deaf ladies in song.

Whatever you bring to the table is accepted and greedily devoured by the Trail Mavens crew and that gives each trip its own, unique flavor.

Top three places you like to play outdoors:

Spanish Peaks, MT
Lower Salmon River, ID
Emigrant Wilderness, CA

What piece of advice do you have for women before going on their first Trail Mavens trip?

Be bold, start cold! Many ladies like to start hiking with all their layers on, citing chronic cold as an excuse. But I’m here to tell you to shed it!

Expose your skin, experience a little gooseflesh, feel your heart pumping, and all of your senses sharpen. Brave the cold, get moving and your body will do the rest. And if you’re really cold, I’ll challenge you to a dance-off and we’ll all be warm in no time.

What should ladies who are on Trail Mavens trips with you be sure to ask you about?

The time I got very, very lost on a glacier in Nepal…

*A Caitlin Classic: What do you call a boat full of potatoes and penises? A dick-tater-ship.

Want to play outdoors with Caitlin? Join her backpacking in Yosemite this Labor Day weekend!