Book Review: Fat Girls Hiking by Summer Michaud-Skog (And Thoughts About Being Fat in the Wild)

Fat Girls Hiking: An Inclusive Guide to Getting Outdoors at Any Size or Ability  by Summer Michaud-Skog Genre:  Hiking guide, Fat positi...

Fat Girls Hiking: An Inclusive Guide to Getting Outdoors at Any Size or Ability by Summer Michaud-Skog

Genre: Hiking guide, Fat positive, Disability

From the founder of the Fat Girls Hiking community comes an inclusive, inspiring call to the outdoors for people of all body types, sizes, and backgrounds. In a book brimming with heartfelt stories, practical advice, personal profiles of Fat Girls Hiking community members, and helpful trail reviews, Summer Michaud-Skog creates space for marginalized bodies with an insistent conviction that outdoor recreation should welcome everyone. Whether you’re an experienced or aspiring hiker, you’ll be empowered to hit the trails and find yourself in nature. Trails not scales!

Overall rating:  ★★★★★

I’m not sure I can fully articulate how it felt to read Fat Girls Hiking. I’ve shared time and time again that I’m not the biggest fan of nonfiction, though I do read it from time to time. I stumbled across the book on NetGalley, where I regularly peruse the Read Now titles. The title caught my eye and then the cover interested me a bit deeper. I skipped past it a few times because, again, I don’t love nonfiction. But finally I couldn’t take it any longer, and I clicked that READ NOW button.

Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t shy away from the word “fat.” I use it far more than I would’ve anticipated as a chunky 8-year old, or even as a midsize college student that thought I was immensely large compared to all my friends. From wearing double-digit jeans since I was in seventh grade to being told I had a “women’s body” in high school by my best friend’s mom, I always felt uncomfortable with my curves, even when my belly was relatively flat. I was always larger than my friends, both in height and in girth, so even when I was smaller than the “average American woman,” I felt ridiculously large in all the spaces I inhabited.

But over the past five-ish years, I’ve completely shunned diet culture and found a new joy in using the word “fat.” I’ve reclaimed it, if you will, and I use it exactly the way it should be used - as a factual descriptor. It makes people uncomfortable in many spaces, including within my familial unit, but I’m working to try and educate people that fat isn’t a “bad word” and being fat isn’t a bad thing. I’ve gone so far as to actually present on the topic in public spaces. And I’ve been fortunate enough this past year to find new doctors for my many ailments that don’t shame me for my weight. It’s felt good for that to not be a main topic in my doctors visits. 


I’m not ashamed to be fat, but I do recognize that it creates a marginalized space for one of my identities and that others don’t back down from shaming me, either blatantly or in less obvious ways. I also recognize that as a size 18/20, I’m on the smaller side of fatness. I’m more “acceptably fat” than other people who are larger than me. I also have other obvious identities that afford me privileges that sometimes make my fatness “more acceptable.” I try to be cognizant of the good I can do, while also trying to care for myself and how to bring joy to myself.

I’ve enjoyed certain spaces within the outdoors as long as I can remember. I like parks and walking in paved trails, but just since COVID hit have I really been exploring outside areas with natural trails and even invested in hiking boots and a hammock. But the hammock bit was scary (will it hold my weight?? It did!) and finding active clothes that fit well and stay up isn’t an easy feat at affordable prices. I absolutely love Girlfriend Collective (which is sustainable, slow fashion, but not at a price point everyone can afford). 

Reading this book was a gift. It felt like a book I could’ve written myself. I felt seen and understood. It’s part memoir, part guidebook, a collection of profiles, and an intro to the outdoors for folks who feel it’s not a space they belong in.

The author of the book and founder of the Fat Girls Hiking community, Summer Michaud-Skog is self-described as midsize fat, white, and queer, but throughout the book, she makes sure to make note of her privilege and how certain experiences may be/feel less safe, less appropriate, etc for folks of more marginalized identities.

Fat Girls Hiking is full of beautiful pictures, acknowledgment and awareness for the Indigenous peoples of the land we’re residing on and exploring, and stories that prove representation matters. I cried my way through the book and read it all in one day.

This book is meant for fat folks, for queer folks, for folks of color, but it shares a meaningful message that all folks could read. It would maybe give them an awareness of how the outdoors is meant for everyone.

I loved this book so much.

*I received a copy of this book free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are entirely my own.

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