A Curly Haired Adventurer’s Guide to the Outdoors

Curly hair aint easy! I love my mixed Quisqueyana (Dominican) and Boriqueña (Puerto Rican) heritage but that doesn’t mean my curls always agree with me.  Photo by Cornell Watson

Curly hair aint easy! I love my mixed Quisqueyana (Dominican) and Boriqueña (Puerto Rican) heritage but that doesn’t mean my curls always agree with me. Photo by Cornell Watson

I love my hair because it’s a reflection of my soul. It’s dense, it’s kinky, it’s soft, it’s textured, it’s difficult, it’s easy and it’s fun. That’s why I love my hair.
— Tracee Ellis Ross

Curly hair ain’t easy

Being outside can be a struggle when you are a curly-haired adventurer. You see, for some of us, getting our hair wet means accepting that it won’t dry the same way it was before. For some of us, heat, moisture, and humidity can do unspeakable things to our hair on the scale of a caught-in-the-rain-after-an-expensive-blowout-stick-a-fork-in-a-toaster struggle bus. It doesn’t mean we don’t love our natural hair. It does mean our natural hair is sometimes throwing shade back at us.

If I were to tell you that I don’t care about how I look on a backcountry hike, at the local crag or at the drop-zone, I’d be lying. I do care! Hair is such a huge thing in the Dominican community and I take pride in looking cute and presentable. Unfortunately, my curls do not always agree with me when I am outside. This can be anxiety inducing, especially when I am doing my best to make my natural hair work. It also doesn’t help that curly haired BIPOC womxn aren’t well represented in outdoor publications and magazines. So after years of struggling, learning and experimenting, I am excited to share with you a collection of lived experiences of badass, adventurous curly haired womxn and non binary folks.

If you want to know what your curl type is check out the diagram below courtesy of glamour.com.

Photo courtesy of Glamour Magazine

Photo courtesy of Glamour Magazine

Contributors

Brittany Leavitt: Climber, Hiker, Backpacker, Brown Girls Climb Regional Director, Outdoor Afro Leader, REI Instructor

Sam Ortiz: Rock Climber, Hiker, Alpine Mountaineer, Pierce County Explorer Search & Rescue (Washington), PNW Outdoor Women Ambassador

Brooklyn Bell: Artist, Mountain Biker, and Skier

Heidy Khlaaf: Climber and International Traveler

Bethany Lebewitz: Climber, Brown Girls Climb Founder

Summer Winston: Climber, The Brown Ascenders Founder

Favia Dubyk: Climber, Melanin Base Camp Blogger, Access Fund Member

Mabell Jones: Skydiver, Yogi, Outdoor Enthusiast, Team Blackstar Skydiver

Nadia Mercado: Climber, Backpacker, Melanin Base Camp Blogger, Team Blackstar Skydiver, Osprey Packs Ambassador


Hair Care Recommendations


Brittany Leavitt wears many hats (and helmets) as an Outdoor Afro leader, REI instructor and a Brown Girls Climb Regional Director.  Photo courtesy of Nadia Mercado

Brittany Leavitt wears many hats (and helmets) as an Outdoor Afro leader, REI instructor and a Brown Girls Climb Regional Director. Photo courtesy of Nadia Mercado

Brittany Leavitt

Pronouns: She/Her

Curl Type: 4b/4c

Sport: Climbing, Backpacking

Ethnicity: African American  

How do you style your hair for a day outside?

As a black woman I take pride in my hair. For me that means learning how to manage it without over manipulation (e.g.- combs, twisting, or heat). I have learned different tips and life hacks from experience. I used to have a relaxer (Editor’s Note: chemically straightened hair). Having a relaxer was an easy way to manage my hair, but, I learned over time that it wasn’t for me. I gradually learned how to manage my hair through natural styles. During the winter and summer months I tend to twist my hair up with bobby pins and or bandanas. That style is helpful if I want to wear hats or a helmet. During the Spring and Fall, I like to let the fro hang loose. I tend to cut it often, also, so it never really gets too big.

Is this any different from how you normally style your hair for extended periods of time outside?

It really depends. For longer trips I like to find a style where I don’t have to carry too much product and or have to really mess with it. Normally I will go with a braided updo or cornrows. I prefer styles where I don’t have to carry any product or tools other than a small spray bottle of Almond Oil with me.

Are there any other styles you prefer when spending a lot of time in the outdoors?

I have recently started getting box braids to switch up my protective style. I only leave them in for about eight weeks. It cuts my hair prep time down from 20 mins to about 10 in the morning. On the weekend as an instructor, I am normally up by 4 am and trying to head out the door fast. Box braids simplify my early morning routine. All I have to do is spray them and add a side braid. As much as I can pull off rugged, I also like to look a little stylish for myself.

What are some unique challenges that come from having naturally curly hair while living an active outdoor lifestyle?

The Mid-Atlantic weather does not favor curly hair at all—especially during the summer. Making sure that my hair is moisturized is key. I have learned from wearing hats that cotton material can also dry out my hair. I know that there are a few companies that make hats or beanies with satin linings.

Photo courtesy of Chaya Harris

Photo courtesy of Chaya Harris

How do you typically style your hair underneath a helmet?

Well, normally I will wear it out and tuck in my hairs on the side. Or I will twist the front and place bobby pins in it. That way when I take it off it doesn't look like a matted mess. For climbing, I have a Petzel Elia that is super with an adjustable side that can accommodate whatever style I am wearing.

What are your favorite hair products? Do you take any of those products with you on multi-day outdoor trips?

Some of my favorite products that I use are called oyin handmade which is a Baltimore based hair product.  They now sell their stuff in Target and Whole FOODS. All of the products are made with natural products like honey, avocados, coconut.

Top 4 products:

Oyin Burnt Butter Pomade

Oyin Boing!

Oyin Honey Hemp Shampoo and Conditioner

Oyin Oh My Glide- Prestyler Detangler.

https://oyinhandmade.com/

What advice would you give to fellow curly-haired adventurers?

Figure out which products your hair loves.

Make sure to let you curls breathe for a bit.

Braids and bandanas are your best friend.

If you sleep with a hair wrap, check out hassle free alternatives like a silk pillowcase. There are also great hair accessories like the Cantu Headband that will stay snug on your head.


Sam Ortiz is a climber, hiker, backpacker and mountaineer. She also enjoys modeling for outdoor companies which are committed to size inclusivity.  Photo courtesy of Liz Weber

Sam Ortiz is a climber, hiker, backpacker and mountaineer. She also enjoys modeling for outdoor companies which are committed to size inclusivity. Photo courtesy of Liz Weber

Sam Ortiz

Pronouns: She/Her

Sport: Rock climbing, hiking, alpine mountaineering, scrambling, backpacking, modeling for outdoor brands

Ethnicity: Latinx, Mexican

Outdoor Organizations/ Memberships: Pierce County Explorer Search & Rescue (Washington), the Mountaineers, PNW Outdoor Women Ambassador

Curl Type: 2c/3a

How do you style your hair for a day outside?

For a single day outside I wear my long hair as I do normally, loose and styled without heat

Is this any different from how you normally style your hair for extended periods of time outside?

Extended periods of time outside require a different sort of maintenance for my hair. My hair tangles really, really easily, especially in a sleeping bag. I also walk a fine line when brushing my hair. Brushing it without getting it wet right after breaks up the curls and causes it to tangle and matte more easily. Not brushing my hair enough also results in matting.

On a multi-day trip, I will leave my hair down for the first two days, but I will also bring a brush for after the first night. Brushing my hair out can take more than an hour. Once it’s brushed, I braid my hair in order to keep it from tangling further. Alternatively, I try to find a water source to dip my head into in order to regain my natural curl pattern. Water sources may vary: sometimes I’ll use a washroom sink, and sometimes I’ll dip my head in a cold stream.

Are there any other styles you prefer when spending a lot of time in the outdoors?

Braids are pretty much my only option for switching up my hairstyle. Because of the texture of my hair, it eventually works it’s way out of a bun or ponytail. It’s also hard to find clips that can hold the sheer volume of hair that I have. I never straighten my hair so if I’m not wearing loose curls, my hair is braided.

Undated photo of Sam Ortiz courtesy of Liz Weber

Undated photo of Sam Ortiz courtesy of Liz Weber

What are some unique challenges that come from having naturally curly hair while living an active outdoor lifestyle?

My hair plays a much bigger role in my life than most other people I know. It is constantly blowing in my face, yet doesn’t stay put in ponytails. I have to adjust my hair regularly, often using a hand to keep it out of my face or to keep it from tangling in the wind. My hair tangles or mattes easily. I don’t wear hoods very often because they cause my hair to tangle more. My head + hair won’t fit in most hats. 

How do you typically style your hair under a helmet?

Mostly in two braids, one on each side.

What are your favorite hair products? Do you take any of those products with you on multi-day outdoor trips?

I don’t use any product in my hair aside from shampoo and conditioner when showering.

What advice would you give to fellow curly-haired adventurers?

Embrace the beauty! It’s worth the hassle!


Brooklyn is a mountain biker, skier and artist living in the Pacific Northwest.  Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Bell

Brooklyn is a mountain biker, skier and artist living in the Pacific Northwest. Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Bell

Brooklyn Bell

Pronouns: She/Her

Sport: Mountain Biking and Skiing

Sponsors: Kona Ambassador and Patagonia gear tester.

Ethnicity: Mixed (Black, Puerto Rican, White)

Curl Type: Suppa Fine 4a

How do you style your hair for a day outside?

When I was a loose natural I would wear my hair in low buns, two cornrows or twists. I’d rarely wear my hair down. Now that I have locs, I wear my hair down or tie the front back to keep it out of my face. When I am skiing, I tuck my hair into my buff when the weather is gnarly but sometimes I let a couple strands in the front loose. When my hair was loose my hair would never do what I wanted and I eventually became not so concerned with it. I love my locs now because they are low maintenance and they look consistent no matter what I am doing. One thing that I miss about being loose was the ability to hide my hair and be conservative in that sense.

Is this any different from how you normally style your hair for extended periods of time outside?

Not really, when I was a loose natural I’d wear my hair in two cornrows for long trips.

What are some unique challenges that come from having naturally curly hair while living an active outdoor lifestyle?

When I was younger, I was really self conscious about my hair. I grew up in a mostly white area and during high school I never felt like my hair was seen as beautiful. I eventually learned how to do my own hair through watching tutorials on YouTube. When I got into mountain biking and skiing, hair mattered less and less. I gradually grew to realize that hair was just hair. But I never felt that my hair was something that was seen or celebrated within ski or mountain biking culture.

We are seeing so much more representation of hair in media and I am so thrilled. But I think even with broader representation of loose naturals and loc’d women in the media, black women still have too much pressure to be perfect. To have our edges laid. To be everything all the time.

Selfie.  Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Bell

Selfie. Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Bell

As far as being outside, this last season was a really cold ski season I had some locs break off because of dryness. When I first got my locs I was concerned that they would trap dirt in them when I went mountain biking. But I go out on really mucky, muddy days and the dirt/grime washes right out. Hair is hair lol. I do have a softshell jacket (Patagonia Dirt Roamer) that goes over my bike helmet when I ride and that helps keep my hair clean. I was also concerned that my hair would be hot for riding but unless it’s 90 degrees, I’m usually fine.

How do you typically style your hair underneath a helmet?

Two low buns with my bike helmet and braids for skiing. With my locs, for mountain biking I just let my hair hang loose. Also, I will say that on commercial photo shoots, I have been asked to wear hats more often than not. I have done more wintery shoots so that could be why.

What are your favorite hair products? Do you take any of those products with you on multi-day outdoor trips?

  • SheaMoisture 100% Virgin Coconut Oil

  • Rose water with glycerin

  • Pantene Pro-V Relaxed and Natural For Women of Color Dry to Moisturized Shampoo

  • Vinegar and Baking soda - this one is a must for combating build up. I always pack this one for big trips.

  • Olive Oil Eco Styler Gel

Also when I leave for a big trip or event I usually try and give my hair a good cleaning and also re-twist the roots. And I do lay my edges every once and a while because it looks good and feels good :)


Portrait of Dr. Heidy Khlaaf, a climber and computer scientist living in London.  Photo courtesy of Ziyad Soobhan

Portrait of Dr. Heidy Khlaaf, a climber and computer scientist living in London. Photo courtesy of Ziyad Soobhan

Heidy Khlaaf

Pronouns: She/Her

Curl Type: 3b

Sport: Climbing (bouldering)

Ethnicity: Egyptian

How do you style your hair for a day outside?

It's either down, or in a pineapple (Google it!).

Is this any different from how you normally style your hair for extended periods of time outside?

If I'm outside for extended periods of time (assuming with no bathing facilities), I follow a routine of hair down on day one, pineapple on day two, and side braid for the remaining days until I have access to a shower.

Are there any other styles you prefer when spending a lot of time in the outdoors?

My genetics gave me no choice BUT curls! I'm very opposed to applying heat to my hair, as it wouldn't last more than a day anyhow.

What are some unique challenges that come from having naturally curly hair while living an active outdoor lifestyle?

Climbing areas are ideally cold, dry, and windy, all things damaging to 3B curls, which require a lot of care and moisture (e.g. - deep conditioning and oiling twice a week). When you're outdoors, there's no time for routines like that! So your hair can become tangled and dry very quickly. Additionally, climbing is a physical activity, and your hair certainly won't hold up to a day of trying hard and falling. You can't just chuck your hair in a ponytail either, as you would with straight hair, because that certainly won't stop the knots. Without a shower to detangle your hair (NEVER detangle curly hair when dry), it slowly becomes one giant dread over time. It must be nice just to be able to brush your hair in less than a minute and get on with it! Not to mention that when I'm able to finally wash my hair, my routine takes a whole hour. That's a lot of time.

How do you typically style your hair underneath a helmet?

Definitely a side braid, I don't think my hair can fit in a helmet any other way (I have so much!)

Dr. Khlaaf’s routine is to wear her hair loose on day one, in a pineapple on day two and in a side braid on day three until she can shower, detangle, condition and repeat!  Photo courtesy of Ziyad Soobhan

Dr. Khlaaf’s routine is to wear her hair loose on day one, in a pineapple on day two and in a side braid on day three until she can shower, detangle, condition and repeat! Photo courtesy of Ziyad Soobhan

What are your favorite hair products? Do you take any of those products with you on multi-day outdoor trips?

I'm definitely a huge fan of SheaMoisture and DevaCurl. I use a SheaMoisture sulfate-free shampoo, and DevaCurl conditioner, leave-in, and gel. I absolutely pack all of them, with the amount depending on how long I am traveling for. I unfortunately never bring any oils or deep conditioners, as there would be no space or time for their use. I'm not a fan of camping, so when traveling or climbing for an extended period of time, I usually stay in an accommodation and bring my hair diffuser as well.

What advice would you give to fellow curly-haired adventurers?

Keep rocking that hair, it's worth it! And a pineapple is your best friend, but a braid is really your best option (Editor’s Note: protective style) if you want to prevent your hair from getting damaged.


Bethany is a climber and the CEO of  Brown Girls Climb .  Photo courtesy of Bethany Lebewitz

Bethany is a climber and the CEO of Brown Girls Climb. Photo courtesy of Bethany Lebewitz

Bethany Lebewitz

Pronouns: She/Her

Curl Type: 3b

Sport: Rock Climbing/Cycling/Running/Swimming

Ethnicity: Mexicana

How do you style your hair for a day outside?

It depends on what I'm doing but typically I'll treat it with Jojoba and a few drops of Rosemary oil. If I'm biking or running, braids are pretty much my go-to. While bouldering, sometimes I'll leave it out (it psyches me up to have my hair big when I'm crushin). On sport or trad climbs, I've got to keep it tight to avoid any mishaps with the belay device, so braids, braid, braids!

Is this any different from how you normally style your hair for extended periods of time outside?

Well, yes and no; I braid my hair if I'm camping and bring my oils.

Do you try any other (non-curly) styles while spending time in nature?

On occasion, I'll straighten it or comb it out more so I can control it a bit more. I have mixed feelings about straightening (for me personally) but it can be pretty convenient for extended periods of time.

What are some unique challenges that come from having naturally curly hair while living an active outdoor lifestyle?

Bethany Lebewitz is the founder of Brown Girls Climb, a company that provides valuable representation for BIPOC womxn and non-binary climbers.  Photo courtesy of Gisella Rodriguez

Bethany Lebewitz is the founder of Brown Girls Climb, a company that provides valuable representation for BIPOC womxn and non-binary climbers. Photo courtesy of Gisella Rodriguez

Shoot, everyone has their own hair challenges for sure. I think mine are keeping my hair hydrated and happy. Between the wind, sun, and water, there is a potential for damage. Plus, curly hair hates to be pulled, so constantly having it back can be stressful. I feel the dull pain in my scalp, plus the curls have their own agenda, so even if I pull it back, there are always some stray loose curls blocking my vision during climbing—it's hella frustrating. Don't get me started on swimming, that's a whole protocol (Thank you YouTube).

How do you typically style your hair underneath a helmet?

Braids. If it's a casual bike ride, I can wear it down. My curls aren't as tight as others so they tend to flatten down enough for me. Don't expect much after that though. Like most curls, they look super wonky afterwards.

What are your favorite hair products? Do you take any of those products with you on multi-day outdoor trips?

Jojoba and Rosemary oiI, although it spills a lot at altitude. I'm excited to see other people's answers on this one. I buy the extra large versions even though they're more expensive and rebottle them to smaller containers. I use less and they last longer. I've recently tried R&B by Lush and I like it for special occasions. It's expensive so I may not buy another one. Also, I recently heard that folks are trying Aztec Clay to treat their hair. I use this for my face already so I'm stoked to try it for my curls.

Do you have any advice for fellow curly-haired adventurers?

Every curl is different. I'm biracial (half white) and the only one in my family that has curls so I just figured it out as a 30-year-old. Be patient and be kind to yourself as you learn what works for you. Lean on your curly-haired sisters because other people don't understand and it can be frustrating. Hair care is self-care so use the time on or off the crag to take a moment and remember you are beautiful and your curls are just as much a reflection of the earth as the green leaves sprouting out for spring!


Selfie by Summer WInston

Selfie by Summer WInston

Summer Winston

Pronouns: They/Them

Sport: Rock climbing

Ethnicity: Mixed race (Black and Filipinx)

Outdoor Organizations/ Memberships: Founder of The Brown Ascenders 

Curl Type: 4c

How do you style your hair for a day outside?

Honestly, my days outside are the days I get to be the most carefree when it comes to my hair. I spent 16 years with locs down the middle of my back. Then I cut them and freed myself in a lot of ways. For most day-trips, I make sure my hair is moisturized with one of my oils of choice (almond, sunflower, or castor oil) then throw on a hat or a beanie. 

Is this any different from how you normally style your hair for extended periods of time outside?

Definitely! For longer trips, I like to get my hair braided or do double strand twist. It makes it much easier to manage. 

Summer Winston is the founder of The Brown Ascenders, an affinity group that promotes climbing amongst BIPOC.  Photo courtesy of Stefanie Wilson

Summer Winston is the founder of The Brown Ascenders, an affinity group that promotes climbing amongst BIPOC. Photo courtesy of Stefanie Wilson

Are there any other styles you prefer when spending a lot of time in the outdoors?

Other than double strand twist or getting my hair braided, I also rock bantu knots from time to time and a top puff ponytail. 

What are some unique challenges that come from having naturally curly hair while living an active outdoor lifestyle?

On long trips, I worry, maybe too much, about tangles. If I wear a hat or beanie for too long they suck the moisture away, if I don't wear a hat, my hair snags on trees and other things. It's hard to find balance at times and sometimes the answer to say forget about it and deal with the aftermath when I get home.  
How do you typically style your hair underneath a helmet?

I usually have a puff of hair sticking out the front and my little ducktail hanging out the back.

What are your favorite hair products? Do you take any of those products with you on multi-day outdoor trips?

I feel like I am in a forever cycle of trying to find the "right" product. I haven't found it yet. Currently, I'm using Kinky Curly but like a lot of the products out there, it flakes. For trips, I pack oils and leave the rest at home. 

Do you have any advice for fellow curly-haired adventurers?

I am still new to learning my hair in it's natural state. Sure I had locs for 16 years, but that is a very different regimen. I wish I had advice but I'm in more of the still learning phase. 


Dr. Favia Dubyk enjoys bouldering with her crag dog Hans.  Photo courtesy of Favia Dubyk

Dr. Favia Dubyk enjoys bouldering with her crag dog Hans. Photo courtesy of Favia Dubyk

Favia Dubyk

Pronouns: She/Her

Curl Type: 3c

Sport: Rock climbing

Ethnicity: African-American

How do you style your hair for a day outside?

I have no time to do my hair during the work week, so Saturday is wash day, even if I'm climbing outside that day. I wash and deep condition my hair in addition to adding a leave-in conditioner.  Then I put in a ponytail and hit the road! I've tried wearing my hair down while outside, but my hair makes it difficult to see the holds.

Is this any different from how you normally style your hair for extended periods of time outside?

For a weekend outside, I'll still wash it before I leave for the weekend. Then it’s a ponytail for the rest of the weekend.

Are there any other styles you prefer when spending a lot of time in the outdoors?

Bouldering self-portrait courtesy of Dr. Favia Dubyk

Bouldering self-portrait courtesy of Dr. Favia Dubyk

 Natural curls all the way!

What are some unique challenges that come from having naturally curly hair while living an active outdoor lifestyle?

I sometimes find twigs and leaves in my hair, even days after having been outside.

How do you typically style your hair underneath a helmet?

I take my hair out of the ponytail and put it down to fit the helmet on my head. I have to wear pretty big helmets to fit all my hair underneath the helmet.

What are your favorite hair products? Do you take any of those products with you on multi-day outdoor trips?

I like Elucence Moisture Balancing Conditioner as a leave-in and also Carol Daughter's hair milk and monoi conditioning line. When I'm traveling, I pack my conditioners and leave-in conditioners in 3 oz bottles.

Do you have any advice for fellow curly-haired adventurers?

Find a moisturizing product that you can rub into your hair dry.  Avoiding dry hair is important!


Photo courtesy of Raymond Adams

Photo courtesy of Raymond Adams

Mabell Indhira Jones

Pronouns: She/Her
Sport: Skydiving 
Ethnicity: Dominican
Curl Type: 3b-ish curls

How do you style your hair for a day outside? 
I pretty much style it the same as I do any other day. Then I throw it in a top knot once the party gets started. Note: I’m that friend that’s always asking for a scrunchie and rarely gives them back.

Is this any different from how you normally style your hair for extended periods of time outside?
I like to make sure it’s freshly washed and conditioned—mostly, just detangled and moisturized so I don’t have to fuss with it too much while outdoors.

Are there any other styles you prefer when spending a lot of time in the outdoors?
I’ve gone skydiving and flown in an indoor wind tunnel after straightening my hair. Let’s just say my curls have never disrespected me the way a blow out has—120mph winds leave my straightened hair as frizzy and poofy as ever. I keep it curly for the win!

What are some unique challenges that come from having naturally curly hair while living an active outdoor lifestyle?
It’s hard to keep the frizz in check without having access to water and hair products for sure. But that’s the beauty of nature, it doesn’t mind a little poof.

How do you typically style your hair underneath a helmet?
I actually ordered my helmet one size up to leave room for my hair. Normally, I put my hair in a flat bun, then I contain it all with a hair sock before putting on my helmet. This keeps my curls looking soft and bouncy when I remove my helmet.

What are your favorite hair products? Do you take any of those products with you on multi-day outdoor trips?

Self-portrait by Mabell Jones

Self-portrait by Mabell Jones

My favorite products right now are from DevaCurl and Gardiner Whole Blends. I enjoy trying different products, so I don’t mind changing it up. I always bring my products with me on trips but I’m also not afraid to leave them behind as long as I have my detangling comb. 

Do you have any advice for fellow curly-haired adventurers?
Trust your curls, they will never fail you. My curls are a reminder of my roots and where I came from. My curls are more then just follicles of hair in my head. I’ve grown to love my curly crown, it’s one of the personal features that I identify most with. My curls represent my authentic and  free self.


For extended travel, Nadia Mercado enjoys protective styles like box braids.  Photo courtesy of Anahi Naranjo

For extended travel, Nadia Mercado enjoys protective styles like box braids. Photo courtesy of Anahi Naranjo

Nadia Mercado

Pronouns: She/Her

Curl Type: 2c/3a

Sport: Skydiving, Rock Climbing, Running, Backpacking

Ethnicity: Quisqueyana y Borinqueña

How do you style your hair for a day outside?

I usually either do braids, wear my curls loose, or go for a messy bun.

Is this any different from how you normally style your hair for extended periods of time outside?

If I am outdoors for a weekend, I’ll curl my hair the night before. During the weekend I alternate between wearing my hair loose, styling it in a messy bun, or wearing a loose ponytail. I generally carry a small travel sized bottle of gel or coconut oil to help tame my hair in the backcountry and control my edges. I’d say for the most part my curls stay preserved for a short 2-3 day trip.

If I am preparing for a weeklong trip, that’s a little different. My curls generally don’t last a full week before they dry out and loose their shape. For extended trips I like to start off with two braids. I’ll wear them for the first couple of days along with different hats and headbands. For the final 3-4 days I unbraid my hair and wear it loose and wavy for the remainder of the trip. If I have access to bathrooms and showers, sometimes I’ll wash my hair and re-braid it again, but personally, I’d rather avoid it.

Are there any other styles you prefer when spending a lot of time in the outdoors?

If I have extra time and income, I’ll pay to get box braids done before a long trip, I like to do this especially when I am on vacation and traveling. Larger box braids that do not have rubber bands at the base are a style that doesn’t damage your curls or cause too much breakage as long. I generally don’t keep them in for more than three weeks.

What are some unique challenges that come from having naturally curly hair while living an active outdoor lifestyle?

Frizz! Usually after a day of sweat, wind and sun, my curls are frizzy and shapeless. I really have to get creative on how to style my hair so that I can continue to look good and feel good while I am outside.

Something that is really challenging with having curly hair is that once my hair gets wet I can kiss my style goodbye. The only time you’ll see a curly-haired adventurer make an carefree, last minute decision to deep water solo, cliff jump or swim in an alpine lake is in a car commercial. That is just not our reality. Curly hair shrinks as it dries. Facts. As a curly girl, a decision to get my hair wet means I have to pack leave-in conditioner to help detangle it before styling it into a bun or braids. So it can be kind of discouraging and difficult sometimes. That’s a huge reason why I like to wear braids—because I can wet my hair and not worry about tangles or frizz.

Covering her hair with a buff underneath her skydiving helmet helps protect her curls from 120mph winds.  Photo courtesy of Elliot Byrd

Covering her hair with a buff underneath her skydiving helmet helps protect her curls from 120mph winds. Photo courtesy of Elliot Byrd

How do you typically style your hair underneath a helmet?

If you are a curly girl that wears a helmet, get a buff! Those things will literally save your hair! Whenever I spend a day skydiving, I wear my buff around my neck. When it’s time for me to put my helmet on, I stuff my curls in the buff, twist the bottom so that my hair doesn’t come out, and stuff it into my helmet. Surprisingly, since I’m not using a hair tie or putting my hair in a bun, my curls stay pretty preserved with the buff. I definitely recommend this method to everyone.

What are your favorite hair products? Do you take any of those products with you on multi-day outdoor trips?

Currently all of my products are Ouidad products except for my coconut oil. I wash with Ouidad Vita Curl, Clear + Gentle pH Balanced Shampoo and Conditioner. Then I deep condition once a week with Ouidad Ultra Nourishing Intense Hydration Mask mixed with grapeseed oil and avocado oil (I learned this from my hair stylist at Ouidad’s Flagship Salon in Fort Lauderdale, Florida).

For styling, I use Ouidad Whipped Curls Daily Conditioner and Styling Primer as a deep conditioner, Ouidad Climate Control Gel-Stronger Hold, and—once my curls are gelled up, I diffuse with a basic hair diffuser and hair dryer. Since I have 3a/3c curls and they have a tendency to lose shape with sweat and wind, I finish off my styling with Ouidad Finishing Mist, Setting and Holding Spray. Whenever I want to add moisture and shine to my curls I spray Ouidad Mongogo Oil Multi-Use Curl Treatment on them. For day 2 or 3 hair when I am trying to rehydrate it, I use Ouidad Advanced Climate Control, Restore + Revive Bi-Phase Spray.

When I am outdoors for multiple days at a time, I bring tiny travel sized versions of my gel, setting spray, and Bi-Phase Spray and just carry it in my pack along with my toothpaste and biodegradable soap.

Do you have any advice for fellow curly-haired adventurers?

Your hair is beautiful! Be proud of it! Often, when I scroll through Instagram or flip through magazines, I mostly see women with straight or wavy hair worn loose and flowing in the wind or up in a pretty ponytail. That isn’t us, but that’s okay! It’s okay to be different or have hair that is unique to you. Our hair is beautiful, our curls are dope AF!—frizz, tangles and all.

Submissions were edited for clarity and brevity