HOW IT STARTED
Our co-founders were both freshmen who had decided to attend Montana State University because of the infinite outdoor opportunities. Over bowls of cereal, they began to discuss how ‘Bro’zeman, ‘Man’tana really was living up to its name. The recreation opportunities were amazing, but it seemed that every adventure they went on had a very unequal ratio of males to females.
They kept wondering: Where were the ladies?
In 2015, Kit Kocha and Andie Creel decided to start MSU’s Women’s Outdoor Adventure Club, now known as Backcountry Squatters. The mission was to create a supportive community for outdoorsy women at MSU. The first meeting had over 60 girls show up to create a shared vision. As it turns out, hundreds of ladies at college campuses across the country have been looking for the same thing.
In the years that followed, with the help of Darby Knoll, Kelly Balfanz, multiple exec leaders, countless stoke-builders, Backcountry Squatters MSU organized technical clinics, story sharing events, goofy ‘gaper’ days, backcountry dances, and other events that capture the spirit of the members who embrace our mission.
And as it turns out, hundreds of ladies at college campuses across the country have been looking for the same thing. The community grew to other campuses, so did the need to raise funds for financial aid and provide overall organizational structure, so in 2018 the nonprofit was born.
Today, with the help of multiple chapter executive boards, passionate Board of Directors, and our first Director of Outreach Erin Bolger, Backcountry Squatters has chapters established on each coast and is rapidly expanding throughout the country. Each chapter takes its own unique approach to cultivating a community that encourages its members to participate and lead in the outdoor community and industry.
Backcountry Squatters chapters open the door to outdoor opportunities that women and nonbinary folks have historically been excluded from. We also work to ensure that the door is kept open and widened for other demographics and communities that have been denied the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors, as well.
The nonprofit is run by ‘Squatters alumni who know that this group provides lifelong opportunities and lessons. The nonprofit supports existing chapters and establishes new ones, and also maintains a professional network of women and nonbinary folks that ‘squatters remain a member of following graduation.