Stargazing, trail runs, and stories around the campfire with family and friends are Erin’s definition of joy. She strives to make the outdoors more accessible to all and is devoted to helping others in the LGBTQ+ community find their joy in nature.
A: I can be rough on my stuff… Part of it's because I'm a little clumsy and part of it's because I travel in my camper van for half of each year so my gear gets some heavy use. I love that my Coleman gear is tough enough to take a bunch of bumps and drops and still keeps truckin'. It's not only durable, it's reliable, too. Plus, I love that Coleman is focused on helping to build a more inclusive outdoor community.
Q: Why the Coleman Collective?
A: I genuinely love Coleman products and the brand is aligned with my values of working towards a more inclusive outdoors. It feels like a natural fit where I feel valued as a person and where I get to be me just as I am.
Q: What organization or cause do you support?
A: My wife and I contribute our photography and writing skills to dapperQ's travel section where we share about LGBTQ-friendly businesses in cities around the country. We also support the Campaign for Southern Equality which is a nonprofit that is working to build a South where LGBTQ people are equal in every part of life.
Q: How would you describe your community?
A: It includes everyone who has a love for the outdoors and is interested in making those spaces more accessible, safe, and inclusive. It includes people who are working towards environmental justice and who are invested in helping to break down barriers to accessing outdoor experiences.
Q: What roadblocks, if any, do you see for encouraging others to get outdoors?
A: Lots. For starters, a lack of representation. It matters. Seeing people who look like you in outdoor spaces as well as in the media has a big impact on whether or not people feel comfortable, safe, or welcome in those places. Elitist ideas about gear is another roadblock—the idea that in order to go camping or be seen as outdoorsy you have to have all of the latest and best gear (which often means the priciest). In most instances, it's just not true. Unless you're participating in an extreme expedition, in most cases you can get away with used gear, borrowed gear, and entry-level gear. Gatekeeping and racism is another roadblock. Being harassed or having your presence questioned, not to mention receiving unsolicited advice while outdoors, is more than a roadblock, it's a legitimate safety concern.
Q: Where's your favorite place in the world? Why?
A: Anywhere outdoors with my wife, Caroline. The why is easy: she's my favorite person on the planet and when we're together, it's exactly where I want to be.
Q: What's typically in your cooler?
A: Cold, local IPAs, heavy whipping cream for coffee, cheese, and leftovers!
Q: What’s your favorite story to tell about your time in the outdoors?
A: I tried overnight camping as a Brownie five or six times but I never could make it through the night. My parents had to come pick me up each time. I'd get homesick and start crying while everyone around me was roasting marshmallows and laughing. It was really embarrassing and I felt like a total failure. Looking back, I loved that I tried several times to do something that was so uncomfortable for me but I also see a scared kid who really did not think that going camping in the woods by herself without her parents was terrifying. Much of the fear was adoption-related but I couldn't see that at the time. I needed extra time to gain self-confidence, not just in the outdoors, but in life in general. If you'd have asked me back then if I thought I'd ever be doing what I'm doing now, which is spending almost all of my free time outdoors, the answer would be a hard “No!” But I came back around to finding a connection with the outdoors after several failed attempts and I'll probably never stop. We grow up, we grow into ourselves, we grow out of things that no longer serve us.
Q: What's your passion project for the year?
A: I'm excited to continue sharing about my and Caroline’s queer travel experiences for the online publication dapperQ. We've been writing and taking photos for them since 2017 and while we don't get paid, this is the kind of meaningful heart work that gives me purpose. Our online guides are used by travelers who may have never been to a certain place before but who can take a quick glance at our recommended spots and get a good overview of where they'll be welcome and safe.
Q: How would you reimagine a better tomorrow?
A: One in which we're no longer in a climate crisis, where the Earth and all its people are thriving, not merely fighting to survive. One in which we stop handing down problems and trauma and crisis to the next generation. One where access to all kinds of resources are available to everyone. One in which we all get the time to reset and find some peace. One in which queer people and people of color can live without fear.