Home Page
Expert Help

A Scholar In A Slot Canyon

Meet Dr. Lisa Lundgren, An Honorary Backcountry Gearhead

When Lisa Lundgren isn’t exploring the outdoors in Logan, Utah, she’s teaching Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences at Utah State University. Whether she’s hiking, fossil hunting, or skiing, she loves seeing the natural world from a new perspective or a new place. She also enjoys challenging herself and inviting others to join her—one more hill, one more hot lap, one more hill repeat. This season, Lisa is excited to rep the plus-sized community as an Honorary Gearhead—a gear and apparel tester for Backcountry. ”We’re out here,” she says, “our voices need to be added to the conversation!” We sat down to chat with Lisa about favorite gear, wildest slot canyon memories, and how the outdoor industry can be more inclusive.


Our hers loves to explore the outdoors. What makes you different from others we may pass on the trail?


My penchant for wearing multiple bandanas. I’ve tied a bandana around my head to prevent sweat from pouring into my eyes since I hiked some of the AT. I’ve also started wearing one around my neck. Sometimes I’ll dunk it in water to stay cool in the summer or I’ll use it as a handkerchief in the winter when I’m not snot rocketing. Hiking is gross, right? 


When and how did you start hiking/backpacking?


My dad was a big advocate for four-wheeling in Colorado. I remember exploring the outdoors with him all the time, but kind of fell off the hiking backwagon until I went to college in Bozeman, Montana. I lived very close to a great trail and went all the time with my best friend. We really liked being outside and seeing new places, and Bozeman was a great place to do that. 


“My high-class fancy life and my dirtbag hiking life collided and it was ridiculous.”

Tell us about an outdoor accomplishment you’re proud of and why.


Becoming an Honorary Gearhead for Backcountry! I appreciate this experience and getting to field test some clothes and hopefully help make the brand more inclusive. 


You’ve told us that the voices of plus-sized hikers “need to be added to the conversation.” What has been the biggest struggle you’ve faced in terms of representation in the outdoor space? 


I have talked to straight-sized hikers about this, too, so it seems to be an industry-wide issue. The discrepancies that exist in sizing depending on the company are wild. Y’all have conferences, right? Get together and decide on what an XL means. Additionally, I’ve really struggled with finding gear that works for me. While I’m happy that some brands are recognizing that plus-sized people have a need for performance clothes, I want all brands to get in on this. 


How can people, organizations, and places be more inclusive to plus-sized hikers, backpackers, climbers, bikers, etc.?


Bring us into your meetings, have us field test your clothes, include us on ad campaigns, don’t hide our gear in a back corner or in a bunch of hidden menus on your website. Show us that you want our money.  


I love people being encouraging, kind, and friendly on the trail, but I promise you, a fat person will not thank you for asking us “do you have water? Are you okay?” We want to feel like we belong, so treat us like you’d treat anyone else on the trail. 


I have a specific ask for places where there are narrow features—looking at you, slot canyons. It would benefit everyone if there were some sort of physical indication at a trailhead of how narrow a feature is. Think about claustrophobic people—they want to know exactly what they’re getting into, too. Help us make safe choices! 



Tell us about your craziest experience outside.


My two friends and I were hiking Peek-a-boo and Spooky slot canyons in southern Utah and it gets narrow. This was the narrowest slot canyon I’d ever done. A couple in front of us who had done it before said that it was going to get worse up ahead but “a really big dude got through it the last time we were here.” So on we went. 


Fast forward and I am STUCK. The couple tells me to back out slightly and then get on the ground where it’s less narrow. I do so and my ass, of course, gets stuck. So this couple helps pull me through while my two friends push me from the back. Right as they were pulling me through, the guy asks, “So what do you do for work?” and I say, “Uh yeah, I am a professor at a university, Dr. Lisa Lundgren, nice to meet ya.” My high-class fancy life and my dirtbag hiking life collided and it was ridiculous. Made it out of the slots, and dang they were gorgeous, but I’m good on narrow slots from here on out. 


What are your top 3 favorite pieces of gear?


  1. Sea to Summit Comfort Plus XT Insulated Sleeping Pad. Talk about sleeping in comfort. This baby is HUGE, lightweight, and doesn’t crinkle when you toss and turn! I sleep on my face (don’t @ me about wrinkles) or my side and this pad has been primo for keeping me comfortable. 
  2. Osprey Hydraulics Hydration Reservoir. I like the design, the stiff back keeps it from slumping over in my pack and I really like the magnetic clip that keeps it in place on my backpack strap. 
  3. Mystery Ranch Coulee 25 Pack. It’s a men’s pack, but whatever. I really like that there’s a zipper down the front of it so you can open the whole pack up, it’s easy to find what ya need!


Is there an outdoor activity you haven’t tried yet, but want to explore?


A teensy part of me wants to say mountain biking, but the part of me that is sensible says, “No thank you.” So I’ll probably try that out. I really want to get into backcountry skiing. The barrier for entry seems steep (gear, expertise, etc.), but I would love to try it. 


“Bring us into your meetings, have us field test your clothes, include us on ad campaigns, don’t hide our gear in a back corner or in a bunch of hidden menus on your website.”

Any passions outside of the outdoors?


I love to cook! I find the experimentation aspect of cooking to be so fun. You have a general idea of what tastes good and you can endlessly combine things. So awesome!


What was your favorite quarantine activity?


I 100% completed Zelda: Breath of the Wild (yeah, dude, I found every korok). But also: Zoom happy hours. I moved away from friends in Florida pre-pandemic, and honestly, the pandemic was a way for us to reconnect. We still have Zoom happy hours and text daily. 


Who do you want to say “hi” to?


I want to say hey to the excellent folks with whom I went on a body positive backpacking trip this May. Y’all are wonderful and I’m so glad I got the chance to meet everyone: Annaliese, Annie, Ash, Caro, Charlie, Ellen, Lindsay, Shay, and Vanessa—y’all are real ones. 


To my wonderful partner, Andy, who supports me hiking all the time and comes with and is the best Instagram husband in the galaxy. 


Hello to my AT hiking buds, Caity and Danny—we’ll get Paria Canyon soon!


Lastly, hi to the most excellent Corbett family who I think definitely inspired me to adventure more and more. Love you!


What are some organizations in the outdoor space that you would love to show some love to?


Desert Song is incredible. They host backpacking trips, and the guides, Caro and Charlie, are incredible people. Book a trip with them. You’ll hike, you’ll cry, you’ll feel empowered—what’s not to love?