A camper adjusts their gear on a touring bicycle next to a tent with the shadow of another bike on it in an open field at sunset, with distant mountains and a cloudy sky in the background.

This article by Laura Killingbeck is definitely worth reading in its entirety. Not only is it extremely well-written, it gives a real-world example to a hypothetical internet discussion. Killingbeck is a long-term ‘bikepacker’ and therefore the “man or bear” question is one she grapples with on a regular basis.

The central reason why fewer women travel alone is our fear of male violence and sexual assault. Actually, the most common question I get about my travels is some version of, “Aren’t you afraid to bike/hike/travel alone as a woman?” By naming my gender, the implication is clear. What people really mean is, “Aren’t you afraid of men?”

This leads us straight back to the original conversation about “Man or Bear,” which has nothing to do with bears. (Sorry, bears!) “Would you rather be stuck in a forest with a man or a bear?” is just another way of asking, “Are you afraid of men?” It’s the same question I’ve been fielding for the entirety of my life as a solo female traveler. It’s the same question that hovers over women all the time as we move through the world.

And it’s a question that’s always been difficult for me to answer. I’m not afraid of all men. But I am afraid of some men. The real problem is the gray area in between and what it takes to manage the murkiness of that unknown.

Source: Bikepacking