With muddy bootlaces – and mascara – Beca Trebilcock is defying stereotypes one Dartmoor tor at a time.
It began with mud pies in the back garden and biking the lanes around her Cornish home. Beca Trebilcock was encouraged to explore the outdoors as a young girl and, in adulthood, the 33-year-old teacher loves nothing more than lacing up her muddy bootlaces to bag a Dartmoor tor with a view to be savoured over a delicious vegan meal cooked outdoors or spending summers solo backpacking long-distance trails – the South West Coast Path, Coast to Coast, and West Highland Way, to name a few.
But, Beca hasn’t always believed herself to be ‘outdoorsy’. Aged 14, after a ‘damaging’ experience with a teacher at her school’s Duke of Edinburgh open day Beca fell out of love with the outdoors for a decade. It took a four-day trek – in skinny jeans and mascara – while travelling for Beca to realise what she’d been missing. She’s never looked back and now uses her ‘Muddy Bootlaces’ platform to “show people how the outdoors can and should be for everyone” as well as rallying support for the save Dartmoor campaign since the change to wild camping access.
Here, she tells The Great Outdoors about her muddy bootlaces, motivations and her upcoming JOG-LE hike.
When did you first realise your love of the outdoors?
The outdoors was something I had been encouraged to explore from a very young age, making mud pies in the back garden and going on short walks with the family as soon as I could toddle about. As I grew up, I was the classic “tomboy”, climbing rope swings, riding my bike through the countryside, and going on mini adventures until dinner time.
But that changed in my late teens, although I had a passion for the outdoors, I was incredibly feminine looking, living in skirts, wearing makeup, and unfortunately, it was the stereotype of a ‘feminine looking lass’ that made my relationship with the outdoors fall apart. It was DofE sign-up day, the big assembly, the teachers were on stage, 200 of us in the hall listening to the talk – and the teachers then asked if we had any questions. I raised my hand, asking “could we take some makeup with us?” – the response still remains with me today.
The teacher laughed, made some jokes about the weight of carrying makeup, mimicking me lugging a whole beauty bag of makeup around across the stage, and the other students started to laugh too. I was heartbroken. I was an insecure teenager, with poor skin, and makeup was what gave me the confidence to leave the house each day. It was on that day, aged 14, I believed I was not an outdoorsy person, I was ‘too ugly’ to leave the house without my makeup on and therefore shouldn’t do the outdoorsy stuff other people my age could do – my love for the outdoors disappeared.
Please, if you’re an outdoor leader reading this who has judged others for wearing makeup in the outdoors, know that this little bit of face paint has nothing to do with someone’s love, ability or passion for the outdoors, and those opinions can be incredibly damaging.
It wasn’t until I went travelling, aged 23, and hiked for 4 days to Machu Pichu in skinny jeans, followed by a mini skirt, and a nice wand of mascara on my eyes, that I realised what I’d missed out on. The love for the outdoors was still buried deep in my heart, and I realised wearing makeup really didn’t impact your ability to hike – good footwear, water, and possibly some more sensible clothing were the most important factors.
Why did you start sharing the adventure on Instagram and YouTube as Muddy Bootlaces?
I started properly sharing my adventures on Instagram via Muddy Bootlaces about three years ago. It began as a joke, I’d heard about “influencers” and didn’t think these people were any different to every other human on the planet. I drunkenly joked that “anyone could be an influencer” and the dare began, I remember saying “just you wait, I’ll be sponsored by Thermarest and be in a video with Haze Outdoors” a hiking inspiration of mine at the time. Turns out, if you tell me I can’t do something, that early teenage experience has made me prove people otherwise. I’ve been an ambassador for Thermarest for over a year now, and was indeed in a video with Haze Outdoors.
I haven’t taken my Muddy Bootlaces platform to the level of some online figures in this niche, as for me, it’s really become a place of connecting with others, sharing stories, being inspired by others’ adventures, and showing people how the outdoors can be, and should be for everyone. Recently, I’ve been able to use this platform to raise awareness about the issues facing Dartmoor National Park and help raise funds for the DNPA’s appeal.
I know social media gets quite a bad reputation at times, but I really haven’t found this. I’ve made some true friends through there, had some amazing adventures, and it’s awesome to know I have inspired some people too. It’s great to receive messages about kit, routes, or questions from newbies’ starting out! In November, I launched my YouTube Channel too, as an expansion of my adventures, and to show people these hikes, camps and cooks in a little more depth and detail.
What is it specifically about solo backpacking that appeals to you?
Solo backpacking was something that came later into my life. When I was 27 I decided to hike to Everest Base Camp. I would do a lot of my travelling solo, living very cheaply and working along the way. I didn’t have the money for a package tour/group hike to EBC so I bought a £30 Everest National Park permit and a map, rented some warm clothes and hiking kit from a local store, and set off.
It was amazing, I had to be up at 5am each day to beat the other tourists to the teahouses before 3ish to get a bed, but going solo meant I could adapt my route at any point. I hiked to the church of the yeti, Amadablam base camp, and extended my time by walking out of the national park over 3 days, rather than flying back via Lukla. This wasn’t easy, as it was a less marked trail, and I’d naively given my map to someone walking in, thinking I was close enough to the end of my hike, that he needed it more. I got lost at one point, and followed yak poo out, as where there is yak poo, there are humans. Luckily, that theory worked.
This hike ignited my passion for long-distance trails, and when I came back to the UK I decided I wanted to find UK trails like this. I don’t tend to go small, so my first UK solo hike was the South West Coast Path. As I’m a teacher, I am fortunate enough to have the summer holidays off, so have since ticked off the C2C, WHW, SDW and numerous others over the past few years. My next adventure is going to be the JOGLE, hiking the length of the UK from John o Groats to Land’s End, ticking off various UK trails on route. There will still be mascara on my eyes, and when I struggle, it won’t be because I’m a lass who wears makeup.
How did cooking great vegan food become central to your time sleeping under the stars?
As well as hiking, I have a love for bushcraft. It probably goes back to my childhood, building dens and camping in the woods. So when I am not on big hiking adventures, I tend to focus my time outdoors on views and food.
I don’t think much can beat a night under the stars with a good meal, be it cooked on a fire with a fire (responsibly contained), or on a camp stove.
Why was it important to you to support the Save Dartmoor campaign?
As many people will know, this year we lost wild camping on Dartmoor as a “recreational activity” protected by the Dartmoor Commons Act – since the court case in January 2023 that ruled this decision, wild camping access is now “permission only”. To many reading, this may seem a suitable solution as land owners have given permission for people to be there, so what’s the problem? But what many also don’t realise is that within that agreement, we lost 18% of the land we could wild camp on before. This agreement is also only for one year, on a rolling basis, when the media’s eyes were on the landowners and Dartmoor. I’m incredibly concerned that each year we may lose more of this permissible land. Don’t get me wrong, some landowners have been amazingly supportive, but there are also those who seek to capitalise on this.
The DNPA is now paying landowners an undisclosed fee for this permission, and as the contract is a yearly one at the moment, the fee these landowners charge each year could rise. Unfortunately, Dartmoor National Park is incredibly underfunded, and it’s thought they will lose the visitors center this year due to lack of funding, so finding the money to pay these landowners is a huge concern.
Some people may just say “we can stealth anyway”, but what they don’t realise is young people can’t do that with Ten Tors and DofE, the bylaw that once protected their outdoor education is being slowly eroded, and our future generation is losing the ability to connect, learn and experience nature. And what’s equally concerning, is what other “recreational activities” may be seen as non-recreational in the future, could we lose access to wild swimming, rock climbing, horse riding – and how will this impact other national parks views on the recreational activities they allow.
How is your tor bagging going?
Over the past six months, I have been heading up to Dartmoor on various weekends to try and tick off “all the tors”. At present, I’m on 76/160. It’s been an amazing challenge so far, I’ve seen areas of the National Park I wouldn’t have trekked across without this challenge, and it really cements how important access and wild camping rights are, for future generations to also enjoy this land.
What adventures do you have planned for this year?
My next big adventure is the JOG-LE. This would usually be around 900 miles for most people, but I have decided to add in a bunch of national trails on route, making it roughly 1400 miles. I’m planning to wild camp most of it, using campsites occasionally to charge equipment and upload YouTube videos, as I really want to record these adventures for others to copy or adapt in their own way.
Follow Beca’s adventures on Instagram and YouTube @muddy_bootlaces.