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Elisabeth headshotElisabeth Kwak-Hefferan

You might say Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan’s journalism career began in the mid-1990s, when she and a friend launched their own zine-style publication called Wheat Beat (a nod to their Midwestern roots). Unfortunately, few subscribers signed up to support their vision of hand-illustrated CD reviews and zingy middle-school essays, so the publication folded after just two issues.

Undeterred, Kwak-Hefferan picked up some writing skills in college at the University of Pennsylvania, where she played volleyball and wrote a weekly column for the school newspaper (an excellent lesson in thickening one’s skin). She planned to move to Chicago and work for a big-city paper after graduation, but first took a summer internship at Rocky Mountain National Park. There, she was introduced to both the mountain lifestyle and Backpacker magazine. The big-city plans evaporated, she went back to school for a degree in magazine journalism at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, and landed a job at none other than Backpacker.

These days, Kwak-Hefferan is a freelance writer and editor who has produced educational documentaries, served as deputy editor of Outside Business Journal, and hiked everywhere from the boggy páramo of Colombia to the Alaskan tundra and called it work. In her spare time, you’ll find her hiking, paddling, and Nordic skiing her way across the West.


  • Topics of expertise: Public lands, outdoor recreation, climate solutions, sustainability, parenting, travel
  • Years of experience in these topics: 19
  • Favorite topic to write about: Innovative people doing inspiring things for our planet; kid-related outdoor travel
  • Favorite piece of gear you’ve ever tested: The Rab Solar lightweight softshell. I’ve tested many other competing jackets over the dozen years since I got this one, and the Rab is still my go-to for shoulder-season hikes and Nordic skiing.
  • Favorite travel destinations: South America, Canada, the Northwoods, and the Rockies
  • Past applicable professions: Magazine editor

Education and Experience:

  • Education: MS in Magazine Journalism; BA in Communications
  • Certifications:
  • Awards: National Magazine Award finalist
  • Books or other publications: Frommer’s Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks
  • Other place you write for: Outside, 5280, Sierra, National Parks, The New York Times

About the Writer

  • Location (city/state): Missoula, MT
  • Places You’ve Lived or Extensively Traveled: Chicago, Philadelphia, Colorado, Seattle, Montana
  • Preferred Pronouns: She/Her
  • Check out her website at