No cell phone. No GPS. No worries. It’s just you, a good friend, and some old-fashioned paper maps against the American West. It’s the Rebelle Rally.
The Rebelle Rally is the country’s first women-only rally raid and it’s happening next month. This off-road competition takes drivers through some of the most breathtaking scenery in the country, from challenging rocky terrain to wide-open desert landscapes.
It’s an exhilarating competition, but it’s not all about speed. Above all, the Rebelle Rally is a test of pace, precision, and pure navigational skills—and it’s happening soon.
Here’s everything you need to know so you can follow along with this year’s event.
The event’s name is a fusion of the words “rebel” and “belle.” That’s fitting, considering it’s a magnet for badass female drivers from all over the country.
The Rebelle Rally is a women-only rally raid, or long-distance off-road race that occurs over the course of eight days. Participants drive for 10-12 hours per day, covering up to 200 miles in a single stretch.
This particular rally takes place each fall in the Western United States. True to the rally raid nature, organizers don’t reveal the exact route until the morning of each stage. But according to the Rebelle Rally website, the raid takes competitors through “stunning dirt roads, double tracks, trails, and sand dunes of the vast American West.”
So we don’t have details on where exactly this year’s raid will take place. But we can guarantee it will be set against a pretty beautiful backdrop.
Scoring for the Rebelle Rally challenges riders of all skill and experience levels. The bulk of the competition is based on the Map & Compass Challenges, where teams use navigation tools to find hidden checkpoints along the route.
In the early morning hours of each competition day, teams are given coordinates to various checkpoints. These points are color coded based on difficulty. There’s no way for a team to cover all of the checkpoints in a single day, so drivers and navigators have to strategize and decide on their best course of action.
There’s also a handful of Rebelle Enduro Challenges throughout the competition. These mini challenges involve specific routes with assigned start times and, in some cases, assigned target speeds.
Since there are no clear-cut routes, speed isn’t as important as in other races. The Rebelle Rally is all about precision and strategy.
Emily Miller, a household name in the off-road rally world, is the founder of the Rebelle Rally. She’s a longtime rally racer and was the first woman to solo drive the Vegas to Reno race. She even claimed a first-place victory in 2009.
Over the years, Miller has trained thousands of people in racing and navigating—most of them women.
“I wanted to create a platform that made women feel like they had a place to shine,” she said in an interview with Forbes Magazine. “I wanted an event that was really built for women’s strengths and also pushed them on their weaknesses, and I wanted to set it against the backdrop of the United States.”
Thus, in 2016, the Rebelle Rally was born.
Miller’s goal is to educate and empower women while teaching them to enjoy off-roading and rally racing.
“I wanted to create something that was special for women and really hard,” Miller told Autoweek. “People assume if it’s a competition for women, it’s not that hard. But that’s not the case.”
The Rebelle Rally has seen nearly 400 participants since its inaugural race, and that number only grows with each passing year.
The Rebelle Rally is open to women of all experience levels, from novice drivers to professionals. Women compete in teams of two—one driver and one navigator. Switching roles is encouraged, as it gives all women the chance to sharpen skills in both areas.
There are two vehicle classes in the Rebelle Rally. The 4×4 Class is open to four-wheel drive vehicles with a two-speed transfer case. This includes vehicles like the Jeep Wrangler and Rubicon, pickup trucks, and SUVs like the Chevy Colorado or Land Rover.
The Crossover Class is open to vehicles with a unibody construction and two- or all-wheel drive, like the Subaru Forrester or Toyota RAV4.
The rally is designed for stock vehicles, so a modified vehicle isn’t necessary. All vehicles must be street legal, plated, and able to travel on interstates. Since the rally covers all types of terrain, it’s smart to have some additional machine protection (but that’s not a requirement). Sturdy bumpers, skid plates, and good off-road tires can come in handy.
What makes the Rebelle Rally different from other off-road events? This isn’t a race where you’re trying to get to the finish line as fast as possible. Teams receive scores based on precision rather than speed, making it a true test of navigation skills.
Because the routes for each day are released that morning, you can’t plan ahead. Navigators must rely on paper maps, compasses, plotters, and latitude/longitude points—no cell phones or GPS devices are allowed.
In addition to knowing how to use multiple navigation tools, competitors need to be well-versed in triangulation, route planning, and understanding pace.
The “big ticket” prize for first-place finishers is free entry into next year’s Rebelle Rally. (That might not sound like much until you read that the race’s registration fee is $12,750 per team.) Winners also receive a custom trophy and, of course, bragging rights.
Other awards and recognitions up for grabs include:
Emily Miller’s goal was to create an event that inspires awe. She wanted others to look at Rebelle Rally participants and think, “I want to be that woman!”
“Many times, they don’t realize that they already are that woman,” Miller said in her interview with Autoweek. “It simply takes a difficult challenge to bring out.”
And we can’t think of a challenge more difficult than the Rebelle Rally. It’s the longest rally raid in the US, set against a challenging landscape and designed to test everything from your vehicle to your navigational skills to your ability to work as a team.
This year’s Rebelle Rally takes place October 7-16, 2021. Check out their website for more details and to follow the action in real time.