by Diane Spicer
How to buy the best active clothing for hiking is a skill, almost an art, because as a female hiker you want to purchase the best athletic clothing that can be:
Is this asking too much for adventure apparel?
Then start with this hiking clothing guide, which covers how to build a clothing layering system - and exactly which pieces of hiking clothing you need to stay calm, cool and collected on a hiking trail.
Trying to figure out what to wear hiking is an art as well as a science.
To buy the best hiking clothes for your trail plans, you'll have to do a balancing act between these features:
Let's tackle these one at a time.
'Cuz tackling is active, right?
Hikers and backpackers know that
buying a piece of hiking clothing for just one narrow purpose
is a bad move.
You want to have a small tried-and-true collection of athletic clothing that takes you on the trail, and off again.
Instead, look for performance pieces of active clothing that can take whatever you're going to dish out.
And come out looking great, time after time.
Better yet, perform well for YOU under all kinds of conditions, as high performance hiking attire.
Here are some of my best active clothing tips to make your shopping adventures more fruitful:
Don't throw away your money on less than stellar brands.
Stick to the quality manufacturers to get the best value.
How to assess quality?
Four tips for you:
1. Look for companies that have been in business for a long time.
2. Ask other hikers you meet on the trail what their favorite pieces of active clothing are.
3. Go to a used clothing store and look for hiking shirts, shorts, pants, hats and jackets.
4. Browse through an outdoor gear store and feel every brand's fabrics.
Now on to the next indicator of quality in women's active clothing: performance on the trail.
Buy only what you need,
not what the magazine ads tell you to buy.
A beginning hiker needs basic active clothing that will stand up to a few hikes under mild conditions.
Notch up the types of hiking, and the performance of the athletic clothing must also ratchet upwards, or you risk your safety and comfort.
Things to keep in mind when you go shopping for hiking clothing:
Which brings up a critical part of shopping for active clothing: the price you pay.
You get what you pay for.
(sigh) A basic fact of life on Earth.
But don't pay more than you have to!
There are 3 ways to go about building up a high performing, durable and versatile hiking wardrobe.
Choose the one that resonates most strongly with you:
I would not recommend buying used active clothing except for high end jackets or rain gear which have minimal amounts of wear and tear.
Or unless you're dealing with a reputable company with good policies, such as REI's used outdoor clothing outlet.
Now that you know the four big components of how to shop for hiking clothing, it's time to add your personal twist.
Every hiker has her own take on what should come along on a hike.
And by hike, I mean the entire litany of possibilities:
Each of these requires specific clothing to ward off insects, trail debris, temperature extremes, moisture, UV rays and more.
And if you're
lucky smart, that clothing can be used in your every day life, too:
To keep things simple, I offer only 5 tips for you to find the best outdoor clothing for your needs.
Yes, I'm picky.
And I stick with what works.
What's wrong with that?
Buy one piece of hiking clothing cautiously but optimistically.
Put it through its paces, and either pass it along to another hiker or "adopt" it into your athletic clothing closet.
If you're a "fashion forward" sort of hiker who likes cute hiking outfits, and you love to keep an eye on innovations in active clothing like new fabrics, use that habit to your advantage.
This approach might cost you a bit of extra money, but no waiting around for gear reviews to pop up!
Again, go with your natural inclinations.
Let the kinks get worked out of the latest greatest jacket or pants, and then buy a pair the next year.
Or buy steeply discounted gear (see above) when the season is over.
Tuck it away and know it's there when you need it.
This approach works well if you want to build a bomb proof layering system that fully integrates and performs well, season after season, with minimal work on your part.
Some brands run a bit small, others are very generous.
Mixing brands can create chaos if you have to return them for one size up or down.
Two women led brands to check out:
Hiking has been part of my life for almost fifty years.
The rules on what to wear hiking have changed, and changed again, over all of these decades.
So that's why you may want to take a close look at the companies I'm about to name, because I've gotten great versatility, durability, and performance at fair price points from them year after year.
(I hate to say decade after decade, but that's the truth.)
These are not your super cheap brands.
But they are high performing, widely available, and they truly make an effort to understand the outdoor clothing needs of women hikers.
In no particular order, here are my recommendations for the Top Ten companies that sell active clothing for women hikers:
And the gear stores that I return to again and again?
Those that have earned my trust.
These are my exclusive sources of active clothing, along with hiking gear in general.
I use them because they have generous return policies and have been in business a long time.
Best hiking tip I can give you:
Buy the performance pieces you really need, and then build a wardrobe around them.
Adventure apparel changes as your hiking skills increase, but you've got to start somewhere.
Don't overlook the absolute necessity of a well fitted sports bra for hiking.
How to choose hiking boots is no trivial matter.
Then buy a few foundational items to have handy once you're off the trail, like a clean shirt to pair with a skirt or leggings.
Have fun shopping for the new styles and colors - it will give your hiking routine a lift!
Keep trying different companies until you find the best hiking clothes.
And then keep those companies in business by sending your money their way in return for great hiking clothing.
Add active clothing to your "hiking wish list" and encourage your family to give them as gifts for your birthday.
These tips and tricks should get you started on the worthy goal of building a practical, versatile and high performance active clothing wardrobe for your trail pursuits.
Still have questions?
Contact me and send them my way.
Best Active Clothing For Women Hikers
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About the author
Diane is the founder of Hiking For Her.
She's been on a hiking trail somewhere in the world for 5+ decades & loves to share her best hiking tips right here.
All rights reserved.
Photo credits: All photos on this website were taken by David Midkiff or Diane Spicer except where noted.
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