by Diane Spicer
Did you know there's no need to suffer?
The best adjustable hiking gear will give you options to optimize and customize for your particular contours and preferences.
This solves the "but what if I lose or gain weight" problem when shopping for the best hiking gear.
This is a valid concern for many hiking women.
As females, we're prone to weight fluctuations:
And because our dimensions differ vastly from the male gender, women specific customizable hiking gear is the way to go.
Your male trail buddies might look at you sideways when you take the time to research maximally adjustable female specific gear, but who cares?
Hiking For Her along with REI is going to show you some of the best adjustable hiking gear for women on the market today, and how you can put it to work on the trail.
As an REI Co-op affiliate, Hiking For Her receives a small percentage of your purchase price when you use the links on this website - without costing you extra.
Anything on this website has earned a trusted spot on the HFH gear list, and REI makes it easy to dial down to exactly what you need.
Because a great fitting backpack is an essential achievement for any hiker, let's start there.
Which dimensions on a backpack are adjustable?
Glad you asked!
Torso length, for starters.
When you see a backpack offered in sizes ranging from extra small to large, it does not mean the volume (interior space) of the pack.
Rather, it clues you in to the range of torso lengths available in each size for the pack.
That's an important dimension for a female who may be "short waisted" but has long legs.
Or vice versa.
In general, women specific backpacks will have torsos designed to be shorter and more narrow when compared with male specific packs.
Hiking For Her's advice on how to avoid a poorly fitted pack:
On the REI website, check the specifications of every pack you're interested in trying on. That's where you'll find the torso dimensions.
Roughly*, you're looking at these fixed torso numbers associated with pack sizes:
*Roughly, because there are no hard and fast "rules", only brand specific ranges.
The day I looked at the REI online women's backpack selection, there were 71 choices of adjustable torso packs.
That's why you want to know your length: to zero in quickly on the best adjustable hiking gear that will not make you cry on the trail.
Your search for the perfect backpack contains an additional thrilling twist:
swimming (Dorrie song flashback, sorry) reading.
Shopping for a growing girl?
We'll tackle this in two waves:
Osprey has three choices, based upon the volume of pack you want.
Think of volume as storage space: if you're hauling a lot on a day hike, you need a volume somewhere around 25 to 36 liters.
Not fond of carrying a lot of weight?
Just to keep life interesting, the torso dimensions vary with the "model" of the pack within one brand.
Here's an example:
However, two other Osprey choices have both a small/extra small version and a small/medium version, giving you not only a choice of volumes but also fixed torso length ranges:
Customizable torso length becomes really important for larger capacity packs used for overnight hikes and backpacking.
That's because comfort is the key to a great hiking trip.
So please, please, please take the time to dial in the perfect torso length on your backpacks.
Here are two higher volume backpacks worth your time to consider:
This REI Co-op Traverse 60L pack gives you an adjustable torso dimension, but you can also swap out the shoulder straps and hipbelt.
Want a smaller pack?
The Osprey Aura AG 50L pack offers an adjustment for torso length along with customized hipbelt fit and a modest volume for your camping equipment.
Available in a 65L version, too, if you can't bear to leave your espresso maker behind ;)
The waist (hip) belt on a backpack is critical to your success as a hiker, because it transfer the load from your back to your strong pelvic bones.
It should be contoured to mold to your particular curves.
If you're a non curvy female, a men's backpack belt might cinch down tight enough to give you a good fit on your straight(er) hips.
In my decades on the trail, I've seen some creative use of towels, shirts, bubble wrap and in one memorable case, a sock wrapped rock, to attempt to achieve a better hipbelt fit.
An interchangeable hip belt will solve the problem of your hips being too narrow or too wide for the standard hip belt sizing.
...which IMHO is too restrictive to accurately reflect female hiker hip reality - any gear designers out there listening??
This little beauty gives you the power to customize the belt fit over a wide range of hip sizes for their Ariel backpacks:
If you're not using poles, read why it's a good idea here.
Ready to pick a pair for the trail?
These Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork lovelies are worth a close look for many reasons:
Does outdoor clothing count as gear?
You bet it does!
Versatility is what you're after here.
Any outdoor clothing that you bring along on the trail needs to stand up to the weather, but also accommodate your oft changing layers.
Let's glance at a few examples of hiking clothing which will expand or shrink as your needs change.
If you're a hiker, chances are really good that you'll be caught out in a rain storm.
So it makes sense to have rain pants that you can cinch down, or expand, depending on the weather and how many layers you're wearing.
There are 2 important adjustment features to watch for:
I recently reviewed my brand new REI rain pants here.
Please don't make the mistake of buying a jacket because it's snug and flattering for your body type.
Instead, look for hiking jackets that can be enlarged, or tightened, according to how many layers you have beneath them.
Here's a great example of a jacket that will perform well throughout the hiking seasons.
Versatility is delivered in multiple ways:
3-in-1 design for layering options
Adjustable hood to accommodate different types of hats
Tabs at cuffs and hem: tweak until perfect for the conditions
The waist band on your hiking pants is a big deal.
So are the closure methods:
These provide, or rob you, of expansion and contraction opportunities.
Next time you pull on a pair of pants, think about whether their comfort would be enhanced by a different closure method.
For a hiker, life just gets better when you have options!
A highly adjustable pair of pants would be these:
Stretchy fabric can tolerate a base layer beneath it.
But not baggy, so will slip easily into rain pants.
Waist has a drawstring for customized fit, along with a zip fly and snap closure.
Who among us has not hiked with unbuttoned pants after second lunch??
Or an unzipped zipper in the first trimester?
Or both on a bloat day, for that matter!
I've watched hikers pull several shirts out of backpack, and when asked about them, the answer usually runs along the lines of "but what if the weather changes? or the bugs start biting?"
Dear hiker, one gentle suggestion:
This long sleeved REI Co-op Sahara shirt is a perfect example.
Fold up the collar to ward off a chilly breeze.
Wear it unbuttoned over a tank top for the same reason.
When the sun comes out, the sleeves roll up and stay above your elbows, with easy to use button tabs.
Combined with the moisture wicking fabric and fast drying underarm panels, this shirt earns a place in your backpack for adjustable three season hiking comfort.
So what makes something the best adjustable hiking gear?
I would argue in favor of:
When you're in the market for new gear, always think about contraction and expansion possibilities, along with sizing modifications.
This type of gear gives you an extra little edge for squeezing the most out of your trail time (and your hiking budget).
Check out these additional tips for choosing the most versatile athletic clothing for female hikers.
Best Adjustable Hiking Gear
About the author
Diane is the founder of Hiking For Her.
She’s been on a hiking trail somewhere in the world for nearly five 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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