by Diane Spicer
What do you need for hiking?
The best hiking gear for women depends on your personal preferences and hiking style.
And that's where you can spend a lot of time and money:
Unless you're smart! (which you clearly are, since you're reading this gear guide)
You've got it all right here at your fingertips!
We'll proceed on sage advice contained within this old Swedish saying:
"There is no bad weather, only bad clothing."
To which, let us add as hikers:
"And bad hiking gear."
The trail is there for every hiker.
So there is a general list of hiking gear. It goes something like this:
But in truth, there is no one-size-fits-all hiking gear list.
The best hiking gear is tailored to you as a hiker with your unique preferences, desires and needs.
Which type of hiker are you?
One way to answer the question is your skill level: beginner hiker, intermediate hiker, or a veteran trail dog.
A few words about the essential hiking gear for hikers at these three skill levels...
Most hikers begin with short day hikes near home, on well marked trails.
What is the best hiking gear for beginners?
If you are a beginner hiker, concentrate on two critical pieces of gear for happy trails:
If you get this combination right, your happy feet will guarantee that you'll want lots more trail time.
Keep reading for detailed tips on the best hiking footwear.
But you'll need a great day pack, too.
To help you started with rounding out a beginner hiking gear list, here's a day hike checklist.
And even more essential beginner hiker tips.
An intermediate hiker who has solved the hiking boot or trail shoe + hiking socks puzzle can turn her attention to finding this gear:
Begin with this hiking pack list to be sure you don't overlook anything.
Begin to pay attention to the best gear manufacturers and brands as you start to build up your hiking inventory.
Now let's dig into more best hiking gear tips for all hikers.
A casual day hiker might be satisfied with a morning on the trail.
A longer day hike could run up to 18 hours in the long daylight of summer trails.
Once you plan to return to the trailhead the next morning, or next week, you're in the backpacking gear category.
Skip down here if you're interested in backpacking tips.
Otherwise, stick with me here for tips on the best day hiking gear. We'll begin by answering this question:
Let's ask an even more specific question:
Use the links in this hiking gear guide to get your trail footwear dialed in just right.
You'll be one step ahead of the curve (sorry, bad hiking pun).
Here's a more specific question we need to answer.
Beginner hikers can start off with a supportive pair of shoes, the kind you'd wear for a workout or a brisk walk.
But after a few hikes, you'll see the wisdom of specific shoes for hiking.
What's the best pair of womens waterproof hiking shoes for hikers?
Ready for more support, comfort and durability?
Scouring women's hiking boots reviews are a must-do if you're serious about finding the perfect pair of boots for your feet.
Don't know where to start on choosing the right hiking boots?
If you're curious about what's on my feet, read this.
If you need a boot buying guide, read this.
Narrow, hard to fit feet?
Considering waterproof hiking boots?
Winter hiking boots are a different breed, so be sure you get the best winter hiking boots possible. You can wear them in cold, muddy conditions year round.
Also a different breed: vegan hiking boots (no breed at all, since no animals are used to make them!)
Never, ever underestimate the power of a pair of hiking socks - these can make or break your boots.
Think I'm kidding?
Blisters suck. (Feel free to quote me on that)
A few Hiking For Her trail tested sock reviews for your viewing pleasure:
There are some benefits to consider from hiking compression socks.
Every one of us has unique fingerprints, so it's no surprise that we all have unique feet, too.
It's also a fact that sometimes the best hiking boots, trail shoes, or cross trainers just won't fit right.
Enter the wonderful gear hack called hiking insoles.
Start with the fundamentals when you're shopping for the best hiking gear: Backpacks 101.
Ready to go shopping right now?
Which type of backpack, now that's a long convoluted discussion!
If things are still a bit muddy (lame trail joke) on how to go about choosing the best women's backpacks for hiking, here's what to do:
Many hikers cherish family hiking as one precious way to share time with loved ones.
But it takes some planning to get the best hiking gear for everyone. These tips will make it easier!
Hiking with a baby?
If you hike with older-than-toddler kids, you need this info to make an informed choice of which pack to choose for your little hikers:
Unless you plan on carrying everything yourself! (insert frown-y face here)
Now that we've got the fundamentals covered (literally), consider some "add ons" to keep yourself comfortable and safe on the trail.
Let's always begin with safety!
Even if you're hiking in a group, take responsibility for your own safety as much as possible.
Carrying a multi tool is also a smart idea for field repairs when gear malfunctions.
Trekking poles are a great idea, ergonomically speaking.
Going to be hiking in muddy, sandy, snowy or soggy conditions?
I hope so! Why skip the fun?
Hate the thought of getting sweaty and dirty?
If a sore back makes you think twice about hiking, consider bringing a chair.
More than 40 comfort ideas and tips are waiting for you here.
Let's get started answering this burning question:
What should I wear to go hiking?
Rest assured that I recommend only what I use.
And over the 4.5 decades that I've been hiking, I've used just about every brand out there, and used it in all four seasons.
And I want you to know all about the best!
So let's start with an even more basic question you might have about what to wear on a hike.
The best hiking clothing for women definitely qualifies as outdoor gear, because it works hard to keep you dry, temperature regulated, protected and comfortable in all seasons.
Here's the truth:
But it doesn't need to be labelled "hiking" or "trekking" to be trailworthy.
You can re-purpose your current athletic clothing!
Women's hiking clothing a.k.a. athletic apparel for hiking runs the gamut, from functional to fashionista.
Athletic clothing for women satisfies all tastes and styles, not to mention color preferences. I have plenty of suggestions if you click that "athletic clothing" link!
Then you can begin to explore your possibilities for individual items to build your wardrobe of the best hiking clothes for women.
Your ultimate goal: to build a hiking clothing layering system that you will use through all four seasons on the trail.
Many women make the mistake of wearing every day fabrics and cuts on a hiking trail.
This can lead to chafing, frustration and worse (like the B word).
To avoid this endless loop of problems, take a look at your choices below for the best hiking gear a.k.a. clothing:
If you're wondering "what pants should I wear hiking?", think beyond pants and check out all of your options:
What happens when the raindrops start to fall?
Why not consider carrying a hiking umbrella?
Once the sun finally peeps out, whip out those sunglasses, because squinting sucks.
And with the sun comes the bugs.
And can't forget the sunscreen, any time of year.
Once the sun sets, dig out the headlamp.
Getting the idea that the best hiking gear in your pack depends on preparation and forethought?
You are well ahead of the game by reading this page!
Hiking For Her leaves no stone unturned in the quest for the best hiking gear for you, dear hiker.
Just in case your head is spinning...
Have you heard about the REI Force Of Nature (FON) plan to move toward gender equity in outdoor sports?
Part of this worthy cause involves offering more well designed, high quality hiking gear designed by women.
Wow, now there's a great topic of conversation!
And use this best hiking gift guide, highlighting 16 REI selections at 3 different price points, to get an overview for what REI Co-op can offer you as a hiker (or gift giver).
Seriously consider the rewards of being a member.
There are over 14 different ways to enjoy membership in this iconic and well run company.
And that's not even counting all of the classes they offer!
Now it's time to focus on the best hiking gear for backpackers.
Staying overnight or longer on the trail?
But you'll need a tent!
Or at least a backpacking tarp.
Not ready to commit to buying a tent?
Or maybe a backpacking quilt is more to your liking!
Never considered a backpacker quilt?
Hard surfaces make for grumpy backpackers.
Don't forget your sleeping comfort on a backpacking trip:
These tips for a good night's sleep will also help you get comfortable in your tent.
A backpack chair at your campsite might be nice, too, to rest your weary bones so you can go hard again the next day :)
Here's a comfort guide you can use for cooler weather adventures.
Trail snacks are fuel, so technically they can be considered the best hiking gear for backpackers and day hikers alike.
Once you select your backpacking menu, you'll need to cook it in an efficient and safe manner.
The best backpacking titanium cookware is going to make it easy to make and clean up.
And the right supplies for doing dishes keep the environment clean and increase your free time - a comfortable thought, no?
If you're in bear country, store your food in a bear canister.
A survival kit is essential, but how extensive does it need to be?
And keeping your identification, permits, and cards safely stowed is also important. Read about the best hiking wallets.
Intermediate backpacking tips, including the best gear, are waiting for you right here.
Or immerse yourself in more of the basics:
The Essential Guide to Backpacking sums up all of the backpacking tips on this website, and is organized so you can find topics quickly.
A hiker needs to know where she's headed, even before she leaves home.
If you've never pondered why there are different types of hiking maps, make a little time and room on your best hiking gear list for a few carefully chosen topographical maps.
Hiking trail maps are essential for these reasons:
Consider a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) to give yourself the best chance of being found if you go into the backcountry.
Or use a Satellite Messenger instead of your cell phone.
Ever hear of a Bivy Stick? Read more here.
All of these options guarantee peace of mind for the folks back home, too. Knowing that you're carrying the best hiking gear for navigation makes everyone feel much better.
Read my review of a portable, easy to use water filter + water bottle combination here: Lifestraw Go.
Trying to save space?
What about keeping up your good hygiene on the trail?
Female hiking hygiene can get tricky, right?
If skin chafing is an issue for you, take a close look at whether your undergarments are playing nicely with your hiking clothes.
Or maybe you need to apply a skin lubricant in selected areas.
If you want even more tips on female hiking hygiene, read this.
Once you've done a few overnights or long week-end backpacking trips, you're going to want more trail time.
Which means you'll get more serious about your gear and clothing.
Here are backpacking gear lists to get your started:
To get more backpacking gear ideas, you could dip into some of the hiking magazine "gear" editions, then hunt for discount hiking gear armed with a list of "need this" as opposed to "sure would love to have this".
And to find the very best deal you can score?
Just be sure it's fit for purpose before relying on it.
Because sometimes, cheap turns out to be expensive in more ways than one on a hike.
Heartfelt trail tip:
Gamble with your comfort, but never with your safety. Sometimes it pays later to pay a bit more now.
Sometimes a female hiker just doesn't fit the "standard" dimensions for a backpack or piece of athletic clothing.
Instead, choose adjustable hiking gear.
And consider ultralight backpacking gear if "fast and light" is your motto regardless of trail conditions or length of hike.
Sometimes it's fun to let someone else do the heavy lifting of gear selection, and just send you a box full of the best carefully curated and latest hiking gear.
That's what the Cairn outdoor subscription box service does.
Or a Nomadik subscription box, filled with surprises each month.
Over the past 40+ years, I've tried a lot of womens hiking gear.
AND I've found some great sources for high quality, reasonably priced equipment used for hiking that enhanced my trail time, both dayhiking and backpacking.
I've also found some camping equipment along with backpacking gear that promised to be the best stuff ever designed for women hikers (i.e. designed to fit people with hips), and it failed miserably.
jungle thick forest or desert out there!
You've got to figure out the type of hiking you want to do, and then decide which gear you'll need.
You're going to need reliable how to buy gear strategies beyond what was just covered!
Don't worry, I'm still here for you!
For a quick summary of how to buy the best hiking gear for a beginner hiking, read this.
Just interested in womens hiking clothing?
Read this if you're interested in how to build a complete hiking clothing wardrobe for your level of hiking. It provides solid answers to what to wear hiking questions.
For my best sources for hiking gear reviews, read this.
For my own opinionated, thorough hiking gear reviews, go here.
For a bare bones Hiking Equipment List that covers what I wear and carry in my pack, go here.
For a hiking camping equipment overview, this is for you!
Just starting out and wonder how to buy the best hiking equipment?
That's definitely enough resources
to get you started!
If you are hunting for a bargain on discount hiking gear, look no further!
But be aware that in hiking, as in all things in life, you get what you pay for.
The perennial question for hikers:
Buy it cheap now while knowing that it will need to replaced quickly, or invest for the future?
Also, be prepared to upgrade your hiking gear regularly as your trail skills (and appetite for adventure) grow.
If you're not sure if this whole hiking and camping thing is for you, the smart way to get your feet wet (poor choice of words for a hiker, but applicable) is to rent before your buy.
Hiking For Her vividly remembers what it's like to be a hiking beginner.
That's why the monthly giveaways on this site are focused on highlighting only the best hiking gear, outdoor clothing, information and resources to get you on the trail in comfort, confidence and style.
Sign up for the HFH weekly email updates, too.
My approach, for what it's worth:
This investment strategy for hiking gear has worked out well for me, which is why I'm recommending it to you.
The best day hiking tips, including gear hints, are all in one book.
How do I know? I wrote it!
Once you've got some great gear, it's prudent to plan ahead for hiking gear malfunctions.
...if you can't handle what the trail throws at you.
Expensive, top of the line gear with fancy logos and the latest color choices won't make up for lack of stamina or absence of endurance on a hiking trip.
So when you're done looking at these gear tips, check out my tips on:
One more little tip! (I'm on a roll)
Don't hang up your boots once the snow flies.
Here are Hiking For Her's 8 reasons to try snowshoeing.
You can use most of your three season hiking gear to get outdoors for some fantastic winter scenery.
We've covered a lot here.
And you probably have specific questions about the best hiking gear for you.
Or ask your question to me directly, and I'll be happy to answer it.
In your quest for the best hiking gear and tips, why not keep going?
You can enjoy a monthly dose of inspiration, detailed hiking tips and thorough gear reviews in the free HFH Happy Trails newsletter.
using the best hiking gear!
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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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