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Best Hiking Gear
For Women Hikers:
You Deserve It!

By Diane Spicer

Find the best hiking gear for hikers of all levelsin Hiking For Her's gear guide. #besthikinggear #gearguide #hikingforher

Also known as the best walking
and trekking gear!

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:

  • finding the best women's outdoor gear
  • figuring out the right women's athletic clothing for hiking 
  • searching for backpacking gear ideas that work for you
  • struggling with how to find the right hiking gear gifts for trail buddies

Unless you're smart! (which you clearly are, since you're reading this best hiking 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."

Navigation tip for finding
the best hiking gear

To navigate this guide quickly, skip to these sections:

Hit the TOP arrow on the lower right to get back here for even more hiking gear tips.

What do you need for hiking?

The trail is there for every hiker.

So there is a general list of hiking gear regardless of where you hike.

It goes something like this:

  • Sturdy shoes or boots
  • Hiking socks
  • Backpack
  • Clothing appropriate for the weather
  • Food and water
  • Navigational aids like a map and compass, or GPS
  • Ten essentials for safety and comfort

Want the truth about hiking gear?

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...

The best hiking gear
for beginner hikers

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:

  • Your footwear (shoes or boots)
  • Your socks (technical, not bargain bin, variety)

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.

  • Because I want you to get started hiking with a very short learning curve :)

Take a look at top gear picks for hiking and camping here. This stuff has won awards and has the HFH stamp of approval.

The best hiking gear 
for intermediate hikers

An intermediate hiker who has solved the hiking boot or trail shoe + hiking socks puzzle can turn her attention to finding this gear:

  • a rock solid backpack for years of day hiking
  • trekking poles for enhanced balance and ergonomics
  • a reliable hiking clothing layering system

Begin with this hiking pack list to be sure you don't overlook anything.

  • 'Cuz crying on the trail should only happen when you're overcome with joy, like finding a huge patch of ripe huckleberries!

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.

Women's essential hiking gear
can also be classified
by length of hike

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:

  • What should I wear to go hiking?

Best hiking gear basics:
What's on your feet

Let's ask an even more specific question:

  • What should I wear on my feet for hiking?

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.

Shoes or boots for the trail?

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?

  • That link will get you started on an answer that fits you.

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. 

  • The best women's hiking boots create a rock solid foundation for a great hike. 
  • If your feet ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!

Trail footwear resources for you

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?

  • Find the perfect pair of narrow hiking boots with these tips.

Hiking with wide feet? Here are the brands I know will help you find a great pair.

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!)

Hiking socks rock

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, after you read why)

A few Hiking For Her trail tested sock reviews for your viewing pleasure:

There are some benefits to consider from hiking compression socks.

Hiking boot and trail shoe insoles

Every one of us has unique fingerprints, so it's no surprise that we all have unique feet, too.

  • And the longer we hike, the more unique they become ;)

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.

Women's hiking gear can make or break your enjoyment of the trail. Use these tips to find the best gear and clothing. #hiking #backpacking #hikingtips #hikinggear #femalehikers #hikingforher

The best backpacks for
women hikers

Start with the fundamentals when you're shopping for the best hiking gear: Backpacks 101.

Ready to go shopping right now?

  • Use these basic tips on how to buy a backpack regardless of its intended use for your outdoor adventures.

Which type of backpack, now that's a long convoluted discussion!

Here are your options
for hiking backpacks!

Still not clear?

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:

  • Read up on selecting backpacks with this Hiking For Her Backpacks 101 guide.
  • Or investigate beginner backpacking gear for women here.

Backpacks for hiking
with babies and kids

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)

Add this gear
for dayhiking comfort & safety

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!

You're in charge of your safety
on every hike

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.

  • Read a Hiking For Her review of one here.
  • It's also an essential piece of camping gear on backpacking adventures, or for car camping.

Comfort items on a hike

Trekking poles are a great idea, ergonomically speaking.

  • Meaning they'll protect your knee joints from nasty shocks going downhill, and distribute your weight more evenly.
  • I consider them an essential addition to the "best hiking gear" list for every hiker, regardless of age.

Going to be hiking in muddy, sandy, snowy or soggy conditions?

I hope so! Why skip the fun?

  • Just pull on a pair of hiking gaiters before heading down the trail to stay dry and to keep the grit out of your boots.

Hate the thought of getting sweaty and dirty?

If a sore back makes you think twice about hiking, consider bringing a chair.

  • Lighweight but sturdy REI Co-op Flexlite chairs are discussed here.
  • Read general tips on backpacking chairs here.

More than 40 comfort ideas and tips are waiting for you here.

Best women's athletic clothing
for the trail

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.

  • It has to be good to make the cut and get onto the Hiking For Her "A" list.
  • Good means durable, well made, easy to wear, well fitted, trail ready, and offered at a reasonable cost by a reputable manufacturer.

And I want you to know all about the best!

  • That's why I write this stuff in such detail!

So let's start with an even more basic question you might have about what to wear on a hike.

Athletic clothing for women:
is it the same or different than
hiking clothing?

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:

  • Women's trekking clothes and female hiking clothes are a serious investment.

But it doesn't need to be labelled "hiking" or "trekking" to be trailworthy.

You can re-purpose your current athletic clothing!

Tips on 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.

  • If you are dedicated to stopping excess UV radiation exposure on your skin with UPF sun protective clothing, read these tips.

You have a range of possibilities
to explore for the best gear

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:

Hiking clothing:
what to wear on top

... and on the bottom

If you're wondering "what pants should I wear hiking?", think beyond pants and check out all of your options:

The best rain gear for hiking
and the flip side: 
sun protection

What happens when the raindrops start to fall?

Why not consider carrying a hiking umbrella?

  • Read all about them here.

Once the sun finally peeps out, whip out those sunglasses, because squinting sucks.

  • Protect your peepers with the the correct lenses for your type of hiking activity, covered in that link above.

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?

  • A prepared hiker is a well fed, warm, dry and comfy hiker, thanks to her choices of the best hiking gear.

You are well ahead of the game by reading this page!

Too much information??

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...

A few general guidelines for your hiking clothing choices

Not sure what to wear hiking? Use these Hiking For Her tips to get on the trail in comfort and style. #hiking #backpacking #hikingclothing #whattowearhiking #hikinginfographic

Women designed and tested
hiking gear and outdoor clothing

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!

  • Read about some female designed gear in FON here.

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).

Not an REI Co-op member yet?

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.

Essential backpacking gear
for safety and comfort

Staying overnight or longer on the trail?

Lucky hiker!

But you'll need a tent!

Or at least a backpacking tarp.

Not ready to commit to buying a tent?

  • Why not rent one for your first few trips?

But wait,
there's more to think about!

A sleeping bag, possibly with a sleeping bag liner, will keep you toasty warm throughout the night.

  • Here's how to pick the best backpacking sleeping bags for your hiking plans.

Or maybe a backpacking quilt is more to your liking!

Never considered a backpacker quilt?

  • These quilt facts will get you up to speed before you hit the trail.

Comfort is key

Hard surfaces make for grumpy backpackers.

Don't forget your sleeping comfort on a backpacking trip:

A sleeping pad or an air mattress is essential for a good night's rest on a backpacking trip.

These tips for a good night's sleep will also help you get comfortable in your tent.

The best backpacking pillows are also key to your comfort. Tips for picking the best pillow are here.

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.

Comfort food counts, too

Trail snacks are fuel, so technically they can be considered the best hiking gear for backpackers and day hikers alike.

  • Best trail snacks here
  • Best high calorie hiking food here

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?

Safety gear on a backpacking trip

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.

If a little extra weight (less than a pound) doesn't bother you, consider carrying a pair of hiking binoculars. They make scouting for water crossings and trail landmarks faster, to name just one way to use them.

More backpacking tips & techniques

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.

Navigational aids for hikers

A hiker needs to know where she's headed, even before she leaves home.

Maps, right?

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:  

  • Use them to select reasonable and attainable hiking destinations.
  • Double check your position on the trail frequently during a hike, especially at decision points or areas of confusion on your route (downed trees, washed out bridges, missing signs).
  • Estimate distances and trail difficulty by using the map contours and key, and then compare these against remaining hours of daylight to make smart decisions.

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.

Hydration options for hikers

A water filter will come in handy when you need to fill your water bottles.

Read my review of a portable, easy to use water filter + water bottle combination here: Lifestraw Go.

Trying to save space?

  • Use collapsible soft water bottles, like these.

How to manage female hiker hygiene
on the trail

What about keeping up your good hygiene on the trail?

Female hiking hygiene can get tricky, right?

  • Put together the best hiking gear you need for your personal hygiene kit using these tips.

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.

Female hiker using the best hiking gearTypical day on the trail, making the best hiking gear work hard for me.

Looking for the 
best backpacking gear lists?

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.

Adjustable, customizable and
versatile hiking gear

Sometimes a female hiker just doesn't fit the "standard" dimensions for a backpack or piece of athletic clothing.

Don't despair.

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 you need a backpack that can pull triple duty: dayhikes, daily commutes, and carry on during travel. Read my review of one such pack here.

Blue hiking backpack showing padding and straps

Gear surprises for you

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.

  • Hiking For Her Nomadik review here

Dip into my decades
of  deep trail experience
to find the best hiking gear

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.

It's a 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!

Let's make this easy:
Hiking For Her resources

For a quick summary of how to buy the best hiking gear for a beginner hiking, read this.

Just interested in women's 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 reviewsread this.

For my own opinionated, thorough hiking gear reviewsgo here.

  • I review trail food, outdoor clothing, dayhiking equipment, as well as backpacking gear.

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!

Is discount hiking gear
the best hiking gear for you?

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.

How to rent the best hiking gear

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.

Don't overlook freebies!

Hiking For Her vividly remembers what it's like to be a hiking beginner.

  • And knows how important it is to keep upping your hiking game, season after hiking season.

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.

  • Bookmark the HFH giveaway page and visit it frequently for your chance to enter to win some fantastic freebies as a hiker!

The Hiking For Her approach
to the best hiking gear

My approach, for what it's worth:

  • I tend to buy hiking gear in phases, paying a bit more each time as my skill level increases.
  • I make it a habit to hunt for quality over price, because I keep my hiking gear for a long, long time - until not even duct tape or my crude sewing skills can rescue it from the junk pile recycle bin.
  • I take good care of my gear to extend its lifespan.

This investment strategy for hiking gear has worked out well for me, which is why I'm recommending it to you.

Just a few more best hiking gear tips
before you get on the trail

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.

All the gear in the world won't matter...

...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:

Why you should try snowshoeing

One more little tip! (I'm on a roll)

Don't hang up your boots once the snow flies.

  • Snowshoeing is just another name for winter hiking, and it's a blast!

Here are Hiking For Her's 8 reasons to try snowshoeing.

Good news:

You can use most of your three season hiking gear to get outdoors for some fantastic winter scenery.

Female snowshoer near Mt. RainierLots more miles to go toward Mt. Rainier, but no problem because I've got the best hiking gear!

Any questions?

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.

But really, why stop here?

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.

Happy Trails, using the best hiking gear!

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Best Hiking Gear For Women Hikers