Best Dayhiking Tips
For Women Hikers

by Diane Spicer

Meet Hiking For Her's Diane

These dayhiking tips are geared toward beginner hikers who are just starting out.

  • But even seasoned trail veterans might learn a new trick from this old trail dog.
The best day hiking tips come from women who hike a lot, so trust Hiking For Her to give you detailed, easy advice for your next hike. #hiking #hikingtips #hikingsnacks


Let's get started with the essentials you need for a successful day hike, and then build upon those important basic day hiking tips.

If you've never seen a dayhiking checklist, take a peek at mine.

  • It's a free pdf download, with trailhead tips and add ons.


Basic day hiking tips

What exactly do you need for a day hike?

It's pretty simple: sturdy footwear, protective clothing, something to carry your ten essentials, and a way to navigate the trail.

If you've never hiked before, use these links to explore the basic hiking gear you need to get started:


What should you eat
as a day hiker?

You're an athlete now, so you should think about your food differently.

Pay attention to these basics, and you're all set for dayhiking on well established trails.

Now let's turn to an area where many day hikers make mistakes.


The best clothing
for day hikes

If you're wondering what to wear when you go hiking, you're in the right place for some day hiking clothing tips.

For your first few hikes, you can put together the clothing you already own into a hiking outfit.

Once the hiking bug bites (not to be confused with regular bug bites), you'll want to invest in weather-appropriate and durable hiking clothes.

  • Speaking of regular bug bites, if you're squeamish about insect bites, consider carrying a bug net.
  • Or become repellent.

Having trouble finding plus size outdoor clothing options? Here are some tips.


Let's take a peek
inside my hiking clothes closet

To share some seasonal dayhiking tips for hiking clothing, I'll take you through what I wear on the trail in a typical hiking year.

I'm not a rock star hiker or a trail fashionista, but I've been through my share of downpours, wind storms, hail, mud holes and bug blizzards.

  • I had to figure out the hard way how to do that whole "safety and comfort" thing.

So let's short cut the process for you, based on my mistakes.

I mean learning experiences.

Of course I do ;)

The perfect place to start: chilly trails.


Spring & fall dayhiking tips:
what to wear on cool weather hikes

Cool mornings followed by warm afternoons present a challenge for hiking clothes.

What's a hiker to do to stay warm, but not too warm?

My best dayhiking tip for how to triumph in this situation:

To give you an idea of what to wear hiking in the spring and fall, here's the Hiking For Her "official" top to bottom spring & fall hiking wardrobe.

Top layers for fall and spring hiking

Your core temperature is an important asset to guard on cool weather hikes.

Here's how to layer your hiking outfit, from the inside out:

  • sports bra (there are some interesting discussions to be had about the uni-boob approach vs the cup approach),
  • loose fitting sleeveless or short sleeved wicking shirt,
  • maybe a vest, depending on temperature, and a
  • light soft shell or fleece jacket.

I remove the jacket once my boots are laced up and I've stretched at the trail head.

  • Starting off too bundled up is a rookie mistake.
  • Best to be a wee bit chilly for the first ten minutes, because you'll be steaming hot in no time at all, especially if your hike is heading uphill.

If you're concerned about getting cold hands and ears, start off with a pair of thin fleece gloves (or waterproof gloves if it's damp) and an ear warming headband.

The vest comes off mid-way through the morning, or sometimes not at all, depending upon the cloud cover and temperature.

Tip:

I leave my vest and gloves in my pack for the entire hiking year! They are lightweight, take up a small amount of room, and are a lifesaver when I feel chilled.

Don't let too much heat escape
from your head

As mentioned above, you can start off the hike with a cozy headband covering your ears and back of your head.

  • You'll be surprised by what a big difference it makes in your comfort level.

If you tend to feel really chilled, skip the headband and wear a fleece hat.

A brimmed hat (ball cap style) exposes your ears and neck for venting later in day, and works great to keep glaring sunlight out of your eyes.


Bottom layers for cool weather hiking

Now that your torso and arms are nice and warm, here's how to keep the rest of your body comfortably temperature regulated in cool weather:

  • the right hiking underwear,
  • abrasion resistant, water repellent pants,
  • socks (liners plus thick hiking socks), 
  • gaiters (if conditions are wet or you will be navigating through dew-laden brush along a trail).

A few other approaches to try

Some female hikers start off wearing a jacket, then strip down to a short sleeve shirt and skip a vest.

Note: you can get by with cotton if you know for a fact that day will be dry, but skip cotton year round in moist conditions.

  • While it's cheap, it holds onto your sweat and makes you feel clammy once you stop hiking.

I've also seen hikers wear nylon shorts over long underwear bottoms or tights - an interesting fashion statement.

  • Leggings like these might be a more visually appealing option!


What to wear for
summer dayhiking

Summer hiking clothes are super simple:

I'm sure you have shorts & T-shirts or tank tops in your closet which would perform admirably on dry, warm days.

Here's a Hiking For Her review of a Title Nine tank top + shorts hiking outfit made of technical fabrics that works well on the trail.

Tip: 

Try to remember to stash a dry shirt in your backpack for your turn around spot, and another clean, dry shirt in the car for post-hike comfort.



Bottom line for summer
day hike clothing

Your summer hiking attire can be simple and easy to find in your closet when you first start doing straightforward day hikes.

But after a few sweaty hot hikes where you're wringing out your cotton T shirts at your lunch stop, I think you will gravitate toward more sweat-soaking, wicking technical hiking fabrics.

These promise more comfort, less odor trapping, and a much more presentable appearance back at the trail head.


Hot weather day hiking 
comfort and safety tips

If hot, sunny hiking weather is in your plans, you can put these hiking tips to good use to keep yourself comfortable and happy.

Female hiker in mountain meadow of yellow glacier liliesWorking up a sweat while crossing a meadow of glacier lilies near Glacier Peak, North Cascades, Washington State, USA

Now let's turn to some tips for how to keep yourself safe and happy on cold weather hikes.


Winter day hiking tips

In some parts of the world, we call it snowshoeing!

Let's get a feel for the most extreme conditions you may face in a year of hiking.

  • You can always dial these back a bit.

Giving dayhiking tips for cold weather is tricky because ambient temperature is low, but you're going to work up quite a sweat as you move along.

So here's what I suggest:

Use the same layering technique as in fall, but skip the sleeveless top layer.

Instead, add a high collared sleeveless fleece vest over a long sleeved collared shirt, and remove your jacket at the trail head.

  • This might cause shivering for the first five minutes of the snowshoe hike, but you will warm up quickly and won't have to stop to peel off a jacket.
  • Every time you stop, you begin to feel chilled.

A fleece hat and a thin pair of gloves helps, too.

  • Take them off and add them back, as your body temperature fluctuates.

Snowshoeing pants should be breathable and waterproof.


More cold weather
dayhiking tips

I've learned some behavioral modifications the hard way, and am eager to share them with you so you don't have to get cold and wet.

At my lunch spot, I throw down a small tarp, plunk my pack down on it, and then sit on my pack to prevent heat transfer from my body to Mother Earth.

Female hiker sitting on a blue tarp in the snow with a big view of a snow covered mountainWinter conditions near the Stuart Range, Washington State, USA

I also throw on a windproof layer right away to preserve my body heat, and may also switch out my hat and gloves to warmer versions if the wind is blowing.

On unusually cold days, I include long underwear, knowing that my waterproof pants have side zips to allow me to vent my body heat when needed (snowshoeing uphill, for example).

My head wear at the trail head changes, too: I use a wool cap, sometimes with ear flaps, sometimes not.

  • If I get too warm or the day turns sunny, I switch to a ball cap or a fleece head band.

My neck seems to be the spot where cold air really bothers me, so I carry a fleece neck warmer like this one.

For winter trips, here's a valuable dayhiking tip:

  • Rely upon full size gaiters like these to keep the snow out of boots and also to provide an additional layer of insulation for your legs if you sit (or fall) in the snow.

My winter boots are drastically different at this time of year - heavy and waterproof, with thick warm liners that can be dried separately.

If I decide to hike on a wet but snow free low land trail, I skip all the heavy layers and just wear a long sleeved top under a waterproof winter jacket.

  • My winter jackets have underarm vents for ventilation, but even so, I'll be soaked through with perspiration by the end of the hike. That's why wearing moisture wicking clothing on a hike is so important.

Waterproof pants, no long underwear, and a rain hat (I use a "Snoqualmie Sombrero") complete my elegant ensemble.

  • Read more about waterproof hiking clothing here.


A few more dayhiking tips
for you

Begin scouring magazines, websites, and books for dayhiking tips that apply to your area.

Why?
Safety and comfort hiking tips are essential to your enjoyment of this sport.

Thinking of day hiking alone?

Rainy day hiking tips can help you brave less than stellar weather.


How to get everything
in one neat, tidy bundle

Get all the best day hiking tips in one place with Hiking For Her's book. #dayhikes #hiking #hikingtips #bestdayhikes #hike #womenhikers

Want all of the best dayhiking tips pulled together for you in a convenient format?

  • The Hiking For Her Best Tips For Dayhikers book is what you need to hit the trail
  • Paperback and electronic formats available
  • Excellent reviews from hikers like you!

Only buy the best day hiking gear
you can afford

By now you've noticed how hiking can get pricey, the more seasons you are on the trail: various hats, different weights of gloves, a variety of boots, extra layers...

I know you probably don't want to hear this, but you've got enough real world experience to believe it:

You get what you pay for.

Quality, performance, fit and durability are definitely tied to a higher price point.

Certain companies seem to have a knack for delivering on the goods.

And then fully backing up the goods with excellent customer services and policies.

Don't be surprised to see some names repeating!

But here's a secret

I never pay full price unless I'm up against a time crunch or I absolutely want that particular item.

There are so many good deals to be had!

You can sign up to receive emails alerting you to sales, price cuts, new merchandise, overstocks - some companies will literally TELL you when to save money.

Here's one of my favorite place to score a deal: Backcountry.

And another one: REI Co-op Outlet.

Speaking of gear cooperatives...


Why not join a gear co-op to harness the power
of a large group?

Did you know there are sports equipment co-ops you can join?

This is one of my favorite dayhiking tips, because I've been using it for 3+ decades and love the "cooperative" angle:

  • pay a one-time fee,
  • become a voting member,
  • and you are eligible for yearly dividends based on earnings.

You're also eligible for member-only deals, which can be quite tempting.

I joined Seattle-based REI in 1978 (not a typo!!), and have enjoyed spending my member dividend every year since to upgrade my hiking gear.

Yup!

REI co-op benefits include a member rebate every year, based on your purchases.

Usually, the rebate is ~10%, which gives you a nice amount of money to spend on yourself - just for buying hiking gear!!

  • For a closer look at the value REI delivers for women's hiking gear, read this.

There's also a Canadian gear co-op called MEC that I joined a few years ago when I couldn't find the boot brand I'm partial to (Zamberlan) in any American stores.


Still not sure about day hiking?

One of my best dayhiking tips for women:

Be amazed at how many miles you can cover on a day hike if you're motivated...

  • AND your boots fit!

As proof, here's a photo of a snowshoe day hike near Mt. Rainier. 

Snowshoe tracks near Mt. RainierMazama Ridge in winter, Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington State, USA

Notice the snowshoe tracks, made by my husband and me in the pristine snow as we were heading  to our predetermined lunch spot.

  • See what I mean? A bit of muscle power can get you into some seriously gorgeous spots in just a few hours.

So go for it!


Hey, we're just getting started
on the best dayhiking tips!

These tips are just to get you started thinking about what you'll need as a day hiker.

There's plenty more ground to cover, so to speak!

If you're still not sure where to start in your acquisition of a functional hiking wardrobe, or are interested in my "personal picks" for hiking clothing, drop me an email.

And here's something else to ponder:

Maybe a day hike just isn't enough!

But don't worry.

Hiking fever isn't life threatening!

In fact, I'd call it life enhancing.

Be sure you're signed up for all of the latest free hiking goodness from Hiking For Her:


You might like to read these next

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  • Safe High Altitude Hiking: Know Before You Go

    Safe high altitude hiking involves smart decisions, conditioning, and staying alert to warning signs of altitude sickness. Be smart about preparing for high altitude hikes.

  • Solo Hiking Tips: How To Stay Safe On Any Trail

    The weather is great, your boots are itching for the trail, but your hiking buddy is out of town? Go it alone with solo hiking tips from Hiking For Her.

  • Lightning Safety For Hikers: Tips For Survival

    Lightning safety for hikers involves knowing how to avoid the problem, or how to minimize your exposure to the dangers of lightning. Use these survival tips to keep yourself safe in the outdoors.

  • Water Crossing Safety Tips: Best Practices For Hikers

    These water crossing safety tips should encourage you to plan ahead, stay in the moment, and make smart decisions when faced with how to ford a river or stream. Or maybe turn back, depending upon conditions, weather forecast, and your stamina levels.


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Best Dayhiking Tips



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Photo credits: All photos on this website were taken by David Midkiff or Diane Spicer.

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