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The best womens hiking clothing?
There are cute hiking clothes and hiking outfits.
And there are good hiking clothes.
But can they be one and the same thing?
Let's find out, using this hiking clothes guide.
Hiking clothes for women are valuable pieces of hiking gear, keeping you thermoregulated and protected from UV exposure, trail grit, and/or bugs.
All this, while looking good on the trail!
Putting together a cute outfit for hiking is one motivation for collecting hiking attire.
But please don't overlook how functional each piece of hiking clothing will be for you on the trail.
Let's take a look at recommendations for hiking clothing essentials in each big category of hiking clothes:
Choosing the right "cuteness level" is up to you ;)
Hiking For Her firmly believes in making things easy.
What could be easier than free hiking clothing that is durable, moisture wicking, and designed for women!
Check the HFH giveaways each month, and chances are you'll see your chance to enter to win some fabulous active wear that transitions easily onto the trail, and off again!
Now let's step through your best hiking clothing choices, and show you a few worthy options for hiking attire.
Let's begin with building a rock solid bottom.
Try these first:
Read why I consider boots the most important part of any girl's hiking outfit.
Trail shoes might also be a good choice if you stick to mellow trails.
Just want a quick peek at a waterproof pair of womens hiking boots highly recommended by Hiking For Her?
If you're in a super big hurry to get on the trail, here's what's on my feet for most hikes:
Trail footwear and high quality socks go together like peanut butter and jelly.
Try 2 pairs of hiking socks if you want to avoid blisters: thin liners topped with reinforced toe & heel thick socks.
This rule can be broken if you're wearing lightweight trail shoes or (gasp) sandals.
Why no sandals on the trail?
Don't risk a foot injury that can leave you unable to return to the trail head.
Heads up exception: If you're on a trail with frequent shallow water crossings, lashing a pair of lightweight sandals like these to your backpack will save a lot of frustration.
Pants that fit well, look great on the trail, and stand up to the weather are elusive but well worth the effort to locate.
Look for a fit that doesn't create extra fabric to trip you up, but
allows for free flowing movements as you bend, twist, and take big steps
along the trail.
Reinforced knees and seat are must-haves if you prefer rugged trails, but be prepared to pay extra for this hiking clothing.
Some pants have built in belts, and some sport a variety of pockets (teeny tiny to spacious).
Need womens petite hiking pants?
Not sure how to size up a pair of hiking rain pants?
Information on extended size hiking pants is here.
These are some options from brands in my own hiking clothing closet, with casual and rugged choices in a wide range of sizes:
If you consider yourself a hiker who enjoys playing in the dirt and isn't afraid of climbing over blown down tree limbs or wading through mud holes, you'll probably like these hiking pants features.
Zippers running from ankles to knees are great, allowing me to pull my pants on or off without removing my boots.
Zippers running horizontally above the knees, to allow a quick conversion into shorts when the day heats up, make great hiking clothing.
Zipper closures, not buttons. I hate fumbling to get small buttons fastened, especially during cold and/or wet weather.
Durable fabric is a must. You don't want to replace your pants at the end of each season.
Ripstop nylon is a good choice, for its fast drying ability as well as its habit of standing up to rock abrasions.
NOTE: iron-on patches work okay when it's time to patch a hole, but they tend to fall off after a few runs in the washing machine.
If you're on an extended hiking trip and will be washing them away from home, this can become an issue - unless you LIKE revealing the color of your underwear to your trail buddies.
Buy them one size larger than your hiking pants, so you can pull them on easily.
Look for a pull string or velcro tabs around the waist, for quick adjustments according to the amount of clothing you're wearing.
All of my hints above about zippers goes for these pants, too.
One more thing: buy a dark color, as it tends to hide dirt and tree sap better.
These black pants will work well.
Some women swear by hiking skirts, regardless of the weather or the trail.
If you stick to established trails and are comfortable with adding leggings to your outfit for cool weather, give a hiking skirt a try.
The obvious advantage?
Here's a useful add-on to your list of the best hiking clothing: hiking gaiters.
Full disclosure: I love my gaiters. I think every hiker should have a pair.
Why? Feast your eyes on this list!
They're not an expensive piece of hiking gear, but gaiters can make a big difference in your enjoyment of the trail.
And they come in different lengths, for varying terrain:
What more can I say to convince you that gaiters should go along on your hikes?
I have a very old pair of canvas gaiters (Yes! That's how old I am!!) which have been retired after much angst - they're still functional, aren't they?
My somewhat newer pair (circa 1995) of black nylon gaiters are what I rely upon: they have a Velcro front opening with a snap at the bottom, and dry fast.
I am hoping and praying that my gaiters NEVER wear out... but when they do, those options above will be in my pack depending on whether I'm facing a sandy, rocky, or snowy trail.
OK, back to our list of hiking clothing essentials...
Let's say a few words about the best womens hiking shorts.
Hiking shorts need to be:
How short do you like your shorts? Lots of options! Just click on the length you like for all the details...
Here are even more trustworthy tips for finding the best womens hiking shorts.
Hiking shirts: lots of options!
A few quick tips:
Always choose quick drying, moisture wicking fabrics which accept spot removers without fading the fabric.
Look for sun protective weaves, with UPF ratings (more info on that here).
Cotton tends to be too heavy, and not good at releasing moisture or odors.
Also, cotton doesn't stand up well to the dozens of washings each year I put my clothing through - it tends to fade and get misshapen.
However, it feels great in hot desert conditions if you know you have clean clothing to change into at the end of the hike.
Long sleeved shirts for cold weather should be able to wick away perspiration without leaving you a soggy mess.
Short sleeved shirts are great for spring and fall layering under a jacket.
But sometimes a versatile shirt can take the place of a short sleeve shirt, giving you an array of hiking clothing options.
Sure, I use sleeveless shirts in warm weather because I heat up quickly.
But here's a tip: Avoid tank top styles with super narrow straps - these shirts leave you vulnerable to chafing from pack straps.
The examples of trail worthy shirts above will give you an idea of how you can layer these shirts, too:
Some gals don't need to bother with this particular piece of hiking clothing, and can simply pull on a shirt and hit the trail.
And for some of us who are generously endowed, plus size sports bras as a base layer are a must.
If you want to do a little bit of undercover research, try this.
You will have to try on many brands until you find the one with the magical combination of fit, form and function.
Tip: Shelf bras don't always give you the support you might need/want.
So how much support is enough?
Flat, wide trails call for medium support, but anything more rugged, especially if you're carrying a fully loaded backpack, calls for a high level of support for generously endowed female hikers.
I'm a fan of the built-in cup sports bra - definitely more comfortable and supportive if you want to avoid the bounce and the sweaty stuck-together side effect of hard trail work.
Here are a few sports bra options to consider:
Be methodical about choosing hiking underwear that will play well with your layering system, as well as your skin.
And that means starting at ground zero: panties.
There's no sense in wearing cheap cotton underwear when you're a hiker tackling serious trail.
You need high performance underwear, meaning that each pair will wick away your perspiration, dry fast, give you adequate coverage, protect you from chafing, and have enough flexibility to move with you.
Sounds challenging to figure out?
Read these tips about how to choose the best womens hiking underwear.
Seriously - can a woman ever have too many hiking jackets in her trail wardrobe??
Some women are crazy about jewelry, I'm crazy about hiking jackets - they're my favorite piece of hiking clothing.
And it's not because I'm vain!
So let's start with worst case scenario: a rainy day on the trail.
To choose a great rain jacket for your outer layer of weather protection, look for breathable fabric that you can keep waterproof in your own washing machine.
Also look for taped seams and zippers that will work easily when your hands are cold.
Fleece jackets keep you dry and toasty when the temperatures dip into the thirties and below.
Note: Fleece maintains some body warmth while wet, but don't rely upon it as rain gear.
This is a nice mid-range rain jacket.
It's roomy, technical enough to keep you dry on soggy day hikes, and will stand up to a stretch of rainy weather on a backpacking trip.
The hood will protect your face and neck, eliminating the need for a rain hat under some conditions.
And don't forget about the versatility of fleece vests.
Winter jackets keep you dry AND toasty on chilly fall trails or on a snowshoe hike.
Pick the features that mean the most to you.
Here's where I invest the most money to enjoy:
A word of advice for beginners:
Wait for end-of-season sales if you can, and score a fabulous jacket with all of those bells and whistles.
the sticker shock of a warm jacket just might be detrimental to your
Or make it easy:
Windproof jackets like these, worn over your layering system, keep you warm while the wind howls.
A few things to note about each:
The fully adjustable hood on this jacket will keep your face, ears and neck well protected.
It's hip length, with a draw cord waist to further protect your body heat.
Here's a different style for day hikes:
A pullover windbreaker is lightweight but able to stop a cold breeze from stealing your body heat.
The kangaroo pocket for hand warming, and the pretty print, are also pluses on this jacket.
Take a close look at this jacket for rugged conditions, or unpredictable weather patterns where warmth and protection can become important in a hurry:
This is a two layer jacket, so it's able to stand up to wind and it also can shed snow if you're wearing it snowshoeing.
It has flaps and guards and gusseted underarm panels to prevent the cold wind from finding your delicate skin.
How about some general tips for your jacket quest?
Look for these important features in your wind proof hiking jacket:
Again, I go for a looser fit because I'll be pulling this jacket out of my pack and whipping it on quickly when the wind whips up.
Of course, there will be days when you don't need a jacket at all!
Hiking hats: Here's an example of hiking clothing that can let your personality shine through.
So many styles and colors - which is right for you?
Consider 2 things over and beyond your personality:
A ponytail or bun will make your hat fit funny, unless you can pull the tail out through the back of the hat, or put all of your hair comfortably up on top of your head underneath the hat.
Or you could try a "ponytail headband". You pull your ponytail through a hole in the back, which accomplishes 2 things: warm ears, and a tidy tail.
Here's the one I use:
And a cozy headband to cover your ears on a frigid day on the trail sounds good to me!
I stash one in the top pocket of my backpack, or my jacket pocket, so I can don it or store it as needed.
Even if you have short hair, a big hat will bump the back of your pack with each and every step - definitely annoying.
A baseball cap might do the trick for shading your eyes on a sunny day but be the worst possible choice on a rainy day. Ever had to endure the steady drip of cold rain down your neck?
I have many different hats, all chosen after much trial (trail?) and error, to cover the range of weather possibilities:
From an admitted hat enthusiast, here are the types of hats you should consider adding to your hiking clothing repertoire:
Bandannas: Another chance to flaunt your personal style as you don your hiking clothing!
These amazing little beauties soak up sweat, they're handy for dunking into ice cold streams to cool you off fast, and they come in an eye popping array of colors and fabrics.
One tiny square of fabric, so many uses!
I never leave home without this time honored functional piece of hiking clothing.
Gloves: I have yet to find the ideal pair, but I never give up searching through bargain bins.
To see the styles and brands I wear, read this.
I also carry a heavy duty pair of mittens for winter snowshoeing expeditions - these are life savers when the wind kicks up and my hands feel like claws around my hiking poles.
This pair of gloves is nice because it won't weigh you down.
Versatile, too: these can be used as liners beneath those heavy duty mittens I mentioned.
These are midweight gloves, for cold and damp conditions.
If you hike with a smartphone for taking photos or GPS navigation, you'll appreciate the touch screen compatibility.
So what's a hiker to do when faced with the bewildering array of women's hiking clothing?
However you choose to shop, now you know that there are hiking clothes with special features which you need to pay attention to if you want your trail time to be comfortable.
Because who wants to hike in less than the best hiking clothing?
I've learned to stick with the brands that deliver the goods, trail mile after trail mile.
If you're just starting to ask the question "what to wear hiking", read this first.
Need some suggestions for beginner hiking gear and clothing?
If you want to cut to the chase and get a glimpse into my "athletic clothing for women" closet space, go here.
Which is a little hint to ask for some of the best hiking clothing for your next birthday or holiday.
If you don't ask, you don't receive, right?
Now that you know which hiking clothes to wear, don't be shy about asking for additions to your hiking attire wardrobe.
For even more hiking gift ideas, read these tips.
And if your gift givers are on a budget, here are some ideas for hiking gear less than $25.
Now here's a little wrap up just for you:
Where to go next?
Try these tips on the best women's athletic clothing to round out this hiking clothes guide.
Women's Best Hiking Clothing
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