by Diane Spicer
Looking for ways to solve that vexing dilemma of what to wear hiking?
You are in the right place.
And you can go in two different directions, just like at a trail junction with 2 tempting choices.
Here's Choice #1:
Cut to the chase with this handy Hiking For Her
What To Wear Hiking infographic
Need more details, maybe some specific recommendations of the stuff that fits well and looks good?
Every woman hiker has found herself in front of an open closet door or chest of drawers and asked herself how to choose hiking clothes for a great day on the trail.
Or a weeks long backpacking trip.
What to do?
I get all kinds of email from women wondering which pieces of athletic clothing to purchase for their hiking plans.
And when I write back, I always ask them two questions:
Most hikers sort themselves into three categories:
Different clothing works best for each category.
Typical answers I hear:
I'm happy to share with you what I recommend to the women hikers who ask me what to wear hiking, right here on this page.
That will save you the time and energy of emailing me, right?
To quickly give you an answer to your hiking attire questions, I'll group my suggestions into these categories (based on the questions I asked above):
All of this clothing is something I myself have purchased and worn on daily training walks, hiking trips, day hikes and backpacking adventures over the decades of trail time I've enjoyed.
I know it works, and I trust these brands and outdoor companies.
My assumption is that as a beginning hiker you will have modest hiking goals at first.
It's a good idea as a newbie to:
You can find all of my beginner hiker tips here.
If any of these assumptions don't fit your situation, drop down to the next category for recommendations on what to wear hiking.
Start off with just a few basic pieces of hiking-specific clothing.
Rummage through your closet and see if you can come up with a hiking outfit that you can wear on your first few hikes.
After you figure out what you'd like to upgrade, go shopping for hiking clothes.
In fact, prioritize your purchases to just 3 things:
1. Sturdy, protective hiking trail footwear.
I wear a pair like these on established trails:
Salomon X Ultra 3 Low Aero Hiking Shoes
2. Comfortable moisture wicking long sleeve shirt to layer over a T shirt, like this one:
Columbia Silver Ridge Lite Shirt
3. Non-binding shorts that wick moisture, similar to these.
You'll spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $170 US.
If you hit a sale, you can save a lot, although sizing and color choices might be limited.
You should start looking at a good pair of hiking socks, too.
You'll need to pamper your feet if you want to stay on the trail.
Be sure to check REI Co-op's Deals before you buy anything.
They are so good about offering you the best price when you join the co-op, and there are lots of rewards and benefits beyond saving money!
As your hiking skill set expands, you're going to turn your attention from fashion and cost to something much more valuable to a woman hiker: performance.
With enhanced performance comes an expansion in your hiking budget as well.
So be strategic about adding high quality hiking clothing to your gear closet.
Here's what I do:
Before you know it, you'll have plenty of versatile hiking clothing layers!
Mid-range athletic clothing suitable for rugged day hiking and short backpacking trips includes:
Approximate cost: $240 US (less if you shop end-of-season & check REI sales!)
Here's a nice shirt layering combo for summer hiking that can take you into chillier months on the trail, too.
Love the sun protective long sleeves with adjustable tabs, and the moisture wicking short sleeve shirt!
If you're a rabid, bleary eyed, full speed ahead kind of hiker (no, wait - that's me...)
What I meant to say is this:
If you count yourself among the hikers who will hike in any weather, tackle any terrain, and smile in the face of sleet and hail, this category of hiking clothing is for you.
I have learned the very hardest lessons on the trail when my outer layers failed to keep me as dry as possible.
And wept bitter tears when my base layers and wet pants clung to me in a cold downpour.
It's moisture that you really need to pay good money to avoid.
Luckily, there are plenty of companies waiting to take your money.
In return for high quality hiking clothing that will solve your what to wear hiking problem, that is!
Here are the fundamental hiking performance pieces I use routinely, after years of trial and error:
It's hard to predict the total cost, and it doesn't matter because you're going to build this wardrobe slowly.
For more detailed information about the best women's athletic clothing for hiking, including underwear tips, go here.
Regardless of your level of hiking, you now have some idea of great hiking clothing to add to your gear locker or outdoor clothing closet.
Begin to think of hiking clothing as fundamental, important pieces of hiking gear.
Wear the right clothes on a trail, and you'll have a fantastic time!
Or at least be prepared for what Mother Nature tosses your way.
Send me your questions if you're still not sure how to hit the trail in style AND comfort. We'll solve your what to wear hiking dilemma together!
What To Wear Hiking Recommendations
If you purchase some of this great hiking clothing using links on Hiking For Her, we both enjoy the benefits of the Internet.
Thanks for your support! It is deeply appreciated because it allows HFH to keep sharing the best hiking tips with all of our virtual trail buddies.
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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