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How To Solve The
What To Wear Hiking
Problem For Female Hikers

By Diane Spicer

Solve the dilemma of what to wear hiking with tips from Hiking For Her. You can look good and stay comfortable on the trail! #hikingclothes #backpacking #whattowearhiking #hikingforher

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

What to wear hiking is a nagging question for women hikers. Make your hiking clothing decisions easy with this infographic from Hiking For Her. #hikingclothing #hikinginfographic #hikingforher

Choice #2:
dive into the details of hiking clothing

Need more details, maybe some specific recommendations of the stuff that fits well and looks good?

Who doesn't!

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.

In a hurry to get dressed for hiking?

Skip down:

You've got yourself
a three layered dilemma

  • You want durable, protective hiking clothing that stands up to the mud, dust, rocks, roots and brush on the trail.
  • You want to stay warm but not too warm, dry under all conditions, and as comfortable on the way back to the trail head as you felt during the first few minutes on the trail.
  • And you want to dress for a hike without sacrificing style: you want to look good in your hiking attire!

What to do?

Keep reading!

Let's solve the
what to wear hiking

dilemma with 2 questions

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:

1. How long have you been hiking?

Most hikers sort themselves into three categories:

  • Beginner: never been hiking or only on a few day hikes
  • Intermediate: several seasons of hiking in moderate conditions and various lengths of hiking trips
  • Hard core: hike every week, year round, rain or shine in all kinds of terrain and make backpacking a regular occurrence

Different clothing works best for each category.

2. How much money do you want to spend?

Typical answers I hear:

  • The bare minimum to get me onto the trail
  • A modest amount for a functional wardrobe of hiking clothing
  • As much as it takes for a performance piece of athletic clothing that will last for many seasons of hiking

So what do I tell them about
what to wear hiking?

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):

  • Low cost hiking wardrobe essentials for beginning hikers
  • Moderate cost functional pieces of hiking clothing that will last for several seasons
  • High end performance athletic wear for hikers who are in it for the long haul

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.

Low cost clothing essentials
for beginning hikers

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:

  • hike only in good weather.
  • use well maintained trails with modest amounts of elevation gain and loss.
  • stick with mileage in the 4 - 8 mile range per hike.
  • not tackle backpacking trips just yet unless you're with seasoned trail veterans.

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.

My clothing recommendations
for beginner hikers

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.

Total costs

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!

Moderately priced
functional hiking clothing
for intermediate hikers

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.

  • You want pants that stand up to trail grit and don't sag.
  • Jackets that block UV rays, wind, bugs and moisture.
  • And hiking clothing that comes out looking great after many, many wash and dry cycles.


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:

  • I make a wish list, and add or replace one piece of durable, wicking or water proof hiking clothing to my repertoire every season.

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:

  • A water repellent jacket (any of those will work).
  • A durable pair of hiking pants that convert to shorts when needed

Approximate cost: $240 US (less if you shop end-of-season & check REI sales!)

What shirts should I wear for hiking?

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!

REI Co-op Sahara T-Shirt

REI Co-op Sahara Long-Sleeve Shirt

High end quality pieces of
performance athletic wear
for women hikers

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!

Build on these basics

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.

  • To speed up this process, ask for these items as gifts, or every week be sure to scour the REI outlet.

For more detailed information about the best women's athletic clothing for hiking, including underwear tips, go here.

Now you know
what to wear hiking

Blue sky, big mountains and an alpine lake outletGet out there and enjoy yourself on a hike to a spectacular alpine lake!

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.

  • Every bit as important as boots, backpacks and trekking poles.

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!

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