Are you looking for the best hiking clothing for women? If so, you have come to the right place. I will start off by saying, that hiking gear is not a must have to get out and explore the world. I confess that for much of my life I did not consider myself an “outdoorsy” person. It has only been in the past decade since having my son that I have really ventured into the world of the outdoors and started to see that yes, maybe I am an outdoorsy person!
That said, I do not believe you that you need specific gear to get out and adventure. I do not prescribe to the notion that you need to look a certain way to be outdoorsy. If you want to be outdoors and you get yourself outdoors, then you are outdoorsy!
Through much trial and error though, I have finally found things that I adore when out on hiking trails and that are my must haves. Here I share my all time favorite hiking gear for women who are new to the outdoors or who have been exploring there for a long time.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.
General Tips for What to Wear Hiking
Dress in Layers
The biggest thing to know about hiking is to always dress in layers and have options. Regardless of where you are, you just don’t know how the weather conditions will change. Having extra layers helps if you get wet, for cold days or you need to cover up from the sun.
One of the best materials to hike in is merino wool. If that isn’t in your budget, the next best option for hiking clothing is synthetic. I do not love synthetic materials because they are really bad for the environment. but cotton is worse for your body when hiking in winter conditions especially. If you get wet, cotton soaks it up and keeps the moisture next to your body which can be dangerous in cold temperatures, and just uncomfortable in warm weather. Merino wool and moisture wicking materials like performance fabrics pull the fluids away providing better protection.
Bring Sun Protection
Whether you are in a cold climate or hot climate it is best to have good UPF sun protection when out hiking. I tend to go with the thought of being covered up more, but whichever way you lean, stay safe from the sun!
Best Hiking Gear for Women
Again like I mentioned before you do not need specific equipment for hiking, but a lot of these items below have brought me great comfort in the outdoors and I love to share my favorite things with you all in case it helps make things easier. Every person will have their own list of favorites – mine is heavy on wool and lightweight items since we do a lot of long distance backpacking as well as day hikes.
Best Hiking Shoes for Women
If you notice I say hiking shoes, instead of hiking boots. This is because for me personally I do not like to wear hiking boots. I do have them, but I have not worn them in probably 6 years! I lugged them to Uganda when we were told we needed rugged hiking boots to do our trek to see the gorillas, but I did not wear them!
One of the things that used to hold me back from hiking was hiking boots to be honest. I could never find a pair that felt right, didn’t hurt or make my legs feel extremely heavy. I have thicker ankles and that just didn’t work well with most boots.
Enter the world of trail running shoes. My life changed! I literally fell in love with these shoes as soon as I tried them on. They just felt so natural and comfortable for me. This is not to say though that they are for everyone, as some people really need more ankle support. These shoes are zero-drop which means that they are flat without the slight angle that most shoes provide. For me, it works great because when I’m not hiking I typically wear Birkenstocks so my feet are used to being able to spread out and lay flat.
The traction on these shoes are amazing as well as the wide toe box. This has allowed me to get much more confidence on slippery trails as I feel more stable being able to spread out my toes. Even though these shoes are not waterproof hiking boots, they are quick drying. I have walked through many rivers and on various types of terrain and carried on without any inkling of a blister!
One of my favorite discoveries while out backpacking was shoe gaiters! These super soft, light fabric pieces slip over your shoe and help keep rocks out while hiking. While those with higher ankle hiking boots may not need these, those of us with trail runners will find them so useful. I love mine from Dirty Girl Gaiters – the designs are so cool, they come with velcro in case your shoes don’t have velcro built in (the shoes mentioned above do!) and they really last the wear and tear of the trail.
Best Women’s Hiking Pants
If you have been around long you know my obsession with wool and any list of hiking gear for women must have lots of wool! For almost all adventures I go on, I am wrapped in wool from head to toe! I really find wool to be the absolute best hiking clothes from top to bottom. The best hiking pants in my opinion are my leggings from Wool&. I have worn these leggings on all of my backpacking adventures short and long. I also always wear these Wool& bike shorts. Outside of colder weather, these are my go to hiking shorts. I wear them under my dresses or on their own. I love the pockets and that they don’t slip and ride up.
Now, if I am forced to wear something other than my wool leggings or wool bike shorts when hiking, I really love these pants from REI. I wore these pants in Uganda and they were lightweight, seemed to be quick dry when I got wet and weren’t too hot even in the blistering heat!
Women’s Hiking Clothing – Tops & More
I could share hundreds of things under this section, but I will leave you with a few of my favorites. Again, my all time favorite anything for hiking is wool. You can find out all my favorite wool items here, but these days my hiking attire mostly consists of my super lightweight and very comfortable Camellia dress from Wool&. If I don’t have this on, I typically have this perfect tank top that is also wool, but lightweight.
If I want a t-shirt so that my backpack doesn’t rub on my arms, I go with these t-shirts from Smartwool. I have the short sleeve shirts as well as long sleeve.
Best Sun Hoodie for Hiking
My absolute favorite hiking gear for women in SoCal and throughout the Eastern Sierras is a long sleeve ultra lightweight sun hoodie. I wore this shirt every single day of our thru hike on the John Muir Trail and continue to wear it on almost every single hike we go on. It is SUPER lightweight and feels so nice against my skin. It provides great sun protection and keeps me cool when it’s hot out and also a bit warm when the breeze picks up. I don’t love to wear hats when it is hot out, so with this shirt I can just pop up the hood and I forget it’s even there. It protects the back of my neck and the top of my head while also letting me feel the breeze still.
Merino Wool Base Layers
If you haven’t caught on by now, I live for wool and it is literally the only thing I wear these days. (I am going on 1000 days of wearing wool every day!). If we are hiking in the cooler months or backpacking in higher altitudes, I tend to always bring this thicker long sleeve with me. With this, my dress and my puffy jacket mentioned below, I have never been too cold on trail even when waking up with frost on the ground. Merino wool might be expensive, but it is so protective and really works well for all types of weather in regulating body temperature.
Best Women’s Under Layers for Hiking
As with all other clothing options here, wool is my go to for underwear and sports bras as well. I have several wool bras that I use for everyday wear, but also for out on the hiking trail. This one is my go to and is a super comfortable sports bra and is easy to get online and in shops. Any list of hiking gear for women must include our most basic under clothes!
For underwear, I live in my wool undies. These are the best for any hiking adventure whether it is long or short!
I live in Southern California and thus we hardly ever have rain! I have only hiked in the rain a few times, but I do love my North Face rain jacket. I bought it initially for our trip to Alaska many years ago and have continued to use it all these years later. I do not take it backpacking because it is too heavy, but it is perfect for day hikes.
Warm Puffy Jacket
My favorite favorite favorite item that I feel should be on the top of any hiking gear for women list are puffy coats. I was never a jacket wearing person, but again when we were planning a trip to Alaska I knew I would need something warm but lightweight. This jacket filled the bill and continues to be one of my all time favorite hiking accessories. It folds up small enough that I have taken it all over the world and of course on every single backpacking trip I have taken. It is a must have if you don’t have a nice lightweight jacket.
Women’s Hiking Day Pack
I have tried so many day hiking packs through the years, starting with camelbak backpacks. One of the things I noticed in my early days of hiking was that I always felt off balance with my backpack. Up to that point I had always used flimsy daypacks with little structure. It finally dawned on me that I needed a backpack with a firm back. I tried this backpack from REI and it is my go to now. I love the fun prints and it fits a surprising amount of stuff. It fits a hydration bladder easily, has a secret pocket as well as the top pocket. The best time of year to get this is during REI’s annual spring sale when most REI branded gear is on sale and most things have a more affordable price tag.
Enough with the wool you might be saying. I know. But seriously, wool is the best! I have been wearing the same 5 pairs of wool hiking socks from Comrad for years but they no longer carry them. I have had to hunt for new ankle socks, but in the meantime I really love my wool socks from Darn Tough and Smartwool. I am currently trying out a few compression wool socks from Sockwell as I really prefer to hike in compression wool socks as it helps my feet not swell and helps in recovery after long hikes so I can keep on hiking the next day too!
The best thing for me to ensure I am drinking enough water is to have my hydration bladder with me. This way I don’t have to stop and pull out a water bottle. I have found that this allows me to drink on the go and for the most part I don’t get dehydrated when I have this. I use the 1.5 liter bladder, but 2 liter would also be a great option.
I never quite knew how to use hiking poles until we started backpacking and attempting more difficult trails. I now do not go on any trail without them. I don’t always use them, but I do like to have them. They help me when I’m going up steep inclines, help me when I’m going down stairs on the trail and are a must have when I encounter water crossings. I still use these kids hiking poles that we bought for our Zion Narrows hike many moons ago and I still love them. They won’t work for people who are graced with height, but for me at 5’3″ these are perfect. They are super lightweight which is also why I love them.
The best item you can have when out on the trails is a pee cloth. OMG I love this thing. I love not having to just drip dry. I love not having to always remember to have toilet paper with me (and then another baggy to carry it out because contrary to what many believe it is never OK to leave or bury your toilet paper). If you don’t have one of these, get one! These are great for day hikes as well as multi day adventures.
For other emergencies on trail, I do like to have a TP Kit which includes a bit of toilet paper, a wet wipe and a sealable package to take it all back out. These are for when emergency strikes and I have no other option but to go. In that realm, we also always carry this poop shovel just in case.
We have this super lightweight first aid pack that we use when backpacking and hiking. It has always had everything we needed, but we do supplement with a little rock tape, benadryl ointment for bee stings and benadryl tablets for my son in case he gets hives. In my car I have a bigger kit that includes poison oak cream and wipes, bug spray, neosporin spray, rubbing alcohol, gauze, etc.
People always ask me if I feel scared when I am out hiking. The short answer is yes, but what makes me feel more secure is knowing that I have access to the outside world even when there is no phone service through my Garmin In-reach Mini. I have a yearly subscription so mine is always active and ready to be used. The battery life lasts ages so I don’t have to recharge it too often. We used it daily on the JMT to keep in touch with family and friends and to find out about approaching weather. It really is a great item for peace of mind, especially when in the backcountry with a child on my own.
Speaking of the GPS and feeling secure on trail, I also really find having a trail app a great addition to help while on the trail. I have subscriptions to a few different services, but overall i do really love AllTrails. It is super easy to use, allows you to download trail maps so that you have offline access, it tracks your hikes so that if you are feeling lost you can retrace your steps and offers plenty of trails to checkout. Other apps I use regularly are GAIA and Strava. Strava is more for tracking our activity than for trail mapping, but if you do a lot of other outdoor adventures like biking or swimming it is great.
While this isn’t necessarily hiking gear for women, it is one of the most important items I take on a hike is always my battery pack. I have 2 of these super lightweight packs that hold a great charge. This is what we used while backpacking and I use them on almost every outing we go on. If you are going out for a long day or backpacking trip you can pair it with this super lightweight solar panel which does a decent job of charging while hiking.
Just as mentioned above, a knife isn’t necessarily a specific hiking gear for women item, but it’s a useful tool that you should consider while heading outdoors. I don’t always take a knife with me while hiking, but I do have this one in my car and if I know we will be eating on the trail or will be out for a while I take it. It’s too heavy for backpacking so I use this tiny one for backpacking trips. Mostly the only time we have used either of these is to cut gauze or rocktape, but it is a good idea to have just in case!
Are there things that you love for hiking that I’ve not mentioned here? Please share them with me!
If you are looking for our favorites for camping and backpacking,we have that too!
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