If you’re planning to hike in the mountains or walk a long distance trail to improve your fitness and wellbeing, it’s good to know what to pack. In this article I recommend the best hiking clothes for women, based on my own experience of numerous hiking trips, from the Tour de Mont Blanc and the Dolomites, to coastal paths in the Mediterranean and countryside walks in the UK.
Hiking clothing for different terrains
One thing to consider before making a list of outdoor clothing you’ll need, is the kind of terrain you’ll be hiking through and the time of year you’re going. Most of my hiking has been done in Europe where the hiking season runs between early May and late September. For Mediterranean hiking destinations the sunny weather may extend the season, although public transport is not as frequent outside the summer months, making it more of a logistical challenge.
If you are hiking in mountainous areas as I’ve done in the Alps or the Dolomites, the hiking clothes you’ll need will be a bit different, since the weather is cooler and more changeable. In this case you’ll need waterproof jacket to protect from heavy rain and warmer layers to wear at higher altitude or in the evening.
For the mountains of Europe the best time to hike is from May through to September/ October but in my experience there’s just as much chance of a shower or chilly days in July and August. The month of May in the mountain can still see snow in the high passes and the temperature can drop quickly, so you need to be prepared for all weather situations.
If you’re walking by the coast as I’ve done on the Cami de Cavalls in Menorca or the GR221 Dry Stone Route in Mallorca, you’ll be at sea level and sometimes have the opportunity to stop for a swim at a beach, so quick drying shorts and t-shirts are more useful and a waterproof is rarely needed.
In the Mediterranean, July and August are generally too hot for walking so April/May/June and September/October are the best months for walking. As you are less likely to be in remote areas and more likely to be doing day walks, you can be a bit more relaxed about the hiking clothing you pack.
The best hiking clothing for women are designed to be a flattering fit for our shape and height, so that you feel comfortable and stylish on your walking trip.
What you wear on your feet is the foundation of your hiking packing list so it’s worth shopping around to find the best hiking boots for women that will suit the shape of your feet. If you’re hiking on rough terrain, in the mountains or for extended hikes that last several days, I really recommend that you invest in a good pair of womens walking boots that have some ankle support, to help cope with uneven or slippery paths. Look for womens waterproof hiking boots that are solid but lightweight, with a waterproof breathable membrane made of Gore-tex or a similar material to keep your feet dry in wet weather.
The biggest advice I can give you when buying a new pair of womens hiking boots is to try on many different pairs and different hiking brands, to find some that feel instantly comfortable when you first put them on. Do not buy anything that niggles or has any element of discomfort – trust me it will only get worse after a few hours walking. If possible, try on the boots when your feet are warm as they tend to swell a bit and wear a medium weight pair of hiking socks to check for a good fit.
Read More: How to choose the perfect hiking boots
Personally I rarely buy ladies walking boots online unless I’d previously tried them on locally or know that the hiking brand is a good fit for my feet if I’ve bought from them before. However it’s worth checking online before you go out shopping to get a feel for the best hiking boots that are available.
Take a look at some of my favourite brands for womens hiking boots
– Hiking Boots from The North Face UK
Even if you’ve found the most comfortable hiking boots after shopping around, I’d still recommend wearing them for some shorter walks in your local area to get your feet used to them, before you embark on a week’s worth of hiking, especially if you’ll be far from any shops. Even the most comfortable boots can give you blisters when you walk for days on end, so I’d also recommend travelling with a supply of plasters, such as the Compeed plasters that are designed to cushion your blisters.
Hiking shoes for women
If you are hiking in warmer climates at sea level, you’ll probably find that hiking boots with full ankle support are too hot to wear and in this case I’d recommend switching to hiking shoes for women that are solid and protective but not too hot. Just like the boots, it’s worth trying on lots of different styles and brands to find something the best hiking shoes to suit your feet, ones that are comfortable from the first time you try them on.
If you find that your feet get overheated, look out for hiking shoes that have vents or more breathable panels although you need to be aware that these are not as protective for your feet in rocky terrain. If you’re walking in weather that’s likely to be changeable, it may be better to look for womens waterproof hiking shoes with a Gore-tex lining that allows your feet to breathe while keeping them dry.
Take a look at some of my favourite brands for womens hiking shoes
I’ve worn the Keen Terradora hiking shoe on my Cami de Cavalls walk in Menorca and other warm weather walks. I found them very comfortable although the fabric upper is not that hard wearing for use on rocky terrain and I had to replace them after a few years use. I also like the Merrell Bravada hiking shoe which has a similar mesh upper and supportive sole for hiking in warmer climates.
I’ve never used hiking sandals on long distance hikes but if you suffer from hot feet and are just doing day hikes where you can be confident of the weather this may be an option for you.
If you are going on holiday somewhere warm and are just planning to do a few day walks, you could also get away with trainers if you don’t want to invest heavily in hiking footwear, but make sure that these are well cushioned trainers with a supportive sole and upper. If you prefer something a bit more soft and flexible, trail shoes are worth considering as a hybrid between hiking shoes and sports trainers.
When doing coastal walks I also like to carry a pair of lightweight flip flops in my backpack to use on the beach or during lunch stops so my feet can cool off – check out the Havaianas range.
Next on your list of essential hiking clothes for women is a hiking jacket, to protect you from showers, especially if you’re in the mountains where the weather can be changeable. The only time I would dispense with taking some sort of walking jacket is if I am doing day walks in a warmer Mediterranean climate and have checked in advance that the forecast will be fine for the days I’m walking. The best womens hiking jackets are light and easy to roll up to keep in your backpack. I like walking jackets with lots of zip pockets to keep essential items to hand, although all these design details tend to be reflected in the price.
What to look for in a waterproof jacket
For most trips I’d recommend packing a waterproof hiking jacket, which not only keeps you dry in the rain but is an extra layer for warmth on chilly mornings or when at high altitude. The best womens waterproof jacket for hiking is one that’s a comfortable fit, large enough to go over several layers of clothing but not so large that it flaps around you. I prefer a jacket that falls over my hips and is a tapered for a more flattering fit, which won’t ride up or reveal lots of flesh when I bend over to lace up my boots.
Take a look at some of my favourite brands for womens waterproof jackets
The more expensive womens hiking jackets tend to be made of a breathable but waterproof fabric like Gore-tex, which keeps you dry but doesn’t feel clammy when you’ve worked up a sweat. Gore-tex is a well known brand for this kind of fabric but there are other similar brands that do the same job. Due to the improved technical performance, a jacket made of this breathable, waterproof material tends to cost a bit more. Other design features to look out for when you shop for a ladies waterproof jacket, are zips for ventilation under the arms, drawstring elastic and visor on the hood, two way zips that open at the bottom and top, and several zip pockets in the arms and body.
Softshell hiking jackets
Depending on the kind of hiking you are doing, a womens soft shell jacket may also be worth packing for your walking trip. As the name suggests, the fabric of a soft shell jacket is lighter, more pliable and soft to the touch and it tends to be used more as a windproof layer than to protect from rain. Soft shell jackets are popular to wear for skiing or snow activities, since they are breathable and water resistant but not necessarily waterproof. For hiking I generally only choose a soft shell jacket as an alternative to a waterproof jacket on shorter day hikes where I need some extra warmth, but where no heavy rain is forecast. A lightweight softshell jacket could also be a good alternative to a fleece, where you also have a waterproof in your backpack in case of heavy showers.
A packable down jacket
Most of my hiking takes place during the summer months in Europe, so I’m normally warm enough with a mid weight fleece and waterproof jacket. However, if you are hiking at the beginning or end of the season, or during the winter you might want to consider a lightweight down jacket that will provide an extra level of warmth and be layered under a waterproof or worn on its own. Look for a women’s packable down jacket that will squash up small into its own bag, so that you can easily stow it away without taking up much space in your rucksack.
For long distance hiking you really do need a pair of womens walking trousers made of lightweight and quick drying fabric. At all costs you should avoid wearing jeans, chinos or heavy cotton trousers which will act like a sponge when wet and take ages to dry if you get caught in a shower. I find the best hiking trousers are those that have plenty of zip pockets, especially those with a side pocket on the leg where you can keep your map or guidebook accessible for easy use.
For maximum flexibility I prefer hiking trousers designed for women that have a zip off leg to convert them to shorts. If the weather warms up by the middle of the day you can unzip the legs and then put them on as the temperature drops in the late afternoon. This option is ideal for mountain hiking when you never know what the weather will bring, or on day hikes where you don’t want to carry lots of extra clothing. Take a look at the North Face Paramount convertible pant which has zip off legs.
Take a look at some of my favourite brands for womens hiking trousers
The same criteria applies when shopping for hiking shorts for women, in terms of lightweight, quick drying fabric that won’t stay soggy too long if it gets wet. The quick drying fabric is also ideal if you are doing long distance hikes and need to wash your clothes every few days, as you should be able to get your shorts dry overnight.
For hiking in the Mediterranean or warmer climates, I often use sports shorts which are comfortable, quick drying and great if you are passing any beaches and want to change quickly for a swim. On my last walk on the Cami de Cavalls I wore these Ronhill women’s shorts which were cool, comfortable and a flattering fit.
Occasionally I’ll wear womens hiking leggings and they are a great option to consider if you are hiking in the early spring, late autumn or winter months when you are expecting colder weather. The best hiking leggings are stretchy, super comfortable and keep your legs warm, reducing the risk of injury. Look for walking leggings that have a comfortable, high waistband and are made of a breathable, quick drying material that wicks away sweat and gives you good coverage.
Avoid anything that’s a cotton blend as it will draw and retain water like a sponge, which will not be a fun experience and could lead to you getting very cold after a rain shower. One downside of hiking leggings compared to walking trousers is that there are generally no pockets, although some designs may have a small zip pocket in the waistband or a hip level pocket that’s big enough to keep your mobile.
I’ve found the best hiking top is one that’s stretchy, lightweight and made of quick drying fabric that will wick away sweat. If you already have a technical fabric sports top that you use for running or other exercise, this will be fine for hiking too. When buying a hiking t-shirt I generally choose one that covers my shoulders as there’s less risk of sunburn or chaffing from daypack straps. If you feel the heat, look out for something with a cap sleeve for better underarm ventilation or if you’re a sun worshiper you may prefer a vest style top.
Take a look at some of my favourite brands for womens hiking tops
Another type of hiking top for women that’s increasingly popular, is made of lightweight, specially treated Merino wool that wicks away sweat and keeps you cool. The Merino wool has antibacterial properties so it’s less likely to become smelly on long hikes, but it does need a bit more care with a cooler wash and can’t be tumble dried. Check out the Icebreaker range of Merino wool tops and base layers for a natural alternative to synthetic fabrics.
Hiking mid layer or fleece
Layering is key, especially if you are hiking early or late in the year or if you’re in the mountains where the day can start cool but warm up quickly. For summer hiking you probably won’t need a base layer (a long sleeve under-top or leggings) to keep you warm, but you might need a mid layer, long sleeve top or lightweight fleece to go between your hiking t-shirt and your waterproof. As always, avoid cotton tops that absorb and hold moisture and instead go for quick drying long sleeve tops or fleece that will add an extra bit of warmth, but fold up easily in your backpack.
There are lots of hiking accessories, that can make a big different to your comfort. Before you go mad on buying stuff you might only use occasionally I’d check to see what you already have in the drawer or can borrow from a friend. Here are a few things that don’t take up much room in your backpack, but will make your hike a bit more pleasant.
Take a look at some of my favourite brands for hiking accessories
– Check out these high quality hiking backpacks
One area where it probably is worth buying the best hiking socks you can afford, especially if you are planning a long multi-day hike. Your feet will thanks you for it by the end! For summer hiking you’ll need ankle length walking socks that are a bit higher than the tops of your boots or walking shoes, to avoid any rubbing. Most hiking socks are made from a synthetic or wool blend that’s designed to allow your feet to breathe and not get too sweaty. Also look out for socks that have a seamless toe and are cushioned on the sole and around the foot, which will reduce the likelihood of painful blisters.
As I mainly walk in summer, I always pack a sun hat, normally a lightweight and packable sports cap made of a quick dry fabric. In sunnier climates like the Mediterranean, a hat is really important to avoid sunstroke and I wear a lightweight cap like this one from Trailheads – I also like the quick dry, packable caps like this by Gadiemkensd
Take a look at some of my favourite brands for hiking caps
If you prefer a brimmed sun hat look for a quick drying fabric and easy to pack hat like the Columbia Bora Booney Hat, The North Face Horizon Breeze Brimmer Hat or Columbia unisex pine mountain bucket hat
When hiking at the beginning or end of the season in the mountains, or if you are hiking in winter, you’ll need to pack a warmer hat. Make sure it’s lightweight but warm and easy to roll up into your backpack. Another good option, if you think you’ll rarely use a warm hat, is to pack a tubular scarf that won’t take up much space and can also double as a hat if required.
A stretchy tubular scarf is a useful thing to keep in your backpack for mountain hiking or when the weather is cooler as it takes up hardly any space. It can double as a neck warmer and also become a hat or headband. I prefer to go for the soft polyester fabrics that are quick drying and easy to wash like the range from Buff.
As most of my hiking is in summer, I only carry gloves for mountain hiking, but they are particularly useful if you are hiking early in the season and encounter patches of snow at higher altitudes. I’d recommend lightweight gloves that are made of a quick drying fabric and touch screen fingers like these Aegend lightweight sports gloves.
If you’re hiking in summer you should pack a pair of sunglasses, essential in the Mediterranean but also surprisingly important in the mountains where the sun can be strong. I generally leave my most expensive sunglasses as home, since this is an item that can easily get lost and look for sturdy styles that have a lense without any distortion, so that they don’t affect your views on uneven paths. I also often keep them on a cord around my neck or held on with an eyewear retainer.
A Money belt for hiking
I’d recommend using a money belt when hiking, so that you can be sure to keep your valuables with you at all times. When doing a day hike it’s better to leave your passport and any money you don’t need in the hotel safe, just taking what you need for that day. However on longer multi-day hikes you may be carrying all your gear with you and in this case you shouldn’t leave passports, cash or credit cards in your backpack, which is vulnerable to theft. I use a money belt like this one from Eagle Creek that has an inner pouch to keep your phone and and other valuables safe.
Underwear for hiking
I know that underwear is an incredibly personal thing, but ideally you need something under your hiking clothes that is light, comfortable and quick drying in case you get caught in a rain shower. I can personally recommend the Sloggi range of underwear, as I love the easy to wear styles that you can put on and forget about. I’ve found that the polyamide/elastane fabric they use is very light and quick drying which is ideal if you are packing light and rinsing through each night, but there are also cotton blend fabrics if you prefer. On my top half I prefer a light sports bra or crop top with a racer back, again one that’s quick drying is ideal.
This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here
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