If you’re a Hiking Newbie, you’re in for hours of fun and relaxation!
But before you head for the hills, or trails, you’ll want to go over this checklist of what to wear from head to toe. For the most part, what you wear is not mandatory, but can make a difference on how much you enjoy your hike, while providing protection from the elements.
Hiking Boot or Hiking Shoe?
Your choice of hiking boot or hiking shoes will depend on what terrain you’re hiking on. A hiking shoe is meant for trails, is more flexible than hiking boots, and is made of more durable material than walking or running shoes. Hiking shoes also have a better tread than walking or running shoes to better prevent you from slipping. Here are a few of our picks for the best hiking shoes for women:
Salomen Eclipse GTX: A hiking shoe designed with trail running in mind, it is comfortable, water-resistant, and has semi-aggressive tread. Find it here.
Merrell Siren Sport 2: This lightweight shoe has an easy lace system, great tread, and antimicrobial lining, and is very breathable. Find it here.
Ahnu Sugarpine Air Mesh: The simplest of all of our women’s hiking shoe picks, this lightweight shoe is water resistant, colorful, and has the least aggressive tread. Best for light hiking. Find it here.
Hiking boots are sturdier than hiking shoes when it comes to hilly or rocky terrain. They provide greater protection for your knees and ankles to prevent sprains. In addition to protecting you against hazards such as thorns (this is also true for hiking shoes versus running or walking shoes). Some hiking boots have additional protection by means of having a rubber band around the boot, similar to what a bumper does for a car. Here are a few of our picks for the best hiking boots for women:
Asolo Athena: A lightweight, breathable boot with truly incredible water resistance, this boot by Asolo boasts a spacious fit and great traction. Find it here.
Keen Targhee II Mid: A sturdy-soled boot with excellent toe protection, as well as sturdy soles and lightweight construction. Find it here.
Lowa Renegade GTX Mid: This boot has 11 different color options in addition to PU moonwrap frame construction, narrow and wide feet options, and a seamless Gore-Tex lining for waterproofing. Find it here.
Some boots have a waterpoof booty sewn into the material to keep your feet dry – as long as the water or mud doesn’t go over your boot. Other hiking footwear provides a permeable mesh that allows water to flow out as quickly as it comes in so that you’re not walking in a soggy squishy mess like you would with walking or running shoes.
Keep in mind, there are 2 types of hiking boots: day hiking boots and backpacking boots. Backpacking hiking boots are much heavier than the day boot, the difference being that they have better support when carrying a load as heavy as 50 pounds or more.
One more thing to consider: you shoes and/or boot size should be larger than what you’re accustomed to in order to allow for any extra liners you may wear, and to allow for the swelling of your feet.
Sock and Underwear
Hiking socks can go a long way in keeping your feet warm and dry, and to help prevent blisters.
They are usually made of polyester or wool, or a blend of the two.
If you find that wool makes you itchy, you may use thin sock liners. Those that prefer natural materials may want to consider Merino Wool. Unlike other wool, Merino Wool is highly absorbent and may be worn in both hot and cold climates. It isn’t as itchy or as fragile as cashmere, and it absorbs more moisture before it starts to feel damp. Regardless of who damp the wool is, it releases heat back to your body.
During cold weather, long underwear is definitely recommended (Don’t worry! Women’s long underwear has gotten much cuter). For warmer weather, a lightweight base layer can keep you cool and prevent chafing.
Layers, Layers, and More Layers
I cannot stress this enough: layering up doesn’t mean puffing up like a marshmallow. Weather can change abruptly, and you’ll want to be prepared for this. If it becomes too warm, you can remove a layer at a time to stay comfortable. A wicking undershirt or camisole to keep moisture away from your body – for warm or cool purposes – is best to keep comfortable.
It is also a good idea to wear insect repellent, but wearing a long sleeved shirt as well will protect you even more.
More Women’s Hiking Gear Elements
Hiking jackets are helpful when it comes to keeping you warm, as well as protecting you from the wind and rain. The outer shell should be made of Gore-Tex or similar water resistant (but lightweight) material, and the outside should be a wicking shell.
Many jackets have zippered vents at the underarms and/or back for better breath-ability and moisture control. Make sure that the jacket you pick has these, since they will keep you much more comfortable, no matter what the weather.
Your hiking jacket should fit snugly, but allow for a bit of layering underneath.
Hiking Pants are just as important. Convertible pants are a great option that allows you to switch to shorts when it gets too hot. Hiking pants are insulated: they protect you from the sun, rain, and wind.
Most of all, in case of an unintentional swim (or intentional), the mesh pockets allow for drainage so that you’re not carrying an extra quart or two of water. Jeans are fine for a walk in the park, or around the lake, but get much too heavy and cumbersome when wet.
Don’t forget a hat for additional sun protection!
Backpacks, Fanny Packs, or Waist Packs
If you’re just out for a day or so, a fanny pack (waist pack) is great for carrying things that you will need without having to strap a pack on your back. Using one means no over stuffing your hiking jacket pockets, which restricts movements, unbalances you, and weighs you down. There are a wide variety of fanny/waist packs to choose from, and many are set up to accommodate things like water bottles and cell phones comfortably.
It is a good idea to get your backpack fitted by someone who knows what they’re doing because this not only makes the hike more comfortable, it can prevent injuries.
A well-fitted backpack should fit between you shoulders and hips, snugly, but not so tightly that it is uncomfortable. Fasten all the straps, including the one around your waist for maximum balance and movement.
What to pack? Essential Hiking Gear: Women
If you plan to hike in a remote location, I highly recommend a GPS Hiking system. Many are enabled with trail maps, have a built in electronic compass, and are compact enough to wear on your wrist like a watch.
Many, if not all GPS Hiking Systems have a locator in the event that you get lost/hurt.
But beyond physical things you need to pack, remember to use common sense. Always let someone know where you will be hiking, when you’re leaving, and when you expect to return in case things go awry.
The items you need for hiking gear for women don’t differ much from the hiking gear for men.
Where they are different is the that products are made to specifically fit a woman’s shape, size, and weight – and companies are starting to incorporate women’s color preferences too!
Use this checklist for women’s hiking gear to get you started on a great, comfortable hike!
Til Next Time,
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