Best Hiking Gear for Women
If you’re like me, you invest a decent amount of money into your kids, often while wearing the same clothes for years and years. As a mom, it’s hard to justify spending money on yourself when you see so many other places it needs to go.
But, refreshing and updating your hiking wardrobe can be a really great way to take care of yourself, and if you buy quality items that function for exactly what you need, you’ll actually end up buying less. And that’s a win in my book.
Best Hiking Clothes for Women: Look good, feel good!
In this article, I’ll compile a list of hiking essentials to keep you comfortable and happy out on the trails. Studies show that when you have gear you love, you get out more. Okay, maybe there are no studies proving that, but I can definitely vouch personally for it. And when you look good on the trail, you feel good, right?!
So lets talk tops, bottoms, shoes, outerwear, layers, packs, and accessories- The Mountain Mama team is here to give you all our favorites!
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- Best Hiking Gear for Women
- Best Hiking Clothes for Women: Look good, feel good!
- Fabric Matters for Hiking
- Best Bras for Hiking and Best Hiking Panties
- Base Layers for Hiking: Best for Chilly Days
- Best Hiking Shirts for Women
- Hiking Tank Tops
- Women's Hiking Shirts for Hot Weather and Sun Protection
- Women's Hiking T- Shirts
- Best Hiking Shorts for Women
- Hiking Pants for Women
- Best Hiking Leggings for Women
- Best Fleece Jacket for Women for Hiking
- Hiking Jacket for Women
- Best Hiking Shoes for Women
- Hiking Accessories for Women
- Best Hiking Backpack for Women
- Time to hit the trail!
- Related Articles
Fabric Matters for Hiking
Let’s start with the layers closest to your skin and work outward. Having the right fabric against your skin will make or break your hiking experience in my opinion. That starts with well fitting and moisture wicking underwear, bras, and tees. For the other layers, you want fabric that is quick drying and breathable. Generally, cotton is not a great fabric to wear hiking, because when it gets wet or sweaty, it sticks and holds moisture, making you pretty uncomfortable.
Look for wool
I’ve become a convert to wool. It’s a natural fiber, doesn’t hold stink (less laundry!), and regulates temperature. You stay as cool or as warm as your body needs, and it’s not full of microplastics. It’s my favorite fabric, especially for base layers, which come in direct contact with sweat.
Best Bras for Hiking and Best Hiking Panties
First up, we’ll list a few of our favorite underclothes. And if you haven’t guessed, wool tops that list.
With wide straps, a full coverage racer back, and soft, comfy wool, this bra might be our favorite first layer. It’s low to medium support, which makes it comfortable for hiking when you don’t need high compression.
Team member Domo loves it because it’s merino, the straps are comfortable, and with the crossover and racer back design, there is enough support to be comfortable as an every day bra. You can learn more and buy it here. Even though wool is temperature regulating, I did find the fabric a tad thick, so on the hottest days it might be a bit warm.
“I’m somewhat small busted, and wore mine comfortably hiking and as an every day bra.
I was excited because it is a wool based bra with wider straps and a racer back. It has held up well and I plan to buy another!“TMM member Domo Woodham
Our other favorite bra is the Like a Cloud bra from the wizards over at lululemon. They’ve managed to make a bra that literally feels like wearing a cloud. Team member Sarah says, “I pretty much wear it every day. Straps stay in place, super lightweight feel, wicks sweat; it’s nice and light but still has good support.” As a note, she recommends sizing up in this bra. There are different versions depending on your cup size.
Ridge Merino hiking underwear (I love the boy shorts) are already a hit in the thru hiking scene. These undies give you all the benefits of wool: regulating temperature, feeling great against the skin, and best of all- not holding funky smells. Which, obviously, is a plus for underwear.
For a multi-day trip, or a hike where I know I will sweat a lot, these are my go-to undies. Whether you prefer briefs, bikini, or boy shorts, Ridge has you covered. Learn more and buy them here!
Base Layers for Hiking: Best for Chilly Days
For colder hikes, base layers can be a great addition to your wardrobe. I like those that can be worn as a stand alone piece or under a shell. They’re great to wear on chilly mornings or when camping. My favorites are my Woolx tights, Kari Traa wool tights, Smartwool 1/4 zip top, and Aurora Heat fur warmers.
These are another wool product I can’t live without. Whether I’m cross-country skiing in cold temperatures, camping, or hiking on a cool day, they keep me warm and don’t hold stink. I just have to hang them to air out and I love having to do less laundry that way. The Stellas are thicker and have less compression. So if you don’t want to feel squeezed during your hike but would like the comfort of leggings, these are for you.
100% wool, these leggings are awesome for winter hiking or nordic skiing. They don’t have a ton of stretch like most leggings, but they are smooth and fit high, and are so comfy! They’ve got a knit elastic waistband and four way stretch, and breathable thinner side panels. They’re flattering and come in lots of nordic inspired color ways. And bonus, you can buy a matching quarter zip top and have the cutest (and most technical) jammies around!
The Smartwool 1/4 zip wool top is hands-down my favorite base layer top. I wear it for chilly hikes, skiing and snowboarding, camping, and really anytime I just want a warm-but-not-too-warm top. This is a staple in any outdoorsy person’s wardrobe. There are non-hooded versions if you prefer, but I am a hood gal. Anytime the wind bites or the temps dip, I’m zipping that hood up around my chin.
“The Smartwool 1/4 zip is hands down my favorite base layer top! A staple in any outdoorsy person’s wardrobe.”TMM member Mary Burton
These are my favorite sustainable products to use as a base layer. Aurora Heat’s fur warmers act as natural insulators, helping to retain the body heat you generate. I like to bring them on hikes (and use them all the time when skiing!) because they are small and compact, yet effective – they can easily be slipped into my gloves, leggings, or top layer, for an extra layer of insulation. And if you don’t need them, they’re small enough to easily store in your backpack.
Best Hiking Shirts for Women
From tanks to tees to sun hoodies, we’ll cover our favorite hiking tops here.
Hiking Tank Tops
If your’e looking for a featherweight tank for those hot days, this top is for you. Team member Domo W. tried out the Oiselle flyout wool (blend) swing tank, and had this to say: “This is by far the lightest tank top I own. It seems to more or less float on my skin. After wearing this tank for multiple days, it never developed a smell and stayed soft and comfortable. It should be noted, however, that since it’s so thin it snags easily, and should be treated with care.”
Team leader Amelia loves this top! She says it’s super light weight and awesome for hot days. With a loose fit and mesh panels, it’s flowy, stretchy, and perfect for high aerobic or really warm hikes. It sits just below the hips, and I love that they have sizes 0-20, so it really can fit just about any body. Learn more and buy it here!
I know I said avoid cotton, but sometimes a loose and breezy cotton top feels good! As long as you aren’t at risk of getting super sweaty and cold, this top is really comfy. It’s breezy and loose, and if you’re sick of tight tops and the feel of techy fabrics, you’ll love this. It comes in all different colors, has a crop version, and of course a huge range of sizes.
Women’s Hiking Shirts for Hot Weather and Sun Protection
With UPF 30+, this shirt is super cozy, breathes well and is perfect on its own for cooler days or for hiking layers. With mesh vents for cooling and stretchy fabric, and side slits for a flattering fit, this sun shirt is a top pick from team member Amelia.
The Capilene Cool Daily Hoodie is by far the thinnest sun hoodie I’ve tried. So nice for the hot days when you don’t want to be baked by the sun but are tired of re-applying sunscreen. It’s semi-fitted, silky soft, and doesn’t hold in heat. It also dries extremely fast. I’ve had mine for a few years, and it washes well, with no holes or snags, and only a bit of sun fading from prolonged use.
I’ve been living in my wool sun hoodie from Ridge Merino. It saves my skin from sun on a long day, has a generously sized hood, and doesn’t hold stink. I recently flew to Africa to hike Kilimanjaro, and when my bags didn’t arrive, I spent a good week traveling and hiking in this hoodie.
I quickly realized that if I was stuck with only one shirt, I was glad it was this one. I wear it almost every day for hiking, sun protection, and just as comfy top. The hood works great to shade your neck and face, or over a cap, which is what I did on Kili when I didn’t have a wide brimmed hat.
“This is a great shirt for high up in the mountains where sunscreen just doesn’t cut it.”– TMM member Jen G.
Women’s Hiking T- Shirts
Lululemon has recently come out with a hiking line, and I tested their cinched hem shirt. Keeping up with the trends, it’s loose fitting and short, with a drawstring along the bottom hem to adjust the length and air flow. I was skeptical at first, but it’s flattering and comfortable on my apple shaped middle. It dries quickly, is comfortable, and looks good. A win in my book. The fabric seems durable and I think it will hold up for many more hikes to come.
Team member Jen Gardner recommended both the Helly Hansen Lifa Active hoodie and t shirt from their S Cafe series. She loved the hoodie for high alpine adventures or any activity that requires extended sun exposure. The T-shirt was comfy, breathable and flattering. Especially cool is that they’re made from recycled ground coffee mixed with plastic bottles and recycled polyester for chemical free sun protection.
Jen did note the fabric was a little thicker than some active shirts, but once she started sweating, the moisture was pulled away from her skin and she felt cooled. And bonus, the stink from sweating washed out just fine.
Loose and breezy, but very flattering, this might be my favorite summer t shirt. Made of a light merino/tencel blend, it’s a little stronger than plain merino (which tends to get holes easily). I’ve worn it hiking, climbing, and just around town. It holds it’s shape, has nice coverage on the arms, and is just really comfortable and cute. Of course, being wool, it doesn’t hold stink, so I can wear it several days in a row.
Best Hiking Shorts for Women
lululemon is known for great leggings, but recently they have come out with a more hiking specific line. I tested their cargo hiking shorts, and was skeptical at first. But they have impressed me. The waistband is comfortable, and 5 inch length is flattering, and I like that the cargo pockets fit my phone without having it next to my skin like leggings. This also comes in a skort version, which team member Cait loves as well!
If your’e not into loose fitting shorts, and it’s too hot for leggings, enter the biker short! They’re great if you are prone to chafing or rubbing on your thighs (no thigh gap required!) These shorts are great for long days on the trail, running or hiking. They stay put, are comfy, and they do ‘wunders’ for your backside. Every lady hiker needs a pair of biker shorts!
Typically a mountain biking brand, Shredly came out with a multisport short that is so comfy and stretchy. Every time I wear them I get compliments on how cute and comfy they look! And with a mid rise yoga waistband, my mom pouch stays happy. Squatting and high stepping are not a big deal, as they have plenty of stretch in the hips and thighs. They dry fast, so cooling down in a mountain lake or stream is no big deal. They’ve got good pockets, lots of prints to choose from, and everyone I know that has them loves them.
Hiking Pants for Women
If you’re wanting a looser fitting, true hiking pant, Mountain Hardwear makes my favorite. With a stretchy waistband, there are no buttons or snaps to annoy or pop when I squat down. The ankles cinch so you can adjust the length if you want to shorten them. Made of stretchy nylon, they’re durable, breathable, and comfortable. They also come in shorts! I have both and love them. They run a tad big- I usually wear a large but I’m a medium in these.
For those of us who want a jogger style, Title Nine delivers. TMM leader Amelia loves these for hiking. Loose enough to leave breathing room but fitted enough to look cute, they’re a great pant for warm weather. Sun protection, bug protection, and spiky plant protection all in one.
Title Nine makes several versions of the Clamber pant- shorts, capris, regular, and recycled. I like the recycled version because they’re slightly lighter than the originals, and a little better for the planet. With an adjustable leg cinch that changes length easily and doesn’t look dorky, and a soft elastic/snap waistband, these pants are awesome. They have lots of pockets (including a perfectly phone-sized one!) and they’re really abrasion resistant.
Best Hiking Leggings for Women
The lululemon wunder train tights are buttery soft and the high waist makes them a very flattering choice. They have lots of compression, so if you want super supportive leggings these are for you. They come in a variety of lengths and colors, so you can really customize them to your liking. They wash and wear well, and they will flatter your backside, so you’re welcome. Awesome for high aerobic pursuits.
When you want a legging but something a bit more durable, these are for you. With lots of pockets, and super stretchy fabric, these are comfy and utilitarian. They fit tight and have a high waistband, but they do run small. The fabric is an abrasion resistant recycled nylon/spandex blend, it’s water repellent, and UPF 50. They were the coveted pants among out Kilimanjaro hiking group this summer.
Similar to the Altheta tights, these are rugged and durable. Don’t waste your good yoga tights on hiking. These will hold up to rocky climbs and the occasional bum scoot down a scree field. They’ve also got gussets all over the place for stretch in all the right spots.
Best Fleece Jacket for Women for Hiking
When hiking, the weather will inevitably get windy, chilly, or rainy. It’s a good idea to have a warm layer handy. Here is a list of our go-tos.
This Patagonia R1 fleece is a classic. Climbers and hikers claim you can do just about anything in an R1. It’s got waffle fabric on the inside to hold in warmth while staying thin, so you can wear it under a shell comfortably.
I’ve hiked mountains, biked cold days, climbed windy crags and camped entire summers in this fleece, and worn it through pregnancy and nursing- it cuts the wind chill just right without over heating. I also love the ninja hood that fits nicely under a helmet, and zips up to my nose for extra warmth. It’s also held up to years of abuse with little signs of wear. It really is a staple piece.
A soft, polartec fleece that works great as an every day jacket. A slight boxy cut, it feels casual and unassuming. It works great as a light layer (on really windy days it needs a shell), but overall so comfortable and cozy. You just can’t beat this for a simple, classic fleece jacket.
A mid-layer that can double as an outer layer on dry days, this fleece cuts the wind nicely. It’s a thicker/heavier fleece that is perfect for chillier days. The fit is almost tunic-like, and so has a really flattering fit. It’s stretchy and doesn’t restrict movement, but is quite fitted. I love the longer sleeves and thumb holes, and the cozy hood! A really good looking but functional piece.
Hiking Jacket for Women
If you’re looking for a water proof but breathable, stretchy, warm yet lightweight jacket, this is the one. It seems a bit like a unicorn in the land of hiking jackets. It’s got a super soft fleece inside that makes it quite cozy, yet it packs down small. It is form fitting and fits true to size. I’d classify this as a 3 season jacket, great in the cooler temps of spring and fall.
The One from Kuhl is also available as a shell (that Amelia has and loves!)
A new piece this year, I have been loving this Smartwool Merino Sport Ultralight Anorak. It’s loose fitting and stylish, but very comfortable and breathable. It’s nylon on the outside with merino lining inside and on the armpit panels, so it doesn’t stink!
It’s always frustrating putting on a windbreaker and having it smell like your last run. This way, you don’t have to wash it after each hike, extending the life and water proofing. It’s got hand pockets that I wish zipped up, but that’s my only complaint.
Lightweight and simple, the Patagonia Slate Sky shell is waterproof and a great outer layer for hiking. I even wear mine skiing sometimes. It has an adjustable hood, a relaxed fit, and is made with planet friendly waterproofing. It looks good and is a very versatile shell. It fits layers underneath well.
Best Hiking Shoes for Women
It’s tricky to recommend hiking boots or shoes, because every foot is different and often they are terrain specific. I’d recommend going to a local gear shop or running store to try some on before committing to any pair. Stiff uppers on shoes are helpful for stability, look for good tread if you’re needing traction, and try on for comfort.
That said, these are a few pairs that seem to be a hit among everyone who tries them. I’ll also link a recent TMM article on women’s hiking shoes at the bottom of this article.
When I polled all my TMM teammates and other hiking mama friends, Keen seemed to be the overwhelming recommendation. Team member Domo Woodham loves the Pyrenees. A waterproof, light weight leather boot with a wide toe box, with a tread quality rugged and durable for hiking in the mountains, these boots seem like a perfect combo. She loved that they’re not super heavy or stiff, and were comfortable from the first wear. The arch support and foot bed are helpful in preventing foot fatigue.
Use code MTNMAMA to save 20% on all KEEN footwear.
Waterproof, full leather uppers, and supportive, these are team member Ginny’s favorite hiking and backpacking boot. They offer great stability and traction. Her favorite feature though? The Heel Pocket. They are narrower in the heel and wider in the forefoot, so they cup your heel just right for a supportive fit. There is lots of room in the forefoot for your toes to spread out. Comfortable right out of the box, she admits the only blisters she’s ever gotten in these were after 14 miles and lots of water over her boot. For a ‘fast and light” hiker, she also recommends the Oboz Arete Low.
“The Oboz cup my heel just right and are comfy right out of the box.”– Ginny, TMM team member
For those who want a low top, trail runner type shoe, I’ve had great success with the Salomon Speedcross. Made for trail running, the tread is incredible, but what sold me is the comfort. From the moment I tried these on, my feet were itching to run and hike. I’ve tested them on long days in the Tetons and quick trail runs, and they remain comfortable with no hot spots or issues. But as I mentioned above, try on shoes and make sure they’re right for your feet.
Hiking Accessories for Women
A few well chosen accessories can help you have a lot of success on the trail. We’ll discuss a few of our staples in this section.
The only sock I buy, Darn Toughs are wool socks made in Vermont, and come in a variety of styles, from ankle to crew to tall ski socks. They are comfortable, no nonsense socks with cool prints. Wool socks help with moisture management when hiking, so you’re less likely to get blisters, or feet that get too hot or cold. It really is a night and day difference from wearing cotton socks. But the big reason I love Darn Tough? They have a lifetime warranty! That means if your socks get holes, you can send them back and Darn Tough will send you a coupon for a new pair! I’ve redeemed this offer several times over the years, and it’s so worth it!
A buff is so versatile on the trail. You can use it as a headband, neck scarf, balaclava, or tissue if you need. Of course, they make them in several fabric choices, but the wool is my favorite, for the quick dry, no smell, comfortable qualities I’ve listed throughout this article. They’re great for under a ski helmet as well. This is a year round piece in my hiking pack.
Trekking poles may seem dorky, but they are so nice on steep trails! Both up and down, they give support for your knees and legs, as well as stability on tough terrain. They reduce muscle and joint fatigue, and hey- they make you look hard core in pictures! There are several brands and styles to choose from but these Black Diamond ones are durable, lightweight, and collapsible so you can stow them away when you don’t need them.
For chilly morning hikes and cross country skiing, these gloves are my go-to. They are thin liner gloves, with a windproof/waterproof mitten shell that folds over for extra protection. The shell tucks into a little pocket. These are tiny and perfect to just tuck into your pack if your hands need some extra warmth.
This is my favorite innovative product for colder hikes. Aurora Heat’s reusable hand warmers are made of sheared beaver fur. They do not generate heat, but rather help retain the heat your body is naturally generating, keeping you comfortably warm. They’re easy to take on and off as needed – just place them into your gloves, with the fur-side directly touching your skin, and you’ll keep warm on those chillier hikes. Alternatively, you can leave them in your pockets and reach for them whenever you need an extra dose of comfortable warmth. One of the best parts – they’re SO soft!
Best Hiking Backpack for Women
A long time fan of Salomon for running vests and hiking packs, I hike with this day pack. It’s roomy enough to carry layers and snacks, but fits nice and snug against your body for bulk free hiking. Compatible with a hydration bladder and it comes with little flasks that fit in front chest pockets, which makes hydrating easy.
TMM Team leader Amelia loves this Deuter day pack for longer days where you need to carry more. Lightweight, comfortable, and durable, it’s ideal for climbers or alpine hikers, but could work for any hiking endeavor. It’s got a bit more support and load adjustment straps so it would be great for heavier hiking loads. Built more narrow and ergonomic to fit a woman’s body, this pack is a solid choice.
Team Member Jami’s bag of choice for hiking is the Trail 40 from REI. She loves that it’s got plenty of room to carry all the things for her family on a day hike, but it cinches tighter if you have a lighter load. She especially loves that it has a U shaped zipper panel, so you can open the entire pack instead of digging in from the top!
Time to hit the trail!
We hope this hiking guide was helpful and that you can find the perfect piece to help you hit the trails year round. Whether you’re hiking up a mountain, going on a multi day trip, or just around your neighborhood trails, getting out there is worth it for your fitness and your sanity! Happy trails from the Tales of a Mountain Mama team!
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