The Best Hiking Gear for Women

two people hiking near snow-capped mountains

We’ve talked a lot about exercise and workouts over the years, but we’ve never done a post specifically on hiking — so today we’re rounding up the best hiking gear for women.

Although I sometimes work out outdoors, the last time I went on a “real” hike was, uh, years ago (at Great Falls — loved it there!), so I reached out to Sigita Baskyte, co-founder and editor at Leisure Hiking, for some tips and recommendations.

She says, “My biggest advice for beginners is to invest in proper footwear and make sure you have a warm and moisture-wicking shirt closest to your skin.” Check out her picks below, along with other hiking gear worth checking out!

Hiker readers, experienced or otherwise, what is your favorite hiking gear for women? Any lessons you’ve learned about what NOT to use/wear/buy? Where are your favorite places to hike?

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“My biggest pet peeve is hiking footwear,” Baskyte says. “Too many women — and men — take to the mountains wearing casual footwear or a pair of Nikes. If you are planning anything longer than a short stroll along a pathway in the forest, you want to invest in proper footwear!

“There is a big debate on hiking shoes vs hiking boots,” she added. “Personally, I have both, since I hike a lot. But for day-hikes, I will typically wear a pair of hiking shoes (or even trail runners), but if I go hiking for a few days, or in very rugged terrain, I will wear hiking boots. For most beginners, a pair of hiking shoes (or trail runners) will do.”

“I am a huge fan of any shoes, boots, or trail runners by Salomon; however, Keen, Merrell, and Columbia have some quality footwear too.”

The hiking shoe pictured is from Salomon — and it’s also suitable for trail running. This is the X Ultra 3 GTX (not a specific pick from Baskyte, but highly recommended elsewhere), and it’s available at Amazon in a (very wide) price range of $136–$277.

“There are some great outfits for the active woman which we can use on the trails,” Baskyte says. “But be mindful and wear outfits that are wicking to ensure optimum moisture transfer away from the skin. I prefer merino wool shirts as the base layer, but there are some great synthetic options, too.”

This merino wool base layer from Smartwool is highly rated at Amazon and is $94 and up — but there are lots of more affordable options at Amazon, too. This top comes in sizes XS–XL in several colors. Athleta’s Foresthill Merino Wool Ascent Turtleneck (a wool/nylon blend) is available for $79 in a wider size range of XXS–2X and has several colorways.

Here’s the #1 pick from Wirecutter’s roundup of the best hiking socksDarn Tough’s Light Hiker Micro Crew Socks. They praised these as “The best mix of comfort, durability, and cushioning in a versatile height.” They’re $21 at REI and come in S, M, and L.

While I don’t use them for hiking (just brisk walks and working out), I love my socks from Feetures. I think they’d work well for short, easy hikes. They’re very comfortable, and they wear extremely well. While they’re labeled as machine washable, I just toss them in with my other workout clothes in the hand wash cycle with Woolite and no fabric softener (since it’s not good for moisture-wicking fabrics.) These highly-rated Feetures socks at Amazon come in S–XL and are $15.99.

{related: lifting for women}

Outside’s Best Women’s Hiking Gear of 2021 featured Icebreaker’s Sprite Racerback Bra, which is currently on sale for $27–$60 at Backcountry (unfortunately sold out at Amazon for now). It’s available in five colors in sizes XS–XL. It’s not a “hiking bra,” per se, but it’s designed for low to moderate impact sports, is machine washable, and is made from 83% merino wool (yes, wool!), 12% nylon, and 5% Lycra.

My favorite sports bra right now is from Outdoor Voices — their Doing Things Sports Bra is $58 at Nordstrom, where it’s available in three colors in XS–XL. (I love mine because it’s polka dot!) This bra is comfortable and supportive, and it holds up very well. I wash it in a lingerie wash bag on the hand wash cycle with Woolite. I wouldn’t know what bra to recommend for a serious, multi-day hike, but for a couple of hours on a light hike in the park, this would be a good fit (no pun intended).

Psst: looking for a great sports bra for larger bust sizes? This Freya one, these Panache ones, these Athleta ones, or this Enell one are all reader favorites… Looking for something wire-free and comfier for lower impact workouts? Check out Glamorise or Syrokan.

If you’re hiking where you don’t need a tough fabric on your legs to protect you from brush, thorns, etc. — and the weather is cold — try fleece-lined leggings (and other warm options). The pictured leggings are from Baeleaf, which is a reader-favorite brand — this style has 15,000 reviews (!). I have these myself, and they’re warm and comfortable — they also have two large pockets! (These are too long for me, but then I’m only 5′.) The leggings come in a ton of colors and are $23.79–$27.99 at Amazon.

Also check out these styles that are higher quality options: Nike Therma-FIT (XXS–XXL), Nike Hyperwarm (lucky sizes only), and Under Armour ColdGear (short, regular, and tall up to XXL).

Kat’s written about Road ID before — it’s an easy way to carry ID when you don’t have your driver’s license on you. It’s a great item to have for solo hikes! She likes the silicone wrist band ($24.99), but there are other types — I bought this kind (also $24.99) for my husband to put on his running shoes. The engraving on the stainless steel tags is guaranteed for life! (They make pet IDs, too!)

While they’re not designed specifically for hiking, one of these personal safety apps we recommended before could make you feel safer when you’re on your own. For more, here’s a blog post from Explorer Chick on everything to know about women’s hiking safety.

Readers, do tell! What is your favorite hiking gear?

Psst: Long underwear can be great for both super cold hikes and windy office days with unlined pants — these are some of our favorites.

Stock photo at top via Stencil.

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