Power to Petites: Thru-Hiking Tips for Small Women

(Originally published June 2019; updated September 2020)

Acing a long hike on short legs

There’s a gap in Virginia just for us!

An underrepresented population

Welcome, small-sized gals (and guys!) We may be a minority on the trail, but don’t let that stop you from living your thru-hiker dreams.

Before I left for the Appalachian Trail, I intently searched for “petite women hikers” online and found—well, nothing.

Nothing helpful, that is.

So here is my contribution to the conversation on how compact-sized hikers can make the most of their trek in a world that caters to the tall.

Me with Camel and Big Red—two of the greats among the Tall folk.

Where have all the short girls gone?

Not to the woods.

I’ve looked.

I see many men. And lots of average-to-tall women.

But petite women?

Not so much.

Why is this?

I have a theory:

Tall women tend to be encouraged into athletics at a young age. Small women, less so. Or if we are, it’s things like dance, gymnastics, and maybe track or soccer.

Those who consider themselves athletic are more likely to consider themselves fit for a thru-hike.

Women who excel in athletics, research shows, develop a higher confidence about their bodies, their capabilities outdoors, and even their ability to defend themselves against threats.

Though danger can strike us all, I wonder if tall people in general feel less vulnerable to being attacked by an animal or violent human? Do they feel more confident living in the wild?

And are men and tall women overall given more support in their outdoor pursuits? Maybe.

Men outnumber women in the thru-hiking world by about 2:1, which I imagine is due to a combination of scouts, wilderness exposure, and cultural narratives that foster a “man in the wild” image.

I know many women who love the outdoors but feel daunted by the ever-present warning issued by friends and family: “You’re not hiking alone, are you?”

For small women, go ahead and put that question in all caps and you’ll have the general reaction to my decision to hike the Appalachian Trail.

Do we look like the sign?

But here’s the skinny, short girls:

You will be fine.

You will be more than fine.

You are every bit as qualified to enjoy an extended hike on the Appalachian Trail as the next person.

And there’s no reason to think it will be harder or less possible for you.

There is the matter of bunk beds, though:

Change “dorm” to hostel bunks—especially climbing down from these in the middle of the night.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

In all seriousness though, there are a couple of things to keep in mind if you want to not only survive, but thrive, in your thru-hike.

Much of what we share below could apply to any hiker: short or tall, male or female.

But here are some tips I wish I’d had before I left that might help small-sized women prepare to love living in the woods.

And you don’t have to take my word for it

I have found two other contributors for this article because I have hiked with a total of two women under 5’3,” and I’ve learned a lot from them.

If you too count yourself among the Step-stool Sisterhood, here’s what we’ve got:


Note: These anecdotes are from my 2019 AT thru-hike.

Me / “Sprout” / from New York

With flowers at a New York wedding last June—ready to return to the wildflowers.

Height: 5 feet, 1 inch (and a half!)

1. Cut the gear list in half

I’m not kidding.

When preparing for a thru-hike, you will find all these “essential gear lists” that are not made for you.

You will not need two sets of clothes. You will not need mad amounts of first aid. You will not need a two-person tent.

As a small female, a light pack weight is (almost) everything. Ask yourself with each item, “Would I die without this?”

If the answer is “Enh, well…” then it’s a no. Unless it is mascara. (Good selfies don’t take themselves, people!)

Thankfully, my pack gets lighter and lighter!

2. Spend the money on ultralight

I know. That stuff costs more than your car.

But save money and cut corners elsewhere.

Go cheap on hostels, drink less beer, do a work-for-stay in town, sell your antique jewelry, take out a loan, but DO NOT CARRY HEAVY GEAR.

(See my gear list below)

Especially on the Big Three (pack, sleep system, shelter), going light is so worth it. It’s great for everyone, but it’s nearly non-negotiable for small hikers.

Your knees and feet and back will thank you later.

And if the costs are too high, buy the lightest gear you can afford, and save weight in other areas (toiletries, clothes, food, etc.).

I am so good at picking up people’s trekking poles, you guys.

3. Let go of the scarcity fear

I get it. You want to carry all the food and water you could ever need in case of emergency.

But this is not necessary. It’s not gonna work if you’re little.

Water? Carry no more than a liter, and just fill up at streams and drink it there. No need to pack it all out. Water weighs a lot.

Food? You can go three weeks without food, three days without water. The trail is rarely more than a day away from a town: you will survive.

Go lighter on food, pack only 2-3 days of resupply, and know your body can replenish in town.

But DO eat healthy snacks all day long. There are plenty of big men on trail who barely eat anything all day and then have a big ramen-bomb (ramen with mashed potatoes mixed in) at night.

You are not them. Small people need small frequent quantities of food throughout the day. Eat early and often. Just don’t pack a ton of it.

This is not theoretical. See below:

4. Nourish yourself with high-octane, premium fuel

Yes, this matters for everybody of every size. But it really matters for you.

If you are smaller, you need to eat more often, and you are likely more sensitive to what you eat (especially if you are over 30).

In my other life I am a clean-eating coach, and what’s true off the trail is even more true on the trail.

A nutrient-dense, healthy-fat, protein-rich, high-fiber diet is everything.

Sugar is inflammatory and does not provide sustaining energy.

Quality trail mix is life.

My two cents:

Your stomach is small and it’s working hard to convert calories into energy. Eat every four hours, and pack things like:

Nut butters, nuts, olive oil, oatmeal, protein bars, protein powder, greens powder, dried fruit, quality meat jerkey (unless you’re vegetarian), quinoa, legumes, rice, and dehydrated vegetable meals are all great.

Carrots with my little namesake.

You can even do fresh avocados, apples, and bags of spinach and carrots: pack these out and eat them on day 1-2 of a new week.

Don’t skimp on nutrition. Brands of dehydrated meals I love include Good to-Go, Mary Jane’s Farm, and Packit Gourmet. Harmony House is super healthy, but sometimes boring to eat.

Bottom line: you will see dozens of people on trail subsisting on Pop-Tarts, Snickers, mashed potatoes, and ramen.

I get it. They’re light! They’re cheap! They taste good! They give a momentary burst of energy.

But ya know what else? They’re nutritionally almost worthless and they bring on a boatload of inflammation, headache, constipation, acne, and joint pain. The chemicals can mess with your hormones, and the very brief energy jolt won’t last.

Eat. Good. Food. (Emphasis on real food.)

An inconvenient truth.

5. Be patient with yourself

Yes, you may have to take three steps to someone else’s one. You’re asking a small body to do a big job.

I recommend taking a break every couple hours and elevating your feet, even if it’s just sitting down with your legs propped up on your pack.

Giving yourself a daily foot massage and some morning/evening stretches helps too. Get a lot of sleep and don’t apologize for it.

Make sure your gear is sized and fitted properly for you, especially your pack and trekking poles.

Here’s the good news! Being small means your gear is small too. You can even buy the “junior” versions of some things to save money and weight.

Own every inch of your fabulous self and walk into the woods with pride! I am cheering you on all the way.

And please feel free to reach out if you have more specific questions I can help you with.

Will pickles make me taller? Probably not, but we crave them on trail!


Lauren / “Tadpole” / from Nashville

Tadpole is a kindergarten teacher, naturalist, singer-songwriter-guitarist, and award-winning earliest riser at camp. She likes peanut M&M’s and knows all the names of the wildflowers.

Height: 5 feet, 3 inches

Pack: Zpacks Arc Haul

Tent: Zpacks Duplex tent

Sleeping bag: Sea to Summit Spark 1 (summer weight bag)

Advice: Hike slow and steady throughout the day, especially if you’re an older hiker. If you are thin, don’t hike too long in cold steady rain conditions for risk of hypothermia.

Nutrition tips: Get a lot of electrolytes and water so you don’t get dehydrated. Eat well in town to replenish your calories and nutrients.


Cate / “Small Slice” / from D.C.

Small Slice, self-employed, rocks the aqua blaze—meaning she paddled in a canoe for part of the Shenandoahs along the AT. She reads at least a book a week on her Kindle and has been known to pack out a beer in her puffy coat pocket.

Height: 5 feet, 2 inches

Pack: Osprey Eja

Tent: MSR Freelite 1

Sleep system: Sierra Design Backcountry bed

What’s helped you the most?

“Lightening up my pack by sending unnecessary gear and clothes home in the first few weeks made a huge difference. I also tend to chug water at springs/streams when I can see water will be readily available along the trail that day. Water is heavy so I carry less in my pack when I can.”

Any funny things you’ve learned the hard way?

“I hiked in shoes that didn’t properly fit me for over 700 miles. How is that funny? I came to a crossroad in rural Virginia (a literal crossroad, this is not a metaphor) and a man walking to his car asked what was wrong. I said it was the same ol’ foot pain I’d had since Springer. He replied, “Oh, I’m a shoe expert from the REI flagship store in Denver. Mind if I recommend an alternative shoe for you?” What were the odds this man crossed my path in the middle of nowhere Virginia?! Listen to your body. If you’re in pain it’s trying to tell you something.”

Best and worst things about being a small woman on trail?

“Best: My tent has a tiny footprint. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone much taller than me, but it means I can set it up almost anywhere! Worst: I often require some un-ladylike movements to get over fallen trees.”

Any other gear or nutrition tips?

“A fellow thru-hiker has helped me out a lot with my nutrition (shout-out, Radagast!), mostly by finding ways to cut sugar. I was eating way too much sugar because it’s easily available and we burn so many calories during the day we can truly eat whatever we want. But I had a lot of joint pain in the beginning and there are much better alternatives to the non-nutritious, sugary snacks and foods. For example, instead of eating Pop-Tarts for breakfast I now do cold-soak müsli overnight. I still indulge in an ice cream cone in town, but I feel so much better and have more energy since I changed what I eat.

The long and short of it

Aw, thanks, Pinterest!

Some great things about being a short hiker gal

1. Getting a hitch (free ride) is super easy.

2. Your gear is small and you don’t need to pack as much food.

3. You always have enough leg room in cars, and beds are always long enough for you.

4. You can maneuver fairly easy under and over fallen trees on the trail.

5. You can hide behind trees easily, to pee or to jump out and scare a friend.

6. You don’t get quite as hot on those midsummer days.

7. You can save money and sometimes buy youth-sized clothes and gear.

8. You can practically stand up in your tent to change.

9. Sometimes people want to help or protect or provide for you, which is a mixed blessing. But it’s not hard to find folks who will help you throw a bear bag line.

10. Your diminutive stature is often disarming for women and men alike, old and young. Many types of people trust and open up to you as a small female. This is my favorite thing of all.

Some tougher things about being tiny on trail

1. Staying warm in the cold temperatures is vital for you. Make sure to prioritize insulation on the front and back end of your thru-hike, in chillier climes.

2. Everything has to be hemmed and/or altered, including sometimes hiking gear.

3. Being taken seriously as a grown-up who can take care of herself can be a challenge on and off the trail.

4. On a thru-hike, as in real life, I find it’s true what research statistics show: that the small among us have a harder time being recognized as leaders, capable adults, and those possessing strength.

5. Some studies have found that when it comes to mating, a higher percentage of people prefer tall partners.

But Alex Honnold, climber in the film Free Solo, takes more of an ultralight approach to romance. ? He says of his girlfriend:

“Having (her) in the van is nice. She’s cute, small, livens the place up, doesn’t take up too much room… makes life better in every way.”

So there you go! We take up very little room—even in a tree.

My recommended (summer) gear list

For the spring and fall of a thru-hike, just add gloves, hat, puffy, long johns, and heavier sleeping bag.


Zpacks Plexamid 1-person tent, 14.8 ounces plus 6-10 UL titanium stakes at .18 ounces each

What I like: Lightweight in the extreme, durable, easy to set up and take down, uses one trekking pole and no additional tent poles. The new titanium struts for the roof of the tent is a huge improvement over the carbon fiber they used last year.

What I don’t: Takes up a surprisingly big footprint (space on the ground), long inside but not wide, fair amount of condensation accumulates, very little air flow


Osprey Lumina women’s XS, 45 Liter- 1.715 pounds, designed to carry around 21 pounds or less

What I like: Almost everything. This is a great pack, my third already on trail, and very comfortable and well made. Fits my torso (finally!) like a glove. Super light for all the features it has.

What I don’t: They really mean it when they say don’t fill it much over 20 pounds. It’s not designed for that. I also had to have part of the top cover section (the brain) patched up less than a month after buying. Thankfully Osprey team tailors were on-hand to do that at Trail Days.

Sleep System

Feathered Friends UL Flicker: 40-degree quilt, standard size and width, 18.4 ounces.

What I like: Nearly everything. Beautiful, lightweight, comfortable, warm, well-made quilt that can also zip up like a bag.

What I don’t: No petite sizes available. But the length is nice to cozy up on on a colder night.

Small Sea to Summit pillow: I love this thing. You can even wash and dry it in the machine!

NeoAir UberLite Small: It weighs next to nothing and is easy to blow up. Downside: I fall off it easily and it slides around the tent. Good for shelters, though. I set it on top of my torso-length Z Lite.

Z Lite: Regular, cut in half (just bring half); indestructible. I love the traction and insulation and that I can also sit on it, eat on it, and get it wet. I sleep most often on this (cut in half), with my feet propped up on my pack. That way the blood flow gets restored and my feet get to recover.


On all three of these: I’ve used the Superfeet Berry women’s insoles.

Started with Altra Lone Peaks zero drop. Too minimalist for me and I felt every rock. Feet and knees hurt a lot. Lasted 200 miles in these.

Switched to Salomons and loved the supportive structure but the tread wore off and they got too small. Lasted 500 miles.

Saucony Xodus: Comfort, traction, cushion, lightweight, and support for 500 miles. But in my second pair (which never felt like they fit right), I fell on an exposed ridge in NJ, ending my hike. To their credit, Saucony refunded me the money for those shoes since I sent them back, barely worn.

On my 2020 continuation hike, I did 100 miles in Altra Timps, 75 miles in Altra Olympus, and 100 miles in La Sportiva Ultra Raptors (I work at an outfitter and get a discount on shoes now- something I’d highly recommend for an affordable backpacking future!). I liked them all, but the Ultra Raptors proved superior for their traction on steep climbs and slippery rocks (see above for why tread is life).

Trekking poles

These Leki poles are great. Super light. Foldable. Adjustable. And when one of mine lost some of its lockfunction (and started slipping down) last year, Leki sent me a brand-new pair free of charge.


Icebreaker T-shirt


Salomon crop legging tights


Icebreaker sports bra


Icebreaker merino wool base layer

These are the key items. I also have a Purple Rain skirt that I love, four pairs of Ex-Officious synthetic underwear, and two pairs of Darn Tough hiker socks. Plus an Outdoor Research cap.

You really don’t need anything else. But I also have a cotton black tank top for sleeping (Toad & Co), Hanes leggings from CVS, and trail gaiters by Dirty Girl.

Why pants instead of shorts? Think ticks, bug bites, poison ivy: oh my!

If I can impress upon you one thing for your basic clothing, buy wool. For all the seasons on trail. Not because you are short but because you are smart, and you would rather not smell like garbage and locker rooms. Wool lasts longer, feels really good, breathes well, and retains odors way less than anything synthetic you can buy. Trust me on this. I have thrown out every synthetic shirt I’ve had, because after one day’s wear, the smell was unbearable.

Rain gear

I have an Arc’teryx SL hybrid shell and a Zpacks rain skirt. They are pricey, sweaty, and seem to lose their rain protection pretty fast. They help more in the cold than the rain. I am experimenting with Nikwax tech wash to restore the rain repellency. I use an Osprey small pack cover and a trimmed trash compactor bag inside my pack.

Food and water system

I love my 1L Katadyn Be Free so much:


I know, everyone has a Sawyer Squeeze, and I’m sure they have their reasons. But I love the lightweight-ness, the collapse-ability, and the bigger O-ring for faster filtering. There’s no wait for your water. I have had to replace the filter once, but they’re not expensive.

This year I also added an Osprey reservoir so I can keep hydrating while hiking and not stop as often.

Cook system: It’s true. I have thought about sending my Jetboil micro home on numerous occasions, because so many people swear by their lighter stoves or having no stove at all. And this one does have some weight to it.

But here is why I remain resolutely Team Jetboil: I love how fast it is, I love how it’s all-in-one, and I especially love how fuel-efficient it is. Nothing like quick hot coffee in the morning and hot tea at night. I now have the additional Jetboil French press accessory which is fantastic!

I also have a long titanium spoon, sno-peak titanium cup, and a propane fuel canister.

First aid, toiletries, other

Only these: a few Neosporin bandaids, nail clippers, tweezers, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, small Dr. Bronners camp soap, smallest Swiss Army knife, Goodwipes shower/cleansing wipe singles, menstrual products as needed, toilet paper, small trowel for digging bathroom hole, Picardin bug spray wipes, small headnet for mosquitoes, sunscreen, sunglasses, eye glasses, Advil, Allegra, Zpacks dry sack for clothes, safety pins, sea to summit UL 20L sil-nylon bear bag, 30 feet of cord for hanging it.

Permethrin: I sent in a number of clothing items to the company Insect Shield. So far no ticks on me!

Luxury items

My iPhone, battery charger (insignia, four charges) and cords, Petzl Bindi headlamp, AWOL’s AT guide (only carry a few states at a time), pen, tiny journal, Spot GPS, and tea tree oil.

Also a small Patagonia fanny pack, which I love. https://www.patagonia.com/product/ultralight-black-hole-mini-hip-pack-1-liter/49447.html

Short People Benefits!

OK, enough of all the problems and accommodations.

Here’s the good news

In his book Short: Walking Tall When You are Not Tall at All, John Schwartz of The New York Times says that we have some decided advantages:

1. We are less injury-prone (less distance to fall). 2020 update: this information proves to not be always true. See my post “And that’s how she got off trail.”

2. We tend to build character early and often because back in school we couldn’t physically lord it over people. We have to be socially astute and pay attention to nuances in groups, because we aren’t used to depending on our stature to gain respect.

3. We look younger, well into older age! Many actors are short and can play a variety of ages of characters.

4. And we live longer! Who knew? Look it up.

5. We make very happy little hikers, even if we do sometimes have to stand on our toes in photos.

My 2020 tramily!


Signing off,


Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 55

  • Dave Sailer : Jun 24th

    I’m a guy. I hope that’s OK, cuz I’m also short-ish. (5’7″/135lbs or thereabouts)

    I agree with a lot of things you said. The rest I don’t dis-agree with, it’s just outside my guy experience.

    If you’re small, all kinds of people approach you for all kinds of reasons, often very disagreeable, but sometimes not.

    Anyway, good post. You’re smart. I like that.

    • Jill Muir : Jun 25th

      I soooo relate !! Small people unite ??. So many of the things you described in your blog hold so true for me as well. Feet not reaching the floor , hemming, being “cute” instead of beautiful. All in all I wouldn’t change a thing .. being you is what is most important. You glow warmth and love from the inside out. Hope the rest of your journey is a wonderful one in so many ways. I think of you often and am amazed at what you have accomplished.

      • Cari Pattison : Sep 4th

        Aw, thank you, Jill!! Miss you! xo

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 24th

      Hey thanks, Dave. Power to the shorter guys out there, too!

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 13th

      Thanks for reading this, Dave.

  • Bob Cubley : Jun 25th

    I love following you on here and enjoy very much pictures and stories. I dream of doing what your doing but probably never will. I do a good bit of backpacking with scouts. I am old and my equipment is als well so I’ve heard the backpack is bigger than you. Also it’s extern frame so that get comments. I am going to up grade as I can and hope to keep hiking for a few more years. Thank you for taking us along with you on here!

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 24th

      Hi Bob! Never say never. I can almost guarantee you I met thru-hikers out there who are older than you. Keep up the scout backpacking trips! And thanks for reading my blog.

  • beth : Jun 25th

    I’m 5’4″ so not sure I qualify as petite though many things you write about fit my situation. I’m thin and get cold very easily (along with Renaud’s in my hands) so I’m bringing a wicked warm sleeping bag (20F) just because I want to survive the cold nights, sleet, hail storms (specifically the White Mtns in New Hampshire can snow in summer; and can bet on cold weather either way). I always look in the boys section first for clothes: cheaper and fit me better! I’m hoping to get away with 1/2 liter water and fill often when water is readily available. Good excuse for a break (that I have a hard time taking). Great idea about elevating feet often! Thanks for your blog posts!!

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 24th

      Good tips, Beth! Thanks for sharing, and reading. I actually had a 10-degree bag for the front end, in March/April Georgia and NC. All the best with your hiking!

  • Jimmy Dean : Jun 27th

    Another verse for you I happened upon today…
    “Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 24th

      I love that one, JD!

  • Julie : Jul 11th

    Thank you for this post! I am 5’2” on tall days. I’m just beginning my planning and purchasing for my future long distance backpacking trips. This article was humorous and helpful, and I truly appreciate the gear lists with links! Keep up the great posts!

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 24th

      Thanks so much, Julie! Power to all my fellow petites out there!

  • Anna Minor : Jul 14th


    I am LOVING reading your posts. My husband and I met you the day after this post on the trail as you were stopping for a bite to eat and recharge. We are from Ohio and we chatted for a short while. I will continue to follow our journey and cheer you on from a distance. Remember if you think of stopping… your punishment will be to return to the Football Hall of Fame to spend the ENTIRE day AGAIN!!!! LOL You are so incredibly inspiring and I hope that our paths will cross again. Now reading your posts, I believe our meeting was meant to be. You are incredibly strong (rugged… really??!!) both spiritually, mentally and PHYSICALLY!! You GOT this, girl. Would love to send you something for your trail adventure (trial magic) so if you get this, email me one of your drop addresses and I will send some trail magic.

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 24th

      Anna Minor, you are the best!! I will always remember meeting you, and I loved your trail magic package to the extreme- even though I received it after I was off-trail (due to the injury). So glad we met, and thanks for inspiring me to run, to live fully with leadership and joy and confidence, and to eagerly await my 50th birthday one day with an exciting backpacking trip!

  • Beckie : Jan 12th

    How did the Whites work for you? I’m 4 “11, my daughter is 5 ft. We spend 95% of our time in the Whites. She is all legs, can climb anything there. I, on the other hand, have to search for alternative ways off to the side or use my backpack as a stepping stone and then pull it up with a rope. On the plus side, we found a lightweight tent at REI for $11 (yes that is ELEVEN). Brought it home, found it was a one person tent, but we angled ourselves in! It worked. Tight quarters, we use it for backpacking trips only. Thank you so much for your tips about eating frequently.

    • Cari Pattison : Jan 16th

      Hi Beckie! I actually never made it to the Whites. I fell and broke my ankle in NJ and had to get off trail. So glad you found the article helpful. I can’t believe you found an $11 tent that worked for the two of you! Well done, ultra-lighters!

  • michelle : Jul 12th

    I love this post!! I have been searching for small woman advice on the trail and I’m so glad you posted this. All the other food advice I can find is for big people! 😀

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 13th

      I’m so glad you found it helpful, Michelle!

  • Kaz : Aug 9th

    Hi, Nice blog I am petite skinny (4″11 90lb), long time day hiker but now stepping into backpack trailing with tent etc. Is it normal to bang back of my head on steep climb or rock climbing situation even with 55L/XS female model backpack? I felt I am too short and the top of the backpack is to close behind my head.

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 13th

      Hi Kaz- thanks for your feedback! I haven’t had the issue you speak of, but I recommend a smaller volume pack if you can.

  • Rob Rogers : Aug 26th

    Im glad to see another Sprout post! I have enjoyed your thoughtful insights into both hiking and life, and appreciate your writing style and the humor you bring to your readers. I hope you get on the trail again soon, and thanks again for the post!

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 13th

      Hey, thank you, Rob!

  • Jack : Aug 28th

    This is great! I’m a guy (and shorter than all of you!) but this article was super relevant! I hadn’t thought about size as a reason why I am always colder than everyone else once we stop hiking for the day. Getting ready for an imminent JMT trip and the size of the bear can in my pack is daunting, but at least I am saving some weight with my short quilt and smaller clothes! Thanks for reminding all of us that not everyone who does long hikes is a tall skinny guy.

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 13th

      So glad it was helpful to you, Jack!

  • Shocktop : Aug 28th

    Ok. First off. Im 4 ft 10. 54 yo old. Section hiking AT 7th year, hiked before., duh.
    Yes on stupid people saying how’ big’ my 48 l. 3 week pack ‘looks’. No on, i cant take more clothes? I know my body, underwear weighs nothing, socks too. But tote thanks for us.

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 13th

      Glad this has been helpful to you, Shocktop!

  • Shocktop : Aug 28th

    Hey Sprout, double dipping on comments, but most, if not all, on point. First day on AT, I learned: be nice. Second day oh, this is hard and I dont like it. Second/third: i can ask someone, whats up? Is it, me? Work guys not inclusive? ( we will deal with!!!)0

  • JAMIE : Aug 29th

    This was just the thing I needed to read today. I stand tall at 5’0″ and am planning my AT thru in a couple of years when my last kiddo graduates. I will be hammock camping (yay for being so short a torso length underquilt is plenty!). My husband is more worried about my ability to throw my bear bag line than my safety lol. Sadly we can make very appealing targets for people with bad intentions on and off trail. Always keep your self defense training up to date.

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 13th

      Thanks for the comment, Jamie- Congrats on your backpacking endeavors! Yep, throwing those bearbags is my number one trail challenge!

  • Yvette "Detour" : Aug 29th

    Loved all of this! I’m 5’2″, solo thru hiked the AT last year, and can definitely relate to everything you said. I loved being able to “scamper” (as one less vertically challenged fellow hiker commented) under some trees, although there were some that having longer legs/torso would have been helpful. That almost standing in the tent to change? Yep, testify! Your take on why stature might influence athletic endeavors and perceived risks was really interesting. Great post. Thanks!

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 13th

      Thanks, Detour! Really appreciate it. Power to the petites!!

  • Sarah : Aug 31st

    What, a hiking article written just for me? I’m 4’10” and where has this been all my life? Thank you!!!

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 13th

      Aw, I am so glad, Sarah!!

  • David : Sep 8th

    Thanks for the detailed hiking article. And I would like to share this with my team mates and should encourage them to go for hiking.

    Currenly i own a website where a team of girls work daily for Roadrunner Email.

    So I just wanna plan a short vacation for my team of girls to go on hiking.

    This article really helped me.

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 13th

      Please feel free to share, David. And thank you!

  • Amanda : Sep 12th

    Hello! I am just starting to research UL backpacking gear as a 5’0″ woman 🙂 So glad to have found your post! Thank you! Question: I’m looking at the company you have your quilt from, there is an option for a women’s small bag, length for 5’3″. Is there a reason to go with a quilt over a bag with a shorter length? Thanks again!

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 13th

      That sounds like a great option, Amanda! I don’t believe FF had a UL Flicker 40-deg. quilt in a small size last year.

  • Tricia : Sep 24th

    Thank you for this, it has been my one big concern about hiking the AT . . . you don’t say, how do you climb those boulders? I keep thinking I’ll be hanging around waiting for someone to give me a lift up

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 4th

      So far, I haven’t hit any boulders I couldn’t climb- but to be fair, I still have 400 miles to go!!

  • Mary Fisher : Oct 20th

    Thank you for the wonderful article. Yes I struggle 4’11” but I do love the outdoors and hiking. I have done a few hikes and backpacking but often struggle with carry weight. Very informative and relatable.

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 4th

      Thank you, Mary. I’m so glad you could relate! Great to hear from you, and good luck as you acquire gear and dial in your packweight!

  • Erika Novak : Oct 23rd

    Hi Cari, I’m really grateful to have just found and read your article. As a 5’1″ lady I really appreciate your perspective. We as short folk don’t get much representation in the endurance sport and outside world much. So thanks so much! I am planning my first thru-hike of the AT for 2021. And as you can imagine, I’m running into issues finding UL gear that fits my tiny torso (it’s about 15 inches) and my winder hips. This summer I just started using the Osprey Lumina Pack as well (size xs). At first, I was in love, thinking I finally found a pack that fits right. After a few trips with it, I think it still might be too long. When it’s scurred to my hips my shoulder straps are constantly hovering off my shoulders about 3 to 4 inches. I’m wondering if you have ever had this issue with this pack or others? And also if you tried other packs before the Lumina that you can recommend looking into?
    Thanks so much!

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 4th

      Hi Erika- you may well be past your thru-hike by now, but yes, the short-torso struggle is real! I found the Osprey Lumina 45 XS to fit my torso quite well. But in 2023 I purchased an Osprey Eja 55 pro, which is XS/S and can be adjusted. I wonder if that might work better for you?

  • Iris : Apr 4th

    Your article was so helpful! I’m a 4’ 9” female, so it’s been a long, slow process to getting the right gear. Do you have any recommendations for hiking shoes for kids size feet? This has been my biggest issue because the support on kids shoes is so lacking compared to the adult versions. I feel that all the shoes I’ve tried become intolerable after mile 2 once they hit 75-100 miles. I thought I was alone in hiking as a petite female. I’m so glad to have found your blog!! Thanks again!

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 4th

      Hi Iris! I wish I had better recommends on shoes for small feet! That sounds like a real challenge! But I have 7-7.5 size feet, so adult women’s shoes have worked okay for me. I hope you find what you’re looking for!!

  • Anne : May 19th

    I’m 5 feet. One frustrating part of being petite is that it makes it more difficult to join athletic groups. There are lots of outdoor enthusiast clubs around my area, but they are dominated by the tall athletic types and I just keep keep up with them, so I end up doing most hikes and activities alone! I have a few tall friends who hike with me, and they make comments like “oh I don’t mind going slow,” but their slow is my fast. I feel like I’m sprinting rather than enjoying my hikes. Or they just make condescending comments like “you should just run more.” So I got a dog, and he’s great for company, but now I need to carry SO MUCH MORE water, which weighs me down even more. He also isn’t a huge fan of crossing streams and I’m not tall enough to lift him over the water as I see other hikers doing with their pups.

    And like you said, short people, especially women, are NOT encouraged to enjoy the outdoors like talls. When I try to get my short female friends to go hiking with me, they have ZERO interest! And finding gear is A PITA. I bought a bike that was recommended for small females, but it only works for me when the seat is in it’s lowest seat position, which means A) It’s difficult finding attachments for the back of the bike that work B) I have a lot less power on the bike and C) I have to pay extra for customization for a less standard bike. In the athletic world, even “small female” is 5’5+, when in actuality, the average female is only 5’4. I got really excited that I saw one of the popular outdoor brands announced that they were going to get clothes for petite frames, and then I saw that their “short” inseam was still 6 inches to long! That was a rant : )

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 4th

      Hi Anne! I feel your pain. But I think the more we let the outdoor gear brands know we are *here* and we are *hiking* and we will *purchase* things in our size, the more they might listen!! I commend you for just getting out there and continuing to DO THE THING! To love nature and be in it and savor the great outdoors. Keep it up and don’t give up! Power to the Petites!!

  • Amy : Oct 9th

    Another 5-footer here, just under 100 pounds. Your tips on what you consider absolutely essential are helpful. Im trying to get back into backpacking but going solo is tricky. Water isnt always reliable where I hike and so Im not comfortable skimping there. Nights are cold, and so am I, so I cant skimp on layers. Ive been caught in bad weather, so Im not willing to sacrifice here. Your tips to cut out some extras will help, but it seems all but impossible to get pack weight down to a reasonable percentage of my body weight!

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 4th

      Hi Amy- you make really valid points. The only safe way to cut on water is to hike during a season and place where water is abundant, so you don’t need to constantly carry it. And as far as layers- light icebreaker wool is the key. Mostly, if you’re trying to really cut pack weight- just concentrate your backpacking trips into mid-summer; that’s when you’ll need the least amount of gear!

  • Patty "Piglet" Silver : Nov 23rd

    I’m short and wide which makes finding gear even more difficult. There is an assumption that as you get wider, you get taller, so gear that is big enough for me is usually made for someone a foot taller. Packs are a real problem because female length packs also assume that you are tiny, so hip belts are way too short, and packs with a curved bar at the bottom are unwearable. Furtunately I have always made a lot of my own gear but I would love to be able to walk into a store and have a choice of things that fitted. Just don’t get me started on shoes, becaue my hobbit feet mean that there isn’t a single pair of trail runners on the market that I can get my feet into, which is why I do a lot of my walkng in sandals.

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 4th

      Thanks for writing in, Patty- yes, this makes sense that you’d be frustrated at the lack of options. I’d keep putting pressure on the major brands, like Osprey, Altra, etc., to create gear with more adjustable sizes. You are not alone! Hope you’re getting out to hike a bunch this summer!

  • Allie McDaniel : Sep 2nd

    Definitely not the focus of this article but your skin looks AMAZING for being on trail. Is the tea tree oil for that or for something else?

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 4th

      Wow, thank you, Allie! That is a compliment I’ve been told… never 😀 The tea tree oil, which I didn’t bring this year, was more for cuts and scrapes and a sort of deodorant-in-a-pinch. I think maybe my skin looks good in the photos because a) I don’t post photos from days I had tons of acne- which definitely still happened on trail, and b) the sun and fresh air and exercise do in general help my skin, c) I wear sunscreen always, and d) I tried to lay off super sugary and salty foods, which tend to be less healthy for us in general, including skin. Thanks again for making my day!


What Do You Think?