Raider’s Closet: Women’s SOBO Hiking Clothing
There was a dark time before the trail. The glow of a little screen late into the night. An iPhone placed on a table, only to be quickly snatched back up again and re-illuminated. It was a frantic scouring of anything the internet was willing to provide, all for one purpose. I needed hiking clothes. Being a trail runner by trade, pants with legs that zipped off perplexed me. What the heck was a wool T-shirt? Endless hours were spent searching things like “women’s hiking clothing,” or “hiking clothes for women,” or “wool underwear.” I was so desperate to set myself up for success, i.e. find clothes, I could enjoy wearing all day every day. I thought to myself, “Surely there are women that have some insight on what worked for them!”
My desperate search history began to make me cringe. Mt. Katahdin was looming closer and closer. “Time to take action,” I thought. My conclusion: I would just have to try as many items as I could, and then create an epic list for my fellow aspiring thru-hikers. And so, I did.
I Wore, I Chafed, I Carried Extra Weight
I completed my thru-hike southbound, starting in July and ending in December. That’s three seasons of living outside, so included are all items I used, not just what I finished with in my bag. For all my hard work, I just want one thing; tell all your friends how cool I am. It’s the little things.
I’ve listed in parentheses the months that item was worn to help give an idea. At the very end of this I will list the items that never even made it a few weeks. I’m calling it hiker boxed; genius, I know. If you’re dying to know what toiletries I got by on, check it out here!
Click the photos for a link to a website with the item. Here we go.
T-shirt (July-September) Duluth Armachillo short sleeve V-neck T-shirt
Loved this shirt, they use this magical fabric that dries fast, and fights stink. I only wish I gave it more of a chance to go the entire way. I was looking for something a little thicker for the cold, but I think this is the perfect six-month endless wear top of choice.
T-shirt (September-December) REI Co-op women’s Sahara T-shirt
This shirt held up way better than expected. Super soft, feels like cotton, but is polyester.
T-shirt sleepy time (July-September)
Lightweight cotton blend tee was great for the first half of the trail. When my hiking shirt would get drenched in sweat or rain, having a dry shirt to sleep in helped my sanity, and less importantly, aided in my hiking shirt dry out during the night. Pro tip: name this movie to gain my devoted respect.
Long sleeve mid-layer (July-October) SmartWool NTS Mid 250 Zip T
SmartWool really has perfected the ability to create a fabric that traps heat, but will allow for you to cool off. This lighter long sleeve kept me warm on chilly summer nights, and let me cool off on those morning uphills.
Long sleeve mid-layer (October-December) SmartWool women’s PhD SmartLoft Divide Full-Zip
Great hiking layer. Kept me warm down to 40 degree days by itself. Has inside pockets that were essential to keep my phone warm to prevent the battery from draining. Found mine on Poshmark.
Fleece (November-December) Patagonia Re-Tool Snap T Fleece
This fleece saved me. I run cold and my sleeping bag and liner weren’t cutting it on the ultra-frigid nights. This fleece kept me so warm at night, and was great to have in towns. Worth the weight.
Rain jacket (July-December) EMS Women’s Thunderhead Jacket
Pit vents, pockets, thicker fabric, and bungees on the hood made this jacket a win. A little thicker fabric meant it worked to keep me warm in the summer, but layered great in the winter. Held on to being waterproof till the very end. Dried surprisingly fast.
Puffy jacket (October-December) EMS Women’s Feather Pack Jacket
One of the most important pieces of clothing you have. This beloved puffy kept me toasty warm, and has an inside pocket it can pack itself into, great for a pillow, or tight shove spots.
Skort (July-September) Prana Lena Skort
The hiking skirt hype is all true. So comfortable and breathable. Added bonus of lots of pockets and soft spandex shorts underneath. Be warned. It was no match for melted Butterfingers, and therefore was donated to Rattlesnake River Hostel. Pro tip: hunt down a skirt swimsuit bottom as an alternative.
Shorts (September-November) One-inch Elite Split Running Short
These are men’s, but it didn’t make any difference. You can’t beat the price and air flow of these. Not to mention the endless options of patterns and colors. These were amazing during a long five-week heat wave in the 90s. They also dried out very fast. And helped move up my tan line.
Shorts MeUndies Women’s Boyshort
Technically underwear, the fabric is simply luxurious. So soft, resists odors, these worked great as sleep shorts, emergency undies, and booty shorts when everything else was in the wash.
Pants (November-December) The North Face Hybrid Hiker Tights
The description of these on REI.com was “a perfect marriage between tights and hiking pants,” and it’s so true. Thicker panels over thighs, butt, and knees keep in heat and repel water. I wore these in pouring rain and couldn’t believe how quick they dried. Longer waist makes for a comfortable hip belt. If they added zippers to the ankles I would be in heaven.
Leggings (July-October) Icebreaker Oasis Leggings, 100 percent Merino wool 200 lightweight
Sleep pants and a town option. These stretch after a few wears, creating a baggy fit, but shrink back after a wash. Repel odors very well.
Leggings (October-December) Minus33 Merino Wool Franconia, 100% Merino wool 230 midweight
Cooler weather sleep pants and base layer. These did a great job keeping in the heat. Survived weeks at a time without washing.
Sleep socks Wigwam Merino Comfort Hiker Socks
Loved these socks They were the best when your feet were soaked all day in the rain, and kept them from freezing in your bag on cold nights. The survived many sparks from fires. The plush is worth the weight.
Sock Liners Injinji Liner Crew NuWool Socks
I started with the cotton version of these, but the wool makes all the difference. Huge help when your feet get wet, keeps blisters away. Also helps your dirty socks last a little longer without rubbing your skin off. Yea, that happens.
Hiking Socks Darn Tough ATC Sock Micro crew cushion
These socks are amazing. They really do hold up against all odds. I’ve been waiting for a hole to form and just never happens. I literally still wear these daily off the trail.
Backup socks Darn Tough Women’s Light Hiker Micro Crew Light Cushion Socks
Grabbed at an outfitter, only wore if my main Darn Toughs (above) were completely soaked or too stiff. Good back up. Better piece of mind.
Underwear (July-October) None
After all my searching for comfortable underwear, I finally realized, it is way better to be free. One less thing to worry about. The only thing that dashed my commando dreams happened in the intense heat of Pennsylvania. My butt size had begun to include a lot of junk in my trunk (think StairMaster every day for eig t hours a day). I discovered a new meaning of the thong. Less VPL killer, more butt cheek savior.
Underwear (October-December) ExOfficio mesh thong
The thick lace strap kept things comfortable. ExOfficio mesh fabric is the best for panties, I washed in streams plenty of times, dried very easy. Did I say washed it in streams? Of course not, I mean, the erm, um, lawn hose area. Pro tip: get ready to read worse confessions than this in the Priest shelter log book.
Bra Jockey Sporties Mesh Low-Impact Sports Bra
I am obsessed with this bra because it worked so perfectly. The mesh was breathable and dried fast, and the straps are flat and wide, perfect to keep you comfortable under the weight of your pack. It comes with removable foam cups, helpful for nipple chafe. It lasted the whole trip and is still going strong. For $25 from Kohl’s, that’s a great deal.
Hat (August-December) The North Face Better Than Naked Hat
This hat is paper light. It’s made of some magical plastic / rubber feeling material that is weightless and breathable. Having a visor is essential to help protect your face from a full day of sun, even in the green tunnel. The tiny amount of orange helped me stay visible to hunters (or at least that was what I was going to say in court).
Bandana (July-November) Any cotton square will do
My favorite use for bandanas was for wiping dripping sweat. I never got into the pee rag thing; leaves were more my style. You’re welcome.
Hat (July-November) Coal Julietta Beanie
This acrylic hat was so soft. Keeps head toasty warm, and hides hair beautifully. I really liked that I could wear it far back off my forehead if desired (you know, all hip looking). Wind did cut through it pretty easily, but whenthe wind chill got unbearable I picked up the thicker AT knit hat.
Hat (November-December) Appalachian Trail Knit Hat
Picked this gem up at an outfitter in Damascus (treat yourself). Very warm hat, did the job while reminding any passerby of my trail affiliation.
Scarf Military Shemagh Tactical Desert 100 Percent Cotton Keffiyeh Scarf Wrap
This scarf is the definition of a hiker item, simple because it has around ten ways you can wear it. Hat, bandana, face wrap, it does it all. Even though it was cotton, it held up just fine, drying out, and resisting stink even after weeks of trail life.
Gloves SmartWool Cozy Flip Mitt
Great in-between season glove. Was able to use comfortably from October to November. Walking with trekking poles wore holes in the palms within a month. The link to these gloves are ones I found with a palm pad. Otherwise loved these; having finger access was so clutch. Added bonus of a mitt allows your fingers to warm up quicker.
Gloves Dollar General
Grabbed these gems for $7 at DG. At that point I didn’t have much choice, but they worked great, keeping my hands free from frostbite till the end.
Hiking shoes Salomon Ultra Mid X (went through two pairs, had at the beginning and the end). I started the trail with the waterproof Gortex pair, and loved them. Ended with the breathable pair, loved them Untill it snowed, then we did not have good working relationship. These shoes arguable have the best rubber sole grip I have ever worn.
Think Altras, but way less sloppy. Has the roomy toe box, but also a firm fit. No more foot sliding, no more blisters. Being a minimalist runner before hiking, I have always preferred a lower-stacked heel and less cushion so I can feel what I’m stepping on. This has all that and a rock plate as the cherry on top.
Camp Shoes (July-November) Xero sandals
Lightweight, great for forges, easily accommodates socks. Went great with all loaner clothes.
Camp Shoes (November-December) Crocs
I refused these hideous boats of foam for as long as I could. Until one fateful day at Uncle Johnny’s, there they were, my size and all. Crocs really are the best camp shoes; believe the hype.
The North Face flash-dry tank top: too much skin rubbing, didn’t keep me any cooler than the T-shirt
Jockey cotton bra: sleep bra, worked till I got rehydrated spaghetti all over it. I didn’t need the weight anyway.
Patagonia underwear: felt too constrictive, didn’t dry well
Altra Superior 3.0: two words: plantar fasciitis
Salomon X Ultra 2: just like the mid but no ankle protection. These shoes were just to heavy for my taste.
Injinji cotton socks: traded in for wool, way better
SmartWool socks: they lose the cushioning within 300 miles.
Darn Tough knee-high socks: as much as I wanted to wear these, it just never made sense.
Buffs: I think I had three total, lost two.
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