Thru Hiking in a Dress
Come On, Really?
Fleece dresses, quick drying dresses, rain dresses, town dresses, sleep dresses, so many ways to wear dresses whilst on a thru hike. And they’re super-duper practical! Don’t believe me? Let’s get into it.
I’ve been hiking in a dress for a while now. And it got me thinking, why not try to thru hike in a dress too? What’s stopping me? As it turns out, absolutely nothing. When I think of a thru hike, I picture of course the awe and the majesty of the mountains. But also the grime, pain, and constant exhaustion. Those last few things don’t make you think of a girl in a dress, now do they? Can it be done? Well, gals have done it before, and have given rave reviews. So, to hell with it, I’m going for it.
So why might I, (and future you) prefer hiking in a dress:
Being comfy. The number one pro for me is being most comfortable in my own skin. I wear dresses in daily life all the time, it’s the piece of clothing I feel feminine in and most myself while wearing. On a thru hike that is exactly how you would want to feel, am I right? A big part of making it all the way to Katahdin is your mindset, and I’m prioritizing it. Dresses make me feel beautiful, graceful, and powerful – just like summiting a mountain!
Lil extra coverage while you’re squatting. I don’t know about you gals, but I pee all the frickin’ time! Tree cover can occasionally be pretty sparse on the AT, mostly during early spring before the green tunnel forms and in the White Mountains. Even the thought of walking a few extra steps away from the trail for some privacy, when you don’t really have to, just for a quick tinkle, is tiring! While wearing a dress, your business can be a little bit more covered, while you do your business.
Weight savings. Simple math: one piece of clothing is usually less weight than two? My summer hiking dress weighs less than 3.5 ounces. That’s less than a typical hiking shirt by itself! Of course, it depends a lot on what fabric you choose, but more on that below.
The extra breeze. Commando? Bueno! In the heat of the summer, you’ll do anything to feel a little cooler. And who doesn’t like fresh air? Especially down there, it’s surely nice to air everything out during a thru hike!
Practicality. Dresses are easy on and off in your tent and generally aren’t restrictive. After a long, arduous day, who actually wants to wrestle with pants in their one-person tent? Not me! It’s also easier to wash one piece of clothing than two if you do any hand washing while on the trail.
Here are a couple of things to consider before going straight for the dress rack:
Chafing. Every girl knows this pain right in between the thighs. It can be extremely unpleasant when you’ve already started chafing and you still have 15 miles to hike that day. And the next day, and the next day. Prevention is key here. This does have an easy fix of some Body Glide or other chafing balms. Chafing can also usually be combated by wearing some bike shorts underneath the dress, but you might be sacrificing that divine breeziness.
Coverage. We’re still thru hiking here! There are lots of moving all around. People might be behind you while going up a steep hill, your backpack might move some fabric up your back, or it could be an especially windy day. Again, this can be easily combated by choosing a longer length dress or more cleavage coverage, having a bra or booty shorts underneath, or being especially comfortable with your body and embracing nature.
Bare legs. This would be the same warning as wearing shorts instead of pants. Be wary of buggies, ticks, poison ivy, sumac and oak, thorns, and the sun. A little common sense goes a long way for basic woods know-how before heading out on a thru hike.
What kind of dress can I thru hike in?
There are many different kinds of dresses for different uses, depending on your style of hiking or what season you’ll be thru hiking. For the winter, think fleece dresses or lightweight puffy parkas. They even provide a little extra warmth over the upper thighs. Come summer we have spandex-y dresses, tank top dresses, and t-shirt dresses. And don’t count out hiking skirts, they still have lots of the same benefits!
Even the guys are getting in on the trend with kilts and trying out rain skirts. Rain skirts are truly an amazing invention for the way they ventilate and prevent icky sweating from the usually unbreathable fabrics. Honorable mention: rain poncho – rain dress?
Even if wearing a dress on the Appalachian Trail will take you some warming up, you could wear one as sleep clothes! Doesn’t curling up in a comfy dress in your tent for the evening sound absolutely lovely? And you might be considering the luxury of town clothes, I could easily have a duplicate of my hiking dress in my pack for just another 3.4 ounces. Talk about some easy weight savings.
A few things to consider when choosing your thru hiking dress:
What should you be looking for in a hiking dress? First, take a look at fabric. Synthetic or quick-drying fabrics are best, for wicking sweat purposes. A lightweight nylon, polyester, and spandex combo is great. Be wary of many “workout” dresses, as they tend to be thicker fabric which isn’t ideal for hiking in hot temperatures.
You should make sure it’s comfortable, the right length you need, the right booby coverage, or having a built-in bra. Most hiking dresses are made in a longer length automatically for more coverage. And don’t go for those 2-in-1 dresses that have shorts built in. The hassle of taking all that off just to tinkle? Immediate regrets.
Also, take a look at the straps of the dress. Are they spaghetti straps or full sleeves? Thicker dress straps and sleeves can help prevent chafing from the shoulder straps on your backpack. And adjustable dress straps might dig right into your back (same goes for bras!)
How I personally wear my hiking dresses:
For the cooler months and cooler nights at camp, I have a micro-grid fleece dress. It’s lightweight, quick-drying, has a darling fit, and is a great layering piece. I will have on leggings underneath, as my fleece dress is a tad short and it will be rather chilly.
For daily summer wear, I’ll be rockin’ a spaghetti strap baby-blue floral dress. In the past, I’ve always worn booty shorts underneath. I do plan to experiment a wee bit more with not wearing shorts on my thru hike this summer.
Are you ready to embrace wearing a dress thru hiking yet?
The woods have been majority filled with men, and their style, for eons. Let’s take back the woods and get out there in our dresses without regret! We wear dresses in daily life off-trail, so why not on the trail too? I highly suggest trying it just once before you might knock on the whole idea. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
I’ll be at Springer in a dress, will I still be in one at Katahdin?
Have any more tips or tricks to do with your hiking dresses? Have a favorite brand or style? Would love to see your comments below!
Click here to see my full gear list, or follow me on Insta @nala_terra for more raw photos and trail highlights
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.
I am a skirt wearer,long skirts and love them.I wear them hiking 14ers,hunting with my husband,kayak fishing,5ks, everything I do is in a skirt,working with my husband at our carpentry business,known at Home Depot as the skirt girl.The Lord convicted me 17 years ago about wearing skirts after I got saved.I get lots of comments when I do those things in my long skirt and I just reply well don’t own a pair of pants and just smile .Anything can be done in a skirt. So you keep wearing your dresses and enjoy all you do in them and happy hiking.
For guys it’s a kilt ! Which I wear everyday and ever hike. Best clothing decision I’ve made ?
You are in good company. One of greatest hikers ever, ANISH (Heather Anderson), choices Dresses !!
Opps forgot. Add this about Anish. She tends to get her dresses at thrift stores.
I hiked the Grand Canyon in a bathing suit cover-up. Fantastic ! I found out I was a large pettite.
When you are 1/3 of the way to Katahdin you are at the doorstep of BeeChHill B&B Hostel. Stop in for a special just for you & your dress!
Vive les jupes et les robes !
I walked all the Camino Francés (Compostelle in Spain, about 800 km) in skirts. During the day, a short stretch one with a light capri underneath (like a long underwear, more modest and the best protection against chafing) After the daily 25-30 km walking, I’d change for a long silk one for the evening. Dresses and skirts are so comfortable, airy and feminine !