Why I Hike in a Dress
I found my first hiking dress at a Dollar General in Hot Springs, North Carolina, and I originally thought it would make for a perfect outfit while I resupply in town. Then, I just never took it off.
Hiking in skirts and dresses remains a bit of an anomaly on-trail for hikers of all genders, but those who choose that path tend to stick by it fervently — and now I see why.
My dress feels freeing from the confines of the hiker dress code. I started hiking the Appalachian Trail with the traditional zip-off pants, moisture-wicking shirts, and trail-runners. I fit in, but I didn’t really feel like myself.
It’s easy to fall into the trends of the hiking community, which is largely male-dominated. So, more feminine means of expression through clothing and gear tend to stand out.
To me, wearing my dresses shows the world that toughness and femininity are not mutually exclusive.
I think it’s important to also note the differences in treatment you receive while hiking in a dress. If you identify as a woman, people tend to question your decision with concern and uncertainty in their voices. Whereas, when male-identifying hikers choose to hike in skirts and kilts, they are simply unique and tough for doing so.
We still have much work to do in fostering inclusivity in the hiking community, both for women and (especially) for BIPOC that are often excluded from the status quo of our community.
In addition to the personal enjoyment of dress hiking, my new apparel offers tangible benefits during my hike while also making a statement about how we express ourselves on the trail.
I’ve hiked in rain, hail, and snow in my dress. It’s a practical, quick-drying, comfortable piece of clothing — I’m not sure I could ever go back to my early on-trail clothes.
When it’s cold, it’s easy to layer and when it’s hot, it wicks sweat and allows for air to flow. It’s a single garment fit for countless needs both on and off the trail.
So, I’ll catch you (in a dress) at Katahdin.
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