Thru-Hiker Fashion 101

Hawaiian shirts. Trucker hats. Fluorescent-colored running shorts. Kilts. Huge beards. All super hot, even when you smell really raunchy.

When I started my thru-hike of the AT a few years back, I was kitted out in the most boring outfit ever: khaki, zip-off trekking pants, a red merino wool T-shirt (OK, this item was fine), and a beige cap. Dull and kinda bland, blah. Like noodles with no seasoning packet; mac with no cheese. I didn’t really like my outfit that I thought I would wear every day for six months, but I didn’t think it was important that I did. I was out there to hike and be practical with my clothes, not look good.

Well, that attitude didn’t last long. I saw other hikers donning super fun hats, flashy running shorts, and bright Hawaiian T-shirts. There was flavor and spice to their looks, and suddenly I was done with being tasteless. In my other life away from hiking, I am by no means a fashionista, however I like to feel good in what I’m wearing. I decided there was no reason to feel any different while on trail. Why look frumpy for six months?

I called up my friend and asked her to ship me this rad rainbow-unicorn trucker hat that her daughter didn’t want any more. I had eyed it on the couch my last time at her house before getting on trail, and she told me it was going to be donated. Seemed a good match for my new look.

Over the years, the rainbow-unicorn ensemble has grown!

I went to Goodwill and found a hot pink pair of running shorts and knew they were just right. Better than those trekking pants that made my ass look like the size of Texas. Plus, I always loved pink as a child. I loved it so much that when I was in ballet and given a yellow tutu for the recital instead of a pink one, I quit. Not my defining moment, but we all have those times of much-needed character development.

The red T-shirt was a keeper, and all together I looked like a candy cane. I did find a T-shirt in a hiker box in Virginia that read Whiskey and Yoga, and cut it up to fit me and made a half-shirt to wear. When I got more north and needed something warmer on my legs, I had my mom ship me one of my signature pairs of yoga leggings with the universe and cosmos on them. Rock on.

Candy Cane meets Hiker Trash.


We often see clothing gear lists and think, “I should buy that because it has good ratings and everyone says it works on trail.” Sure, I have done my share of perusing these lists for big ticket items like raincoats and jackets, but you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to have the “right” clothes. Check out the local thrift shops. What do you already own that you can wear? There’s a likely chance your clothes are going to take a beating and fall apart anyway, so no need to invest too much.

Be You

In getting ready for my PCT thru-hike, I went to a local secondhand outfitter shop in Asheville, NC. I really wanted to buy a lightweight, breathable dress to hike in; however, it’s a little difficult to deal with when you sit cross-legged as much as I do. Practicing yoga would also be a bit more challenging, I realized. So I resorted to trying on a bunch of those unflattering button-up shirts meant to repel bugs and with sunshield built in to the fabric. I must say, most of them made me feel less than attractive, but I did find a nice white one that wasn’t so tent-like. Next, I was contemplating a new pair of shorts or something. I tried on a tight, short, black hiking skirt and decided I looked more like a businesswoman going to a board meeting with Starbucks in hand, so that look was out.

Then I saw it on the rack. The color I can’t quite pin; maybe I’ll call it storm cloud heather gray. It was a skort; a skirt with shorts built into it. Whoever came up with that invention was really thinking of hiking yogis, I thought. But this was the game-changer: not only was it any old skort, it had tutu-like material all around it!

A tutu! That can be my look on the PCT! No, it’s not pink, but I like to think I’ve grown up some since I was five years old at ballet and stubborn about tutu color.

Yes, I believe in being functional with clothing while hiking, but let’s also have fun, y’all. Be you out there on trail. It’s kinda like we’re all walking a really, really long runway or catwalk. Like well over 2,000 miles of a catwalk, depending on what trail you’re on. Work it and own it.

I’ll be the one flittering about in a something like a tutu.

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