Clothing for Women

Stylish women often regard hiking with disgust, even hiking town-to-town in Europe and staying in hotels each night. I think this disgust is largely due to the unstylish clothing sold at outdoors stores. Hiking pants, in particular, are designed for men, and typically have very wide, very unstylish "elephant" legs, plus the clothing is festooned with unsightly logos, cargo pockets, unnecessary zippers and other gewgaws. The primary advantage of hiking pants is protection from swarms of mosquitoes, which can bite through stretch-knit leggings, and bitterly cold winter winds—instead of wearing protection from such harsh conditions, why not pick a more comfortable time/place for hiking? I therefore recommend the following clothing layers for the lower body:

Upper body clothing at outdoors stores is not so unstylish as that for the lower body. Typical layering would be:

Many women object to hats because of how they mat the hair. The solution is to use a hat which fits loosely, optionally bundle the hair up on top of the head inside the crown of the hat, then hold the hat in place with a chinstrap.

As discussed elsewhere on this website, trying to keep the feet dry in mild temperatures doesn't work. If wearing rain pants and boots with goretex liners, the footwear will get wet from perspiration. If not wearing rain pants, rain will run down the legs into the boots. A better idea is to wear lightweight fabric hiking shoes/boots and lightweight socks, so that the footwear will dry quickly when the rain stops. Socks can be either all-synthetic or a lightweight blend of 30% nylon, 70% merino wool. Merino wool doesn't dry quickly, but it is comfortable and doesn't cause blisters even when wet.

Neckpurse will have to be custom-made, but this is an easy job. Pick a fabric that looks good both hiking and in the city.

All clothes (with possible exception of socks) should allow for rapid drying. Ideal fabrics: (a) stretch-knits should be polyester or merino wool: (b) insulation should be polyester; (c) shells should be nylon or polyester. Socks should be comfortable when worn wet: (a) Vermont Darn Tough Micro Crew Cushion, 65% merino wool / 35% nylon; (b) similar Smartwool light hiker sock; (c) all-nylon or all-polyester socks. Avoid cotton, hemp and other slow-drying fabrics. Avoid down insulation, which is a nuisance to clean.

Must assume that clothes worn while hiking will get wet and/or dirty. Therefore bring along another full set of clothing for walking around city after washing hiking clothes and hanging them up to dry. A calf-length skirt is probably a better idea than pants.

If planning to stay in huts or refuges, extra clothing should include base layer of lightweight stretch-knit, which serves as sleep wear and for wandering around the hut. For warmth while wandering around hut, in case the insulated jacket is wet, wrap yourself in sleeping bag/quilt.

Dress sandals/shoes MUST be designed for extending walking on concrete and stone pavement.

All clothes other than rain clothes and insulated jacket should be easy to clean in cold water in a sink, using the same soap/shampoo as for the body, and able to drip-dry overnight in damp conditions, without needing ironing. Merino wool/nylon blend socks will not dry overnight, especially not in damp conditions, but such socks can be put on wet and then walked dry without causing blisters.

Rain clothes, insulated jacket and sleeping bag should be easy to clean in a bathtub or washing machine, though cleaning should not normally be necessary for these items.

Towel, if any, should be very small, like 12"x12", with sewn-in loop for hanging from the backpack to allow drying during the day. Large towels are heavy and tend to mildew. After wiping with small towel, put on sleep clothes and use body heat to burn off remaining moisture. Towel only needed if staying in hut/refuge. If staying in hotel, towels provided.

Even if planning to always stay in hotels, I still recommend carrying camping gear (discussed elsewhere on this website), since hotels might be closed, full, spaced too far apart to allow for leisurely hiking, too expensive or unpleasant. In addition to adding flexibility, camping gear is a safety measure, since it allows you to stop and camp if you get injured, rather than pressing on to civilization and perhaps injuring yourself worse in the process. Camping gear is bulky (the ground pad and quilt, in particular), but not that heavy. My camping gear for hiking in Europe (3-season quilt, ground pad, bugbivy, tarp, rear tarp pole, ground stakes) weighs about 2130g (under 5 pounds), which is not much. Weight could be reduced to under 2 kilos for a small woman. Also, if hiking in Spain or elsewhere in southern Europe, where hotels often have hard floors, it would be necessary to carry the ground pad anyway, to allow performing morning yoga, and that is a 500g of the weight and the majority of the bulk of the camping gear right there. If hiking as part of couple, a tent or two-person tarp might make more sense than a one-person tarp, but I have no experience with hiking/camping as part of couple.