It’s the morning of your hike and you’re staring at your closet wondering what to wear. Sure, you could go for the cut-off jorts and cotton tee combo and channel trail days from the '70s and '80s. Or maybe just toss on your go-to leggings and call it a day. Nobody's saying you can't wear that for a hike, but women's hiking clothes have come a long way in recent years, and when it comes to long-lasting, chafe-free comfort, a little more strategy and preparation can keep you happily trekking for miles on your next backcountry trip.
Even if the technical jargon and staggering amount of options say otherwise, nailing down your most functional and comfortable kit for everything from day hikes to backpacking doesn’t have to be overly-complicated.
No matter your experience or skill level, keep things simple by sticking to a few golden rules when picking out the best hiking apparel and you’ll wear the right thing everytime. Read on for a breakdown of said rules, or skip to our top picks for the best women's hiking clothes further down.
How to Choose Hiking Clothes
Wearing the best hiking clothes comes down to wearing the right layers, and luckily, there’s a really simple formula to follow:
Base layer - Start with a base layer (the closest item of clothing next-to-skin) that’s lightweight, stretchy and won’t soak up sweat. Merino wool is always a great option.
Midlayer - Add a more substantial midweight layer on top (aka, a midlayer) like a technical long-sleeve shirt or short-sleeve t-shirt for coverage, warmth or both. A fleece jacket will work for cold weather too.
Outer layer - Pack an outer layer that’s appropriate for the weather, like a rain jacket, insulated down jacket, windbreaker, or other pullover. Rain pants are a good option if you know it's going to pour, but even on the bluest blue sky day, you never know what can roll in and start falling from the sky, so it’s always worth it to be prepared.
Breathable and Moisture-Wicking Clothing
Always avoid cotton. Full stop. Instead, choose hiking clothing made from nylon, polyester, or merino wool that will help you regulate your temperature by releasing body heat and move sweat away from your skin to keep you dry and comfortable. Quick-drying, breathable, or moisture-wicking fabric prevents you from overheating or risking hypothermia if it’s cold. Water-repellent and waterproof gear will put a damper on breathability, but is good to have your backpack just in case.
Go for Comfort and Stretch
The best hiking clothes are the ones you almost forget you’re wearing. By that I mean they fit right, they’re comfortable, and have plenty of stretch so as to not restrict your movement. Constant fussing is really annoying, and takes away from the backcountry experience. Make sure you're warm (or cool) enough, can move freely, and keep an eye out for adjustable features like drawstrings, cinches, or zippers that let you customize your fit.
Dress for the Weather
Check the forecast before you head for the hills both for safety’s sake and to make sure you’ve got the best possible protection for inclement weather. This includes sun protection, waterproof clothing, and warmer layers in case conditions change.
The Best Women's Hiking Clothes of 2022
Patagonia’s Capilene is a go-to tee for chill hikes and chasing summits, thanks to its supersoft and quick-drying material that’s made from 50-86% recycled polyester. Its slightly loose fit is ideal for layering over a tank top or under your midlayer with a flattering scoop neck for plenty of breathability. Plus, HeiQ Pure odor control keeps the stink at bay.
Price: $39 SHOP NOW
It’s always a good idea to have a long-sleeve layer and sun protection while hiking, and the River Hoodie comes in clutch on days when you need both. Sweat-wicking and antimicrobial, it has UPF 30+ rated fabric to block UV rays, plus an adjustable hood for extra coverage. Easy to wear on and off the trail, it comes in solid colors and a terrazzo-inspired print.
Price: $89 SHOP NOW
An anti-bacterial merino wool tank is the perfect layer to wear closest to your skin thanks to its inherently thermoregulating properties—meaning, it cools when it’s warm and warms when it’s cool. Ibex’s non-itch performance wool is comfy and lightweight with a classic racerback style that gives you good coverage and looks good, too.
Price: $65 SHOP NOW
This all-sport bra might just be the most comfortable and supportive sports bra you’ll wear. Made from a silky smooth performance fabric that feels cool to the touch, the Energy Bra won’t hold an ounce of moisture, keeping you comfy and dry on hot days. It’s moderately compressive for a just-right fit and the double straps provide extra support so the only thing that bounces on the trail is your ponytail.
Price: $52 SHOP NOW
When the weather is fickle and you're torn between wearing hiking pants or hiking shorts, these no-nonsense convertible pants from The North Face let you have it both ways. In one easy tug of the zipper, these quick-drying hiking pants instantly transform into a roomy pair of lightweight hiking shorts that hit mid-thigh. As an added bonus, you can use the built-in adjustable belt to customize your fit.
Price: $79 SHOP NOW
Despite being snug and form-fitting, the Abisko’s have a feel-good stretchy construction akin to your everyday leggings that's bolstered with durable details that will inspire you to high-kick and hike to your heart’s content. Tiny ceramic panels in high-wear areas add extra reinforcement where it counts, and its lightweight design is highly breathable. If you’re more of a shorts girl, then reach for the Mountain Hardwear Dynama Shorts as an uber-light warm weather hiking alternative.
(More women's hiking pant options here.)
Price: $150 SHOP NOW
Made from repurposed polyester taffeta and ripstop woven fabric, this wind-resistant (and slightly water-resistant) layer reaches its peak performance on windy ridges or blustery summits. Light and smooth next-to-skin, it has elastic bindings at the cuffs, hood, and hem to trap warmth when battling a brisk breeze or temperature drop. Plus, it packs down into its own pocket so you can hike ultralight.
Price: $80 SHOP NOW
This best-selling full-zip rain jacket from Outdoor Research has rightfully earned accolades for a design that includes Gore-Tex's durable Paclite fabric, which isn’t only waterproof and breathable but ultra-lightweight as well. Wear it outdoors or around town for uncompromising coverage from the elements, and when you heat up, unzip the jacket from hem to bicep to wear poncho-style for some serious ventilation. As a bonus, it’s Bluesign-approved, meaning it’s been made with a minimal environmental impact.
Price: $225 SHOP NOW
This best-selling puffy jacket is a hiker favorite for being a super-packable and super-warm layer that can easily be stowed in your pack in case the weather turns. It’s made with completely recycled face and trim fabric as well as responsibly sourced, 800-fill RDS-certified down insulation, so it’s a sustainable choice for the Earth and the contents of your overstuffed daypack. Plus, it only weighs 7.8 ounces.
Price: $325 SHOP NOW