Many women agree that women’s hiking gear and clothing kind of sucks. Most gear is designed for men and women’s gear is often an after thought. Some gear companies think they can make the same gear in pink, purple and teal and call it women’s gear. Nope! We need stuff that fits our bodies! Some gear is fine to buy in unisex versions (like tents – duh!) but for other gear like boots and backpacks, female hikers will likely be much more comfortable buying women’s specific gear. (For more info, check out my article about which women’s specific gear is actually worth it.) Earlier I teamed up with a bunch of female hikers and adventure travellers to bring you recommendations for women’s hiking clothing, and now I’m bringing the same concept to hiking gear including boots, shoes, backpacks and accessories like hiking poles. Female hikers come in a variety of shapes and sizes: curvy, petite, plus-sized, tall, wide-footed, narrow-footed, slim, etc. And we should all be able to find hiking gear that works for our body type.
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Boots and Shoes
Best Women’s Boots for Wide Feet: Zamberlan Ultra Lite Hiking Boots
Last year I got myself a pair of Zamberlan Ultra Lite hiking boots and haven’t looked back. I have quite wide feet and “generous” ankles. So it can be tricky to find hiking boots which are comfortable and give me the right amount of support. The Zamberlan boots had a great fit from day one and the leather softened to the shape of my feet really quickly.
I’ve worn the boots on day hikes as well as short walks in the Scottish hills, and on long-distance hikes in Scotland and Sweden. Even with the added weight from my backpack, the shoes gave me great support and I never had blisters! This year I’m actually taking them on a 150-mile trek across the Outer Hebrides! As a vegan, I’m of course not happy that the boots are made of leather, but I doubt that I could find any better hiking boot than this one!
For more about these boots, read Kathi’s full review of her Zamberlan hiking boots.
Best Women’s Light Hiking Boots for Narrow Feet: Salomon X Ultra Mid GTX
I have hard-to-fit narrow feet with narrow heels. I’ve found a few options for narrow hiking boots, but most of them are high cut and heavy full leather boots like the Scarpa Kailash Boots, which I wear for snow and off trail travel. On most hikes I prefer to wear lightweight and lower cut boots since they don’t weigh me down. I’m on my second pair of Salomon X Ultra Mid Hiking GTX Boots now. I’ve worn them hiking and backpacking all over the world including to Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal, into a glacier ice cave in Iceland and on after work hikes in the mountains near Vancouver (like in the pic above).
I like that they are narrow enough for my feet without being too tight and that they come up high enough to give me a little ankle support without feeling constricting. They have an internal Gore Tex waterproof breathable membrane so they keep my feet dry in wet weather. Plus while my older ones were boring black, but my newer ones are a fun bluish-purple colour!
Best Women’s Minimalist Trail Running Shoes: Vivobarefoot Primus Trail SG Shoes
Nora of Those Fearless Feet loves trail running in her Vivobarefoot Primus Trail SG shoes. She says:
The Vivobarefoot Primus Trail SG shoes are perfect for very muddy runs that need a lot of traction while still providing the flexibility and minimalism of barefoot shoes. I most often use them for OCRs or very muddy trail runs. Due to the mesh on the sides, they are very easy to wash off. They provide a high level of traction but I would not recommend them for road running. These are a good barefoot replacement for trail runners. A few downsides of these shoes is that the cinch laces can add some discomfort for those with very high arches or side bunions. They also lack in the extreme flexibility of some other barefoot shoes but are overall highly satisfactory.
Check prices on the Vivobarefoot Primus Trail SG shoes: Amazon
Follow Nora’s adventures on Instagram.
Best Women’s Barefoot Style Hiking Shoes: Vibram Trek Ascent Light Hiking Shoes
Vibram Toe Shoes are #1 on my never-leave-home-without hiking gear list. I love to hike barefoot, especially when the earth is smooth and soft. But when the terrain gets really rocky, rough or cold I always go to my toe shoes first so that I can continue to feel the terrain under me. I’ve used my toe shoes for over a decade now: hiking the San Gabriel Mountains, exploring 10,000 feet up in Jackson Hole, WY, and even circumambulating Mt. Kailash in Tibet (pictured) just to name a few. I’m a small woman with narrow feet, and for many years I suffered from back problems. I find the fit of these shoes to be really comfortable, great for my posture and alignment. They have really helped strengthen my arches too. Overall, these shoes have been fantastic for me and I would recommend them to anyone looking to connect with the earth they are hiking on.
Best Multi-Day Pack for Plus-Sized Women: Gregory Deva 70
I love my Gregory Deva 70 pack! One of the main things I love is that the hip belt and shoulder straps pivot while your body moves: a great plus for backpacking. This backpack doesn’t pinch my shoulders like others have. And the hip belt fits great for my curvy figure. It’s really comfy.
I feel that I don’t have a typical hiker’s body type, although I go all the time. I’m five foot five and weigh in right at the 200 mark. I mostly hike around Arkansas, which is where I live. But I’ve also used the pack in Washington State, Montana, Texas, New Hampshire, and Michigan.
You can follow Mara’s adventures on the Right Kind of Lost Facebook page.
Best Multi-day Pack for Petite and Curvy Women: Osprey Viva 65
I’m a short and curvy gal who lives for adventures outside. I typically spend my summers backpacking and hiking in the Canadian Rockies and my Osprey Viva 65 Litre backpack has been with me on many multi-day trips. It’s great because you can adjust it to match your torso length and then the hip and shoulder straps can be tailored to a perfect fit. Since you can get a great fit, it almost makes carrying 3 days worth of food and your shelter on your back a pleasant experience. Currently, I am filling it up for a 14 month trip around the world, so I can let you know if it’s the perfect backpack for that too!
Thea is currently on a round-the-world trip that you can follow on her Instagram.
Best Multi-Day Pack for Petite Women Who Travel: Thule Versant 60 Womens
When we were leaving for our family gap year, I knew my backpack needed a serious capacity upgrade since our kids are too small to carry their own gear. My challenge? As a petite woman with a short torso, so many backpacks on the market overwhelmed my short frame and bonked me annoyingly on the head at every step. Fortunately I happened upon the Thule Versant 60L and it’s been with me ever since – now across six continents! The main compartment holds all of our family’s clothing, neatly stacked in packing cubes.
There are two important reasons why I love using this backpack. First, it has an adjustable harness height to fit any woman’s body perfectly! It can adjust several inches shorter than most competitors on the market. Second, even though it has 60L capacity, its relatively short frame height and tons of external compression straps allow it to look like a sort of normal hiking daypack if need be. Especially when carrying several layers of clothing plus lunch and water for four, the main pack makes for a very practical daypack. It has traveled with us through Croatian waterfalls and Patagonian mountains!
Check prices on the Thule Versant 60 Women’s backpack: Amazon
Head on over to Melissa’s blog to read more about this pack and her thorough reviews of the best women’s travel backpacks.
Best Overnight Backpack for Curvy Women: REI C0-op Flash 45 Pack Women’s
I love REI backpacks and have been using them for years! The REI Co-Op Flash Pack is one of the best small hiking backpacks on the market. At just over 2 lb this pack is seriously light and great for hiking. It is also affordable for a good hiking backpack.
The Co-Op Flash Pack is made out of heavy duty ripstop nylon and is a great trekking backpack. With 45L it’s manageable for a gear-heavy day hike or even an overnight. It has all kinds of attachments to allow for ice axes, poles, and other tools to be stored as well as snappable water bottle pockets on the hip belt. It fits my curvy frame perfectly, but most women will love it regardless of size. I’ve used the Flash 45 backpacking around Europe and hiking in Thailand. Seriously it’s perfect!
Check prices for the women’s REI Co-op Flash 45 Pack: REI
Natasha is a bit of backpack expert: check out her review of the Best Hiking Backpacks of 2018.
Best Travel Backpack for Hikers: CabinZero Urban Backpack
Inma from A World To Travel travels and hikes with a Cabinzero Urban backpack that she thinks is a great option for travellers who like to hike too. She says:
Do not be fooled by its name (Urban), this bag is one of the sturdiest and best suited to go outdoors with I’ve came across since I started traveling over 15 years back. Waterproof and adjustable, it never hurt my back (I have scoliosis, an average body and measure 170cm). I’ve been using it for a year now in very different situations. From trekking the eco-lodge circuit in the Annapurnas (a 5 day trek I took last year) to walking the Portuguese Coastal Way to Santiago de Compostela, I couldn’t be happier with it! The best part is that it allows me to travel without checking luggage, something I always look for in a bag.
Keep up with Inma’s travels on her Instagram.
Best Hydration Pack for Tall Women: CamelBak Octane Dart
Annie from Today We Adventure loves getting outside with her CamelBak Octane Dart hydration pack since it fits her tall frame without slipping off her narrow shoulders. She says:
From 20-mile runs, to high alpine hikes, to multi-pitch climbs, to long walks when I don’t want to carry a water bottle, the CamelBak Octane Dart has filled a lot of roles in my outdoor life. With a 1.5L capacity reservoir and 2 moderately sized zipper pockets, this minimalist pack is meant for a day where you’ll need water and just a few snacks or necessities.
The Dart is a near perfect fit for me – as a tall girl, that can be difficult to find! Many packs for women are too short in the torso, and packs for men are typically too wide in the shoulders. The Dart is just right. It fits tightly against my back without pinching or tugging, with minimal bounce even when running. The shoulder and chest straps allow you to mold it to your body. The pocket on shoulder harness is handy for easy access to snacks or a cell phone, and the tube clip keeps the bite valve in place for sips on the move. I highly recommend the CamelBak Octane Dart for long runs and moderate day hikes – basically, times when you need to carry water and not much else.
You can keep up with Annie’s outdoor adventures on her Instagram.
Best Day Pack for Curvy Women: Gregory Maya 22
As a curvier woman, I like women’s specific packs like the Gregory Maya 22 day pack that are built to accommodate my breasts and hips. The shoulder straps also have a unique stretchy attachment point where they meet the body of the backpack so they flex and move with you. One of my favourite features of the Maya is the hip belt pockets since I can access snacks or lip balm without having to take off the pack. It also has a dedicated hydration sleeve to keep my reservoir separate from the rest of my gear. The 22L size is big enough to carry everything I need for a long day hike. I’ve had this pack for about 5 years (mine is an older version) and it’s still going strong.
Best Child Carrier Backpack for Most Women’s Body Types: Deuter Kid Comfort 3
Good hiking gear is so important and aside from my hiking boots, my favourite piece of hiking gear is my Deuter Kid Comfort 3 child carrier backpack. It’s my top recommendation for women who want to keep hiking after having a baby. This backpack carrier can be adjusted to fit any body type. It’s worth taking the time up front to play around with the adjustments to get it right. I’m 5’4” with more of an athletic build and I have no problems getting it to fit properly so I’m carrying the weight on my hips and not hurting my back.
The carrier itself is comfortable for my kids, which keeps them happy. (Every mom knows that if the kiddos aren’t happy it’s not going to make for a very enjoyable hike!) With all of us happy and comfortable, I can easily carry either kid for an extended period of time. Additionally, I love that it has all the space I need to carry water and snacks for everyone without having to carry an extra bag. There’s no way we would have been able to do some of the more difficult hikes we have done around the world without our backpack carriers.
Head on over to Celine’s other blog, Baby Can Travel to read her complete review of the Deuter Kid Comfort 3.
Best Sun Protection Hat for All Women: Barmah Canvas Drover
I am a big believer in sun protection when out enjoying nature. My favorite travel hat is the Barmah Canvas Drover. It comes in wonderful colors and now even has a selection of scarves to jazz it up a bit. Wearing a hat can keep you cool in the summer by giving your own shade. This hat even has a mesh crown so the wind can breeze through and cool you off. I love the cord which lets me just toss of my hat when I’m inside and lets it hang behind me leaving my hands free. There are lots of hats on the market but I love this one because of the look. It can be worn when wearing hiking gear and it can be worn when wearing dressier stuff like golf attire. I never leave home without it no matter where I’m going. I even took it to tea at the Ritz in Paris.
Since the hat comes in several different sizes, it’s easy to get the right fit. The hat lasts forever but after putting a million miles on them I buy a new one that looks spiffy. I’m on my third one – each one lasting many years. I can’t say enough GREAT things about this hat!
Check prices on the Barmah Canvas Drover hat: Amazon
For more of Natalie’s travels , follow her on Pinterest.
Best Trekking Poles for Petite Women: Black Diamond Trail Back Poles
I hike, a lot, and as a result I’ve been through my fair share of hiking poles. I’m petite, but have knee issues which results in tough downhills and lots of pressure on my poles. What’s great about the Black Diamond Trail Backs is they don’t slowly get shorter the longer my hike is because of the pressure I put on them, a BIG problem I’ve had with so many other poles. Plus, they’re super adjustable for all heights expanding up to 55 inches! And to put a cherry on top, for something so durable they’re only 1 lb 5 oz for the pair, making them easy to pack or carry when not using them. I’ve really beaten on these bad boys and they’re holding up great from multi-day backpacking on the Appalachian Trail and Long Trail to my most recent hike to Everest Base Camp. We’ll see how they do in Peru next month, but I’m sure I won’t have any surprises.
Follow Retha on Instagram to see more of her adventures.
What is your favourite piece of hiking gear and how does it work for your body type? Share your women’s hiking gear finds in the comments.