What Do Women Wear to Go Hiking?

The right footwear and layered clothing are a hiking woman's best friends.

Photo: Jupiterimages, Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Today’s gutsy girl isn’t afraid to take a hike — literally — so when 28-year-old Kristy Thornbrew got lost on a one-day hike in the North Carolina mountains that lasted four days and nights, her fashion sensibilities saved the day. Temperatures fell to the low 30s on those long nights, but by layering on a long-sleeve shirt and sweatshirt, her body retained warmth ‘til rescuers came to her aid. “The body can withstand a lot more than we think it can,” said Haywood County Emergency Services Coordinator Greg Shuping after Kristy was found. And you thought fashion was only about appearances.

The Great Shoe-in

If you’re a woman with a serious shoe addiction, forget red soles and Gaga heels and turn your undivided attention to the world of hiking boots so your tootsies stay comfy enough to go clubbing after you return from your hike. Look for support and protection, and if you can’t leave home without a heavy backpack of “just-in-case-supplies,” the support you receive from your hiking shoes becomes even more critical. Get recommendations from experienced hikers and hiking websites before you fork over big bucks for a pair. And forget cotton socks, unless you like hiking in your own sweat; wear socks made specifically to wick away moisture.

Get Branded

You can’t go wrong if you opt for shoes that have built reputations for keeping women on hiking trails for decades. Become familiar with hiking shoe manufacturing companies such as Keen, Lowa, Ahnu and Zamberian. You won’t find these styles sandwiched in-between Jimmy Choos and Manolo Blahniks at department store shoe displays, so get thee to a sporting goods store to track down the right shoe. Oh, and about that pedicure — even the most highly-recommended hiking shoes can leave you limping if you don’t trim those maroon-painted toenails before hitting the trail.

Dress in Layers

Female hikers may be hot, but they don’t like getting hot. Experienced outdoor types protect the cores of their bodies by layering garments. Dressing for a hike is all about balance and letting the weatherman be your stylist. Light colors deflect the sun’s rays. Dark colors absorb them, so make seasonally-influenced decisions when you select clothing to wear on the trail. New, high-tech fabrics are engineering marvels, literally wicking up moisture buildup and dispelling it via the surface of garments. Look for labels like Ultrex, Avalanche, Darlexx, Polartec and especially Gore-Tex, one of the earliest sporting fabric innovators on the planet.

Have a Pack Attack

Think in threes when you fill your hiking backpack: shirt, jacket and wind-proof windbreaker. Air pockets between the three add insulation and you can stage your own strip show — minus the pole — as you hike. Follow suit with layers of pants; you may even want to snag hiking pants with zip-off legs so they morph into shorts as the day wears on. Wear a hat and bring an extra in your rucksack. Throw a couple of big cotton bandanas into the bag, extra hiking socks, a mini-first aid kit and hair bands to get yours off your neck as you build up your hiking speed. A little mirror couldn’t hurt — just in case you run into a hottie on the trail and want to check the glowing skin you've developed along the way.

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