Day Hiking Essentials for Women: Clothing, Footwear, and Accessories

@journey_to_lessismore asked me, Karla: "What are you wearing ? I need some hiking clothing. Pants? Brand? Jacket? Brand?"

I figured I'd actually create a whole post on this... The short answer is that it depends on the season and what I am hiking. Overall I find myself using a lot of the same things though, these are my "essentials," I even went into detail on 11 different items every women should have and the best part....a lot are on sale now!

Day Hiking Essentials For Women

1. Undergarments

I like wearing a sports bra some thing like this Threads for Thought Costa Rica Sports Bra, and I recently bought my first pair of ExOfficio Give-N-Go Lacy Low-Rise Bikini Briefs. I have no complaints except that I wish they had thongs. :)

You should definitely be wearing moisture wicking materials for undergarments. If you don't know, never wear cotton, especially in the cold! Cotton retains moisture and takes a long time to dry, this means you could get a rash in the cold, which can even lead to hypothermia! Moisture wicking material dries quickly, is highly breathable, and retains warmth even when wet.

By the way, the Exofficio briefs and are treated with Aegis Microbe Shield to maintain freshness....we want to stay fresh, right ladies? These are also an essential for backpackers and travelers who want to carry few key pieces of clothes, because they can be washed at night, and dry by the time you wake up. While these are more expensive, they are worth every penny from a comfort and safety perspective, so it's a #1 must have!

2. Base layer top

I like this Mountain Hardware Canyon Shirt because it can be worn as a long or short sleeve. It offers cooling airflow panels, and also has built in UPF 30 sun protection. It wicks away moisture, dries fast if wet, and has a great pocket in the front to stow away items like my phone, maps, and chapstick.


3. Pants

I absolutely LOVE my PrAna Convertible Pants!  These pants stretch (great for rock climbing), have ripstop, and are water repellant. I have had mine for about a year now and they barely have any tears! Yep - I tend to get caught in rock or fall often... Did I mention, you can wear them like capris, shorts, and pants? They have cargo pockets for snacks (trail mix), my phone, etc.

These pants are also great for traveling! When Phillip and I go abroad these are my #1 favorite item, because they are so versatile.

4. Mid Layer

You will want to carry a mid layer for warmth and insulation (You always want to pack as if you may need to spend the night out in the wild, just in case). Something like my Pantagonia Micro D Quarter-Zip Fleece Pullover is super lightweight and warm! It is ultrasoft, quick-drying (the microfleece used in this product is 85% recycled), and the zipper lets you vent out the heat if you get too warm.

5. Top Layer aka External Shell

This layer protects you from the rain and wind. The shell I use is a North Face Venture Rain Jacket. I honestly love this jacket, and took it with me to Peru when I hiked Machu Picchu during the pouring rain. It kept me, and all my things dry (iPhone, etc.).

I also really like the cut because it's form fitting. It is constructed with recycled HyVent fabric, is windproof, waterproof, has pit zips for ventilation, and engineered to withstand wilderness storms or for everyday use.

6. Additional Insulation or Puffy Jacket

If it's really cold or if I am backpacking I have to have my Marmot Jena Down Jacket. It's super light, has 700-fill power goose down and is made of water resistant fabric. This jacket has kept me warm on many occasions and cold nights in the wilderness.

7. Beanie

For cold mornings, evenings and camping, you will want to bring a wool cap like this Choaos Lovely BeanieWhy wool? Well its is warm, comfy, and if it was to get wet it will still keep you warm. Remember - never wear cotton, especially in the cold.

8. Socks

Let's get down to the nitty gritty - your feet are going to get hot and they will hurt when you've been on the trail for some time. I really like my SmartWool Hike Medium Crew socks. They keep my feet warm and dry, that's a plus when I am camping and backpacking; they also have a nice cushion without being too bulky.

Personally, I prefer the mid-calf height as they keep out dirt and rocks - I've noticed a lot of dirt inside my socks when I wear shorter ones. These socks are all-purpose, three-season and recommended for summer, fall and spring.

9. Footwear

A great pair of hiking shoes is a must when you're day hiking. I typically wear Salomon trail runners for day hikes, or my Vasque hiking boots if I need the ankle support. My choice depends on the terrain, weather, and how I am feeling that day. I have climbed many mountains with my Salomon's.

I think that if you need more support, go for hiking boots, but if you're going fast and light, go with trail-runners. Right now I am using Salomon X Ultra Low II GTX Hiking Shoes. They have been super comfy and versatile enough to accompanied me as an everyday shoe when I walk a lot, like on my recent trips to Hawaii and Greece. I like that they are waterproof, breathable, made with Gore-Tex, lightweight, my feet always feel secure, plus they have great traction.

I recently went backpacking with about 40 lbs on my back and climbed Mt. Starr in the Sierras, I opted to bring my Vasque Talus Trek Hiking Boots (these are similar Vasque Talus WP Hiking Bootsand they held up well. They were super comfy and had the support I needed. They have Vibram outer-soles and outright comfortable. I even broke them in on a 10-mile hike to Sandstone Peak without any problems or blisters.

10. Hat

Ok - so I know that the following hats are not super fashionable but, they are definitely needed for the brutal sun. I've been noticing more dark spots than I'd like, so I want to protect my skin and the protection this hat provides outweighs being least on the trails.

My first choice for a day hike is the big brim hat with neck coverage. Something like the Sunday Afternoons Adventure Hat or the Chaos Summit Sahara Cap is great because they provide UPF sun protection, block UV rays, have wicking sweatbands, their capes protect your neck and ears. The Sahara cap has mesh panels to allow for breathing and cooling. I usually opt for this type of cap when I am peak bagging and use the big brimmed one when I am day hiking.

11. Multifunction Headwear or a common name brand you might have heard, Buff

I really like this accessory because it can be worn as a bandanna, hairband, headband, scarf, and so much more! It keeps you cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It is made of microfiber, wicks away moisture, and dries quickly.

If you're into name brands the Buff is cool, but I personally prefer our very own 52 Hike Challenge Hele Lava Tube! On a side note, I really like using mine to keep my ears and neck warm in the cold. It's also thin enough to wear over your mouth to keep dust out.

So, there you have it, my hiking clothing, footwear, and accessory must-haves for women. I haven't started talking gear, or the classic "10 essentials" (things you need for survival and navigation like firestarter, map, etc), but now I'm inspired to share more as you all ask questions!

We have affiliate links in this post which help us to keep this awesome and life changing movement going. Please consider using our links if you purchase anything at REI. Many of the items listed below are on sale, which we're sure you'll like! Hope this helps, and if you want me to talk about another subject, let me know via the comment section here or on Instagram!

Much Love - Karla


  • Thank you, @Mark Calloway for supporting 52 Hike Challenge! We love to empower our members with resources that will help them succeed throughout their challenge.

    52 Hike Challenge
  • Thanks for sharing this amazing blogs with us. This is important to share this knowledge how the fashion accessories can enhance our look. Thanks a lot for this great share. I totally agree with your post.

    Mark Calloway

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