Hiking Tips for Female Backpackers: What to Wear & How to Stay Clean?

Hey Ladies!

Let me start by saying this- I have no shame. I started hiking and backpacking seriously with my husband when we first met. He is a dude. He was mostly zero help in the lady department. It didn't occur to me for years that I could search online for what worked for other women. I get asked a lot of questions that I wish I had the answers to when I first started hiking and backpacking. In this series I’ll lay it all out there for inquiring minds and tell you what works for me! In this episode we'll be covering what to wear, and how to stay clean!

            Written by:  Maria Watrous 

            Written by: Maria Watrous 

What to Wear
Got 4 words for you: cotton is your enemy. Cotton takes forever to dry, which is uncomfortable at best and at worst can contribute to hyperthermia. Wet environments are also prime spots for bacteria that causes UTI’s and yeast infections to grow.

Pants: I like leggings. I don’t care if they’re not real pants. A lot of women like hiking pants but I put them on in the store and take them off ASAP so I can’t tell you about hiking in them.

Tops: I like tank tops and will hike in them into the winter. I have ice in my veins, maybe I’ll wear long sleeves if it gets below 40. Performance fabrics are best but sometimes I do wear cotton tops on day hikes. I always regret it.

Underwear: I am picky about my underwear but nothing else. I wear lightweight, quick drying underwear made from performance fabrics. A lot of ladies like wool undies but I do not. I will wear any kind of sports bra that does not have clasps, closures or metal. Those little pieces of metal eventually rub under my pack and they’re the worst. One solid piece for me.

Socks: Cloudline and Darn Tough forever! Two pairs so I can change into dry ones when I need to.

Extras: I always have a hat, bandana, Hoo-rag or Buff to keep my hair off my face or covered if it get’s dirty. A lightweight rain coat is nice to have as well.


How do you stay clean?
I don’t. I stink. Everyone smells like a Hatebreed show in July. It’s part of the charm. In the backcountry I don’t like to use soap for dishes or myself. Each night and sometimes in the morning I will wet a bandana or use wipes to clean important parts: face (get’s it’s own bandana), hands, pits, privates and feet. If you have the opportunity to get into some water, away from where people are filling up water for drinking, that is the best. Otherwise I hang a bag with a spout from a tree and use it like a faucet. You can wet your bandana and use it like a washcloth or just rinse off your parts.

If you do use soap be sure to use the tiniest amount of biodegradable soap and scatter the water 200 feet from camp and water sources.

To brush my teeth I like two different products. At home I use a clay based toothpaste so if I bring this I just bury what I spit out. I also like toothpaste tablets. They look like mints, you chew them up and they foam into a paste. I only use these if we are somewhere that will have fire rings. I spit into the fire ring and bury it with ash. I use a travel toothbrush that folds into itself.

Wisps are another good option, but something else to pack out.

On longer trips, clothes get rinsed in a stream or lake, downstream and away from where people fill up for drinking water. Some people like to wash clothes in a large ziplock bag. You can shake it up and agitate it to simulate the action of a washing machine. Again, be sure to scatter this water, especially if you use soap, at least 200 feet from camp and water sources. Hang clothes on a branch to dry or clip smaller items like socks and undies to your pack to dry while you hike.


Have a question for Maria about Women and hiking? Shoot it our way!!

Name *