Your outdoor adventure wardrobe should be comfortable and practical. Technical fabric, innovative design and proper fit can protect, insulate, cool, dry, sweat-wick and stretch in all the right places. In many cases, unisex gear and clothing doesn’t cut it.
But it’s not as simple as heading to the Women’s section. When creating female-specific adventure gear, many brands simply “shrink it and pink it,” removing features like multiple pockets, offering less options and often excluding explorers with varying body types, ages, sizes and gender identities.
Luckily, more brands are realizing the need for new and extended lines of women-specific adventure gear and clothing. Of course, you may find male-designated clothing that fits better or works for your unique body, and that’s great! What matters is having options.
Below, you’ll find suggestions for hiking, cycling, yoga, camping and paddling gear made for women. Two brands feature designs made by females; several are Canadian. We encourage you to shop local and use this article as a guide to begin building your gear stash and adventure wardrobe.
Neckwear for warmth: BUFF®
Made with 100 per cent recycled PET bottles, the original BUFF® can be used as a scarf in winter, a cap in autumn, a headband in summer and a hairband in spring. There are about nine other ways to wear this multifunctional headwear!
Hat for sun protection: Tilley Women's Collection
Personally, I prefer an adjustable baseball cap to shade my eyes, but the women-specific hat range offered by Tilley is too impressive not to include. The Hiker's Hat and MashUp Airflo® both sport UPF50+, protection from wind and rain (with a water-repellent finish) and buoyancy, so you won't lose it on your paddling trip. Why not buy a uni-sex hat? Women’s heads typically run a little smaller than men’s, and while some may claim “one size fits all,” we all know that’s not true.
Eye protection: Rheos Floating Sunglasses
Nope, sunglasses aren’t gender-specific, but we still wanted to include these polarized shades. At only $55, these floating sunglasses will protect your eyes while you soak in mountain views.
Alison Karlene Hodgins
Waterproof Rain Jacket: Marmot GORE-TEX
When you live on the wet coast, you know the importance of taped seams and waterproofing—water-resistant fabric doesn’t cut it. Marmot offers several different fits, including a plus-size option. My jacket is long enough to nearly hit my knees, while slightly drawn in at the waist to fit an hour-glass shape. The only thing missing: a drawstring for minor adjustments.
Lightweight Down Jacket: Canada Goose Jacket
I’ve always wanted to like vests, but my arms and fingers get cold too quick. Canada Goose created a lightweight, waterproof down jacket that feels like a vest—but with sleeves. I bring this on all my mountain camping trips.
Breathable ¾ sleeve: CRAFT x Ambler Wild Ride Mesh Mountain Biking Jersey
CRAFT aims to elevate women in sport. Every product line is developed for both males and females, with all athletes—from world champions to everyday explorers—in mind. The Swedish company (their Canadian headquarters are in Montreal) has a goal of being 100 per cent sustainable by 2023. This mountain bike jersey was designed in Nelson through a local partnership. “Male-dominated adrenalin adventures sports often lack the cut, fit and design for females,” says Jes Elliott, marketing and communications manager.
“Mountain biking can be an intimidating sport for females to get into,” adds Amber Nero, CEO of Craft Sportswear Canada. “We hoped to invite more women with friendly graphics and a jersey designed for them—tapered, but not too tight, with a nice bottom hemp to embrace the hips and fit a female’s body.”
Comfortable tank top: Daub + Design
Designed and manufactured in Vancouver, these unique, hand-dyed tank tops transition from the yoga studio to the mountain top and back to city streets. With an emphasis on environmental sustainability, high-quality fabrics and seasonless styles that can be worn year after year, Daub + Design specializes in comfortable, non-compression clothing that won’t squish you. “We use top quality, lightweight fabrics that are versatile and comfortable,” says Lexi Soukoreff, owner and creative director. “We focus on accessibility, transparency and body positivity, while creating garments for all women from daughters to great-grandmothers.”
Alison Karlene Hodgins
Leggings that transition from mountains to streets: Lululemon
I’ll be honest: I typically trek in Lululemons. These tights include long side pockets that fit a new iPhone. I feel comfortable on adventures and roaming around town afterwards. Rock climbers and scramblers may opt for the Fjallraven Abisko Trekking Tights, which provide reinforced knees and rear to protect against sharp rocks.
Zip-off hiking pants: PrAna
Can zip-off cargo pants really be stylish? PrAna has tried to do the impossible. Earthy tones like beige and coal coupled with quick-drying, water-repellent, UPF 50+ fabric make these pants a step above your dad’s trekking pants. As a 6’0 tall girl, I appreciate the option for a 36” inseam.
Work pants for DIY at-home projects: Helly Hansen
Helly Hansen recently introduced a full, expanding collection of women’s workwear. Each offering has been developed to offer equal functionality and practicality equivalent to the men’s offerings and in a tailored manner to a women’s needs and physique. Every piece was designed from a blank slate and built to meet the exact needs of women in the trades, but these can also be the perfect option to throw on for that home DIY project or chopping firewood for your next camping trip. The same durability and flexibility that is needed on a job site are also needed for so many home projects.
Running shorts with a leak-proof pad: Thinx
For those of us who menstruate and choose not to wear tampons for health or eco-reasons, adventure can seem inaccessible—or at least, more difficult—once a month. Don’t let your period stop you from climbing that mountain! (Unless you have medical reasons to stay inside. We’re all unique; no judgement.) When you do feel that drive to go trail running, slip into Thinx mesh shorts for leak-proof protection. With built-in period panties, they feel slightly bulkier than comparable lightweight running shorts.
Alison Karlene Hodgins
Winter hiking boots: KEEN Revel III
My first pair of hiking boots were the Revel—and five years later, I still have them. I’ve had to replace the laces twice and I should probably invest in a new pair, but they’ve gotten me up (and down) dozens of mountains. KEEN is one of few brands that makes boots in my rare size (10.5). Comfortable, waterproof and warm, I highly recommend these for trekking across snow, water or frozen dirt.
Summer hiking shoes: Oboz Sapphire Mid Waterproof
Tested by explore, these boots provided long-lasting comfort. Day hikes and warm-weather adventures pair well with this breathable, lightweight yet waterproof boot. Designed for women and tested by women, the fit is superb.
Mid-crew socks for hiking or running: Smartwool
Who says your hiking socks have to be boring black and white? I’m a huge fan of these Merino Wool PhD Outdoor no-stink active hiking socks with light cushions. Other brands that specialize in hiking socks include Darn Tough and Fox River.
Swimsuit: Andie Swim
Finally—swimsuits for women made by women! Based in New York, Andie Swim makes one-piece designs that are practical for surfing and staying comfortable out on the water all day. "Working with an all-women team lets us contribute our own real swim experiences to every aspect of the business,” says founder and CEO Melanie Travis. “Together, we discuss fit preferences, laugh about embarrassing swim mishaps, connect with our community and design suits we love ourselves.”
Antimicrobial underwear: ExOfficio
I was first introduced to ExOfficio four years ago. I was skeptical about underwear that could be worn for multiple days on an outdoor adventure, but the breezy briefs haven’t disappointed. For those who wear tight leggings, thongs may be a more practical choice, or even going commando. You do you, girl.
Sports bras: Victoria's Secret
Personally, I’m a huge fan of the built-in bras in Lululemon tank tops for lighter adventures, and for plyometrics, I wear Victoria’s Secrets’ sports bras.
Trail runners and high-impact adventurers should look for a sports bra that offers maximum support, while something like the seamless Smartwool strappy bra with odor-resistant Merino may work for lower-impact activities like yoga, camping and hiking.
Women with large breasts may encounter difficulties searching for a sports bra in their size. Here are some options.
Kula Cloth: A literal pee cloth
Osprey Women’s backpack: A range of sizes for different-sized women
PFD: Mustang Survival
Climbing harness: Arcteryx
Base layers: Icebreakers
More suggestions by adventure bloggers:
Plus-sized outdoor adventure gear: