The visibility of fat and plus-size identifying hikers and backpackers is growing in outdoor communities. Organizations like Unlikely Hikers and Climb Big advocate for the inclusion of fat and plus-size people in outdoors activities, while reminding us that people with diverse bodies are already outside, moving their bodies in ways that bring them joy.
When fat and plus-size hikers head out into the backcountry, finding the best-fitting, lightweight gear for our adventures can be a challenge. Being fat means your backpack’s weight is automatically higher: plus-size clothes and gear have more fabric and fat bodies burn more calories, which means more food in your pack per day. Focusing on an “ultralight” or “lightweight” carrying weight (12 to 28 pounds) may help you carry the least weight possible for the trip you’re on.
Here are some of our favourite fat-friendly lightweight backpacking gear items!
Backpack shots (pics by Kaila Walton and Diandra Oliver)
Size yourself for a backpack at home by measuring your torso length and your hip width (instructions here). The torso measurement tells you if the pack will fit on your back; the hip width will ensure the hip strap is big enough.
A lightweight option is the Arc'teryx Alpha AR 55 . This pack weighs three pounds and has a roomy waistband, compressed hip padding and adjustable chest straps. The bag has enough room for gear for a multi-day trip and a narrower fit on the back for a broader range of motion for scrambling.
The comfortable Osprey Aether 60 weighs just over five pounds. If you have day hikes planned on your trip, a smaller, removable pack is a bonus, but it can also be left at home to shed weight.
In Spring 2021, look for packs designed for plus-size people including the Granite Gear Perimeter Series offering 35- and 50-litre options and a new 20-piece collection from Gregory's ‘Gateway Program.'
Kaila Walton with Puffin Blanket
Finding a plus-size friendly sleeping bag can be a fat backpacker’s worst nightmare, but we’ve found a few lightweight bags that have lots of room.
Marmot recently released the Women’s Trestles Elite Eco 20° Sleeping Bag Plus. It’s a synthetic bag that weighs three pounds and has a 73-inch shoulder girth, meaning it would max out at size 3XL. Sea to Summit also makes the Explore Down Sleeping Bag 25F. This down bag weighs approximately 2.5 pounds and has a shoulder girth of 76 inches, maxing out at a 4XL.
For plus-size people who like to winter camp, The North Face makes the Inferno 0F. This fluffy bag weighs just under two pounds and has a shoulder girth of 62 inches, making the maximum size a 2XL.
Finally, many backpackers opt for blankets and we like the NEMO Equipment Puffin Blanket 1P. This blanket weighs just over two pounds and boasts a wide footprint (57 inches x 85 inches), curved edges and a proprietary foot nook to keep your feet warm on cold nights.
Kaila Walton with Big Agnes Pad
There’s nothing worse than popping off a regular-sized sleeping pad after a long day of hiking in the backcountry. Luckily, lightweight, wide sleeping pads are generally available and come at a variety of accessible price points.
We like the Klymit Static V Luxe because it is 30 inches wide and weighs approximately 1.5 pounds, making it a lightweight luxury in the backcountry. Big Agnes makes the Insulate AXL Air, which is 25 inches wide and weighs just over a pound.
For even roomier sleeps, Exped makes the Airmat HL Duo M. It weighs 1.5 pounds and is 41 inches wide at the shoulders.
Most ultralight one-person tents have narrow footprints, but fat and plus-size backpackers require tents with a wider base.
The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL1 is 38 inches wide at the shoulders and weighs just over two pounds. The Zpacks Duplex is 45 inches wide at the shoulders and weighs just over one pound. The pole-less Durston X-Mid 2P is 50 inches wide at the shoulders and weighs 2.5 pounds.
Backpacking is one of the best ways to get outside, but running into other fat and plus-size hikers while on a multi-day trip is still rare. As more of us head out on long trails, our fat and plus-size backcountry community will grow, and hopefully more lightweight gear options will follow.
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