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Hiking Guide for Women and Girls
Women have different considerations when hiking than their male counterparts. Therefore, I thought it appropriate to address only the female population for this particular article.
Some of the issues that we as women hikers face include a curvier, often shorter figure that requires different outfitting. Women also care more for their appearance, even when they are hiking. As women, our bodies also present us with issues regarding urinating and our monthly cycle. And, though safety and security is also an issue for men, it holds special significance for women.
Outfitting Yourself for a Hike
There are a couple of truly essential items to consider when outfitting yourself for a hike. The first is proper equipment for your feet. I was reminded of this a few years ago when I allowed a salesperson to talk me into a pair of boots that I wasn't quite sure about. Sure enough within a couple of days of beginning the hike the pain in my feet was excruciating. You can not enjoy a hike or even make it very far if you don't have good footwear.
That being said, I'd like to actually begin with the socks. A good pair of socks can keep you from getting blisters. If you are used to settling for socks that don't truly fit now is the time to spend the extra money on a pair that does. A sock that doesn't quite fit creates a pocket of fabric that will rub against your skin all day as you walk. While in a normal day at the office this would not be an issue if you spend all day walking you will notice and blisters will form.
One option is to layer your socks. Find a well fitting inner sock and wear the bulkier hiking sock around that. This has the added benefit of allowing the inner sock to pull double duty as the sock you wear with your camp shoes. (For those of you not currently using camp shoes I highly recommend it. They are a light weight shoe that you wear around the campsite. After a long day's hike it is nice to take off the heavier hiking boots and let your feet breath in a pair of light weight shoes.) Another option is to find a company like Garmont that carries a line of women's socks. The company has taken into consideration the fact that women's feet and legs typically have a higher instep, lower calf, longer Achilles tendon, narrower heel and narrower toe box and designed their socks accordingly.
After you've found yourself a good couple of hiking socks take them to the store with you to buy your boots. The best advise I can give you on hiking shoes is to trust yourself. If the shoe doesn't feel right, keep looking. Plan to spend a good deal of time finding the right shoe. Take the time to walk around in the shoe. Stores like REI have hiking ramps that you can walk up and down to test the shoe. If the store you are at does not have a ramp, test them on a ramp at home. As long as you don't wear them outside you can return them if they fail the ramp test.
One final word about shoes, do break them in before you go on your trip. Wear them walking for at least a week before you leave. (This will also encourage you to do some walking each day before your trip, which, if it's been awhile since you've had real exercise, can be a good way to start preparing yourself for the demands of the hike.)
When choosing a pack consider that your hips are curvier and your shoulders are narrower. There are many women's backpacks available now, but again test the fit on your figure. Have the sales clerk assist you with fitting the pack. Walk around the store with some weight in your pack. If the straps rub against your neck or the weight does not distribute properly on your hips and shoulders try another pack.
Another consideration is your sleeping bag. Women tend to like more warmth when they are sleeping. We are also typically shorter than men. For myself, I liked the semi-mummy bag. It fit closer around the feet and chest providing more warmth and I was able to find it in a size that fit my height.
One final thing to consider when outfitting yourself is to pack light. You will not be able to carry the same weight as your larger male counterpart, so don't try. Choose light weight gear and eliminate the unnecessary items. It may seem important while sitting on your couch at home but imagine having to carry it all day long. Even little things add up quickly.
- BACKPACKING LIGHTWEIGHT - Backpacking & Hiking Resources
BACKPACKING LIGHTWEIGHT promotes ultralight backpacking & hiking featuring backpacking equipment for lightweight backpacking & hiking resources for year-round backpacking safety & enjoyment.
- BackpackingLight.com -- Home Page
BACKPACKING LIGHT MAGAZINE provides ultralight and lightweight backpacking, climbing, and hiking information, including gear reviews, technique articles, publications, and backpacking gear for the ultralight hiking and mountaineering enthusiast.
- Wise Women Go Light, Part 2
Article from BACKPACKING LIGHT MAGAZINE that focuses on two women planning a backpacking trip.
Clean and Sanitary
As women we like to be presentable. I have seen guys take a week long hike with one pair of clothing and no soap or deodorant. A woman wouldn't make that same choice.
However, there can be a tendency to go overboard. I was once on a hiking trip with a teenage girl who smuggled along her make-up because she couldn't imagine being seen without it. For any of you with similar ideas, a couple of words of advise: a freshly scrubbed face looks very put together when compared to the unscrubbed, unshaved faces of your male companions and the scent of make-up can attract bears to your site. Also, the girl who smuggled along the make-up ended up being to exhausted to worry about putting on make-up each day.
That being said, what are some of the ways a woman can stay fresh and clean on her hike? I hike in the mountains so unless we were getting a late start (even summer mornings are cold) or were stopping early stepping into the water to bath was out of the question. However, you can use a pot of water and a washcloth to wipe away much of the daily grime.
I am also one of those people cursed with oily hair, so I would wash my hair each morning before starting camp chores. However, if you don't have oily hair a nice hat is a wonderful choice. It also keeps the sun off your face and out of your eyes.
An added toiletry concern for women is our monthly cycle. Should you be hiking during this time bring an extra zip-lock bag in which to store your sanitary napkins or tampons and you can burn them at the end of each day. The smell will not be pleasant so wait until everyone is done using the fire.
Another concern is bathroom breaks. In the past I've found a well placed fallen log to lean against. However, I recently heard about pee funnels for women that allow them to pee standing up. On my next hiking trip I definitely plan on investing in one.
Safety and Hiking
Women have always had to be more concerned about safety than men. Unfortunately, this is also true when hiking. The most obvious solution is to travel in a group. If your goal is to absorb the peace and tranquility of nature remember that during the day people will hike at different paces.
Don't give personal information to strangers. It is okay to be friendly, and I have found that most hikers are, but be careful how much you share. Let people know that you are with a group.
However, if you need to hike alone remember to tell your friends and family when you are leaving, when you will return and your hiking itinerary. If possible invest in a tracking devise so that you can be tracked remotely.
Statistically you are safer in the wilderness than in the city. So, take a deep breath of the fresh outdoor air and drink in the beauty of nature.
- Safety for Women Hiking Alone
Safety tips for women hiking alone from experienced hikers.
- Crime won't keep women from going hiking on their own
OnlineAthens.com is the daily online edition of The Athens (GA) Banner-Herald article on women's safety on the trails.
- Women should not hike alone
A counter opinion about by safety of women hiking alone by Stephen Black.
Hiking Vacations for Women
- Adventures in Good Company Women's Adventure Travel
Adventures in Good Company offers worldwide adventure travel for active women of all ages. Small groups, carefully crafted itineraries, excellent guides.
- Call of the Wild Women's Adventure Travel
Call of the Wild is now in its 33rd year of business and is the world's longest-running women's adventure travel company. Offering women's only hiking, backpacking, sea kayaking, snowshoeing, and multisport adventures around the globe.
- Wild Side Adventures
Wild Side Adventures wants to help you discover or give new life to the "wild side" in you and hopes that you will join one of their trips, programs, or workshops, and “find yourself in the woods” – physically and mentally.