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Hiking Guide for Women and Girls

Updated on May 22, 2013

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.

Eagle Creek in Multnomah County, Oregon
Eagle Creek in Multnomah County, Oregon

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.

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.


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    • Joy M profile imageAUTHOR

      Joy M 

      4 years ago from Sumner, Washington

      Thank you for the clarification. If put in a situation to use this technique, it is definitely better if you already know what to do and have committed to doing it.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Regarding the "groin grab" self defense technique to be used against a man, there is actually a little trick to it... I've been teaching Krav Maga to women for just over 5 years now and this is a technique which should be in every woman and girls arsenal. We are a women only event, run by women, for women, and this is what we teach to women of all ages:

      You’re going to take your hand and grasp between the thighs underhand. Its going to feel like you’re “cradling” the testicles. Dig your fingertips into the fragile skin BEHIND the scrotum. Then, once you have a good grip, you turn your hand into a vise, with your fingers digging inwards over and around the back of the testicles. If you do it right, you should feel the testes INSIDE the scrotum within your hand. You want, whenever possible, to hook your fingers over at least one testicle - one of them is enough.

      It's never too late to perform this at any stage of an attack, and that even includes the option of reaching down if he's on top of you, but it is easiest to do when the testicles are exposed and closest to you where you can grab hold of them. I’ve actually met several women in my life who have fought off their attackers in this way and one did it when her attacker was on top of her and raping her at the point he lost control. Don't ever hold back. Some women scream while they are doing this, and some women think of a loved one being harmed to help overcome any bad feelings of hurting someone else even if they are being hurt themselves. Do whatever you have to do if it helps.

      Then, with your hands in a claw and your fingertips latched around the testes, you turn your hand sharply, as though you were turning a doorknob. Simultaneously, squeeze and pull the testicles away from his body as fast and as hard as you can. Do not let go of them. What happens then, is that your assailant usually screams out in pain and then tries to grab the wrist of your hand holding him in a futile attempt to try to get you to release him. Don't. He then quicky loses one of the natural advantages he usually has over us (his strength) within a matter of seconds. Vomiting, curling over, collapsing and convulsing is common. Shock and unconciousness can set in within 8 seconds. When he collapses, which he will, get away to safety as quickly as possible and report the crime.

      If done properly, and done with enough force, this technique can even lead to the testicles rupturing. It’s actually easier to do than most women believe, and just about all of us have the capability to injure an attackers testicles in this way - whether we are young girls still of school age, or whether we are great grandmothers. After all, if you think about it testicles are just small objects of extreme vulnerability to pain squishiness wrapped in a delicate flap of skin which offers them no protection at all from this kind of attack. Most importantly, this fact holds true no matter what size your attacker is, nor how strong he is. And no matter how angry he is, nor how much he's threatened what he's going to do to you, he's going to drop. Don't let anyone (usually men) try to convince you otherwise.

    • Joy M profile imageAUTHOR

      Joy M 

      5 years ago from Sumner, Washington

      Thank you for your comment, Kate. Hopefully none of the ladies reading this will need that technique, but unfortunately the world can be an unsafe place and it is better to be prepared.

    • profile image

      Kate Windsor 

      5 years ago

      Regarding personal safety for women while out hiking, I'd like to share a safety technique which I believe all women should be made aware of. It's a self defense technique called the "Grab, twist, and pull" technique, in which you simultaneously grab, twist and pull on a male attackers testicles as hard as you can. This is an extremely effective technique which I've learnt in Krav Maga self defense classes for women, and one that is so effective that it's even being referred to as "The NO-FAIL self defense technique for women and girls".

      We just have to remember these points:

      - DO NOT LET GO OF HIS TESTICLES! Wait until you either feel or hear a "pop" or your attacker slides unconscious to the ground in agony (usually in under 8 seconds after he freezes and curls up due to the intense pain).

      - It's easiest to do when the testicles are exposed (very likely in a sex attack)

      - It's just as effective even if you only manage to grab hold of one testicle.

      - it doesn't matter how big and strong an attacker is, his testicles will always remain vulnerable to this technique

      I believe that this knowledge should be shared with as many other women as possible - it could one day be a life saver.

    • Joy M profile imageAUTHOR

      Joy M 

      6 years ago from Sumner, Washington

      That sounds like it would be an amazing experience. Kudos to your Aunt Barbara.

    • profile image

      D Kardos 

      7 years ago

      My Aunt Barbara hiked 2,000 miles over the Donner Trail in 1978. More than thirty years later she has published that story in a book called Westward Woman: My Two Thousand Mile Trek of Raw Discovery along the DONNER TRAIL. Her trek was in part a tribute to the Donner Party's suffering and also a need to get a taste of the westward emigrant experience. Beginning in Independence, Missouri and ending in California, Maat confronted unexpected challenges each day. When no camping spots were available in settled areas, she was forced to rely on the kindness of strangers. "I'm walking the Oregon Trail. Would it be possible to unroll my sleeping bag somewhere on your land for tonight?" Sometimes the response was a nervous "NO!", but more often people were generous and kind, even inviting her in for dinner. One Nebraska family inventively fashioned a golf cart to pull behind her in order to get the 38-pound pack off her back.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      wow great advice

    • outdoorsmom76 profile image


      7 years ago from Brownsburg, Indiana

      thanks leannalj, for pointing out the leave no trace practices. I agree that it's not okay to burn your feminine hygiene products. The last canoe-camping trip I was on, I put used products in a zip-lock baggie and packed them out with the rest of my trash. The whole peeing standing up is one thing I'll leave to the guys. It is important, though for ladies to find gear built for us. Women have nothing to prove, just get out there and enjoy nature.

    • Joy M profile imageAUTHOR

      Joy M 

      7 years ago from Sumner, Washington

      I would agree. When I've been in co-ed groups we divided the equipment by the weight (and health) of each participant. There is no sense in trying to have someone who is only 100 pounds carrying as much as some who weighs 200.

    • profile image

      Dave Smith 

      7 years ago

      You don't need a device to pee standing up unless you have an unusually low flow rate or you are pregnant or disabled.

      For most women, you can learn by practicing in the shower (spread your inner and outer labia and use one finger from each hand or two fingers from one hand to control the direction of your urethra). Three months or so of practice and you'll probably be more accurate than most men.

      These facts have been know since the time of Herodotus but are kept away from women for some reason (even the women who know how are reluctant to share, perhaps due to embarrassment).

      I'm a man myself but I would applaud any woman who took the time to learn this, especially as it's not too difficult and some of you could put us to shame.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      In my experience hiking with coed groups a lot of women try to proove themselves by carrying as much gear as the men in the party that are twice their size. Any guy with class would be proud to help a female friend by carrying a little extra don't be afraid to ask friends for help it's not chauvinist it's just practical

    • Joy M profile imageAUTHOR

      Joy M 

      7 years ago from Sumner, Washington

      I'm glad it helped. I hope you had a great hike.

    • profile image

      College Camper 

      7 years ago

      The extra link you posted about backpacking alone as a woman, made my mother feel better (not a lot ... but enough!) about me heading out for four days with my german shepherd! Thanks for including that in your great article

    • pooilum profile image


      7 years ago from Malaysia

      This place is real cool. Makes me want to go and visit. Another item into my bucket list

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      for Marisa, I'm an Aesthetician (skin care specialist) an an avid hiker, if you have acne you can make a spritz with 4 drops lavender and 2-3 drops tea tree oil to 2oz. witch hazel, you can spray or wipe it on your face and it will keep your acne from flairing and its eco friendly. If your in bear country however make sure you put it in your bear boxes just to be safe :)

    • Coleman11 profile image


      7 years ago

      Coleman zero degree sleeping bags and other extreme weather sleeping bags are made to withstand freezing temperatures and provide comfort, warmth and heavy insulation for campers and mountaineers.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I think it's important to buy a right one. I bought a sleeping bag when I did camping in the winter. It was awesome.

      Coleman zero degree sleeping bags and other extreme weather sleeping bags are made to withstand freezing temperatures and provide comfort, warmth and heavy insulation for campers and mountaineers.

    • Joy M profile imageAUTHOR

      Joy M 

      8 years ago from Sumner, Washington

      Depending on where you are going the water can be pretty cold. But you can shave with it - I did. Waxing might prove to be easier on you though. I found I cut myself more easily with the cold water (legs were numb couldn't really tell at first). There are soaps that are made for camping and hiking that your mom would aprove. Not the same as an acne wash but better than nothing. Or you could try the acne pads or wipes (or just splash yours on a washcloth), store them in a ziplock and pack them out with you.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      im going camping soon, i will be gone for a weeek. my main concerns are shaving! should i wax, or take the time to shave every other day or so? and i will also go crazy not washing my face with acne wash but my mom says the enviroment is too fragile.

    • eLightSpot profile image


      8 years ago from Enid

      Great hiking tips, I just wrote a hub on hiking as well. I hope you'll check it out.

    • Joy M profile imageAUTHOR

      Joy M 

      8 years ago from Sumner, Washington


      Thank you for the link. I'd not heard of the Keeper, Inc. before.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks for posting a great introduction to women's hiking.

      It is NOT okay to burn sanitary items. It's not in keeping with the Leave No Trace ethic. And, quite frankly, if any portion of your garbage is left unburned then someone else must pack it out. Totally not cool.

      Instead, consider one of these two options. 1) Carry another plastic bag for all your disposable toilet waste (including all toilet paper and sanitary items). I've taken this approach for over 15 years and always know that the tiny bit of hassle in carrying my waste amounts to a vast contribution to mother nature and all who come to spend time in the woods. 2) Consider buying and getting acquainted with a Keeper ( before heading out on a hike. I've used one for the last several years and started hiking with it this year on the Pacific Crest Trail which made the pack-out of my waste way less intense.

    • Maria Harris profile image

      Maria Harris 

      8 years ago from Houston

      Thumbs up, Joy M. Thank you for the wonderful article.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Wow! I never viewed hiking from a woman's perspective before. Good advice!

    • beccas90 profile image


      8 years ago from New York

      I've seen as many women hiking in the White and Green Mountains as men when I've been on the trails, and worrying about where my next pee is going to be hasn't been uppermost in my mind.

    • profile image

      Theresa Wilson 

      8 years ago

      While camping with my grand daughter this summer, I watched as she took a small device from her pocket, stood by a tree, and without a blink of an eye or a dropping of her pants, she relieved herself as if the difference between male and female no longer existed. To my amazement, in the peeing world, it no longer does.

      This beautiful disposable device is called a P-mate!!! It is cardboard so it can be folded and placed in your pocket. It works by simply unzipping your pants, move one leg of the underwear to the side; put the P-Mate in place and the urine is funneled through the P-mate which directs it away from your clothing or feet. It can be disposed of in the waste basket or put in a zip lock bag and disposed of later.

      No more losing your dignity, no more squatting, no more wasted time looking for that perfect spot to keep peekers and other unwanted invaders away. And yes, no more dirty toilet seats.

      The moral of my story is that I figured if a six year old child could use this wonderful device than an old grandma could too. I found a great site called You can find them under the “Personal Care” This website has many other great products for camping, backpacking and the great outdoors and is extremely price competitive.I truly believe you will love the P-Mates and enjoy the outdoors like you never have before!!!

    • sugarloaf10 profile image


      8 years ago from Kentucky USA

      I don't think I will ever WANT to pee standing up, but thanks for all the info. Very useful hub!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      You don't need a device to pee standing up successfully. Just take your fingers, spread and lift your labia, and pee! It's quick and efficent but it does take a few times to master it. For more info, Google:

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      As for the monthly issue, you might try a menstrual cup.

    • PaperNotes profile image


      9 years ago

      great hub, those peeing standing up tool look very interesting. Thanks for the tips

    • profile image

      camping fun 

      9 years ago

      i love to go hiking and camping :) nothing is betting than being in the wild with nature. Thanks for a great piece of writing :)

    • CaravaningCamping profile image


      9 years ago

      My girlfriend loves to camp. This is a great resource. Thanks!

    • heydave profile image


      10 years ago

      I love when my wife goes hiking with me.

    • Kguthrie profile image


      10 years ago from Charleston, SC

      Great tips, as a woman adventurer I have to agree with you. I think the peeing part is the hardest and the times when I kinda wish i was a guy... but we deal and its so worth it!

    • Camping Dan profile image

      Camping Dan 

      10 years ago

      I am always glad to see women out on the trail. It is a great activity that everyone should enjoy.

    • Joy M profile imageAUTHOR

      Joy M 

      11 years ago from Sumner, Washington


      That is a great tip. I'll have to give it a try.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Sheer pantyhose will prevent chaffing from hiking long distances, it works for me in the Smoky Mountains, plus keeps some of the bugs off of your legs! Then my hubby does massage my legs in them after the hike.


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