What do women need to know when hitting the trail?

Although hiking is a gender-neutral pursuit, there are a few things that female hikers should know before hitting the trail. This includes personal protection, how to pee, dealing with menstruation or pregnancy, and women’s hiking gear.

Why is hiking different for a female?

The reason hiking differs for women, in some instances, as compared to men boils down to biological differences in the female and male body. This impacts gear choice for fit and comfort, our approach to peeing in the wild, dealing with menstruation or pregnancy on the trail, and the ability to physically defend yourself if need be.

What hazards are there for women hikers?

Female hikers face the same hazards as male hikers. But given the difference in a woman’s muscular and hormonal system, there is generally a physical disadvantage when faced with any potential threat. To compensate there are several extra precautions that can be taken to counteract this. Always trust your gut, carry personal protection, and make sure your cell phone is fully charged in case you need to make an emergency call.

How can women protect themselves when hiking?

The following list includes some practical precautions women can take to stay safe on the trail.

  • Keep plans to yourself, even lie a little if need be!
  • Carry a whistle.
  • Carry a two-way satellite messaging device.
  • Consider carrying pepper spray or bear spray.
  • Consider carrying a stun gun (state permitting).

What safety apps are aimed at female hikers?

While there are not, at present, any safety apps for female hikers specifically, we recommend Hiker Alert, Cairn, the Google Pixel Personal Safety app,  Life360, One Scream, and Red Panic Button.

What safety devices are aimed at female hikers?

While there are no hiking-specific safety devices for women, some general devices we recommend are included on the following list.

  • Pepper spray.
  • Bear spray.
  • Personal safety alarm.
  • Personal GPS tracker.
  • Safety apps.
  • Self defense kits.
  • Stun gun or taser.

Who are some inspirational female hikers?

The following is a list of some of the most inspirational female hikers and backpackers.

  • Emma “Grandma” Gatewood
  • Heather “Anish” Anderson
  • Jennifer Pharr Davis
  • Cheryl Strayed
  • Ruth Dyar Mendenhall
  • Arlene Blum

What books highlight the experiences of female hikers?

Our favorite books that highlight the experiences of female hikers are included on the following list.

  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed
  • Wanderers: A History of Women Walking by Keri Andrews
  • The Salt Path by Raynor Winn
  • Wild by Jay Griffiths
  • Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown
  • Bewildered by Laura Waters
  • Thru-Hiking Will Break Your Heart by Carrot Quinn

What films highlight the experiences of female hikers?

The following list includes films that highlight the experiences of female hikers.

  • Wild
  • Tracks
  • Edie
  • Women Outward Bound
  • Wildlike
  • Liv Along the Way
  • Trail Magic, The Grandma Gatewood Story

Are there female-focused hiking organizations?

The most notable groups and communities for women hikers are Women Who Hike, AdventureWomen, Backcountry Babes, Black Girls Trekkin, PNW Outdoor Women Group, Hike Clerb, SheJumps, REI Women’s Adventures, and Iris Alpine.

What challenges are there for female hikers?

The most common challenges for female hikers, in addition to those that exist for all hikers, are answering natures call discretely and dealing with menstruation. Another, much rarer, challenge for female hikers is potential physical threats on the trail. 

What preparations can you make hiking as a female? 

A few extra preparations female hikers can take are included below.

  • Stay connected. Make sure your cell phone is fully charged and consider carrying a power bank in case you run out of juice. If hiking in a remote area, consider investing in a two-way satellite messaging device.
  • Leave an itinerary. Leave a detailed route with someone at home stating where you’ll park, where you’ll be hiking, and when you expect to return.
  • Pack personal protection. If hiking alone, consider packing pepper spray, bear spray, or even a stun gun or knife. 
  • Period prep. Make sure you have ample supplies of period products and pain-relief medication if it’s that time of the month, and be prepared to pack out your waste. 

What should you avoid as a female hiker?

The following list includes things you should try to avoid as a female hiker.

  • Publicizing that you are or will be alone if hiking solo.
  • Speaking to shady characters (trust your gut!) you meet on the trail – be firm, confident, say you have a schedule to keep, and move on.
  • Peeing on poison ivy – been there, done that, got burned!
  • On the subject of peeing, generally check for any wildlife in the vicinity before squatting to pee!

What are concerns for solo female hikers?

As a solo hiker, concerns about getting lost or injured alone, ring true for all. The (in general) physical disadvantage as a solo female hiker means there is a reduced chance of being able to defend yourself if attacked. As in a city, there are a few extra precautions female hikers can take for safety.

What preparations can be made as a solo female hiker? 

If you’re a female planning on doing a solo hike, it’s best to share your route itinerary with a friend, carry some form of protection (pepper spray or bear spray), carry a phone or two-way messaging GPS, trust your gut, and avoid taking any risks.

What are effective methods for peeing when hiking?

There are, believe it or not, various styles that can be used in different scenarios when you need to pee outside. These include the tree squat, the standard squat, the FUD pee, and the trail-runner method.

What to pack to make hiking pees easier?

To make peeing easier when hiking, bring along a “pee rag” and FUD (female urinary device), which lets you pee while standing.

How menstruation and pregnancy impacts hiking?

There are few things more inconvenient than having your period when hiking. Other than having your period when swimming, traveling, romantic evenings at home, and when your period starts 2 weeks early on the first day of your beach holiday. At the opposite end of the spectrum, being pregnant alters how you do pretty much everything, and hiking is definitely on that long list too.

What to pack to manage menstrual hygiene on a hike?

When hiking on your period, bring a menstrual cup or spare tampons/pads, and a Ziploc bag so you can carry out your waste. It’s also a good idea to bring some antibacterial hand wipes and pain-relief medicine.

How to minimize discomfort when hiking on your period?

The only real way to minimize discomfort when hiking on your period is to pack ample pain relief medicine and wear period panties or use a tampon instead of pads (pads can chafe!). 

What precautions to take for hiking pregnant?

As with anything you do during pregnancy, you will need to take a few more precautions when hiking while pregnant. Firstly, speak to your doctor to check how much weight you can carry on your back and to ensure your specific circumstances make it safe to be hiking and carrying loads.

Then consider opting for an easier, well-maintained trail and use trekking poles as your center of balance will be off kilter if in the later stages of pregnancy. Expect to cover less distance and make sure to bring your fully charged cell phone in case of emergency, or if you know you’ll be out of signal range then a two-way messaging GPS device. If you need to purify water along the way do not use iodine as this can lead to health complications for the baby.

How to minimize discomfort when hiking pregnant?

There are several ways you can try make hiking a little more comfortable starting with the obvious loose-fitting clothes and footwear with plenty of cushioning. Ditch the hipbelt on your pack, they are not designed for the pregnant belly, and maybe opt for a belly band for back support instead. And lastly, stretching before and after your hike is always important.

What gear do women need for going hiking?

Useful gear to make hiking more comfortable as a woman include breathable, moisture wicking underwear and a well-fitted backpack with shoulder and hipbelt padding.

What hiking gear features are designed for women?

Features in hiking gear designed specifically for women include:

  • Backpacks. Women’s versions are shorter, have narrower shoulders, and can have a lower center of gravity
  • Trekking poles. Shorter and lighter.
  • Boots and shoes. Women’s versions have a smaller toe box, are narrower at the heel, and have a taller arch)

What are popular items of female hiking gear?

The following list contains our top picks for women’s hiking gear.

  • Boots:  Salomon Quest 4 GTX
  • Shoes: Hoka Speedgoat 5
  • Pants: Prana Halle Pant
  • Sports bra: Patagonia Barely Sports Bra
  • Underwear: Smartwool Merino 150 Bikini
  • Leggings: Fjallraven Abisko Trail Tights
  • Backpack: Osprey Tempest 20
  • Rain Jacket: Arc’teryx Beta LT
  • Rain Pants: Arc’teryx Beta SL Pant
  • Down Jacket: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2