It seems like I’m constantly hearing talk about how the outdoor industry doesn’t do a good enough job producing women’s gear, such as in this
Appalachian Trials article. Or more particularly, the women’s gear they do produce primarily comes in colors like bright pink and vomit-hued pastels. And often when outdoor retailers do make quality women’s clothing, they don’t bother to make it in plus-sizes.
If I’m hiking at home in the USA, I’m just going to wear yoga pants or spandex shorts. This is mainly because it’s easy to find a comfortable pair of yoga pants that I can hike in. Because I’m in my own country I can wear whatever I want. However, I also do lots of international hiking, and other countries are often more conservative. So I do my part to respect local customs, and I dress in more modest hiking pants.
When the Options in Outdoor Clothes are Not in Plus Sizes
Whenever I try to shop for traditional hiking pants, I always find myself frustrated.
I know it’s usually frowned upon to talk about your clothing size, but I’m going to do it anyway. I usually wear a size 10 in women’s pants. Outdoor clothing companies often put bigger numbers on smaller clothes, so I usually end up with a size 12 in hiking pants. While browsing for hiking pants, I found lots companies who don’t go above a size 14 in what they offer.
The average woman is a size 14 or 16. Seriously, that means that only someone about my size or thinner can shop for pants at the most popular outdoor clothing retailers.
Most notable for major companies who are not meeting my expectations: Outdoor Research, Kuhl, Mountain Hardwear, and the list goes on. I’m naming those companies because I really do love the clothes they make; they just aren’t making them for everybody. And to be fair, most outdoor retailers are dropping the ball on this, not just those guys.
I knew this was a problem at mall retailers, and that’s why I usually boycott the mall. In my normal life I think I look great. I hike up mountains and eat healthy food. I’m in great shape. But when I go to the mall and I can only wear the largest sizes in most of the stores, that makes me feel fat. So are my beloved outdoor retailers no better than stores like Hollister or Abercrombie & Fitch? It would seem so.
Where Are We Supposed to Shop for Outdoor Clothes?
There is plenty of selection for the half of women who are thinner than the average. But what about the other half of women who are larger than what’s considered average? Where can they shop for hiking clothes?
I recently read an article titled “I Was the Fattest Hiker on the Mountain.” It was written by a woman who considers herself overweight and wanted to hike Mount Kilamanjaro. She wrote about how her hiking pants were actually two pairs sewn together. I thought that part was crazy, but browsing for pants I have realized that it’s not crazy at all. Sewing two pairs of pants together might be the only option for lots of hikers.
Although I can fit into the average pant size, it does not make me feel good to have to order one of the largest sizes available. So I am not going to be ordering from companies with limited sizing selection anymore. This presents a problem because most of the companies seem to have limited sizing.
But You Lose Weight When You’re Active, Right?
I’m not sure who came up with this notion that bigger people don’t go outside or if they do start going outside they just immediately begin losing weight.
First of all, who says the goal is to lose weight? Just because someone is chubby it doesn’t mean they’re trying to be thinner. Maybe some people are fine with the way they look. Maybe some people want to go hiking because they enjoy nature and not because they’re trying to subscribe to unattainable body standards that are shoved in our faces every time we try to spend our money on clothes.
I’m happy with how I look, but I still get pissed off when I try to shop for hiking clothes. I’m not the one with the problem. The outdoor retailers are the ones with the problem.
Ladies, I am wondering, what outdoor companies offer sizes above the average? Where can a girl get a pair of hiking pants around here?
Wow, guys. This is my most commented on post ever, and I thank you for that! To show my appreciation, I’m going to make an ongoing effort to post links to plus-sized outdoor retailers. If you find plus-sized outdoor clothes that work for you, please share a link in the comments so I can add it to the list.
Note that some of these companies are more oriented towards active-wear than hiking specific clothes. I’m including them because it seems like active-wear companies are doing a better job to be inclusive than outdoor companies. And also, hiking in active-wear is super comfortable, and I often prefer yoga pants over hiking pants anyway.
Plus-Size Outdoor Clothes
REI: REI is making a good effort to provide more plus-size outdoor clothing options. They’re a great place to shop because they’ll accept returns up to a year after the purchase, and the thing you’re returning doesn’t even have to be in good condition. So you can try out the clothes and send it back if you don’t like it. They have a whole section of their website dedicated to plus size outdoor clothes.
Columbia: They have been in the business of making plus-size clothes for years. And they make sizes easy to find and have a section of their website just for plus-sizes.
Girlfriend Collective: This active-wear company has been all over my Instagram feed lately. At first I liked them because they have models in all shapes and sizes. Then I did some research and found that they also make their clothes from recycled plastic and have sizes that go up to 6XL.
Purple Rain Adventure Skirts: These sizes are more realistic in that the XL size fits a 46″ waist. I have one of these skirts in a size M, and it fits well. Also, custom orders are on option if you don’t see quite what you’re looking for.
L.L. Bean: An oldie, but a goodie. They have so many options for plus-size. You do have to put a bit of effort into sorting through regular day-to-day clothes to find more outdoor specific stuff though.
Boy Scouts Shop: Thanks for those of you in the comments who pointed this out. The Boy Scouts makes hiking pants! A few of you said you’ve tried them and they’re working great.
Duluth Trading Company: For those of you who are looking for outdoor work pants, check out this company. They also have hiking pants available, and go up to size 26.
*I typically only add links to clothes and gear I’ve actually bought and used. I don’t have the budget to buy all of these clothes and I wanted to provide a variety of options to you readers. So unfortunately I have not tested everything on this list.
**There are affiliate links in this post which means that I make a percentage off of purchases at no cost to you. It helps me out to keep hiking and blogging.