Hiking gear is all about comfort, practicality and versatility. Finding the perfect fit is essential to being comfortable and having fun in the outdoors. Nicole shares her best tips for finding gear for petite women out on the trail.

 

I’m considerably smaller than the average woman, in both height and width. I regularly get mistaken for a teenager, and when I bought gear for a hiking trip in my mid-20s a staff member asked if I was going on a high school Outward Bound adventure.

As a petite woman, it can be challenging to find the right hiking gear – pants that stay up, backpacks that fit your body, and a sleeping bag that you won’t get lost in, to name a few. I’ll save you some time in the changeroom by sharing my top tips for finding the best petite hiking gear.

1. The Perfect Backpack – Patience is Key

Pack fitting is a bit of an art in itself, and if you’re petite, you may have added fit challenges. Be patient, spend time trying them on, and speak to staff.

Once you’ve decided on your pack’s capacity, you want to look for a women’s backpack that is made to fit a short torso (Macpac have a helpful sizing guide for their range).

You want to find a pack that is firm on your waist – I have a 67cm waist and I wear my 60L pack on the tightest setting; it was the only backpack I tried on my shopping hunt that fit me well. My favourite thing about my pack? The ‘snack pockets’ (named by me) – pockets on the waistband in the perfect spot for snacks!

Once you find your perfect pack, I STRONGLY encourage you to cut your backpack straps down to suit your size. Leave enough length to expand the waist to fit your extra layers or your winter tum, but cut them back.

Look at those unwieldy, long, loopy straps on my pack – I hiked like that for weeks! Don’t be like me – get out the scissors and make the chop. After chopping (you did it – go you!) you will need to fold and melt or sew the end of the strap down to create a secure end to the strap.

Nicole’s Recco: Macpac Torlesse 50L Hiking Backpack

 

2. A Just-Right Jacket

Thankfully jackets can be a little more forgiving when it comes to sizing, however you don’t want to feel the wind up your fleece! Look for warm jackets (down and fleece) that are snug but allow your body to move. When looking at a wind-breaker or waterproof jacket ensure there is space underneath for your under-layers – try it on top of your other gear to be sure. The kids’ section is worth a try but keep in mind that kids’ clothes don’t allow for ladys’ chests!

 

 

Helly Hansen have their small sizing down pat – their XS jackets are (in my opinion) just perfect. Of course, a down jacket is a must for keeping warm and keeping pack weight down – I highly recommend the W Verglas Hooded Down Jacket – definitely an investment jacket (or a find-it-on-sale-jacket!), but well worth the cost.

It has a down fill-power of 700+, is incredibly warm for its weight, is pillowy soft and has useful adjustment elastics at the bottom so you can tighten the fit and keep the breeze out.

Another great option is buying something secondhand and then tailoring it to fit your precise measurements, that way you get something cheaper than buying brand new and make no compromises on fit and comfort.

Plenty of outdoor retailers have ‘seconds’ outlets or you can go the traditional route and op-shop till your heart’s content. Taking the secondhand option is a great way to shop sustainably and give used but otherwise functional clothing a new life!

3. Sleeping Bags for Small Humans

When looking for a sleeping bag check the length and width to ensure it suits your body size. If you are in a store hop in and wiggle around (you might feel silly, but it will be 100% worth it). Check that you have enough room to sleep comfortably but not so much space that you could fit another human beside you or store your pack under your feet.

I have the Kathmandu Navigator Women’s Down Sleeping bag and would happily recommend it to other petite women looking for a sleeping bag for moderate to cold weather (comfort rating -7 C° and transition rating -14 C°).

Nicole’s Recco: Navigator Women’s Down Sleeping Bag

4. Short-Lady Pants

If you are a fellow shorty, you will most likely have to take up any pants you buy. You can try some ¾ pants that may fit you full length or adjust your pants after purchase but remember: pants can easily be shortened so focus on the waist fit.

Make your life easier and take up your pants. When trying them on you may believe rolling them up will be sufficient, but I’m here to forewarn you that you will not feel this way six hours into a muddy hike.

Nicole’s Recco: Craghoppers Pants

5. Leggings are Your Friends

Out for a day hike? Want to be super comfy? Can’t be bothered hemming a pair of pants? Leggings are your friend. Stretchy and made in a huge range of sizes, leggings are easy to find and comfortable to hike in, plus you can get away with scrunching up the bottoms.

The downsides? Leggings with pockets are hard to come by, and those with pockets will at worst fit some coins (don’t get me started) and at best a phone. Lack of pockets aside, I love a legging and I hope you do too.

Nicole’s Recco: Marmot Hiking Tights

 

6. Sports Bras

A sports bra is an item you absolutely want to fit right. Keep it simple and go for a stretchy sports bra like this high-support bra by Nike or hold ’em in with an underwire sports bra such as a Panache Sports Bra.

If the back of your bra rides up, you may need a band smaller than a 10 (the smallest size band by Australian standards). If you need a smaller band, either stick to a stretchy sports bra or (if you have a little more to hold up) check out Panache or Freya underwire bras which are available in sizes 6D and up.

Nicole’s Reccos: Nike Women’s Dri-Fit & Panache Sports Bra

If you are a fellow petite hiker, spend the time to find well-fitting gear and to alter it where required – it will make your hiking experience a more enjoyable one. Stay comfy!