Plus size hiking might not feel like a thing, but I assure you it is. There are plenty of us out there hiking on the weekends, going camping and trying out backpacking. It’s hard to see plus-size hikers because the outdoor industry hasn’t put us front and center. Thankfully, many retailers have started to change that, REI has expanded their plus size outdoor gear and many other brands have popped up to fill in many of the size gaps. If you’re looking for plus-size outdoor clothes, head over to my Ultimate Guide to Plus Size Outdoor Clothing.
While increasing the clothing options for plus size hikers is really important, I want to share some of the tips I wish I had known about when I was a beginner plus size hiker. Many of these tips apply to all hikers, but most of them come from a plus-size point of view. I hope they make you feel more confident as you step outside and enjoy mother nature.
5 Tips for Plus-Size Hiking
(the quick & dirty version…scroll down for LOTS more)
- You define what outdoorsy is to you.
- Go slow and steady.
- There’s no need to keep up appearances.
- Be prepared.
- Leave no trace.
1. You define what outdoorsy is to you.
There is no wrong or right way to hike or be outdoorsy. Don’t compare your outdoor adventures to anyone else’s. Do what makes you happy and choose to find inspiration in others rather than falling into comparison.
For some people being outdoorsy is walking on a paved path in their city park. For others, it’s a 3-mile hike on a nearby trail. No matter how you enjoy the outdoors always remember that the way you choose is the right way for you.
2. Go slow and steady.
Hiking isn’t a race, especially when you’re just getting started. It might be tempting to match the pace of other hikers, but take your time and commit to hiking your own hike.
As you start your own plus size hiking journey you’ll notice that this phrase gets thrown around A LOT. There are some who use it in a cutting way, who think it gives them permission to do whatever they want on the trail.
When I say “hike your own hike” it comes from a supportive, friendly, loving place. Hiking your own hike should make you feel good. It means that you stay in tune with YOUR body, YOUR needs, YOUR desires. As you start hiking more make sure you take tiny moments to tune in to how you’re feeling. If a hike doesn’t feel good don’t be afraid to turn around or take a rest.
3. There’s no need to keep up appearances.
I tell this to myself every time I go hiking. In fact, if you check out my instagram you will see plenty of pictures of me looking like a hot mess. I post those pictures because I want you to see what hiking as a plus-size person (or any person for that matter) really looks like.
Everyone gets sweaty when they hike. Everyone looks like a mess when they reach their destination. Let go of those insecurities now and know that you are not alone in feeling awkward or uncomfortable. It’s kind of part of the deal.
On the appearances note, I also want to mention that you don’t need to have tons of specialized hiking gear to start hiking. I feel like social media and consumerism has created this story that you need to have tons of gear to be a hiker. I’m here to tell you that that is simply not the case. I wrote a whole post about why you don’t need tons of gear to start hiking. That’s part of what makes hiking so affordable and available.
4. Be prepared.
I recognize the previous tip advocated for not purchasing gear, but there are a few things you should always bring with you. In all honesty, I hope you never need to use some of the items on this list, but chances are you will need them every once in a while. Here’s a quick list of what I keep in my backpack no matter how short a hike I’m going on.
- ChubRub [Recommended: BodyGlide for Her]: Yep, I put this baby at number one! You know why? Because it’s real! Nothing can ruin a hike like a hot spot. To keep this from happening I make sure my clothing is breathable, loose and comfortable. Products like BodyGlide or Squirrels Nut Butter are also great for preventing chaffing.
- Water [Recommended: Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir – 3 Liters]: I can’t stress enough how important it is to carry enough water while you’re hiking in Pinnacles. While there are opportunities to fill up your water, you never want to be in a situation where you run out. I love this Osprey reservoir because it has a rigid back. This means that when it’s in my pack I can’t feel a bulge where the water bladder is, instead it lays flat against my back making hiking a little more comfortable.
- Small First Aid Kit [Mountain Series Day Tripper Lite Medical Kit]: I carry this first aid kit on every hike we go on. It might seem like overkill, but I actually needed mine recently and was so thankful I had it on hand. It’s lightweight, has all the supplies you need for a day hike and REI sells resupply kits for after you’ve used it.
- Sun Protection [Recommended: BeautyCounter Countersun Mineral Sunscreen Mist]: I’ve recommended this sunscreen many times and I’m doing it again. I want to stress that this is not an affiliate link. I truly love this stuff! It doesn’t have any weird chemicals, it’s easy to apply and most importantly you can see exactly where you applied it so no random sunburn spots.
- Snacks [Recommended: Kate’s Real Food Handle Bar Dark Chocolate, Cherry & Almond]: I bring all kinds of snacks when I hike. Sometimes it’s traditional trail mix, other times I pack sandwiches, dried fruit, nut butter pouches, or granola bars. Pick your favorite.
- A Map or Your Phone with the map downloaded [Recommended: Gaia GPS App]: I completely understand not wanting to carry a paper map, they can be a little annoying and you can’t always find the one you’re looking for. A really great alternative to a paper map is the Gaia GPS app. I have yet to splurge on a GPS unit, but I’ve used this app on plenty of hikes. You can find your maps before you head out on the trail, download them and hike knowing you will be able to open it up and double-check your route at any time. I’ve also used this app for hiking training to log distance, elevation gain, and hiking time.
- Extra Layer: [Recommended: Patagonia Tropic Comfort Hoodie II]: I truly hope you never get lost, but if you do ever end up spending an unexpected night outside you’re going to want an extra layer of clothing. Depending on the season, where you live, where you hike this piece of clothing can be different. At the very least pack a long sleeve shirt, a baselayer or a fleece. These can also come in handy if you have a sudden weather change or need some extra sun protection.
- Cash: I know I know. Who carries actual cash in this day and age? The answer is you. You do. Even just $10 or $20 bucks cash can come in really handy when you’re hiking. You might need cash to pay for parking. You might need cash to buy a drink or a snack. It’s always a good idea to have a little bit of actual paper money on you when you’re hiking. What’s the harm?
- ID: Again, you never know when an emergency will happen. Having ID on your person is one way to help good samaritans and rescue service personnel know who you are. It also helps them find the people friends or family to contact in case of an emergency.
5. Leave No Trace.
We all want to be good stewards and take care of the beautiful places we hike so they can be enjoyed by others in the future. One way we can do this is by practicing Leave No Trace (LNT).
There are seven principles of Leave No Trace:
- Plan ahead and prepare. Make sure you pack all the essentials I listed above, scout out your trail and have some kind of map. If you’re looking for trails in your area the Gaia app can give you some ideas or try AllTrails.
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces. Hike on trails and avoid going off-trail. Trails are generally made of packed earth with rocks rather than soft soil. While it might be tempting to head off the trail to snap a pic or just to explore remember that your footsteps are changing the ground and plants below.
- Dispose of waste properly. Leaving trash on the trail is a serious no-no. Even organic trash like banana and orange peels should be brought back to the trailhead trashcan or to your own house. It takes WAY longer than you would think for a banana peel to decompose (up to 2 years!).
- Leave what you find. It can be REALLY tempting to pick things up when you’re hiking. I know I’ve been tempted many times, but just think, if you pick up that amazing rock the next hiker won’t get to make that discovery for themselves. One way I overcome this urge is to pull out my phone and take a picture. I know it’s not the same as bringing home the rock or the flower, but it leaves the find there for the next hiker.
- Respect wildlife. There’s a saying that sums this up perfectly, “keep wildlife wild”. This means keep your distance to observe animals. Don’t leave trash or food behind, once they get a taste for human food they keep looking for it. And respect the habitat you’re hiking through.
- Be considerate of other visitors. For me this means not yelling on the trail, letting faster hikers pass, letting those hiking upward go first, keeping music down low (if you listen to it at all), being friendly to others on the trail, and helping fellow hikers. We all get outside to commune with nature in our own ways, do your best to allow others to enjoy their time outside.
REI has tons of resources online, including the video below. This quick five-minute video goes through each principle one by one from a camping and backpacking point of view.
These are just a few of the things I wish I had known before I started hiking. Of course, there’s plenty more I’ve learned since I started, but I gathered that knowledge over time and of course learned a few lessons the hard way. If you want to learn even more about hiking be sure to sign up for my Plus-Size Hiking Guide. Inside you’ll find worksheets to get in the right mindset for hiking, plus-size hiking clothing recommendations, some of my favorite Instagram accounts to follow, book recommendations, and a list of outdoor podcasts to check out.
Looking for more plus-size hiking posts? Check these out!