Should You Try a Hiking Skirt?

Published on 10/14/2021 · 6 min readEver considered a hiking skirt? Camping & Hiking Expert Katie Benoit sheds some light on this stylish, comfortable, and versatile piece of gear.
Katie Benoit, Camping Expert
By Camping Expert Katie Benoit

Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. Photo courtesy of Katie Benoit

Sick of all of the bland hiking pants in your closet? Want to find the best hiking skirts for your outdoor lifestyle? Hiking skirts are stylish, comfortable, and much more versatile than you might realize. Wear them in any season or climate and feel the freedom while doing your most strenuous hiking! Read this article on why you should try a hiking skirt and how to pick the right ones for your outdoor adventures.

The Hiking Skirt Hype

Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t imagine a time when I didn’t own a hiking skirt. I wear my skirts in every season and have endured snow storms, desert heat, and New England fall breezes all while looking and feeling my best! Hiking in skirts has provided me a way to feel feminine while doing some of the toughest, sweat-filled outdoor adventures. They are fun, fierce, and offer a way to express your identity in trail clothes for all genders! Hiking skirts are for every body type and age, not just the stereotypical young outdoorswoman we see in advertisements. Even better, some of my very best hiking friends who identify as male or in the LGBTQIA+ community keep up the hype of hiking skirts, and point out the same positive aspects to buying, owning, and wearing them! So let’s talk about some of the style and layering points to solidify why you should try a hiking skirt.

Hut Croo at Lakes of the Clouds Hut in the White Mountains, New Hampshire. Photo by Katie Benoit

Types of Hiking Skirts

Before investing in your own selection of hiking skirts, it’s important to know about the types of skirts that are out there for your style and comfort preferences. From different materials to small style details, your perfect hiking skirt is out there!

Summer Skirts

This is probably the type you picture when someone says “hiking skirt” and a warmer weather model will be made to endure the hot summer sun. Typically made of moisture-wicking, synthetic fabric, summer hiking skirts will work magic when you stop for a dip in the lake or waterfall and then use the quick-drying technology as you keep hiking. These are also a great lightweight clothing option for folks watching their trail weight. It’s common for warmer weather hiking skirts to offer the most breathability for hikers, with brands like Prana and Outdoor Voices making great options. They can range in length from above the knee to the ankle, and come in infinite colors and patterns! My top pick right now is a deep purple, below-the-knee, moisture-wicking skirt from RBX that I wear in all seasons! But I’ll get to the layering techniques later.

Tettegouche State Park in Silver Bay, Minnesota. Photo courtesy of Katie Benoit

Winter Skirts

As I keep mentioning, hiking skirts can also be worn in colder weather! One type of material is a synthetic down fabric to provide more insulation in the skirt, but it’s important to keep in mind that synthetic down gets heavy when wet, and can lose some of its insulative properties. The other material that comes highly rated for winter hiking skirts is wool. Wool can provide warmth whether it’s dry or wet, and doesn’t get significantly heavier when wet, with SmartWool being one of the top brands to look at. This means you can keep butt-sledding down the steep, snow-covered parts of the trail in winter without risking a cold behind!

Things to Look For

When I’m in the market for a new skirt or helping a friend or client find one, I always keep a few things in the back of my mind for choosing the best skirts. One style detail I like in my summer hiking skirts is built-in spandex compression shorts underneath, also called a skort. This helps to avoid any thigh-rubbing pains that can happen to all of us! Sometimes they even have secret pockets to stash keys, phones, or other small items which is a big plus! Another great style detail to look for is an elastic waist. Many hiking skirts will use elastic waistbands instead of a zipper or buttons to maximize comfort, and I agree with them! Elastic waistbands are the way to go if you know you’ll be moving and grooving on the trail. This detail also makes it easier to fit your hips for comfort, and navigate the placement of a backpack hip belt if need be.

The last detail I watch for is proper length for what I’m doing while wearing the skirt. If it’s going to be worn for trail running, I typically go for a shorter skirt because I am not at risk of large steps or a pack riding it up. It’s also easier to run when your legs aren’t trapped in a longer skirt. When I know I’m going for a longer hike with a backpack, I lean on my longer-length skirts to ensure maximum coverage and modesty during those rock scrambles or if my backpack starts to shift the skirt.

How to Layer for Different Seasons

Taughannock Falls in New York. Photo courtesy of Katie Benoit

After hearing about the different types of skirts and why they’re for everyone, I also wanted to point out how to layer your skirts for ultimate comfort in any season. Owning a summer-style skirt doesn’t mean you can only wear it in the summer. There are techniques for making those moisture-wicking skirts useful in fall or spring too. Start with the upper body by throwing on a long sleeve or insulative vest and you’ll be surprised how warm you get! If that still doesn’t do the trick, try putting on a pair of thermal underwear or tights underneath the skirt to cover your legs from the cold. Pair these two techniques together and you’ll be golden!

When the temperatures really start to drop and you find yourself wanting to wear a skirt in winter, there are a few techniques I recommend. Start by putting a pair of fleece leggings or heavy-weight wool leggings on under a winter-style skirt. This should maximize warmth for the coldest days. If you’re going to be heavily active (minimal stops) on a winter hike, or know that your internal body temperature tends to increase more than usual, another option is to wear a winter-style hiking skirt without leggings but with more layers on your upper body. This would be a situation where I recommend folks bring along a pair of leggings with them in case they find themselves colder than anticipated, but still want to keep the skirt on!

So, Do You Believe the Hype?

Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. Photo courtesy of Katie Benoit

No matter the season, style, or climate, the versatility of hiking skirts is hard to beat. I personally have done some of the hardest hikes I’ve ever experienced while in a hiking skirt, and it left me with a feeling of empowered femininity. Winter hiking isn’t an excuse to stop wearing skirts, similar to front-country fashion, if there’s a will, there’s a way!

If you remember one thing from reading this guide to hiking skirts, it’s that they’re for everyone. People in my life with all different identities have tried and loved wearing a hiking skirt, making them one of the best garment choices out there. Thinking about trying one out? Ask your Camping & Hiking Expert on Curated for suggestions on the best skirt for your needs! Or better yet, hop over to my Expert Profile and I’d be happy to get you set up with the perfect hiking skirt for the outdoor adventures you’re pursuing. The next time you see a hiker on trail wearing a skirt, maybe it will be you!

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