I’m so weird about clothes. My style is somewhere on the spectrum of girly-lazy-sparkly-pink-sporty-cute-toddler-grandma. Make of that what you will. I’ve definitely gone through shifts in style, as everyone does, and those shifts have been influenced by my body size and shape, where I’m living at the time, trends and fads, what job I’m working, who I’m surrounded by, and how I happen to feel in my heart on any given day. I identify as femme, which is complicated and not what I feel like writing about right now, but I also majorly identify as lazy when it comes to what I wear. I’ve been known to put together an outfit I like and wear it for 10+ days in a row because I just couldn’t be bothered to change it up. It’s not minimalist and it’s not even a middle finger to consumerist culture or anything like that – there’s no great meaning behind it, I’m literally just lazy. (And white, and cis, and a person who has a certain amount of privilege in that she can walk around town in the same black spandex leggings and loose cotton grey t-shirt with no bra for literally more than a week and not be judged, harmed, or treated any differently than I would be if I put on a new outfit every day – maybe people judge me in their heads, but on a scale of what can happen to you for wearing the “wrong thing” in this fucked up world, that is not a big deal.)
Based on the above information, you’d think it wouldn’t be too hard to find an outfit to wear on the Pacific Crest Trail. I am not perturbed by wearing the same clothes over and over in my day to day life – why would I mind doing so on the trail? Answer: I totally don’t mind! But alas, a combination of being fatter than most outdoor apparel companies believe their consumers to be, being a little bit vain in that I’d like to look cute in the photos I take over the next five months, and having no idea how I will actually feel when it comes to heat/cold/anything on the trail has made this task a tiny bit…challenging.
Here’s the outfit I’ve come up with for the first portion of the trail. A challenge on the PCT is that the landscape and ecosystems change so drastically from one portion of the trail to the next that something that is essential for the first 700 miles may be totally useless once you hit the final 700 miles. As such, I’m open to changing my outfit as I go, and I know for a fact that I will need slightly different gear in the Sierra and Washington. This is just the first draft of what I think will work for me.
Columbia Women’s Silver Ridge Lite Shirt
A desert shirt is a lightweight button down situation that protects your skin from the sun. I’d planned to wear a random cotton button down I had in my closet at my parents’ house, but then it didn’t fit anymore (heyyy, weight fluctuation!) and also I got swept up in paranoia via the internet that I needed a fancy UV resistant shirt from REI otherwise I would roast and die under the California sun. I thought the REI Women’s Sahara Long-Sleeve Shirt was going to be the answer to my fearful prayers, but when I actually tried it on the large was way too small and the XL was…not ideal. Just sort of baggy in the armpits, a place where I often experience chafing, and then still too tight over my boobs and hips. I was getting really sad and moody in the fitting room when Alley and a rad REI employee found another option for me! Enter: the Columbia Women’s Silver Ridge Lite Shirt! The fabric is softer and more pleasing on my skin than the REI Sahara shirt, it’s a similar cut but somehow fits much better, and it’s still got that UVA/UVB-blocking fabric! Is such a technical shirt really necessary for the desert? I dunno! Have all my friends made fun of how I look like I’m getting ready to go to my fancy desk job in my brand new white button down that will surely soon be a sexy shade of hiker-trash-dirt-grey? Absolutely! But it’s fine, because I love this shirt (I’m actually obsessed with the hikers-who-look-like-they’re-going-to-office-jobs vibe that a good desert shirt lends itself to, I think it’s really cute, sue me!) and I don’t mind sometimes throwing money at my anxieties.
Nike Women’s Scoop Legend X-Dye T-Shirt
I didn’t think I would necessarily wear anything under my Cool Desert Shirt, but to be honest the buttons still pull quite a bit over my boobs, even with the well-fitting option I chose, and I didn’t love the idea of flashing my sports bra to every new friend I meet on the trail – I like to wait at least 24 hours before getting naked with new friends! (This is not a sexual innuendo, it’s just a reality of being queer in Portland. I’m not sorry.) Anyway, I also thought it might be nice to sometimes just hike in a t-shirt? I’m not sure, I may end up ditching this layer, but for now it feels like a reasonable decision. This is just a random well-fitting not-cotton Nike t-shirt I found on sale. Honestly, I was going to wear a neon pink Marmot shirt I’ve worn on many hiking adventures in the past but I felt like the neon pink shirt plus the teal skirt were a bit much, even for me.
Black Nike Pro Classic Sports Bra
I’m gonna publish a whole post about why this bra rocks, but in short, this bra rocks! Mine is black because I felt excited about having a matching bra and underwear set, something that as a chubby girl with large boobs I am rarely ever able to find at a price that I am willing to pay. My matching sports bra and quick-dry underwear are bringing me a lot of joy – it’s the little things, ya know?
Patagonia Active Hipster Brief Underwear
I tried ExOfficio brand travel underwear because many people swear by it but I just didn’t like them at all. The other brand everyone talks about when it comes to quick-dry underwear is Patagonia, so I tried out their Active Hipster Briefs and yep, they’re perfect. Plus they enabled me to fulfill my aforementioned matching bra and panties dream! Ew, I fucking hate the word panties.
Superfit Hero Spandex Shorts (With Pockets!)
These shorts are INCREDIBLE. I will also be publishing a separate post about these shorts – I thought it would be cool to write little gear reviews of stuff that works particularly well for me as a chubby girl, because I haven’t found a lot of info about that online and would’ve really appreciated it existing when I was preparing for this hike. But for now I’ll just tell you that this company was created by Micki Krimmel, a competitive roller derby athlete, and they run in sizes XS-4XL, aka sizes 0-30! My friend Evie, also a roller derby badass, recommended this brand to me and I am so stoked to be in on this derby secret. If you’re a fat girl who wants athletic pants that will actually fit you, not rip after 2-3 wears, and have amazing pockets deep enough to hold the largest of iPhones, checkout Superfit Hero immediately. (And if you’re not a fat girl and also want all of these things, obviously check out the brand too – it’s just really exciting, as a chubby/fat person, to find athletic gear that seems to have me in mind, and I imagine other fat women may feel the same!) Also, not to objectify women, but they have really hot badass babes modeling the gear on their website. Just saying.
Purple Rain Adventure Skirt (With Pockets!)
I wasn’t convinced I would like hiking in a skirt, and I suppose I’ll need to log some serious miles before I can say for sure, but so far I really love hiking in my Purple Rain skirt and I love the way it looks and the story behind its inception! Mandy ‘Purple Rain’ Bland is the creator of this product, and she came up with the design after being unable to find the kind of hiking skirt she wanted to wear. Mandy currently lives in Southern Oregon and hand-makes each skirt out of her studio there – I love Southern Oregon and I am in awe of anyone who knows how to sew and can run a whole business on her own, so this totally adds to my love of the product. I was lucky enough to meet Mandy in person at the ALDHA-Ruck in Cascade Locks a couple of months ago, and she was just as cool as you’d expect her to be. I’ve never focused too much on my femme looks while hiking because even though I’m a girly girl who loves a good dress/skirt when I’m in the city, I also don’t mind wearing pants at all (and as I mentioned in my first paragraph, I am also exceptionally lazy!), but it is pretty cool to be able to wear a skirt on my hike. Plus my skirt is a beautiful teal color and it brings me a lot of joy. PLUS IT HAS POCKETS. Oh, and the skirts run from size 4-18, but if you are a size outside of those measurements (or if you just want some adjustments made to the standard design) Mandy will work with you to create a custom skirt that fits your body perfectly, which is pretty fucking rad.
Injinji Toe Socks, Lightweight, Size Small
Carrot introduced me to Injinji toe socks and even though they are admittedly weird on your first few hikes, I quickly became hooked. This is the first sock that has actually prevented me from getting the blisters I usually get on the underside of my pinky toe and the toe that is next to the pinky toe (what the fuck is that toe called, y’all?) and I love them so much and will now not hike in anything else. I’ve tried the medium weight option but found them too thick. My heart belongs to lightweight Injinjis for forever, bonus points if they are a purple or pink pair because I am good at being a caricature of myself.
Brooks Cascadia Trail Runners
I tried a few different trail runners and the Brooks Cascadia model fit my feet best. I know a lot of seasoned thru-hikers miss the older models and think the new ones are not as good and that may be true, but as a newbie who has only tried the 11s and the 12s, I’m not complaining with either design. I’m currently wearing a woman’s size 8 in the newest model, the Brooks Cascadia 12, and I’m very into it. Plus the color combos for the new model are cute, which is obviously an excellent bonus.
Dirty Girl Gaiters
These gaiters, which are very lightweight and come in an array of awesome designs, are pretty standard uniform on the PCT. The story behind their creation is The Best. In 2004, “fashionista and ultra-marathoner” Xy Weiss decided to make leopard print gaiters to match her leopard print sports bra. She made some extras to give to friends, but of course they exploded into a full on business because they’re perfect and amazing. Xy uses all profits from her business to “pay forward” and “pay back,” donating to worthy non-profit causes, charity based ultra-marathons and trail events, and dozens of athletes who promote the Dirty Girl energy and spirit. My Dirty Girl gaiters have scissors on them, so people in the know will know I’m super gay. I love them.
In my wildest dreams, I find the perfect straw bucket hat to cover my head and neck from the harsh desert sun and it never gets in my way or flies off my head in windy conditions or bothers me at all and I look chic and sexy in all my trail photos, even when I’m covered in dirt and sweat and haven’t showered in 7+ days. In reality I think I’m going to wear my green snapback that has an embroidered patch on the front that says Take A Hike that I bought at a bougie outdoorsy store on Mississippi a few years ago, before I’d taken many hikes ever at all. There are many ways to be an embarrassing hipster who hopefully looks good in photos, ya know?
Marmot Women’s PreCip Rain Jacket
I’ve never found a rain jacket I like that works, ever, in my whole life. This one is fine. It was on sale. We’ll see.
Montbell Women’s Superior Down Parka (With Hood)
It took me a million years to pull the trigger and buy this jacket. It’s funny now to think back on how long I spent obsessing over this decision – in retrospect, it’s not a huge deal at all. But I just could not for the life of me decide between the Montbell lightweight down jacket and the Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer. Ultimately, I’m not sure what was making my decision so difficult – the Ghost Whisperer jacket simply does not fit me. I stopped by Next Adventure many times to try it on in different sizes to see if maybe it would magically shift and stretch and change and become a jacket that fits me, but nope, each time I put it on the sleeves were still too long and the shoulders were still too tight and it was still incredibly unflattering and, bottom line, it still did not fit me. The Montbell coat does not have the cutest color options (hello, hi, gear companies, sometimes women want to wear black and grey too, I promise men are not the only ones in the world who would like this option, some women even prefer blue and green, and hey, I love pink and purple but do you have to pick the most bizarre shades of those colors, just saying) but it’s a better price, a better fit, and just as light as the Ghost Whisperer. I’ve heard multiple women complaining about the weird fit of the Ghost Whisperer jacket and I would strongly encourage all of those people to check out Montbell as an alternative.
I’m in love with my buff. It’s a stretchy piece of fabric that can do all sorts of things. My buff is a headband! My buff is a scarf! My buff is a windshield! My buff is a sunshade! My buff is perfect and cozy and we are very happy together.