What I’m Wearing On The PCT

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.

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photo by Binky, who told me I looked “soft butch” when she snapped this gem

Columbia Women’s Silver Ridge Lite Shirt

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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

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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

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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

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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!)

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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!)

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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

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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

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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

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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 themso people in the know will know I’m super gay. I love them.

A hat

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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

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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)

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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.

Buff Original

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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.

Extras (will be carried in my pack/not worn for most of the time)

I’ll also be bringing an extra pair of socks and underwear, Patagonia base layers (to sleep in), gloves, a warm fleece hat, and a bandana.

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It’s the hiking outfit of a lazy femme’s dreams

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25 thoughts on “What I’m Wearing On The PCT

  1. colleen says:

    Love this. Came back from a shakedown hike with thigh chafe and now I’m considering shorts again. I might try these out. It’s amazing how long it takes to just find the dang outfit you’re gonna be able to wear, lol.

    • Vanessa says:

      It’s so true! Honestly the gear is easier for me, because a Zpacks Duplex shelter is a Zpacks Duplex shelter, ya know? But when it comes to clothes everything fits everyone different, and some stuff doesn’t include sizes that actually fit me, and what works on a skinny dude with no hips definitely does not work for me…etc etc etc. Outfit shakedowns are super necessary in my opinion! And for what its worth, if I didn’t wear shorts under my skirt I would be chafe city in literally three seconds — I strongly recommend the Superfit Hero brand! So comfy, so functional, so cute — they don’t pay me to say that, I swear it’s just the truth! Good luck out there 🙂

  2. Kira says:

    Fellow fat hiker girl here. Wore a similar getup on the AT last year… though I just wore a tank top instead of a long sleeve shirt since there is no desert on the AT. Can’t wait to follow your trip! Fat ladies ask me all the time what I wear to hike in because they have such a damned hard time finding outdoorsy clothes that fit them! I’m stoked to be able to send them in this direction…

    • Vanessa says:

      Thanks so much for this comment! I’m glad to hear you wore something similar on the AT — makes me feel like I’m doing it right, haha. It is so hard to find outdoorsy or athletic clothes as a fat person, so I’m stoked you found this post helpful. And, sidenote — congrats on your AT hike! So rad.

  3. Nicole T says:

    I LOVE that you were able to find a few womyn-owned businesses to support in your outdoor wear. I do that in many areas in my life, but why have I not thought to find some for my hiking life? Can’t wait to follow your adventure on IG!

    • Vanessa says:

      Thank you! Yeah, it’s super important to me to support small businesses owned by women, queers, and people of color in all aspects of my life, and I’ve been thrilled to find so many awesome women running rad clothing and gear companies in the hiking world. I’m glad this post inspired you! See you on IG 😉

  4. Jenny Bruso says:

    I feel like I learned so much from this post! Like, I need some of this shit for even my day hike lifestyle but I’m so scared to buy stuff ever because it’s all so expensive and I’m always afraid I’m looking at the wrong thing. Seriously, this post is a service to the fat babe Hiker community.

    • Vanessa says:

      Jenny!

      This comment makes me GRIN. I am so so so stoked that you found this post useful and think it will be helpful to other fat hiker babes. To be completely real, it’s a bummer to me that a lot of the stuff from big brands (the shirts, specifically) top out at XL. They just fit me and I’m around a size 16-18 on top, depending on how a company sizes for boobs. The Montbell jacket also has its limitations — Montbell is a Japanese company and it runs notoriously small. I actually wanted to buy a men’s puffy jacket from them (I liked the colors better) but the cut didn’t work at all — even the XL in the men’s sizing was just not accommodating to my hips. Similarly to the shirts, I would say the Montbell XL is useful for humans up to size 18, but I don’t think it would work for anyone larger. However, as I gushed above, the Superfit Hero shorts and the Purple Rain skirts are definitely amazing options for fat babes of all sizes, with a lot of variety and also the capability to work one on one with the customer to create a perfect fit. It’s not surprising to me that the two most flexible and size-inclusive items on this list are made by women running their own small businesses.

      Whew okay I am rambling! I clearly have a LOT of feelings about this subject! One more thing I did want to touch on was your point about being scared to buy certain things because they’re expensive and what if you get it wrong. I wanna say that I SO feel that, ESPECIALLY with hiking stuff, because I’ve got a lot of Imposter Syndrome Feelings about even BEING a hiker, ya know? In this post, both the shorts and the skirt are expensive, but in my opinion they are 100% worth the cost. They are made by hand (the shorts in a small factory based in California and the skirt in Mandy’s studio in Southern Oregon), the quality is EXCELLENT, and I feel confident that if I had a sizing issue both manufacturers would work with me to fix it (Superfit Hero actually has a fit guarantee wherein they will exchange a pair of their shorts or leggings one time for free — shipping included — if you accidentally order the wrong size). I spent $58 on my shorts (with shipping) and $60 on my skirt (no shipping because I bought it in person) and while both of those prices feel expensive to me, they also feel fair based on the labor and materials used for the products, and I can confirm that both articles of clothing are lasting longer than cheap stuff I usually buy (that does not fit very well and is likely not made very ethically) from Target and definitely look and feel better.

      WHEW OKAY NOW I AM REALLY DONE. I just get really excited about women-owned small businesses that support fat babes and make cute athletic gear, ya know?

  5. Ray says:

    Ok, I need to know about your choice of trail running shoes for a thru-hike! For some reason I’ve always assumed one needed giant official Hiking Boots for even just day hiking and especially for a big scary long thru-hike, but maybe this isn’t so??? Tell me more!!

    • Vanessa says:

      Yes hi let’s talk about this! I too used to have intimidated feelings about Official Hiking Boots. But no, you do not need these! When I met Carrot I had only ever tried hiking in these horrible too-small hiking shoes that didn’t fit me well at all and gave me the worst blisters in the whole world. I thought blisters were just a thing people got on long hikes and thus that hiking was definitely not for me because oh my god OW. But then Carrot told me that tons of people hike in trail runners, and actually that trail runners were a pretty standard uniform on the PCT because “if you wouldn’t wear it to run a marathon, don’t wear it on a thru-hike.” You wouldn’t wear big official hiking boots to run a marathon, right?

      With that information I started hiking in my regular sneakers and it was awesome! No blisters, breathable fabric, love at first hike! It’s a good idea to invest in trail runners if you’re doing a lot of wet hikes (hellooooo PNW climate) because they generally have a much better tread than sneakers you’d use to jog around the neighborhood. The two brands people tend to talk about if you say you’re looking for your first pair of trail runners are Brooks Cascadias (the brand I wear and reference in this post) and Altra Lone Peaks. Usually one or the other works better for a person, depending on the shape of your foot. (The Altras were wayyy too wide for me when I tried them on and just felt sort of bad – the Brooks were perfect.)

      I hope this info is helpful! For some reason hiking in trail runners was a lot less intimidating and a lot more pleasant for me. All of that said, some people swear by hiking boots, even for a long trail like the PCT, and would read this comment and tell me I’m absolutely 100% wrong. People have Very Strong Opinions about their hiking methods! I personally don’t have a strong opinion about what anyone else does, but trail runners work for me, and I think if buying a pair of trail runners or using a pair of sneakers you already own gets you out on the trail then that’s the best.

      • Ray says:

        This was the best ever! Thank you for such a detailed and thoughtful reply! I don’t super love hiking in my clunky boots because it makes me feel disconnected from the trail and like my feet are heavy and giant and generally can’t maneuver. So I’m excited to try out trail runners for my next shoe!

  6. mandybland says:

    Thank you for the shout out Vanessa! I loved meeting you at the Ruck and so honored you will be rocking a PR Skirt on your hike! Also, good to know about the shorts. I’m always looking for a good pair to recommend to ladies who like undershorts. Best of luck, I’ll be following along!

    • Vanessa says:

      Thank YOU!!

      I love my skirt so much and get so many compliments on it. And yes, definitely send people to Superfit Hero for shorts — they’re literally the best brand I have ever tried, and that is coming from a person who has spent a LOT of time in her life trying to find the right pair of shorts to wear under all my cute skirts and dresses!

      And thank you for the luck — it feels so nice to be part of a whole community of badass hiking women.

  7. sabowin says:

    Wow, cool recommendations! Some horse-riding leggings are finally starting to come with pockets, and it’s nice to see others are out there, too. Those look thick though. I’ve got a recommendation if you’re worried about getting too hot wearing the shorts and skirt together and also have issues with thigh chafe like I do–silicone sex lube. Seriously. I had thigh chafe issues when going commando under long skirts in Thailand (much easier to deal with squatty potties!), and on my first trip, I tried using deodorant as thigh lube, and it worked okay, but would wear off quickly. The second trip, I brought the sex lube, and it worked great. Lasted all day, kept my thighs slipping nicely past each other, and I was free to squat on any potty without soiling any underwear. 🙂

    • Vanessa says:

      I’ve heard of that recommendation before! It makes sense and I’d be down to try it one day – maybe next time I visit Thailand! I personally use Body Glide in situations where I can’t wear shorts with a skirt, but I’ve gotta say, for hiking I think I will always defer to a fabric barrier. It just makes me feel safer about not getting thigh chafe — like a security blanket or something.

      But good point about the shorts — they are definitely made of a thicker fabric than some spandex leggings. For me this is a plus, because it doesn’t seem as though they will wear out in the thighs quickly and I feel supported by the fabric, but I suppose I will have to see how the heat of the desert factors into my experience wearing them. Stay tuned!

  8. themountaincrone says:

    How’s that sports bra for keeping your boobs in place? Mine are so heavy and tend to travel southward or end up mashed together in a sports bra… so uncomfortable! I usually wear a regular underwire but it’s such an uncomfortable way to hike!

    • Vanessa says:

      Great question. The bra is medium-good at keeping my boobs in place, haha. I am also not the biggest fan of the inevitable mashed together situation that happens to my boobs no matter what sports bra I wear, but I just can’t hike in a regular underwire — it is so uncomfortable for me! Honestly, I usually go without a bra — I haven’t been wearing one on my training hikes and I try to avoid wearing one whenever I can — but I didn’t want to go braless on the PCT because of the anticipation of intense underboob sweat and also feeling a little weird about meeting so many new people on the trail and in small towns and not knowing how they’d react to a woman with huge boobs going braless. So! The things I like about the Nike bra is that it provides very full coverage, so even when my boobs move around they are still actually in the bra, and it’s quite loose for a sports bra so I don’t feel like I can’t breath. It’s not a perfect solution and I may grow to hate it on the trail, but wearing it around town and on training hikes has proven to be okay support-wise and quite comfy, which is all I can really ask for in a bra. I hope that was helpful — sorry for the somewhat stream of conscious boob-feelings!

  9. Anna says:

    You are gonna be the most fashionable babe on the trail! And the coolest – love your humor and energy! I am so looking forward to following you on the Pct!

  10. mapreaders says:

    Hey, I hope your first day is going well! I’ll keep an eye out for your rad teal skirt — not sure if I’ll catch up to you or not, but it would be so great to share a snack break with another queer person out there. (Actually my partner sent me your article on Autostraddle with the message “Trail family potential?” Haha! A small queer hiker world, apparently.)

    • alleyhector says:

      Not sure when you are leaving but I do hope you catch up! I know she would be stoked to meet another queer hiker as they fewer and farther between than expected. Too bad you’re stopping at Kennedy Meadows though. I want friends for her Sierra’s portion most of all!

      -Signed, Concerned Girlfriend 😉

  11. Phillip Taylor says:

    Hi Vanessa,

    My wife has been following your blog and mentioned you have been having some chafe issues. I supply a product called GurneyGoo specifically for endurance sports and hiking. The reviews and feedback we get on the product are great. https://www.gurneygoo.com/

    Tell me where your next stop is and I’ll forward a tube. Butt crack chafe is no fun! It will help with wet feet and blisters too.

    Phil

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