Home > Backpacking > Best Women’s Backpacking Gear of 2023

Best Women’s Backpacking Gear of 2023

Published :

Some of the links on this page are affiliate links

Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means we may receive a small commission if purchases are made through those links. This adds no cost to our readers and helps us keep our site up and running. Our reputation is our most important asset, which is why we only provide completely honest and unbiased recommendations.
Best Women's Gear

Women’s Backpacking Gear

In the past few years there’s been a long awaited shift toward gender equity and accessibility in the outdoor industry. Now more than ever, companies are getting serious about designing quality, high-functioning outdoor gear for women. Women have different body shapes, move differently, sleep a bit colder, and have unique hygiene considerations. Not every piece of backpacking gear needs to be gender-specific, but women often find that gear tailored to them works better.

Below we outline several key differences in women-specific gear and recommend some of our favorite items.

Do I Really Need Women-Specific Gear?

Yes and no. When it comes to buying gear of any kind, your decision should ultimately come down to what will work best for you. For example, some women find that men’s or unisex backpacks actually fit their bodies better, so it’s important to consider all options. In the end, there’s rarely one clear “best” choice for everyone, and you know your body better than anybody else.

Why Hike Light?

As you look through our recommendations below, you’ll see that we’re big fans of lightweight backpacking gear. The reason is simple: The lighter your backpack, the easier (and more fun in our opinion) your backpacking trip will be. So whether you’re planning an epic thru-hike or a quick overnight jaunt, keeping pack weight down is key.

Most of our gear recommendations below balance weight, cost, and comfort. Our ultimate goal is to keep our packs as light as possible without sacrificing safety, comfort, or functionality. Lightweight gear does tend to cost more, so if you’re looking for budget friendly options, take a look through our Gear Guide for more recommendations.

Women’s Backpacking Packs

When buying a backpack, most women find that women-specific packs offer a more comfortable fit. Women’s packs tend to have shorter torso lengths, ergonomic s-shaped shoulder straps (which contour the chest better), and anatomical hipbelts to transfer weight to the hips comfortably.

When choosing a backpack size, make sure to measure your torso length and hip size before ordering. Many of the backpacks we recommend are lightweight backpacks, meaning they have more minimal frames and tend to be a bit smaller than heavy traditional packs. This style of backpack is excellent for reducing overall weight, but won’t work well for carrying heavy loads (usually over 35-40 lbs).

For more tips on findinding the right backpack, checkout our Backpack Buyers Guide.

HMG Unbound 40

WEIGHT: 1 lb. 14.8 oz.


The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Unbound 40 / 55 were purpose-built for hikers covering long distances and those wanting to keep their pack weight as low as possible without sacrificing convenience. Though this pack has all unisex features, it’s still one of our favorites, especially for women with longer torsos.

With its plethora of useful pockets, perfect balance of weight/durability, and practically waterproof design, the Unbound has quickly become one of our all-time favorite backpacks.

If you’ve never used a backpack with a bottom pocket before, you’re in for a treat. This stretchy mesh pocket on the underside of the pack keeps frequently needed items – like snacks, chapstick, and sunscreen – accessible without the need to stop and take your pack off. The Unbound also has an innovative front mesh pocket, which can be accessed from the top or through a flap on the bottom. This makes it much easier to store your tent stakes or bathroom bag in a place where they’re easy to quickly find.

The frame – minimal as it may be – is highly effective at transferring weight to the hips. But at the same time it helps encourage us to keep our pack weight low since it’s not as comfy if you exceed about 35 lbs. Carrying a lighter load has a ton of benefits, but simply stated – we find lightweight backpacking to be far less exhausting and much more enjoyable.

The Unbound is on the expensive side for lightweight packs, but we think it’s priced fairly for its quality and durability. The DCH fabric and taped seams are a big part of what makes the Unbound so expensive, but it’s also the reason this pack is about as close to waterproof as you can get.

For years the HMG Southwest 2400 held the top spot on our Best Backpacking Backpacks list, but we view the Unbound as a very similar backpack with a few notable upgrades. Check out our full review of the Unbound 40 to learn more about why we love this pack.

Osprey Aura AG 65

WEIGHT (M/L): 4 lbs. 10 oz.


You’ve seen us say over and over again that we prefer to hike light, but there’s no wrong way to get out there and adventure! The Osprey Aura AG 65 pack holds 35-50 pounds much more comfortably than any lightweight backpack, and it’s still lighter than many comparable traditional packs.

Hikers who are just starting out or who prefer to carry a few extra luxuries will find that the Aura has a generous amount of padding and plenty of pockets to organize your gear. The inside of this backpack can be accessed from the side, the bottom, or the top lid, so necessities are always close at hand.

These backpacking packs are also equipped with Osprey’s signature AntiGravity suspension system, which transfers weight to your hips incredibly well and takes the strain off your shoulders and back. If you prefer to prioritize comfort over saving weight, the Aura is tough to beat.

Gossamer Gear Gorilla 50

WEIGHT (Medium): 1 lb 14.5 oz.


The Gossamer Gear Gorilla 50 is one of the most comfortable ultralight backpacks on the market, and we like using it for trips where our load demands a little extra padding and support. There are lighter weight packs available, but we haven’t come across one that even remotely compares to the comfort of the Gorilla.

The Gorilla can easily be adapted to save some serious weight since the frame, frame stays, and hip belt are all removable. Because of the size of the pack, we don’t find ourselves removing the hip belt or frame very often. But on truly ultralight trips where your load is less than 20 pounds, the Gorilla still carries like a dream without the hip belt and frame. One of our other favorite features of the Gorilla is its removable SitLight pad, which acts as back padding while the pack is on and a cushy seat around camp when you’re not hiking.

We find that the 50L capacity is the sweet spot for a wide array of trips. It’s big enough that we can pack along some extras like a backpacking chair or a hammock on warm-weather trips, but not so big that we struggle to fill it. It’s also a great size for chilly shoulder season trips when you’ll be packing along bulkier layers and a fluffier sleeping bag. But if you need a bit more space, we also love the Mariposa 60 which is just a larger version of the Gorilla.

Osprey Eja 48

WEIGHT (M/L): 2 lbs. 12 oz.


The women-specific Osprey Eja 48 is a long-time favorite of lightweight backpackers because of its comfort, well-ventilated back panel, and approachable price.

The tensioned-mesh frame of the Eja is sturdier than most lightweight pack frames and can carry heavier loads more comfortably. But this more stout frame is also why this pack is on the heavier end of the spectrum in its weight category. The newest iteration of the Eja brought back hip belt pockets – a sorely missed component of the previous iteration – but we find them to be a bit smaller than we prefer. Still, they’re adequate for storing small, commonly used items, like chapstick, a lighter, and a snack.

If you’re looking for the best balance of comfort, weight, and capacity you’ve found it with the Eja. For hikers who need more space, the larger Eja 58 has 10L more capacity, but is otherwise the same pack.

ULA Circuit

WEIGHT (medium): 2 lbs. 5.3 oz.


After thru-hiking for thousands of miles with theUltralight Adventure Equipment Circuit we can confidently say it’s an exceptionally durable backpack for long distance hiking. If you have your gear fairly dialed in – sub 30 lbs. – the Circuit’s frame will carry your load very comfortably.

The ULA Circuit is highly customizable, allowing you to build a pack that fits the female frame. The ULA Circuit offers the option of S-shaped straps, which contour a women’s chest better than traditional straps.

It’s all the little things on the Circuit that make it really shine on trail – large, convenient pockets; light, durable fabric; and a minimal, yet highly effective suspension system. This backpack has an exceptional balance of weight, comfort, and durability, so it’s no wonder the ULA Circuit is consistently called out as a favorite by thru-hikers.

Women’s Sleeping Bags

Buying a women’s sleeping bag is one of the most important purchases you can make to ensure a warm and comfortable night’s rest in the backcountry. In general, women sleep colder than men (often by about 10 degrees), so it’s important get a bag with a warm enough temperature rating for the conditions you plan to encounter. To account for this, women’s bags are usually warmer and have more insulation in the footbox and torso. Women also have different body shapes than men, so women’s sleeping bags tend to be wider in the hips and narrower in the shoulders. This extra precision will ensure your sleeping bag fits comfortably and optimizes warmth.

For more tips on findinding the right sleeping bag, check out our Sleeping Bags Buyers Guide.

REI Co-op Magma 15°

WEIGHT (regular):2 lbs. 4 oz.


The REI Magma 15 offers a combination of warmth, weight, and cost that few other backpacking sleeping bags can match. The Magma gets it right where it matters the most – quality materials, a solid warmth-to-weight ratio, and a well-shaped footbox and hood.

Part of what makes the Magma bags so light is their trimmed down design. The true mummy shape is highly heat-efficient because it eliminates dead space that your body would have to warm up before the bag can do its job. But the Magma bag is still plenty roomy for side sleepers and hikers who shift around a lot at night.

The women’s version of the Magma is slightly heavier than the men’s version, but the extra weight is mostly due to increased insulation, making the women’s bag significantly warmer than the mens.

Both the Magma 15 and 30 models regularly find their way into our backpacks depending on the season, but which Magma should you choose? If you’re looking for one sleeping bag that can do it all at a very fair price, the Magma 15 is an excellent choice. If most of your backpacking trips are during summer months or you’re a warm sleeper, the Magma 30 is perfect for keeping pack weight to an absolute minimum.

EE Revelation Quilt 10°

WEIGHT (regular, 850fp): 1 lb. 10 oz.


The flexible design of theEnlightened Equipment Revelation quilt has been a game changer for our backcountry trips, and we love its warmth-to-weight ratio. We tend to prefer quilts over sleeping bags for most of our trips where we don’t expect temps to dip below freezing.

This quilt can be left open like a blanket on warm nights or cinched up tight when the temperature drops. You can choose to custom order your Revelation to your desired color, size, and warmth, so we bumped up a size in length and width for full coverage on chilly nights. We’ve found that the 20°F model keeps us warm to right around freezing or just a little below.

There is nothing gender-specific about this quilt, we just think it rocks for both men and women.

Quality like this will usually set you back a pretty penny, but the Revelation comes in at an amazing price when compared to similar quilts. We’ve been using ours for years, and it’s still one of the best investments we’ve made in our backpacking setup.

Feathered Friends Egret UL 20°

WEIGHT (Medium): 1 lb. 11.2 oz.


The Egret UL 20 is by far one of our favorite sleeping bags for women.

It’s very light, feels soft against the skin, and is filled with responsibly-sourced 950+ fill-power goose down – which is about as high-quality as down comes.

As a women’s bag, it’s tailored to the female form, has more space in the chest and hips, and has a warmer footbox and torso. This attention to detail helps provide a much more comfortable night’s rest than a traditional unisex bag.

Feathered Friends doesn’t list EN temperature ratings, but we’ve found their ratings to be more conservative than most of the competition. In other words, this is one of the few instances where we would actually trust a 20-degree bag to around 20 degrees.

Certainly, the high price is one of the first things you’ll notice about the Egret, but that doesn’t stop it from being Feathered Friend’s most popular women’s bag. We can assure you that it’s worth every penny if you’ll use it often. Like most FF bags, the Egret also comes in a slightly heavier, yet more affordable Egret YF version. Both are solid options.

Women’s Sleeping Pads

Backpacking sleeping pads tend to be mostly unisex by design, though some companies do make women-specific models. Most women find that unisex pads work perfectly well, but women do tend to sleep colder than men, so it’s important to choose a sleeping pad with a high R-value, which will provide more insulation from the cold ground. We generally recommend air pads over foam pads because they tend to be far more comfortable. And similarly to our other gear recommendations, we prefer lightweight sleeping pads to keep our packs comfortable on the trail.

For more tips on finding the right sleeping pad, check out our Sleeping Pad Buyer’s Guide.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT

WEIGHT (regular): 13 oz.

R-VALUE: 4.5

Therm-a-Rest’s new NeoAir XLite NXT is the best all-around 3-season sleeping pad on the market, hands down. It has a rare combination of comfort, warmth, and weight that make it very tough to beat for backpacking.

The new NXT version of the XLite is for both men and women. It’s 3 inches thick, so it’s a bit cushier than before, and it has a slightly higher R-value too. One of our favorite features of the XLite is just how lightweight it is while still maintaining excellent insulation and durability. Keeping pack weight down on backcountry trips is critical, and the XLite is a stand-out in this arena.

The main knock on previous XLite models has been the crinkly sound they make when shifting around. We’re happy to report that the new NXT version is much quieter. We’d say the XLite NXT is just about as quiet as most air pads, but few can compete with its other specs.

The NeoAir XLite is a truly exceptional sleeping pad that we’ve put through the wringer over thousands of miles on the trail. It’s an all-time great backpacking sleeping pad, and we think you’ll agree.

Check out our full review of the XLite NXT here.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm NXT

WEIGHT: 1 lb.

R-VALUE: 7.3

If you’re among the many women that sleep cold at night, you may want to consider the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm.It’s a warmer and more durable version of the XLite pad listed above.

Insulation (R-value) is a highly underrated characteristic in sleeping pads. If you’re a cold sleeper or you backpack in sub-freezing temps, we recommend bumping up to the XTherm. The latest NXT model is warmer, thicker, and even a touch lighter than before. With such a preposterous warmth-to-weight ratio, the XTherm is undoubtedly one of the best backpacking sleeping pads out there.

The XTherm also has a durable layer of 70-denier fabric on the underside – which we love – to combat wear and prevent punctures. This pad does make a slight crinkle sound when you shift around on it, but its considerable strengths far outweigh this minor downside.

With a weight that’s lower than the typical 3-season pad, but an R-value ready for serious winter adventures, it’s no wonder why the NeoAir XTherm has been a fan favorite for many years.

NEMO Tensor Insulated

WEIGHT (regular): 15 oz.

R-VALUE: 4.2

The NEMO Tensor Insulated sleeping pad is thick, comfortable, and quieter than almost any air pad we’ve tested. So if you’re looking to avoid the crinkle sound some pads have, the Tensor is an excellent option.

Another thing that sets the Tensor apart is the wide variety of shape and size options, including mummy, rectangular, and the elusive regular/wide model. The rectangular models are popular, as they allow your feet to rest wider apart when back sleeping. This, along with 3 in. of thickness, makes the Tensor a real stand-out when it comes to comfort.

The Tensor also comes with one of the best pump sacks on the market, making inflation fast and easy. On top of that, the zero-profile valve allows for quick deflation and simple micro-adjustments.

We’ve been big fans of the NEMO Tensor since the first model hit the shelves, and we still rock it for trips where extra comfort is a top priority.

Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated Mat - Women's

WEIGHT (regular): 15.8 oz.

R-VALUE: 3.5

The Sea to Summit UltraLight Insulated Mat is one of the most comfortable and affordable backpacking pads we’ve tested. Its “air sprung cells” provide cushy comfort that feels surprisingly like your mattress at home.

The Women’s Ultralight is a bit warmer than the unisex model (r-value 3.5 vs. 3.1), and it saves weight by having a pared-down shoulder girth and shorter length.

At 2 inches thick, some users might bottom out when shifting around on this pad, and the Ultralight might not be the best fit for side sleepers. That said, the Ultralight still provides a very comfortable night’s rest.

The Ultralight has a good valve system and is more durable than the average air pad as well. So if you’re in the market for a comfortable, lightweight, and durable backpacking sleeping pad that costs less than most of its competitors, the Sea to Summit Ultralight is a great choice.

Closeup view of a hiker's feet in the Altra Lone Peak 4 Hiking Shoes

Women’s Footwear

Similar to everyday shoes, most people choose backpacking footwear designed specifically for their gender. However, everybody’s feet are different, so there’s no hard and fast rule to this. The main difference between men’s and women’s footwear comes down to the shape of the shoe. Women’s shoes and boots tend to be more narrow in the heel and wider in the toe box. Men’s footwear also tends to weigh slightly more and rise higher on the ankle.

You’ll notice that most of our recommendations below are lightweight trail running shoes, rather than traditional hiking boots. Check out this article to learn why: 5 Reasons to Ditch Your Hiking Boots. In short, trail runners are light, comfortable, and breathable. They offer excellent traction and can often be worn right out of the box with minimal risk of blisters. Like many thru-hikers, we’ve hiked thousands of miles through some of the roughest terrain on the planet in trail runners and we love the benefits they provide. We very rarely wear boots while backpacking anymore unless we expect to encounter winter snow conditions.

That said, footwear is an extremely personal and important choice, so it’s best to go with whatever trail shoe or hiking boot feels most comfortable to you. Always remember to order up a half or full shoe size because your feet will swell on long hiking days.

For more tips on finding the right footwear, check out our Hiking Shoes Buyer’s Guide. You may also want to visit our Footwear Homepage, where we cover the best boots, sandals, and everything in between.

Saucony Peregrine 13

WEIGHT (PAIR): 1 lb.

We’ve hiked thousands of miles in Saucony Peregrines over the years, and they’re some of our favorites due to their exceptional traction and low weight. Whether it’s a trek through Nepal, the Sierras, or the Torres del Paine in Patagonia, the Peregrines bite into the terrain to provide stability and confidence.

The newest Peregrines are lighter than ever, even grippier than before, and have a refined fit. They also have an increased stack height with more underfoot cushioning for tough terrain. Plus the Peregrine 13s are made with a highly breathable knit upper that dries quickly, so they’re ready for just about anything you throw at them.

A shoe this light won’t hold up as well as more traditional hiking shoes in the long run, but you’ll expend less energy with each step and experience less problems with sweaty feet (like blisters). The Saucony Peregrines are the shoes you’ll catch us rocking for most of our high-mileage backpacking trips, and we can’t recommend them highly enough for those who prefer trail runners.

Altra Lone Peak 7

WEIGHT (PAIR): 1 lb. 4.5 oz.

Altra Lone Peaks have long been the flagship shoe of lightweight hikers due to their weight, grippy outsole, and roomy fit. The 7th iteration of the LPs got another big makeover – the upper has been redesigned, the outsole has been overhauled, and the modern colorways make these shoes stand out against the crowd.

Some hikers struggled with the durability of the previous model, but we’re happy to report that the Lone Peak 7s feature more reinforced spots and will last far longer than the LP 6s. The signature Trail Claw lug pattern also got a makeover and is more sticky than before, resulting in less slips on wet rock and other tricky terrain.

Personally, we’re loving the LP 7s and they’ve quickly become our favorite version of the Lone Peaks we’ve ever tested. For hikers seeking a wider fit that allows for natural movement, the Lone Peak 7s should be at the top of your list.

 Other Footwear Options

The Saucony Peregrine and Altra Lone Peak trail runners have been our favorite lightweight backpacking shoes for some time now. Both options provide a great balance of comfort, traction, weight, and fit. That said, everyone’s feet are different, so below are some other popular trail running models worth checking out.

Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX – These hiking shoes have a nearly unrivaled balance of durability and weight. They’re built like a traditional shoe, but they fit more like trail runners. The X Ultras feel much more nimble than other shoes in their category, and they require practically no break-in period. We’ve also found that the traction is well above average on the X Ultras, so they’re great for backpacking or day hikes on challenging terrain.

HOKA Speedgoat 5 – The biggest standout feature of the Speedgoats is their ultra-cushy midsole, which is excellent at absorbing impact and doesn’t flatten out as quickly as some other lightweight hiking shoes we’ve tested. Thanks to the supportive design, the Speedgoats are a favorite among thru-hikers who need a shoe that’s lightweight and can keep their feet and joints comfortable while logging lots of miles.

Oboz Sawtooth X WP – These babies are some of the most supportive shoes we’ve tested thanks to the premium insoles. The molded arch and heel cup, cushy midsoles, and exceptional traction make this shoe a great choice for challenging terrain – especially for backpackers who tend to carry a heavier pack around 40 lbs. or more. The traditional-style Sawtooths start out a little more stiff than some shoes, so we recommend breaking them in before taking them on any big trips. But after you get past this initial period, you’ll have a comfy shoe that can withstand multiple years of hiking.

An excited backpacker in a rain jacket in front of a glacier.

Women’s Raincoats

When heading into the backcountry, you’ll always want to bring a trusty raincoat to stay safe and comfortable. A lot of people backpack with coats that are far too heavy and bulky for what they actually need. You can save a surprising amount of weight and space by choosing a lightweight rain shell over a mountaineering coat. If you really want to go light, there are some minimalist jackets that cut our features like hand pockets and pit zips, but we generally like having those comforts. Below you’ll find a few of our favorite rain jackets that balance functionality, comfort, and weight.

For more tips on finding the right rain jacket, check out our Rain Jackets Buyer’s Guide.

Patagonia Torrentshell 3L

WEIGHT: 12.4 oz.

The Patagonia Torrentshell 3L is one of our all-time favorite rain jackets because it’s affordable, durable, and has a great fit.

While it’s not as lightweight and compressible as some, we’ve used it extensively on backpacking trips when we expected stormy conditions.

Its laminated triple-layer construction is highly protective in sustained rain and the jacket still feels lightweight on your body.

Because it’s so versatile and such an awesome value, the Torrentshell is the number one rain jacket we recommend for all-around use.

Outdoor Research Helium

WEIGHT: 5.6 oz.

The Outdoor Research Helium is one of the most affordable ultralight rain jackets on the market.

Improvements to the design have given the jacket a more streamlined fit, better waterproofing, and greater durability.

The one downside is that it doesn’t have hand pockets, but this is easily remedied by bringing waterproof gloves on cold, wet trips.

Ultralight gear can be expensive, and when you have a lot to buy, it’s important to make every dollar count. The Helium does just that – it’s simple but high-quality, and an excellent value.

Rab Kinetic 2.0

WEIGHT: 10.2 oz.

The Rab Kinetic 2.0 is one of the most comfortable and quiet rain jackets we’ve ever worn. It feels more like a softshell jacket than a traditional rain shell due to the stretch fabric, so you might find yourself wearing it even when it isn’t raining.

The Kinetic Plus isn’t the most technical jacket on our list since it lacks hood and hem adjustments, but we like the simplicity of the design and it has a snug, flattering fit.

The Kinetic Plus is great for times when you need a little warmth and wind protection while you’re active in mildly rainy conditions.

View at Amazon

Women’s Down Jackets

A great down jacket might be the most beloved piece of gear in your pack. We find that even on summer trips, we usually wear our down coat multiple times every day. We generally prefer hooded down jackets that are lightweight, warm, sleek, and compressible. Down jackets can be expensive, but their warmth-to-weight value is very tough to beat on the trail.

For more tips on finding the right down jacket, check out our Down Jackets Buyer’s Guide.

WEIGHT: 7.8 oz.

The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 is everything you need for fast and light adventures, and nothing you don’t.

It’s exceptional balance of warmth to weight is its key strength, but its sleek, layer-able design is also a huge plus.

Supplement it with a lightweight fleece or a rain shell, and you’re set for cooler shoulder-season conditions.

The price is a bit steep, but the Ghost Whisperer is a top-of-the-line down jacket that’s well worth the cost for anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors. If you’re willing to pay a bit more for even more warmth-to-weight efficiency, check out the Ghost Whisperer UL , which has upgraded 1,000 fill power down.

MontBell Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka

WEIGHT: 7.9 oz.

The Montbell Plasma 1000 is one of our go-to jackets for ultralight trips due to its exceptional warmth-to-weight ratio.

Stuffed with the absolute highest quality down available (1000 fill-power), the Plasma is the most efficient insulator we’ve ever worn.

This jacket weighs about the same as some of the other ultralight jackets on our list, but it definitely feels warmer.

The biggest downside to the Plasma in our eyes is its price, which will make it prohibitive for many. However, if you’re a thru-hiker or dedicated backcountry traveler looking for top-of-the-line ultralight warmth for 3-season trips, the Plasma 1000 is well worth the investment.

REI 650 Down Jacket 2.0

WEIGHT: 10.8 oz.

The REI 650 Down Jacket is a great lightweight and compressible option for those on a budget.

It’s simple, comfortable, and extremely versatile for around town or backcountry use.

The 650 Down is made with lower-fill-power down, so it’s not quite as heat-efficient as some of the more technical jackets on our list.

But, for the price, we’re happy with its performance, especially when layered with a lightweight fleece. The 650 Down is a great basic down jacket for an affordable price.

Women’s Backpacking Tents

Although there’s nothing gender-specific about tents, they’re one of the most important components of any backpacking setup. When choosing a quality backpacking tent, we heavily factor characteristics such as weight, cost, interior space, durability, and weather protection into our choices. Below are some of our favorite backpacking tents, but our Tent Buyers Guide has a lot more information and recommendations.

A hiker wearing the Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody on a backpacking trip in the mountains.

Women-Specific Hygiene

Women have specific hygiene needs when hiking in the backcountry. It’s best to have a plan in place before you head out to ensure you’re comfortable, clean, and prepared.

UNDERWEAR– In order to prevent bacterial infections, we recommend avoiding cotton underwear, which has a long dry time. Instead, hike in performance underwear such as ExOfficio Women’s Briefs, which are quick-drying, antimicrobial, and highly breathable. We usually bring two pairs on backpacking trips, one for the trail and one for after we clean up in camp. When need be, you can always wash a pair in the backcountry because they dry quickly.

PERIOD – Another issue that many women grapple with while backpacking is period maintenance. One option is to use tampons, preferably ones without an applicator. If the thought of packing out used tampons grosses you out (because you love nature, and Leave No Trace is really important), there are other options. Many women have transitioned to using a Menstrual Cup, which is an eco-friendly and convenient way to “catch” your flow. You can wear it for up to 12 hours, which should get you through most days on the trail.

URINATION – Staying well-hydrated is critical to any backpacking trip and with this comes more frequent urination. Whether you squat behind a tree or use a female urination device such as Freshette or pStyle, you’ll want to ensure that you’re wiping properly and keeping a dry environment. You can use a small amount of toilet paper or a pee-rag attached to your pack (ultraviolet rays from the sun disinfect it), but always wipe front to back to prevent any infection. Getting a UTI on the trail is a surefire way to ruin a trip.

Women’s Backpacking Clothing

Your backpacking clothing choices will obviously be highly personal, but there are some important considerations to take into account. Quick-dry clothing is key and cotton products should almost always be avoided. Also, take care to minimize excess clothing, because this is one of the most common ways people carry unnecessary weight on the trail.

A layering clothing system is really important in the backcountry. We generally recommend carrying only one of each clothing type and managing perspiration by adding or removing layers. For example, on chilly trips we can wear our short sleeve shirt, long sleeve shirt, fleece jacket, down jacket, and rain shell all at the same time for maximum warmth in camp. But when we start hiking, we’ll quickly want to remove layers to keep perspiration to a minimum. Below are some of our favorite, trail-tested options for women.

For more clothing recommendations, head to our Gear Guides Homepage.

A backpacker with a bear canister posing in front of gray mountain peaks.

Other Women’s Accessories

The following accessories are not necessarily women-specific, but they make our Top Picks Gear List as some of our favorite trail tools. You’ll find these items in our packs on most trips.

need more Gear advice?

If you liked this list, you’ll love the CleverHiker Gear Guide where we test and recommend tons of outdoor adventure gear from a variety of categories. here are some links to popular articles:


We hope this guide helps you find the perfect gear for your needs. If you have more questions or a suggestion, we’d love to hear from you! Sign up for our newsletter to stay updated on our latest posts then visit our Facebook page and Instagram to join the community conversation.

If you found this guide helpful, please share on social media and click the little heart button below to give us a digital high five! Also, be sure to check out our CleverHiker Gear Guide to see all of our top gear picks.

Thanks for reading and happy trails!

Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means we may receive a modest commission if purchases are made through those links. This adds no cost to our readers and helps us keep our site up and running. Our reputation is our most important asset, which is why we only provide completely honest and unbiased recommendations.