Nicki stands on a rock wearing a black tank, a cap, and grey Kuhl hiking pants.

Women’s Hiking Gear List for Beginners (from an experienced hiker)

Hiking gear list for beginners Reading Time: 19 minutes

In this post, I’ll explain both the pros and cons of each item in my ‘Women’s Hiking Gear List for Beginners’ post. As an avid hiker and nature lover, I want to show you my favorite hiking gear essentials, from pants to jackets to boots to backpacks, and even a few extras, like a travel yoga mat and water bottle.

I grew up just outside of Boulder, Colorado. My childhood was spent playing in parks next to lakes and wandering around Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park on the weekends. For middle school field trips we went hiking up Mt. Sanitas to learn about water tables, plateaus, and even giardia. I went to the University of Colorado at Boulder for three years and lived in Boulder for another year as an adult a few years later. During that time, I was able to walk right outside my door and find myself on trails within ten minutes. I even took my love of traveling abroad to walk on the Camino de Santiago in Spain, the Salkanty Trek to Machu Picchu, and many hikes around Argentina and the country of Georgia.

Throughout both short one-day hikes and several-day treks, I have slowly narrowed down the best hiking gear list for beginners- if you want to start hiking, but you’re not sure what to wear, what to buy, or how to find the gear- you’ve come to the right place!

Beginner’s Hiking Gear: Hiking Pants

Kühl FreeFlex Move Hiking Pants: PROS

These are some of the best women’s hiking pants for hot weather that I’ve found. I often hike in yoga pants as they are pretty comfortable but I really wanted to find some real, lightweight hiking pants with pockets and adjustable parts. I found my dream pants in the FreeFlex Move Hiking pants from Kühl.

The fabric is so soft, that I found myself wanting to wear them around the house as well, not just while out in nature. The waistband is adjustable so you can make them as tight or loose as you need, which also means they fit many body types. You can wear these pants long, to your ankle, or you can roll them up (thanks to the elastic band) in case the weather gets hot, or you want to walk through water.

Hiking Gear List for Beginners: Nicki stands on a rock with her back to the camera, wearing a black tank, a cap, and grey Kuhl hiking pants.
Nicki looks into the forest

Because of the adjustable leg length, these are perfect hiking pants for tall women and short women alike. You can choose the inseam length that you want. My favorite part of the pants? POCKETS! Women’s clothing is often plagued with the mystery of. the missing pocket. But not here. You’ve got two back pockets and two zippable front pockets. I like to hike light whenever possible,

Kühl FreeFlex Move Hiking Pants: CONS

I really love the fit and feel of these hiking pants in almost every sense. The one thing that is a little frustrating is the bottom roll-up string. I love that the pant legs do roll up to allow for many possibilities and that there is a string to do that. However, I just wish there was a place to put the string once the leg is cinched. I try to tug the string into the roll but find that it sometimes falls out and can get in the way, or get caught on a nearby stick or branch.

Beginner’s Hiking Gear: Rain Jacket

North Face Rain Jacket: PROS

When I lived in the country of Georgia, I found myself doing a lot of hiking, as this country has some of the most incredible nature. The thing is, it rains a lot in the summer in the mountains of Georgia. Therefore, I went on a hunt to find the perfect rain jacket. I didn’t want to buy something cheap that I would have to throw away within a season. I wanted something solidly made, of good quality, that I could use for many years. I found the answer with the North Face rain jacket. This is a lightweight hiking jacket for women and is very comfortable.

Hiking Gear List for Beginners: Nicki sits on a ledge looking out over the valley in Kazbegi, Georgia. She is wearing a black rain jacket from North Face.
Nicki wears a black North Face rain jacket while sitting on a ledge overlooking Kazbegi.

There are zippable pockets on both sides, a hood that cinches to tighten around your face, and a front zipper that goes all the way up to your chin. My two favorite aspects of the jacket are: an elastic waist, and a longer back. I appreciate having an elastic band around the waist to allow for a more feminine fit and feel. Jackets can often feel like a big sack on me, but this elastic band gives me a bit more shape. I also love how the fabric on the back of the jacket swoops down to cover my butt. This ensures that not only my back stays dry, but my bum as well. I can sit down and not get soaked.

I personally think this is one of the best women’s rain jackets for hiking. It is light, comfortable, practical, and looks great. I even like to fold it up small, into the hood, when I’m not using it, and throw it in my backpack.

I can’t find my exact rain jacket, but this one is quite similar. Regardless, I highly recommend North Face as far as rain jackets are concerned. From experience, I know the quality is high, and the jacket will last many years.

If you don’t see what you like with North Face, I can also highly recommend Cotopaxi rain jackets. They are stylish, have bright colors, and are made with high-quality fabric and care.

NorthFace Rain Jacket: CONS

This might sound silly but the biggest downside of the jacket is that there is no inside pocket. If it’s raining extra hard, I would love to have the extra protection of being able to put my phone inside the jacket and keep it warm closer to my body.

Beginner’s Hiking Gear: Danner Hiking Boots

Danner Hiking Boots: PROS

When I hiked for one month across Spain on the Camino de Santiago, I went through three pairs of boots. The first pair gave me bad blisters. The second pair got two identical holes in the sole of each foot, soaking my feet as I walked through Galicia. The third pair was perfect but didn’t last long because the Spanish post office broke open the box I sent home after the hike, and only one shoe made it. Since then, I’ve been searching for the best hiking shoes for women.

I really looked around for a long time before finally settling on the Danner Women’s Portland Select Jag Hiking Boot. It had everything I wanted: good ankle support, comfort, solid sole with grip, durability, waterproof, and most importantly- style. I love the way these boots look. They’re cute. I’ve worn them all over the mountains and rocks of Argentina, along the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu, and in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

These might be the best hiking boots for wide feet in my opinion. I have pretty wide feet, but I’ve never felt that they were too tight or uncomfortable. In fact, they just get more and more comfortable with every use.

hiking gear list for beginners: Nicki stands at the basecamp of Volcano Misti in Peru.

Danner Hiking Boots: CONS

After a ton of use, these boots are still in great shape. The only issue I have is that the fabric next to the bottom laces is starting to tear. There is a tiny hole along the seam between the mesh fabric and the leather piece that holds the shoelace holes. It hasn’t become a huge problem yet, but I am worried that if it gets worse, the boots will be much less ‘waterproof.’

Beginner’s Hiking Gear: Chaco Hiking Sandals

Chaco Hiking Sandals: PROS

As I mentioned, I do a lot of hiking, and a lot of that hiking occurs in the summer. And as far as footwear is concerned, I generally wear hiking boots or sports shoes. However, that can become a real hassle if I’m hiking to a waterfall or a river. There is nothing worse than the feeling of putting on socks and shoes back on after you’ve been swimming, and you still have a bit of dirt and sand stuck to your feet you can’t quite get off. That’s why I really wanted to get myself some hiking sandals. Not just any sandal would do. I wanted hiking sandals with arch support. I wanted hiking sandals of good quality and comfort. Something adjustable for different moments.

Hiking Gear List for Beginners: A bird's eye view, looking down on my feet wearing Chaco sandals. Nicki is standing on a rock.
Nicki wears Chaco sandals

I looked around for a while before finally purchasing a pair of Chacos. I tried on all the brands, and all the styles, and the hiking sandals I found that ticked all my boxes were the Chaco Women’s Zx/1 Cloud Outdoor Sandal.

The double-thin strap was much more comfortable on my feet than that single wider strap, which seemed to cut into my feet. I also liked the Zx/1 Cloud because there is no toe hole. It allows my whole toe area to be open in that case where I might want to wear socks, for example. Even after I walk through water, the sandals are still comfortable. I don’t find them to rub strangely while wet as a lot of sandals can do.

These sandals are usually $100, but I found them online for $50 here.

Chaco Hiking Sandals: CONS

While I do really like these sandals now, it did take a while to break them in. I had to wear them around the house and around the neighborhood to really start feeling comfortable in them. Also, the arch of the Zx/1 Cloud platform seems to be a bit further back than my natural foot arch so that was awkward, and even a little painful, until I adjusted. Another con is that you have to pull on the straps in order to adjust them. But they’re all connected so it’s a balance to get each section feeling good until you get used to this style of adjusting.

Beginner’s Hiking Gear: Cotopaxi Allpa 28L Backpack

Cotopaxi Allpa backpack: PROS

I can’t say this enough: I love Cotopaxi and I love this backpack. The Allpa backpack comes in three sizes: 28L, 35L, and 42L. I have the 28L. I personally feel this is the best daypack for hiking. It doesn’t feel too big or overwhelming but has a ton of space and pockets. I use this bag not only for hiking but as my airplane carry-on as well. There is an outside top pocket on the bag (with small pockets and dividers inside that) for easy access to small items like phones, wallets, passports, keys, etc. It even has a small hook to attach your keys so you won’t lose them in there.

The Allpa 28L backpack unzips on 3 sides and opens wide, where you’ll find 3 inner zip pockets of varying sizes. These pockets are perfect for storing your extra clothes, snacks, water bottle, yoga mat, books, etc. When I fly, I keep my electronics in here. There is even a secret outer side pocket that is padded so you can store your laptop and iPad here safely. When I go on long hikes, I store a Camelbak in this pocket and feed the straw tube out the top. It’s perfect for multi-use occasions. There is another smaller side pocket that has an included rain cover stored in it. If the clouds start to roll in, you can quickly grab it out and strap the elastic easily around the bag, making it the ideal gear for hiking in the rain. Mine is turquoise and can be seen in the photo above.

One of my absolute favorite parts of this bag is not just the sturdiness and durability, but the colors. I love how bright the colors are. There are several to choose from. I’m constantly getting compliments on this bag.

Hiking Gear List for Beginners: Nicki looks into the distance of nature. She is standing on a rock looking at nature.
Nicki looks out at the clouds

Cotopaxi Allpa backpack: CONS

I honestly can’t think of a con. I love this bag so much. It was a little expensive, but I think the cost is worth it, as it is durable and tough; I’ve had it for about 3 years now and it is still in great condition. I’ve taken it hiking, trekking, on airplanes, on short weekends away, etc.

Beginner’s Hiking Gear: LifeStraw Water Bottle

LifeStraw Water Bottle: PROS

I like to be eco-conscious as much as possible while traveling, and one of the biggest issues I have is how often I get stuck with having to purchase so much plastic while abroad. There are a lot of countries that unfortunately have undrinkable tap water, so I’m stuck buying several plastic water bottles to stay hydrated. When I’m living in a place, it’s easier to buy the large 7L bottles to have at home, keeping the plastic purchases to a minimum. But when I’m only in one place for a few days, I want something smaller to carry around with me. That’s why, before my last two-month trip through Central Mexico, I bought a 650ml LifeStraw water bottle.

hiking gear list for beginners: Holding the LifeStraw water bottle by the caribiner.
My LifeStraw Water bottle

The 650ml LifeStraw is a personal water filter bottle you can carry around with you. You can fill it up in the sink in places you normally wouldn’t drink the tap water. You can fill it up in rivers or streams when you’re hiking. There is also a carabiner attached to the bottle so you can clip it on your bag easily. You’ve always got fresh, clean water wherever you go. I used this LifeStraw personal water filter bottle for two months in Mexico and didn’t get sick once.

You simply fill up the bottle, screw on the lid, and suck through the straw. Voila! You’ve got instant fresh water!

LifeStraw Water Bottle: CONS

While there are many things I like about it, I also have to be honest about my dislikes in this Lifestraw water bottle review. The absolute most annoying aspect about this bottle is that it leaks if it’s not perfectly straight up. I don’t trust it enough to toss it in my bag and go. Even if the lid is screwed on all the way. I’ve never had an issue with it clipped onto the outside of my bag, or inside my sling pouch water bottle holder. But it will almost certainly leak if it falls over on its side.

The other thing I dislike about the bottle is that it can be quite hard to suck the water up through the straw. If I’m using it every day, it’s not a problem. But if I use it for the first time after several weeks of not using it, the filter becomes quite stiff and you need to use a lot of force to pull the water up and get it going again.

Even with these two annoyances, I am still glad to have the bottle as I feel the advantage of having clean drinking water is more important than the spills. I just need to be extra cognizant of where I put it.

Beginner’s Hiking Gear: Mikkoa Travel Yoga Mat

Mikkoa Travel Yoga Mat: PROS

Traveling with a yoga mat is not always easy. It takes up a lot of precious space in your bag. It never fits in a carry-on suitcase. It can make your bag a bit heavier. In short, it’s not fun. But if I don’t bring a yoga mat with me, it makes the eternal struggle to exercise while traveling even more difficult. That’s where Mikkoa comes in. The travel mats from Mikkoa are purposely made with travel in mind. They are thin and fold up easily to fit in your bag. It is the same size as a folded-up T-shirt. The bottom of the Mikoa travel yoga mat is very grippy so you don’t have to worry about slipping and sliding. I’ve used this mat both indoors and outdoors, and have been impressed each time. Honestly, having this yoga mat is a game-changer. I can bring it with me on every trip, knowing I will be able to do some exercise each morning without worry.

Mikkoa also has a ton of beautiful mat designs to choose from. This one (pictured below) is the Mystic Marble. The surface of the yoga mat is moisture-wicking, so you don’t have to worry about it getting slippery if you sweat. But if it does get kinda nasty, just throw that sucker in the washing machine. Mikkoa has a ton of other great eco-friendly features that you can read about here.

Hiking Gear List for Beginners: Nicki holds up her Mikkoa travel yoga mat. It's purple and pink marble. In the background there are green hills and a grey sky.
Nicki loves her Mikkoa travel yoga mat.

Mikkoa Travel Yoga Mat: CONS

If you want to know how to travel with a yoga mat, the secret is Mikkoa. It’s light and thin in order to fit into your travel bag easily. But that ends up being both a pro and a con. Because it’s so light and thin, it can hurt your knees a bit if placed on a very hard surface. So I would say that as a yoga mat for general use, it is of course not the best option as padding on the pad is important. But for a travel yoga mat, which can be easily brought with you on a hike for some fresh mountain air yoga, it’s ideal.

Beginner’s Hiking Gear: Conclusion

This hiking gear list for beginners aims to help you get started with your hiking or traveling journey. However, the most important thing is to just start. Go out there and do it. Get in nature. This hiking gear list for beginners is a start, providing my personal favorite products and items. But you by no means need to have everything on this list to go out and be in nature. Just start with what you have, and go from there. You will slowly start to find what makes you happy, comfortable, and confident on your hikes.

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