Whether you’re a regular outdoor adventurer or just starting to explore all that nature has to offer, choosing an outfit for the day can be a complicated task. If this sounds like you, then you’re in the right place!
Between a market oversaturated with thousands of brands and the fickleness of weather, deciding on the most appropriate women’s outdoor clothing is not as simple as it might seem.
No matter what your outdoor destination is, keep reading for a comprehensive guide on women’s outdoor clothing.
Though you’re going outdoors, the clothing you wear under it all is still important. It sets your body’s mood in terms of temperature, whether that means retaining heat or quick cooling.
For most women, bras are an uncomfortable yet necessary piece of underclothing, especially when we’re engaged in an athletic activity that involves a lot of movement. Whatever the sports bra type you choose, we suggest moisture-wicking, machine-washable material.
The amount of support women need in a sports bra depends on body type and personal preference. If you’re going to be engaged in intense athletic activity, we suggest you try out whatever bra you choose at least once before starting your adventure.
For a medium-support sports bra with racerback, you can find 3-pack deals online.
Though even non-sports bras are starting to ditch the underwires in traditional bras, you might still prefer the extra bit of support they provide. You can still find wired sports bras online if that sounds like you.
Bralettes have recently become super popular, and it’s easy to see why with their wireless, stretchy embrace. Wireless bras inherently provide less support, but if that’s something that you don’t need or doesn’t bother you, you can find some great athletic bralettes at REI.
Underwear is arguably even more of an essential women’s outdoor clothing choice than bras because it is in direct contact with our nether regions. You need comfortable and good-quality underwear to enjoy your outdoor adventure.
For most women, cotton bikini briefs are the go-to choice of underwear. Simple, comfortable, and good quality ensures a great experience.
For those that don’t like the look of their underwear seam peaking out beneath their pants, thongs are the way to go. Just remember to buy high-quality breathable material.
Though the truth is that you can wear whatever you’re most comfortable in while working out or prancing around the outdoors, some types of underwear are made specifically with athleticism in mind.
Athletic underwear is a popular article of women’s outdoor clothing because they’re often moisture-wicking, quick-drying, and treated with antimicrobial treatment to reduce odor.
Seamless underwear—no matter the shape—is hands down the most comfortable piece of women’s (under) outdoor clothing. It avoids uncomfortable rubbing or chafing, and you might even forget you’re wearing underwear!
Though long underwear isn’t really considered underwear anymore, it’s an essential piece of women’s outdoor clothing if you’re headed somewhere cold.
Commonly called Long Johns, you’ll certainly want to bring along a warm, thermal pair with good heat retention if you plan on spending time in the snow!
One of the worst feelings ever is having cold, wet feet. That inherently means that one of the best feelings is dry and warm feet, which you can guarantee by having the right kind of women’s outdoor footwear, starting with your socks!
If you’re not sure where to start, good old traditional cotton quarter-length socks are always a good option. Guaranteed not to slide beneath your heel and made of excellent quality, these socks are a great go-to no matter what awaits you outdoors.
Depending on your outdoor activity, you might prefer short socks to tall or quarter-length socks. That’s especially true if you plan on running on a hot summer day.
We suggest choosing a pair with a low-cut tab to avoid the socks slipping beneath your heels.
If your outdoor adventure takes you to a cold, snowy landscape, you should opt for warm wool hiking socks. There’s nothing worse than cold feet!
Though not specifically an article of women’s outdoor clothing, compression socks are certainly the way to go if you have circulation or swelling problems in your legs or ankles. Make sure to talk to your doctor before wearing them for long periods or during intense athletic activity.
First Layer of Clothing
Now that you’re all set with your underclothing, it’s time to think about the first layer of women’s outdoor clothing, which includes tops and bottoms.
As far as tops go, your choices are endless. The most important determining factors are the average temperature of your outdoor destination and your personal preference. Just always make sure to choose tops that are made of high-quality material!
Hot weather is a great time to break out the tank top. One of our favorites is this Minnesota-themed tank top to show your love for your state no matter where you go!
Keep in mind that tank tops inherently leave more skin exposed. So remember to bring bug spray and sunscreen!
Short-sleeved shirts are a great article of women’s outdoor clothing for layering. If you’re not sure if you’ll get hot enough to just be in a short sleeve, you can always pull a sweatshirt over it, and still have the option if it gets warmer.
Long sleeve shirts are also a good start to your women’s outdoor clothing layering. It’s usually the better option over a short sleeve during the fall and spring time, when it will probably be a little chillier than in the summer.
For those women who don’t need too much cleavage support, you can essentially go braless with some shirts, like this ribbed bra top. Some women love the freeing feeling (and only throwing one thing in the washer at the end of the day!), while others prefer the extra support – it’s all up to you!
Bottoms in women’s outdoor clothing vary even more than tops. Make sure to choose products that fit comfortably, are made of good quality, and have pockets if at all possible!
Shorts are certainly the most traditional way to go. While there are many options out there, we prefer comfortable shorts with cheerful colors and great pockets that are great both at the campsite and on the trail!
Even if you’re venturing outdoors in the summer, bringing at least one pair of long pants is always a good idea. You never know how chilly it might get at night or the tall grasses you’ll be trekking through on your hikes.
If you really can’t choose between shorts and long pants (or maybe you’re on a backpacking trip and just can’t bring both) then the go-to article of women’s outdoor clothing for you should be convertible pants. Switch from shorts to pants with the pull of a zipper, on the go!
There’s no denying that leggings are one of the most comfortable and flattering bottoms in women’s outdoor clothing. Paired with some tall socks, leggings (or tights, and some call them) are a great option if you’re worried about ticks or other insects.
Most good quality leggings these days come with pockets, and some are even fleece-lined for the colder season!
Spandex shorts or biker shorts are also a great bottoms option in women’s outdoor clothing for hot weather. The only difference between these types of shorts and traditional loose clothing is the feel, so choose whichever one you are most comfortable in!
Now that you’re all set with your first layers of clothes, it’s time to consider outerwear in women’s outdoor clothing—which is what will really make or break your nature adventure if you’re planning on facing any temperature that isn’t mild.
Sweatshirts are probably the most obvious article of women’s outdoor clothing to bring along on your outdoor adventures. Chances are that you already have a favorite comfy sweatshirt or crewneck to use, but if not, go for a sweatshirt that shows off your Minnesota spirit!
There are many types of jackets out there, but the two most important categories (besides snow jackets that you’ll come across later on in this post) are lighter running jackets and wind and water-repellant jackets.
Though it’s called a running jacket, you don’t have to be a runner to make use of one. Essentially it’s a light jacket with a full zip that is nevertheless heavier than your traditional sweatshirt, plus it has pockets.
You can usually layer a running jacket onto a short-sleeve shirt or long-sleeve shirt. Depending on the temperature range of your outdoor trip, you’ll be thankful to have brought one along!
Wind and Water Repellant Jacket
Also known as a shell jacket, this article of women’s outdoor clothing isn’t necessarily for trapping warmth as much as it is for being wind and water-repellant (though not 100% waterproof).
Perfect for layering over anything from tank tops to sweatshirts, they usually pack real tight, so you can bring it along no matter how small your backpack is!
Though we all hope for a clear sky and a sunny day, sometimes the weather turns for the worst and brings rain. This can be disappointing, but imagine how much more disappointing it would be to get caught unprepared without the correct women’s outdoor clothing!
Ponchos are not the most practical rain gear, but they’re the best option for so-called emergency situations: when there is zero percent chance of rain in the morning, but by the afternoon, you get caught in a monsoon-like storm.
Whether for one-time use or a reusable poncho, they’re not as practical as rain jackets, but you’ll be glad to have brought one along next time you’re hit with an unexpected rainstorm.
If you know your outdoor adventure will get a little wet, a waterproof rain jacket is the way to go. Usually thinner than traditional jackets, their primary purpose isn’t to keep you warm, but to keep you dry.
If you’re worried about getting cold and wet, we suggest buying a size up to ensure you can layer the rain jacket onto a sweatshirt.
Though probably self-explanatory, you should always bring along rain pants if you expect some rain on your outdoor adventure. You can wear them independently or on top of tighter-fitting bottoms like leggings or shorts.
If you’re the adventurous type, you’ll need women’s outdoor clothing for extreme weather. Think snow and freezing wind—situations where it’s more critical than ever to be equipped with the proper clothing, or else you risk frostbite.
Extreme weather clothing is usually more expensive, but it’s well worth the money to keep you warm!
A good quality jacket like an insulated parka is an absolute must for the winter, whether or not you’re outdoors for camping purposes or to get from your car in the parking lot to your office!
Make sure it fits loosely enough to fit over your favorite sweaters and long sleeves.
Overalls are our preferred snow pants for winter sports in women’s outdoor clothing. Not only do they keep your bottoms from slipping, but you’re guaranteed not to get any snow up your shirt or down your pants, even if it’s particularly windy or you fall while hitting the slopes.
During winter in the city, you might get away with keeping your hands in your pockets. But if you’re on an outdoor adventure, you know you’ll need to use your hands, which means you’ll need some serious gloves.
In extreme weather conditions, your jacket’s hood won’t be enough. Make sure to bring along a warm beanie to keep your head and ears warm!
Considerations on Material
Now that you’ve gotten the lowdown on most women’s outdoor clothing, take a moment to consider two types of material you should be aware of when clothing shopping.
Quick dry is a light, athletic material that, as the name says, dries quickly. Though usually useful for clothing you’d wear in the summer—like tanktops and short sleeves—you’ll also find long sleeves, light jackets, and leggings made of quick dry material.
Quick dry material is also helpful if you have to hand wash something at the last minute. It will dry much faster than cotton, and certainly than fleece!
Fleece is the quintessential warm and fuzzy material of women’s outdoor clothing. You’ll find it in all kinds of sweatshirts, as well as in the lining of jackets and pants. If you’re heading somewhere cold, bring some fleece along!
Pack Your Women’s Outdoor Clothing!
We hope this guide has given you some guidance on your future shopping for women’s outdoor clothing. Nothing ruins a nature trip like being inadequately dressed, so make sure to plan your gear from the first to the last layer!
- About the Author
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Margherita Bassi is a freelance writer, journalist, and editor. She grew up between the US and Europe, and nurtured her love for nature and the outdoors in both countries.
In the US, she went on dozens of RV trips with her family, scouted out the best restaurants in every city she visited, and learned how to grow herbs and veggies of all kinds by watching her mother.
With an MA in International New Media Journalism, Margherita is also a skilled researcher in a wide range of topics, and has extensive experience interviewing both individuals and experts.