The Best Plus-Size Hiking and Backpacking Gear

From a fat adventurer who has done it all.

by Sam Ortiz

From short day hikes, to multi day backpacking trips, to snowshoeing and alpine snow camping—I have tried and tested many of the options for plus-size hiking and backpacking gear currently available on the market… and also experienced plenty of things that weren’t made with my body in mind.

Having gear and apparel that works for my body helps me stay comfortable and better enjoy my outdoor experiences. I hope the following suggestions will help you enjoy your time in nature, too.

 

Backpacks

Sizing a backpack

Years ago, when I was buying my first backpack, I was surprised to learn that their sizing doesn’t correlate to the size of clothing you wear. As with any other gear, I tried shopping for the largest size I could find. I ended up with a pack that was more than three sizes too big for me and caused me extreme discomfort when wearing it! I thought everyone was simply dealing with the back pain that I was experiencing. I didn’t know that the size of a backpack actually refers to torso length, and not stomach circumference.

Whether you’re going day hiking or backpacking, getting the right size pack is important because it determines how the load is carried. In my case, my first pack was much too tall, none of the load was being distributed correctly and it felt like it was, quite literally, pulling me down!

Plus Size Packs

So how do you find a pack that is both the correct torso length AND plus-size friendly? There are a few different solutions, depending on your personal preference.

Gregory Mountain Products came out with the first ever line of backpacks designed specifically for folks who wear plus sizes! Jenny Bruso, founder of Unlikely Hikers, worked with Gregory to develop a line of packs with people of size and our specific needs in mind. 

Gregory’s Amber 65 Plus Size Backpack

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Other companies are following suit and more plus size backpacks should be on the market in the coming seasons!

But, plus size specific packs are not the only option. Some companies have hip belts that will fit up to a 2x or 3x comfortably, like my personal favorite Deuter. Others, like Osprey, offer hip belt extenders at no cost when you reach out to the manufacturer.

The best way to find a pack that works for you is to take some time and try different packs on in-store.

How to Choose Backpack Size by Liters

When it comes to backpacks, ‘liters’ refers to how much volume that pack can hold.

Plus size hikers and backpackers often have items that are larger than our straight size counterparts. When it comes to extra layers and sleeping system set ups, mine simply take up more space in my pack. For this reason, I suggest sizing up from any “recommended” amount.

 

Trekking Poles

One of the pieces of gear I literally never leave home without is trekking poles. While these aren’t a necessity to getting outdoors, they do make it more enjoyable for me! 

Trekking poles serve a number of functions. When going uphill (and especially on large steps up) trekking poles help me use my whole body to pull myself upward. Rather than just using my legs, I am also able to use my hands and upper body to push up off the poles, as well.

When going down hill, I use trekking poles to help lower me, taking some of the pressure off of my knees. These are especially helpful for large steps downhill, as they are two extra points of contact that help ensure stability.

For plus size folks, I recommend getting shock-absorbing trekking poles with lever locks, to ensure that the pole doesn’t collapse when weighted. I use Black Diamond’s Trail Pro Shock Trekking Poles.

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Sleeping Bags / Quilts

If you opt for a sleeping bag, the style of sleeping bag might make a difference. Mummy style bags are designed to fit close to the body and are often not wide enough for plus size backpackers.

Quilts are a great option for folks who may not be able to find a sleeping bag that fits their body comfortably. UST gear just released their Capen Camp Blanket with a two-person option. This is great larger option for anyone who is looking for a quilt with plenty of room.

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 SHOP AMAZON (SIMILAR)

Footwear

Many plus size hikers struggle to find footwear that works for them, due to shoes being too narrow.

Merrell is perhaps one of the most widely appreciated shoe companies for plus size hikers because of their selection of a variety of different shoes, including hiking boots, in wide widths. 

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Other companies such as Keen, La Sportiva, and Oboz are also good options for folks with wide feet.

Extra tip: For people who struggle to find shoes that fit in women’s sizing, opt for men’s! Men’s boots are naturally built for wider feet.

Clothing for Plus-Size Hiking and Backpacking

Having the right clothing outdoors can make or break a trip or experience. Having clothing that functions the way you need it to is important not only for comfort, but also for safety in the outdoors. 

Alpine Parrot – Ponderosa Pant

This small, woman-owned business was determined to make a hiking pant especially for plus size women. These pants are available in two distinct fits, because folks who wear plus sizes come in many different shapes!

Available in sizes up to 24W.

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Duluth Trading Company – Women’s Plus NoGA Classic 7″ Shorts

These shorts are the perfect combination of length and comfort. The longer inseam helps to eliminate the opportunity for chub rub, while their soft and stretchy fabric makes them comfortable enough to wear all day!

Available in sizes up to 3x.

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Ottomatic Threads – Base Layers

These base layers are the most size inclusive available on the market! They’re manufactured by a small, woman-owned business who has put their heart and soul into crafting the perfect fit for their plus size customers.

Available in sizes up to 6x.

SHOP OTTOMATIC THREADS

Alder Apparel – Open Air Pants

One of the things that Alder Apparel gets right is fit! These ultra-comfortable pants come in a variety of colors and even two different lengths. Alder’s website features the pants on models of all sizes to ensure you know exactly what the pant looks like on someone with a similar body type.

Available in sizes up to 6X

SHOP ALDER APPAREL

Outdoor Research Women’s Aspire II Plus Size Rain Jacket

The main thing I love about this raincoat is how it unzips fully down both sides. This makes the coat adjustable to fit different body types, especially those who carry more weight in their hips, butt, or belly. This also helps to add a little extra breeze on those warm rainy days!

Available in sizes up to 3x, with 4x coming soon.

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Columbia – Powder Lite Jacket

As one of the first companies on the market with outdoor gear in plus sizes, Columbia has a number of options when it comes to plus size gear. I love this puffy jacket because of its lightweight design and comfortable fit.

Available in sizes up to 3x.

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Eddie Bauer – Sandstone Backbone Grid Hoodie

One of the things I love about Eddie Bauer’s Sandstone Backbone series is their lightweight, yet very technical feel. These pieces come in bright colors and neutrals, to fit your preference.

Available in sizes up to 3x.

SHOP COLUMBIA 

 SHOP AMAZON

Outdoor Research – Echo Hoody

This extra light sun hoody is perfect for when you’re looking for a breathable top! I’ve enjoyed this top for days on the water, hiking, as a base layer, and more! I love the light fit and bright colors that Outdoor Research offers.

Available in sizes up to 3x, with 4x coming soon.

SHOP OUTDOOR RESEARCH

REI – Take Your Time Bra

If you’re like me and love to opt for a sports bra on hot days in the sun, the Take Your Time Bra might be for you! This light support, long line bra comes in a variety of colors. The buttery, stretch fabric of this piece allows me to enjoy all day comfort.

Available in sizes up to 3x.

SHOP REI

 

Photos courtesy of Sam Ortiz and retailers’ linked websites.

Editor’s Note: Some of the product information in this article include affiliate links, which help to support the expenses of maintaining She Explores and our ability to create resources like this at no cost to you.

  1. Heidi H says:

    Love that you’ve shared some places where to get plus size gear, thanks for this! I actually have that blue Columbia jacket. Love it!! I’m an outdoor adventurer myself and size doesn’t necessarily dictate activity level or ability. Thanks!!

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