I’m not hugely athletic (literally participated in zero team sports as a kid — zero!), but if there’s one activity that I’ve pursued somewhat consistently throughout my childhood and my adult life, it’s hiking. It’s such a fun, fast way for me to clear my head while moving my body — and for some reason, no matter how strenuous, it feels much less like work than some other active pursuits. Maybe it’s because, at its core, hiking doesn’t really change a lot between childhood and adulthood. You pick an area to explore, and you, uhhhh, explore it.
On the Hunt For A Cute Hiking Outfit (That’s Also Technical)
We’ve always hiked with Lana, but this past year we logged a few more miles than usual. In part because she’s getting bigger, and in part because, well, pandemic life. And while she can scale just about anything in leggings and a pair of Vans, I realized I was long overdue for a little gear update. On the boots front, at the very least, but I also needed a light, non-sweatshirt layer for misty morning hikes — oh, and shorts. In my 20s and even early 30s (read: pre-Lana), I hiked in itty bitty bike shorts, or itty bitty yoga shorts, or itty bitty running shorts. (Hmmm, sensing a theme here…) And while I still like the idea of a shorter inseam, I also like my thighs to not sport coaster-sized patches of chafed skin. Imagine that.
So, when I had the opportunity to work with our longtime partner Backcountry this month, the timing couldn’t have been better. I’d been eyeing a few of these hiking pieces for some time, and Lana’s been asking to do “the banana slug hike” for the past couple of months, so I placed a big ol’ order, and on our next free weekday morning before school (she’s in the afternoon cohort), we set out on our adventure.
Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve is maybe 10 or 15 minutes from home, but it feels like a world away. Super lush, with a looming canopy of redwoods shot through with sunbeams, a verdant forest floor that feels almost prehistoric, and plenty of fallen logs for climbing. The trails are super family-friendly — you can find loads to do within even a quarter mile of the parking lot (climb into giant stumps, explore the creek, and yes, hunt banana slugs) — but you can also log some serious miles, and experience a few vastly different microclimates while you’re at it, all in a couple hours’ time. It does tend to get busy on the weekends, and they’ve restricted some of the areas where you used to be able to park on the road, but if you can get an early start, or sneak in a weekday excursion, it’s a worthwhile destination.
It was the perfect environment in which to field test my new hiking layers. And, yes, my new Danner boots — which I swear I tried to avoid loving. More on all of the pieces that passed the test, below.
Note: You can save 15% off most full-priced items at Backcountry with code THEMOMEDIT. I used it for all of the items below, so I can vouch that it works — Danner boots included!
Summer Hiking Outfit: High-Rise Shorts, Waterproof Boots & More Women’s Technical Gear That’s Really Worth It
I’m picky (like really picky) about technical products, especially when you’re going to pay a bit more for them, so I ordered quite the haul when I was on the hunt for new summer hiking gear. Everything that made the final cut is genuinely comfortable, performs as advertised, in most cases, travels well (we do a fair amount of hiking and adventuring when we travel, and I think that’s where getting what you pay for often comes into play,) and actually looks good on. Hurrah! That said, for almost every piece detailed below, I found an almost equally good runner-up. Enough so that I’m putting together a quickie follow-up post detailing those items, too. Stay tuned!
Finding a light, windbreaker-y layer was more or less the impetus for this post, and this one caught my eye immediately. It’s so fun, I love the color, but it’s also perfectly functional for hiking in these parts. The ideal layer if you’re hiking in mist or fog, or if it’s just a hair chilly and you don’t want to find yourself sweating in a hoodie. The kangaroo pocket is perfect for stashing my phone for quick access (for the camera, folks — the camera!) — and it smooshes down super tiny, too. Even kinda packs into its own pocket. Super-affordable price point. Also extremely into this one, which is just as eye-catching and has a hood. Wearing a S.
I love a wool tank for active pursuits and travel, and this Icebreaker version is so lovely. I wore an almost identical style while backpacking in Hong Kong, and it held up to five days of consecutive wear on both the trail and in the city without turning into a stinkfest. (It handwashes easily, too.) Easy to dress up with joggers and some gold jewelry for a night out, especially if you’re trying to get some travel mileage out of it. Because of that, I consider it well worth the price. Available in a few really tasteful, versatile colors. Wearing a S.
Whoa, high-rise hiking shorts, friends. These things are game-changing. High enough that you can tuck your top so it doesn’t ride up where your pack meets your waistband, cute little colorful accents, flattering dolphin hem, technical fabric that’s not too thin or stretchy. (Don’t get me wrong, I love thin and stretchy technical fabrics, but sometimes I want something that feels just a little more robust if I’m going to be straddling or shimmying.) And no chafing! They’ve got slash pockets and one zippered pocket for storing an ID or cash. Or, if you’re like me, your health insurance card. (Never can be too paranoid.) These are genuinely some of the best hiking shorts I’ve tried, and they actually look pretty dang cute. Wearing a S. Also REALLY loved these On the Go pants, but the XS I ordered was too tight across the bum. Eagerly awaiting a S so I can provide what I’m assuming is going to be a rave review — but they’re on sale for 30% off as we speak.)
Hooboy. I think these socks might deserve a post of their own. I’ve been wearing Injinji socks for…15 years now. Yes, they’re toe socks. No, they’re not the clown-striped abominations you’re recalling. They’re constructed without any bulky seams, and they’re designed to let your toes function individually, just as they were meant to. Imagine that. They also prevent rubbing, wick excess moisture and just generally kick freaking butt. They’ve got all kinds of lengths and weights for daily wear (yep, these are what I wear with my sneakers) running, hiking — you name it. Even a liner weight (sizing is unisex, follow the size guide) that allows you to layer them under a thicker hiking or ski sock. I can’t say enough about them, so I’ll just stop trying. Take a chance on them and thank me later. (Oh! And as you wash and wear them, they become easier and easier to pull on, so it’s a matter of seconds, if that, that you spend getting your toes in the right spot.) Wearing a S.
I tried, friends. I put valiant effort into finding a pair of hiking boots that haven’t already been recommended on The Mom Edit — and/or that were a hair more affordable. And I came close. (In fact, I’ll be covering them in more detail in a follow-up post.) But when it came down to it, I wanted a mountaineering-style boot with a classic look (I already have a pair of Vasques with higher ankle support that have served me well for years of hiking and even a little backpacking), and the Danner Mountain Lights were pretty close to perfect right out of the box.
As the name suggests, they’re lighter than they look but still rugged as hell. They have a Vibram sole that just won’t quit. And you cannot beat the quality of construction. I used heel lock lacing to decrease the amount of heel lift/rubbing for the first few hikes, and it definitely takes an extra minute of patience, but it’s worth the time; not sure if I’ll default back to standard lacing once the leather breaks in and they conform to my feet a bit more. Yes, they’re an investment — but even after just a few hikes, I know these will be the boots I default to when I can only choose to pack one pair of footwear for hiking AND urban trekking. And at the end of the day, they’re cute enough to pass as streetwear, too. Oh, and I can totally vouch for the fact that you can save 15% with code THEMOMEDIT, which takes off more than $50. Not bad. Re: sizing — I’m a really solid 8, and following both the reviews and Danner’s size calculator, I sized down a 7.5.
This is technically a hydration pack, and even comes with a bladder, and it’s the ideal size for a day hike with the family. It’s got pockets galore — and room for our giant YETI (the chug opening is so awesome — I actually prefer this to a bladder if we’re not doing anything too strenuous). Easily fits all the other usual suspects, too: loads of snacks, sunnies, hand sanitizer, wipes (at what age do you stop bringing along wipes for your kiddos? I think maybe…never?), Band-Aids and athletic tape, and an extra layer for each of us. There’s also a stowable rain fly, and you can strap a helmet to it, too, if you’re using it for mountain biking. I love the waist belt pockets for quickly accessing stuff like a sunscreen stick or chapstick. Designed and contoured for a woman’s body. And this color is even on sale for under $100.
Shop All My Hiking Outfit Picks From Backcountry
Everything featured in this post, plus a couple of tried and true faves — and a sneak peek at those “runner up” pieces that I’ll be detailing in a follow-up post. Save 15% on most full-priced items at Backcountry (including all the boots) with code THEMOMEDIT.
I’ve already logged a few more miles in this exact getup even since writing this post — and I’ve gotten a few compliments on the Cotopaxi windbreaker at drop-off, too (turns out, it’s real cute with black leggings and running shoes).
Stay tuned for more on the rest of the items in my Backcountry haul that made the cut (but just not this photoshoot).
And don’t forget to use code THEMOMEDIT to save 15% off most full-priced items.
Here’s to a summer of hiking!
Thank you to Backcountry and Shopstyle for sponsoring this post. I’ve been long overdue for an excuse to update my hiking gear, and this was such a fun opportunity to do so. I’ve loved Backcountry for years (I grew up in a family only a little bit obsessed with having just the right gear for outdoor adventuring), and every time we get to work together, it feels like such a treat. And thanks, as always, for reading along in this space and supporting our brand partners. It allows us to keep doing our thing, and we appreciate it so much!
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