Hiking Tips For Women: How To Prepare For A Hike

hiking tips

These Hiking Tips are a Must

Hitting the trail ladies? Check out these hiking tips that you should definitely live by, especially if you are thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail! Check out these tips before hitting the hiking trail! Be safe!

Hiking tips for women 101

Through 14 states and 5 national parks, hike the entire Appalachian Trail and you’ll have trekked more than 2,100 miles, from the lush foliage of Georgia’s Springer Mountain to the vertigo-inducing ridge of Mount Katahdin in Maine. It’s one of the greatest hiking trails in the United States!

You can even do it all without packing a tent, sheltering instead under the eaves of one of the AT’s over 250 free shelters, staggered at 8-mile intervals along the trail.

But there are some things no woman should forget before heading out for a 5 to 8 month journey through the wilderness.

Hiking Tips: Don’t Forget

Hiking Tips for Women- Pack EssentialsNo call of nature goes unheard in the wild. Obviously, you’ll be digging catholes and doing your business in the woods. That can be difficult for some people, especially if you find the idea of packing out your toilet paper gross. But packing out TP is better than burying it, at least if you’re environmentally-minded.

A square of Charmin Double Soft takes around a month to decompose, according to AtlastGuides.com, who actually did the experiment to prove it.

I suggest bringing along baby wipes since they’re efficient and you’ll have to use less of them than you would with toilet paper. Baby wipes can also double when you need to wipe them down after getting really dirty.

Deodorant, on the other hand, is usually considered a no-no because the scent could attract animals. Bags are essential: good, sturdy, Ziploc-style bags for your used wiping materials. Bringing along a tube of diaper cream isn’t a bad idea, either, because you will chafe, especially after a few days in the same pants.

To complete the picture, I think hand sanitizer is a good bet since you don’t want to be spreading any nasty bacteria.

Hitting the Trail

You’ll also have to pack out your tampons, which is why lots of women switch to using DivaCups before they hit the trail. Using a menstrual cup is kind of tricky, so I think practicing before you set out is a good idea, ideally several periods beforehand. I’m not going to lie: periods are hard on a thru-hike.

Beyond cramping for days, you’ll usually only have one or two pairs of pants to choose from. But once you’ve got the hang of it, a menstrual cup is pretty liberating. You only have to change it every 12 hours, so you won’t need to worry about stopping repeatedly to dig another hole and bury your tampon. DivaCups are especially great for people hiking in developing countries, where the waste management can be an issue, and hygiene products may be in short supply.

One thing you can go without? Your hair, at least if you have fine hair prone to knotting. Think about chopping it shortly before you set out, so you won’t have to cut out huge clumps of matted hair at the end.

Hiking Tips for Women Packing Essentials Slider 2Hiking Tips: Love on the trail

After a week or so, thru-hikers aren’t the most attractive people on the planet, but “trail couples” do develop and sex isn’t as rare as you might expect. You could bring a roll of condoms, but as with tampons, the idea of packing the rubbers out is something you’ll have to think about.

Some women choose to get an IUD before they head out. If that sounds like a good option, be sure to make the switch several months in advance. IUDs can make your first few periods heavier than normal. Obviously, oral contraceptives are another option and, for some women, that may eliminate the hassle of dealing with your period on the trail entirely.

Or you could just go the opposite route, and leave men in the dust. Thru-hiking, whether you’re planning to do the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest, or Spain’s (surprisingly commercial) El Camino de Santiago, is often seen as a man’s thing, and it’s true that the vast majority of thru-hikers are male.

While most are nice, and perfectly respectable people, they also tend to be competitive, which can be annoying or insufferable.

You’ll also meet a few creeps. Some guys seem to think a half-eaten Clif bar is all it takes to clinch a hookup. Don’t be afraid to be “rude.”  For protection, bring a bottle of pepper spray and carry it on your hip. Just in case; it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever need it.

But whatever you do, do not change who you are to match up to hiking partners, or people you meet along the way.


Only around 12,000 people have completed the Appalachian Trail, from start to finish, since the trail itself was completed in 1937, according to CNN.

You should be the next one, but don’t forget the hiking essentials!

Kim Dougherty, Esq. is an attorney in Boston, and has spent most of her legal career advocating for women's’ health issues. Kim currently serves as the President of the Massachusetts Women’s Bar Association, where she works to increase gender equity in the legal profession. She is lead sponsor of the website BirthControlProblems.com.
Kim Dougherty
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