This Body Positivity Activist Reviewed Our Best Plus-Size Hiking Clothes
She recently hiked through Arkansas’ Richland Creek Wilderness Area, trekked around Pinnacle Mountain State Park, and roamed the Balinese countryside—and that was just in the month of May.
Hiking fuels her soul, she says, and helps nourish her mental health.
“I realized a while ago that being outside in the woods is what I need to be happy,” McCurdy says. “The more I go out there, the happier I get.”
“It's hell out there trying to find something that is functional, cute, fits your body, and allows you to be mobile on the trail,” McCurdy explains. “When you’re talking about extended sizes, it's nearly impossible—like trying to find a unicorn. It is stressful and not healthy for our body image.
“It makes us not want to do things outside because it feels like we’re not invited. It’s like these brands are saying: ‘We have nothing for you. The outdoors are for everyone, but only if you can fit in our clothes.’”
Not only that, we’ve learned over the years how to tailor our apparel to fit larger bodies.
“With extended sizing, the whole garment needs to be larger,” McCurdy says. “Not just the chest—the sleeves too. Columbia is great about that. Another thing I've noticed is that your prices don't go up for plus-size stuff. A lot of brands upcharge for three more inches of fabric, which is quite upsetting. It feels alienating to us. Why should we have to pay a ‘fat tax’?”
We’ve been ahead of the game primarily because our founder, Gert Boyle, was a plus-size woman herself. She was the brand's first extended-size fit model and often advocated for size inclusion, leading us to make plus-size athletic wear earlier than most outdoor companies.
In an effort to show off our plus-size hiking collection, we sent a pile of clothes to McCurdy and asked her to take them out on some adventures. Over the course of six weeks, the Arkansas outdoorswoman tested more than a dozen hiking shirts, pants, leggings, jackets, baselayers, and other garments on a variety of trails and conditions.
Here were her top five choices, summarized in her own words.
The Best Plus-Size Hiking Clothes
1. The Best Hiking Pullover Top: Leslie Falls™ Long Sleeve
Looking at it on the rack, I was afraid it might be see-through but it’s not. The ruching on the side is very flattering and hits you around the obliques, looking nice on your waist.
I love that it doesn't ride up. It holds its shape. I'm not super tall, but I have a long torso. With some hiking shirts, I find they are too short in the torso and I end up pulling them down a lot. But this one is very long, which I appreciate because when I’m getting dressed to go hiking, I like to have my layers overlapping for protection from insects, sun, and other elements.
It’s a good material—very lightweight, like a sun shirt, with UPF-rated fabric for sun protection. It was a pretty hot day, probably in the 80s, and there wasn’t much of a breeze, but I felt fresh and clean. I was hiking pretty hard in Allsopp Park in Little Rock, Ark., and it did a great job as far as odor management goes. The material is moisture-wicking, so the shirt didn’t stick to my body.
I loved the length of the arms too. Plus-size tops will sometimes be plus-size in the body but not the arms—it’s very odd. Another thing is that they’re often too big in the chest. It’s like you're not allowed to be plus-size and have a small chest. My chest isn’t necessarily small, but it used to be bigger. Then I lost some weight and because life is cruel, most of it came from my chest. So when I wear extended-size shirts, they’re always too big in the chest. But Columbia shirts don't do that—they’re tailored for the bust as well as the rest of the sizing, which I appreciate.
This is a great shirt that feels good to wear and fits in all the right places.
2. The Best Hiking Button-Up Top: Silver Ridge Utility™ Shirt
It's got UPF 50 sun protection built in as well as moisture-wicking capabilities, which was great because we were wearing backpacks, which tend to make you sweaty around the shoulders and armpits. This shirt is great for hiking, but also for traveling in general. It was very humid during that trip—the type of thing where you're soaked with sweat the minute you walk out of your hotel room. But I wasn’t dying of heat the whole time, even though a lot of people I was traveling with were. They were pouring sweat and I felt pretty chill.
Plus, it’s stylish. I was feeling very cute—I had a “Laura Dern in Jurassic Park” look going on. When I walked out of my hotel room, before we even hit the trail, people were saying, “You look so adorable, like you’re ready to go on an adventure.”
In addition to staying cool, I didn’t come home with a million bug bites like everyone else because I was covered up, nor did I get sunburned.
Another nice thing is that it has tabs on the sleeves so you can roll them up and hold them there—you're not constantly pushing them up while you're hiking.
There are front pockets to stash stuff in and they have a hook-and-loop opening so you can access the pocket through the side instead of the top.
Overall, it’s a really great shirt—a good blend of stylish, but also very functional.
3. The Best Hiking Pants: Saturday Trail™ Hiking Stretch Pants
I wore them for a hike in the Ozark National Forest. I started with them rolled up so I’d be a little cooler temperature-wise, and I thought there might be some water crossings. But when I got there, I checked the trail guide and saw people pointing out that it’s tick season, so I rolled those bad boys back down, which was really convenient.
I usually change my shoes at the end of a hike before I drive home because they tend to be muddy or nasty. With these pants though, I was able to roll them up and change shoes easily. I didn't have to try to hold my pants while squatting by the car and getting dirty. And I like how the snap on the leg is hidden—it's tucked in this little pocket, which looks nice.
I also like the fit a lot. They have a mid-rise waist and they move well. I’m hourglass-shaped—I have very large thighs and hips with a smaller waist, so hiking pants sometimes feel too tight in those areas. But these didn’t.
They have a side zipper pocket on the leg that’s the perfect size for car keys or a debit card, and you know it's safe and secure. I have wide hips, so sometimes shallow side pockets have a tendency to come open and I can lose things. That didn’t happen with these.
The mesh pockets are great for breathability and the material is really comfortable. It's one of the coolest materials you can hike in—not like those spandex compression leggings where it feels like you're hiking in a wetsuit. There was the usual inner thigh sweat because I've got thick thighs and I'm hiking, but I can say they were very cool and comfortable to hike in.
They are definitely the most breathable pants I've worn from Columbia.
4. The Best Hiking Jacket: Powder Lite™ Jacket
And if the temperature gets too warm, you can pack it down easily because it's not bulky. It’s like a lightweight puffer jacket, but very thin, so it doesn’t have that puffy feel.
It has the biggest pockets known to man. They're warm on the inside with this fleecy, super soft blanket material and sturdy zippers.The collar is super comfortable with a covered zipper so it doesn't bother your chin, and the quality is excellent.
The arms are a good length. That's one of the things I love about Columbia jackets is the arms always hit me right where they need to, so I don't feel like I'm freezing to death with my arms sticking out, but I also don't feel like I’m walking around with my sleeves below my hands.
There’s a drawcord around the bottom so you can cinch your jacket up around your hips if you want. My hips are big so I don’t usually have to do that, but there’s the option if you’re bigger in the stomach—it won’t be riding up.
On top of all that, it’s really durable. You can wear it anywhere—hike in the worst conditions and it's not going to rip but you can also wear it to work or running errands because it's comfortable and stylish.
This is my new favorite jacket.
5. The Best Hiking UPF Hat: Coolhead™ II Ball Cap
I’ve always had an obsession with Columbia hats, and even more so since we did this gear testing. I really like the Coolhead Ball Cap. Aside from the fact that it gives me different hairstyle options, it has all the performance features. It's really good at wicking sweat away and I don’t get sunburns on my face when I’m out hiking all day.
I wear it backwards when I’m in town, but when I’m hiking or doing things outside, I wear it forward to protect my face. It doesn't get sweaty like some hats do, and it never smells bad because the Omni-Wick™ gives it odor control. If it gets dirty, I can throw it in the washing machine and it keeps its shape.
There's a hook-and-loop system on the back to customize the fit so it stays on my head and doesn’t fall off. I’ve even worn it on boats.
When I wore it hiking, I noticed that the wicking sweatband prevented my face from getting sweaty and nasty.
It’s lightweight, so it never gave me a headache or made my head feel like it was in a boiler, and it never itched or bothered my head. You feel yourself sweating, but then it very quickly evaporates and dries so you don't have that hot, sticky feeling.
It is decently cool for having an extra piece of clothing on my head, and my face is protected from UPF rays. I really love this ball cap.