The Heavy Hiker

Sharing Hiking Experiences in Western Australia

Plus Size Hiking Apparel as Common as Unicorn Tears

Choosing what to wear when you go hiking can be a bit of a task. It’s worse when you’re overweight.

The reality is that hiking wear is not readily available if you happen to be over a size 14/16. The big brands just don’t stock it.

So what do you wear?! I’ve resorted to basic polo shirts which are (if I’m honest) still about a size too small around the arms for me and a pair of old jeans. I simply cannot buy high quality, functional hiking gear in my size.

For all intents and purposes, it doesn’t exist.

I am on a couple of mailing lists for the big name stores and while I love browsing the catalogues I dare not invest myself in the idea of purchasing that awesome ‘quick wick’ purpose-made shirt or those stylish canvas pants because they do not stock my size. Instead, I find myself on the last page of the catalogue eyeing off the various multi-tools and torches.

Apparently, my hard earned dollars don’t buy me the right to feel good in what I wear.

Apparently, it’s not palatable for a size 24 to be seen slogging it in the bush wearing branded clothing. It would seem that active hiking wear brands think their clothes look better on smaller people and so they refuse to increase the sizing range of their apparel – either that, or they truly believe there is no demand for the product… though I’m pretty convinced that is not the case!

Truthfully, I don’t want, nor need high fashion apparel to do what I do BUT I would enjoy the opportunity to wear functional and fit for purpose clothes that offer the latest “moisture-wicking technology” or those super funky looking polyester, quick dry hiking pants- preferably in bright pink!

I found some on Ali Express and got a bit excited only to realise that to get them in my size at the waist I need to order a 9XL MENS (which they don’t stock) and even then I’d have to get them taken up considerably as clearly anyone who is overweight in the middle must also be a giant. Furthermore, the men’s waist to hip ratio wouldn’t work for me either!

Controversy!

The big K… because I don’t want to sound like I’m ‘Mandu-Bashing’ stocks ladies tops up to a size 18… supposedly. All the reviews I have read suggest that the sizing is a snug fit, meaning that the 16 actually fits comfortably on a size 12/14. So, on the VERY rare occasion you could find an 18 in store… it’s really a 16. Interesting!

Upon advice from a friend I checked out Colombia’s range and they do have larger women’s sizes on their sizing chart which is comforting. However, every listing that I clicked on had only up to size 2x which basically converts to approximately a size 16-18 still some two sizes below what I need! Plus, they don’t ship direct to AUS…

Am I alone in this? Does anyone out there know something that I don’t?

I have no magical answer for this problem but imagine how nice it will be when retailers realise they need to stock clothes for the size that we are, not the size that they think we should be.

In other news, I have just bought a pair of purpose-made hiking socks in my size… so I guess that’s a win.

Happy hiking.

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23 Comments

  1. Hi, always i used to check weblog posts here early in the
    break of day, because i enjoy to find out more and more.

  2. Hi HH,
    I’ve just stumbled upon your site and I’m devouring it — wonderful! I’m a fellow HH in Sydney (size 20-22) and I completely and utterly GET what you are saying. 100%.

    I’ve found a couple of sort-of-effective solutions in the plus-size hiking gear world…
    Sign up to Shipito (pay as you go works just fine), and from there you can order Columbia stuff from REI or Amazon in the US (but not direct from Columbia as they track IP addresses and any order from outside the US gets cancelled by their system, grrrr). The Columbia 16-18W stuff (i.e. AU size 20-22) works for me and I have a couple of pairs of these pants, which I adore: https://www.rei.com/product/866935/columbia-just-right-straight-leg-pants-womens-plus-sizes (they go up to Australian size 28). For shorts, try these guys (again, sending via Shipito) — http://www.aerotechdesigns.com/womens-pedal-pusher-shorts.html These exact ones are my current hiking shorts — they’re quick dry, wicking, and super comfy. They also do a bunch of other ‘full figure’ multisports stuff, none of which I’ve tried — so let me know if you find any other goodies there 🙂

    While you’re on the REI or Amazon site, look at Ex Officio quick dry undies. The full brief (ugh, but effective) in 2XL is quite generous on me, so might also work for you. I have two pairs of these, and as they wash and dry in lightening quick time, that’s enough even for multi-day hiking/camping trips. One pair on, one to wash and hang from the outside of the pack to dry (hey, I’m already shameless, what’s a pair of giant black knickers?!) You *can* get these in Australia: http://www.wildearth.com.au/buy/exofficio-give-n-go-womens-travel-full-cut-brief-b/EXO0444 but it’s hit or miss as to what sizes are in stock.

    Wicking polyester tops — this one is easy. Best & Less do a plus size range, and each season they have at least one all poly vest (=singlet) t-shirt, either in their active range or in their general plus stuff. This is exactly the fabric used in the fancy hiking stuff, but at 10% of the cost. After a bit of sweating/washing, it starts to stink, but is cheap enough to then chuck and replace it. Spend a bit of time in B&L looking at labels and you should find something that works. This year I’ve been hiking in this: https://www.instagram.com/p/BKwsQUVgVWw/?taken-by=101hikes&hl=en that came from here: http://www.bestandless.com.au/Womens-Clothing/Plus-Size-Womens-Clothing/Plus-Size-Activewear/Plus-Size-Activewear-Tops/PLUS-ELITE-BASIC-MESH-TANK-WOMENS/p/548827 ($7, don’t mind if I do!) Last year’s one is a poly top from their general range: https://www.instagram.com/p/BMIq0LKhm8o/?taken-by=101hikes&hl=en

    Next, merino thermals. Target goes to size 20 and they’re forgiving, especially the bottoms. They might work — and they’re often in the undies sale. Marks & Spencer offers local delivery and returns to/from Australia, and again they often have good deals on thermals, and they go to size 22 (also very forgiving). I bought these in a 20: http://www.marksandspencerlondon.com/au/thermal-ankle-length-leggings/p/P22320820.html?dwvar_P22320820_color=Y0 and wore them throughout my Larapinta hike in July this year (brrrr!)

    So that’s your summer and winter base and mid layers covered 🙂

    As for rain wear — trickier. But not impossible. I tried buying men’s giant rain pants and hacked off about 30cm from the bottoms, but tbh they got so sweaty that I was just as wet as if I’d gone without. So, inspired by this: http://www.zpacks.com/accessories/cloudkilt.shtml — I bought some waterproof fabric and made myself a rain kilt. Surprisingly easy. You can get a similar fabric here: http://www.tiergear.com.au/11/online-shop/xenon-sil-5300 Or you can fuse garbage bags for the real crafty DIY thing: http://www.instructables.com/id/Fusing-Plastic-Bags-the-eclipse-way/ (I have yet to do this plastic bag trick, but it appeals enormously… I’m such a craft nerd). Cuben fibre would also work. Tyvek might as well but would be very noisy until it gets creased down to soft, I’d imagine. But I hardly ever hike if there’s rain forecast, so I actually don’t often take this out with me. A rain jacket is usually (more than) enough.

    Rain jacket — REI and also, weirdly, North Face, do plus size ones. I bought this NF one: https://www.rei.com/product/865132/the-north-face-venture-rain-jacket-womens which goes up to size 22 (AU). It is so good and so non-sweaty — I love it, truly. I could seriously stand in the shower in the thing and not get wet. Here’s me modelling it (in fabulous pink) in wild and wet Tassie last month: https://www.instagram.com/p/BKwr0ZDgX1H/?taken-by=101hikes&hl=en It’s snug (as in, not stretchy at all), but do-able. I also bought an REI one online a while back and it’s much sweatier but also roomier, which is good if I’m wearing a ton of base and mid layers: https://www.rei.com/product/892440/rei-co-op-rain-jacket-womens This one goes up to size 26 AU and is MUCH cheaper.

    I also bought a Columbia 3XL down jacket, which I wore in Norway and Estonia in winter and it was warm and lovely, but it’s heavy (650g) and although it packs down super small, it’s honestly unnecessary for even the wintriest of Australian hiking. But it exists, if you do super cold stuff. Again, REI/Amazon and Shipito — although I actually bought mine in Europe.

    Then, warm mid layers — you can’t go past a no-brand fleece, IMHO. Plenty warm enough for everything I’m willing to do in Australia (!), and cheap too. And then there’s the extremities — socks, hats, buff, and the likes. I buy these in straight sizes and it works fine.

    I hope this helps 🙂
    Happy trails xxx

    • TheHeavyHiker

      November 8, 2016 at 7:55 am

      Wow! Just wow! What a comment! I had a bit of time this morning to sit and read it and MAN do you have this shopping thing sorted out!! My goodness! I’m going to be spending some time working through your suggestions to see what I can find. Funnily enough i had a scout in Best and Less yesterday and their activewear range isnt too shabby!! Hard to look properly with The Restless Hiker in tow but will certianly go back for a better look. I’ve had a look via REI before but been too scared to order anything but per your advice I will have a look at it again. I did hear that Amazon are on their way to Australia in 2017!!! Which might make accessing US Brands a bit easier for us in the coming years. I’m on the hunt for decent lightweight hiking wear to extend my season as I just cant handle hiking in the warmer months in ill-fitting, constricting and too thick clothes! So thanks to your suggestions I’m in with a shot! Thanks so much for your comment, I’m sure other readers appreciate it too! Happy hiking.

      • OMG!!

        I have been searching for sooo long for appropriate clothing for our prospecting adventures! I can’t wait to check all the links out!

        I am totally astounded that the larger women are left off the menu for outdoor wear. I just don’t get it. In fact it’s downright discrimination against being overweight without understanding why many of us are actually the way we are….its not as simple as a diet and a bit of exercise for many (major injury for me did the job).

        Anywho….Thank you so very, VERY much for the info!

        Perhaps it’s time to start a plus size outdoor wear clothing shop…..something in shall be researching for sure.

        • TheHeavyHiker

          March 3, 2017 at 4:33 pm

          Tanya- woman after my own heart. Seriously been thinking the same thing. It seems like there is definitely a market for it! Partnership anyone?!?! Best of luck with all the links

          • Have the same issue, and I teach outdoor ed! Drives me crazy.
            Loving the name – Heavy Hiker.
            Thanks for making me feels not so alone in this.

  3. Late to this discussion, as I was googling after unsuccessfully looking for a full zip soft shell jacket for early morning walks and hikes. I will admit I just ordered a “K” size 18 puffer jacket, though already had doubts that, despite the measurements looking ok, it won’t fit.

    A couple of tips: Sara by Ezibuy do a roll up cargo pant in a fabulous lightweight fabric right into plus sizes. Ezibuy in general have a bunch of merino track pants and long sleeve tops that are fabulous cold weather hiking wear, and cozy at home on a cold day also.

    In the past I have bought excellent light weight fast drying active wear (tshirts and compression tights) in plus sizes from Old Navy in the US, not sure what their range is like right now.

    I have also bought excellent plus sized fast drying long sleeve tees and fleece jumpers from http://www.landsend.com.

  4. Sharlene Abela

    July 23, 2017 at 9:15 pm

    I’ve recently bought some Columbia plus size from Amazon via ShopUSA. I bought a few sizes of items so I could figure out my size. I’m about to package up what I don’t want, but happy to post on here to see if they’re suitable for anyone? I’d just charge what I paid for them and postage (I’m in Melbourne, Australia). Let me know if any of you are interested.
    On another note, I’m going to purchase more of the items I like. Will have to use ShopUSA again on account of Columbia not delivering to Oz grrr.

  5. Catherine Scott

    July 29, 2017 at 1:50 am

    Such relief to find I’m not alone. So sick of crying with humiation trying to shoehorn myself into large sizes from the regular outdoor shops that feel more like 12-14.

    Just about to give up and get my ranty daughter to make me some.

  6. This is awesome. What is wrong with these companies. I’m a larger lass and I love the outdoors! Just because I’m curvy doesn’t mean I’m unfit and lazy! Give my hips and thighs some room to move in pants. Thank you so much for all your tips, I’ve been finding it difficult to find anything my size – AUS 20. I did get some great zip off hiking pants from Rivers in a sale last year, but stumbled across them by accident! I had to take the waist in on a larger pair so they fit nice, but they are light weight and quick drying. Jackets are a problem, so I’ll have a look at the links provided. Thanks again, and happy hiking!

  7. I like Michelle Bridges MB active wear plus size range at Big W has some great light weight moisture wicking tops. Decent prices too. And thanks for the tips already mentioned 👍

  8. I was literally just pitching the idea of creating a label for plus size adventure gear to my partner during our hike yesterday. Sounds like it is not such a bad idea after all.

    I have had a few wins on Ebay.

  9. Thanks for all of these posts – spot on! I will look out for some of these ideas. We heavies do actually do outdoor stuff. Thank you HH and everyone else!

  10. Try Juno Active fantastic wicking tees and hoodies. They also have tights and pants and deliver direct to Australia.

  11. Hi – Eddie Bauer also go up to a 3x and ship to Australia, not cheap as prices are in USD but beautiful quality I usually wait for sales to buy.

    • I bought one pair, then three more, shorts from Aerotech, as recommended here, and I love them. Fit and quality. For bushwalking or just “around”. Women’s Urban Cargo., the mid length ones.

  12. I buy a lot of my casual cloths from Lands End Clothing in the US. They have a good plus sized ranged, generally up to a 26. Good fleece clothing and moisture wicking pants (although not so good mud summer). They have a thicker fleece and a thinner fleece range. They have petite, tall, standard and plus. Postage is expensive, sometimes I wait for Black Friday in November when everything eventually goes to 50% off.
    I’m looking for some very plus sized waterproof overpants for a trip to wet and can be 4 degrees. I’m not having much luck.

    • Hi Sarah,
      My large ex-husband would ride his motorcycle in all weather and would get wet-weather overpants from workwear stores pretty cheaply (the places that sell high-vis and safety gear). I think they’re also available in motorcycle shops but sizing might be more limited and prices definitely higher.
      Good luck!
      Sarah A

  13. Awesome news thanks. Will be doing the follow up.

  14. Hi Sarah
    I finally found some mens Nike ones on ebay that someone within Australia, was selling, new.
    A friend also found some on ebay from the UK, the brand is Baum Country, not sure what they are made from but the description is durable waterproofed fabric, I think they will be pretty warm but for where we are going I think that will be ok.

  15. Has anyone tried this UK store – I see they deliver to Australia – have ordered some of their stuff in a 20/22 to see if it is any good http://www.mountainwarehouse.com

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