I’ve wanted to wear a skirt for a while. My wife will back me up on this, but not for the reasons you think. And to be clear, I have Scottish blood (clan Dixon) so I get to wear a kilt which is pretty much a skirt. But the main reason I wanted to wear a hiking skirt/kilt was for comfort and hygiene hiking in the hot and humid summers on the east coast.
A Man’s Take on Wearing a Hiking Skirt (er, Kilt)
I guess I’m at an age where I am comfortable with who I am. I am not going to let societal stereotypes deter me from checking out a possibly more comfortable and efficient way to hike.
And it’s clear that there are many women hikers kickin’ some ever lovin’ ass on the trail—like my fabulous wife and the record setting Heather (Anish) Andersen who is besting the men. If they see benefits and efficiencies in hiking in a skirt, I am interested.
It took a lot of courage to take those first steps on a public trail
As a man, I had some concerns about people’s reaction to me wearing what is essentially a skirt—especially from other men. But it turns out other hikers are pretty chill about it. I’ve had zero negative comments and more than a few compliments on my kilt (all women) but that’s just fine!
|Bottom line: I liked my hiking kilt enough that I’ve added it to my most popular 9 Pound – Full Comfort – Lightweight Backpacking Gear List. Both “men’s” and women’s versions are listed.|
The Breaking Point – My Decision to Try a Skirt
What finally made me man-up and wear a hiking skirt, was a late spring section hike on the AT. My wife and I were covering 25+ miles a day in the first sweltering heat-wave of the season. It was so hot and humid that the rocks on the trail were sweating and slippery even in the heat of midday. It had been a cold spring and we were in no way heat adapted. So, if the rocks were sweating, us warm-blooded humans were gushing the stuff. Alison was literally wringing sweat out of her hair.
Our main complaint was with our sweat drenched underwear. By day 2 our soggy underwear had become so unpleasant we stopped wearing them and went commando (fairly common practice). We washed as frequently as we could, but even not wearing underwear, our light nylon shorts trapped too much heat and moisture below the belt to give us complete relief.
By day 3, we vowed to buy hiking skirts. So when we finished the section hike I emailed Mandy at Purple Rain Adventure Skirts, a hiking clothing company. I ordered an Adventure skirt for Alison and an Adventure Kilt for myself. We are both very glad we did.
What’s Good About a Hiking Skirt or Kilt
Hiking skirts have advantages over shorts. Heather (Anish) Anderson, who currently holds the unsupported records for the PCT and the AT hikes in a dress or skirt most of the time.
- Bio breaks are faster with a skirt. Dramatically so for women who also use the “pee rag system.” But even for men, bio breaks are faster and more convenient.
- They are more comfortable than shorts. In warm weather, there’s a ton more ventilation.
- Hygiene. There’s a lot more below the belt ventilation and drying going on. This equals better hygiene. When used without underwear there’s even more ventilation and less environment to breed bacteria.
- There’s far more range of motion that you might expect in a skirt. Neither of us had any problems taking huge strides over large trees blown down on the AT.
- A very nice pocket arrangement. Two on each hip (one Velcro security pocket, one drop in pocket) with the drop in pocket being the perfect size for your smartphone.
- For women, you can look more upscale for a town visit and/or at a restaurant. (Men maybe not so much)
For all these reasons, Alison and I have added the Purple Rain Adventure skirt and kilt to our 9 Pound – Full Comfort – Lightweight Backpacking Gear List.
Downsides for Hiking Skirts and Kilts
- Men only: Depending on the local town, you may need to change into light shorts to be “socially acceptable.”
- Little mosquito protection. But then that’s true for shorts too. Unless mosquito pressure is insanely bad, you can usually get by with a skirt in the middle of the day while you are moving. But you’ll likely need some light legging or pants for evenings in camp. Alison and I have sometimes used our light rain pants to save the weight of carrying pants just for this purpose. If mosquitoes are horrendous even midday you’ll likely need to abandon both skirts and shorts.
- For Purple Rain skirts: get the correct fit. If the waistband is too loose, heavy objects in the pockets may cause it to slide down a bit. (But once the waistband is secured under you pack hip-belt, this is not a problem.)
So yes, I guess I can now say that I’m man enough to wear a skirt (er, kilt). And am better off for it.