sports clothing for the large?
October 6, 2009 1:46 PM   Subscribe

Hiking gear in XL?

My hunny and I are going on a two week hiking trip in about a month, and I need proper clothing. Jeans are all I have, and I am given to understand that jeans are the worst possible thing to be wearing in the great outdoors. Hive mind, can you recommend good places to buy larger-sized outdoors clothing online?

Difficulty: I'm female, and am teetering just on the edge of regular and plus sizes in regular clothing, which means that the women's gear most outdoors shops sell will be far too small for me. Also, I'd like something that looks good and feels comfortable, rather than the baggy, shapeless, elasticated-waist stuff most outdoors shops sell to people my size. I don't want to be ashamed to be seen hiking!
posted by LN to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Define the hiking trip a bit further.
The elasticated waist, baggy, shapeless clothes which you don't like are generally geared towards functionality over form. that means, baggy doesn't cling sweat, elasticated get on and off easy for easy layering, shapeless aids in the prevention of tear, rips and damage...

In a month where I am, "fleece" could be considered necessary hiking equipment. By your locale, (Ontario), I can absolutely attest that a Parka is necessary. When I've been in Canada at that time of year (BC/Alberta border) I definitely had *all* my gear from shorts to parka ready to swap through.

While I see you say you've been to some outfitters, If you've never been to a MEC - go to one. If you've been to one and you found their solid clothes and colors dull, take a look at some North Face and Columbia clothing. Unfortunately, patterns seem to be on not quite as big in the past 5 years.
posted by Nanukthedog at 2:07 PM on October 6, 2009

Baggy and shapeless has a couple of functions that are important for hikers. first, baggy clothes let you move freely, which can be important for getting over and around obstacles; second, baggy clothes let you layer, add a wicking base layer that will keep you warm, but not get you sweaty.
since most hikers will also be wearing these kinds of clothes, you should fit right in. most online retailers offer sizing guides. place like rei fit clothes to all shapes and sizes.
have fun and don't sweat fashion in the outdoors, you will see it all if you do it long enough.
oh yeah...get good socks and boots that fit you very well if you are hiking for two weeks your feet are the most important thing.
and don't forget the ten essentials.
posted by OHenryPacey at 2:11 PM on October 6, 2009

Response by poster: Sorry for the lack of clarity, hiking trip is to New Zealand (south island) in November, so it will be spring there, but spring in a mountainous region. I've been to MEC - am actually a member there. And they sell only a single pair of trousers (River pants) in my size, short of buying men's pants. ;_;
posted by LN at 2:13 PM on October 6, 2009

Maybe Columbia

I am not affiliated, but i've had a lot of success with their clothes.
posted by OHenryPacey at 2:31 PM on October 6, 2009

Unless you're looking for some specific benefit that hiking gear might provide (pockets galore?), I see no reason you need to limit yourself to hiking gear. Maybe get work-out clothing that approximates the function of hiking gear (durable, breathable material that won't chaff) and get a backpack with extra pockets to make up for fewer pockets on your person.

Also, to test this clothing, trek around the city. If it's comfortable, you're set. The only thing you'll lack is the "hiking look."
posted by filthy light thief at 2:40 PM on October 6, 2009

I have plugged this catalog/website before--I love Junonia--they make sporty wear for plus-sized gals. I find their size chart to be very accurate. They are a little spendy, but very high quality.
posted by agatha_magatha at 3:25 PM on October 6, 2009

How you look while hiking should be totally and completely ignored. You're going to spend two weeks shitting in a hole you dig, washing from a bowl (NOT in the river), swatting insects, eating freeze-dried stroganof, and sweating. Fashion is totally and completely irrelevant here. You need to think like a caveman here. The only thing that matters is functionality.

If you buy something that looks good but isn't 100% functional, you will pay for it on a two-day trek, let alone a two-week trek. And you"ll likely pay with either pain or injury. Can you imagine walking a hundred miles with chafed inner thighs? It'll ruin your trip, I promise.

The pants you describe--baggy, shapeless, elastic-waisted--are exactly what you want, provided they're made from synthetic materials. My favorite hiking pants are a pair of super-thin nylon pants: they're baggy, shapeless, elastic-waisted, and the most hideous tan. They're also still mad comfortable after I've been on the trail for eight hours. I layer underneath them for warmth and for chafing control.

And filthy light thief is right: workout clothes work perfectly for hiking. Other than my outerwear and gear, all of my clothing is bought from the local athletic store. The only thing to keep in mind is that nothing should be made of natural fibers (save wool), and everything should be quick drying.
posted by Netzapper at 4:27 PM on October 6, 2009

I'll second the idea that you don't need clothing made especially for hiking. I backpack all the time in simple gym shorts. You can bring a pair of spandex or long underwear to put on under the shorts in case it gets cold.

However, if you do buy hiking pants, the zip-off kind are awesome. I have some from NorthFace that are probably my favorite pants in the wide world. Sadly, I can't help you on finding a pair that will fit.
posted by Aizkolari at 4:30 PM on October 6, 2009

the baggy, shapeless, elasticated-waist stuff most outdoors shops sell to people my size.

I'm of average build, plus a spare tire, and they sell baggy, shapeless stuff to me, too :)

You're going to be in the middle of the woods. No one is going to see you.

Anyone who does see you will likely not have had a shower, a decent meal, a change of clothes, or a solid night's rest in a few days, and is going to look pretty haggard and greasy themselves.

You will make enough eye contact to establish that neither party has any kind of Deliverance-type intent, mutter a terse hello (optional), and continue on your separate ways. Hikers will help you in a pinch, but they don't walk miles into the wilderness to make friends.

Especially if you are in mountainous terrain, and especially if you aren't accustomed to hiking (which sounds to be the case), you won't give two fucks about fashion after a few hours on the trail. Now, don't get me wrong—you're going to have a great time. If you take the proper equipment. Which means practical, functional, profoundly unflattering clothing.

Seconding (and thirding, and fourthing) the zip-off pants. They're indispensable. The ability to adjust for temperature is the obvious benefit, but the option to keep your legs covered or uncovered is also very useful when dealing with different kinds of terrain, vegetation, and insect life. They're usually made of lightweight, breathable fabric and come with plenty of pockets, which are welcome too.

Columbia is my go-to brand for shoes. Wear two pairs of thick socks—it helps prevent blisters.

You aren't going for a stroll in the woods—you're going to be carrying your house, your kitchen, your bed, and your closet on your back for two weeks. You will be a lot happier if you just forget about fashion entirely and get the most functional gear you can find. That means breathable, lightweight, and versatile. Netzapper is right—if you allow fashion to stand in the way of function, you're not only looking at a miserable two weeks, but possible injury as well (in the middle of nowhere in a foreign country).

Suck it up, resign yourself to looking like a clown (it probably isn't as bad as you think), and have a great time! I'm jealous!
posted by ixohoxi at 6:31 PM on October 6, 2009

Junonia sells plus-sized activewear clothes.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:17 PM on October 6, 2009

I'm probably near your size, and I've had good luck with both Columbia and Ex Officio XL sizes.
posted by matildaben at 10:03 AM on October 7, 2009

Response by poster: Just an update, now that it has been made official: the hiking trip was our honeymoon, hence my wanting to look somewhat good for my sweetie. :) Eventually settled on a pair of jeans and two pairs of pants from Marks Work Wearhouse as my primary gear, but then, we didn't wind up as far back into the bush as we had originally expected.
posted by LN at 8:36 AM on November 24, 2009

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