Clothes for jungle hiking for a plus-size woman?
August 20, 2014 11:31 PM   Subscribe

I'm headed to Malaysia in September and plan to do some hiking around the jungle there. Because of the mosquitos, leeches and other critters, I'll need to cover up even if it is very hot and humid out. Does anyone have any recommendations for lightweight long-sleeved shirts and pants for a size ~18 woman?
posted by kms to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I think you should head to your nearest Globetrotter store and ask them what they would recommend. They're sure to have everything you need.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:53 PM on August 20, 2014

I'm a 16 in Singapore and I would be wearing leggings and long-sleeved cottony tunics. You'll want to get changed frequently and carry very little. Lightweight cargo pants are good if you want pockets. Get decent socks you can wear too with comfortable shoes.

The heat and humidity is intense for the first two days, and then you'll adjust. The key is to go outside and have lots of cold showers the first few days, and then you'll start feeling like 75 F in air conditioning is chilly. If you're going into the jungle straight off the plane, that would be super tough but if you have a couple of days to adjust, regular summer hiking clothes will do fine.
posted by viggorlijah at 12:10 AM on August 21, 2014

re: leeches, regardless of your trousers, you'll need to roll your socks OVER your trousers, not under it. that keeps away them away. For mosquitoes, I'd still go around in short sleeves, but I'd apply mosquito repellent. Locals who hike tend not to wear long-sleeves, except hijabis as a matter of course.
posted by cendawanita at 12:36 AM on August 21, 2014

Additionally, I'd be more concerned about chafing from the sweaty areas. Get some baby powder once you're there. Have fun!
posted by cendawanita at 12:38 AM on August 21, 2014

I generally cover up when hiking, too, because of ticks in my area, and am around your size. I get pants from Cabela's Guidewear series. If you have a place like that or Bass Pro or some other hunting/fishing store, they tend to have larger sizes than places dedicated to outdoor sport (REI, etc.). REI does make a handful of plus sized pants, but I've never found them in their stores and didn't want to buy them without trying them. Cabela's prices are often half what REI's are anyway. I wear 9" inseam men's boxer briefs under them to prevent chaffing. I have about 400 miles on the Cabela's pants, and the only thing that has worn out is the velcro on the side pocket.

My favorite long-sleeved hiking shirt is one I got at a thrift store--a lightweight, mostly synthetic men's dress shirt. That might not work as well if you're bustier, but the longer length of the men's shirt meant that it stayed tucked in better for me when I was wearing a pack and moving around a lot.

Ex Officio is another good option for shirts, though they have just a few larger sized pants, and quite a few of their products have insect repellent impregnated in the fabric, which can be a plus.

Happy trails!
posted by BlooPen at 5:08 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Columbia Sportswear has plus slze clothing for women.
posted by elmay at 5:24 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

If your hips aren't that much bigger than your waist,try men's pants.
posted by brujita at 6:29 AM on August 21, 2014

Depending on how you're shaped and how tall you are, Columbia has some good options (they didn't work for me at all - I'm way too tall for even their "tall" pants and my arms are too long for the shirts). I've found some good pants from Lucy, but it doesn't look like they make those any more :(. I think they were called "walkabout" pants. If you see some, an XL will probably fit. And I have a similar pair that were called "spa pants" that ran smaller. I wore Lucy pants for ~2 weeks straight in Congo last year. I also have a few things from Athleta that are good for hiking but a little more heavy duty. I took them to Congo but didn't wear them because it was too hot. REI might have some things in their house brand that could work for you too.

Depending on how vain you are, I would try to avoid men's shirts. At least for me, by the time they were big enough to not have a gap at the chest they were super tent-like and unflattering. I borrowed my one of my husband's shirts a few times in Congo and I was not pleased when I saw the photos he had taken of me on those days!

For the leeches etc, I would strongly recommend some short gaiters. They don't weigh much and don't make you hotter but do an amazing job of keeping all kind of critters/brush/gross water out of your pant legs and shoes.
posted by tealcake at 7:55 AM on August 21, 2014

I plan adventure tours for a living so here are my recommendations for clothes:

Do not buy anything online. Go to a place where you can actually try on clothes. I like Ex-Officio and Eddie Bauer (Ascent) but plenty of outdoor adventure stores offer lots of different brands. I'm a size 14-16 and they accommodate us curvy adventurous gals.

Do not buy anything cotton - not even undies, socks or a t-shirt. Look for the words "wicking" and "quick dry." Forget bringing jeans.

You want to look for "expedition" style clothing that are long-sleeved, long pants, very lightweight. While much more expensive, it is worth it to spend more to keep dry, comfortable and scratch free. Plus they last forever.

Shirts: Look for the kind that have "flaps" that keep you covered but have a kind of netting underneath to keep the air flowing.

Pants: Look for loose long pants that can be tucked into rain boots for playing in the mud, then rolled up like capris when you're back in the lodge. Good lodges provide rain boots for guests.

If you can find Snake Brand Prickly Heat Powder (lavender scented) (made in Thailand but found easily throughout Asia), it is a godsend. After a shower, it is like heaven on earth. It was originally designed for Thai soldiers in the jungle who suffered badly from heat rash and chafing.

Go girl!!!
posted by HeyAllie at 8:39 AM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

FWIW, for any sort of traveling, I *love* Ex Officio underwear. I'm an 18-20 and the xl bikinis fit me better than any brand. Also for real you can wash them out at bedtime and in the morning they are dry. As for clothes I usually buy Eddie Bauer xxl shirts for everyday. Haven't tried their pants since they don't have larger sizes in the store and I like to try on stuff. Same goes for Duluth Trading. They have some really interesting larger size breathable pants but I haven't taken the plunge because of the hassle of returning if they don't fit. (sigh) I live in the humid US south and Anti-Monkey Butt powder is my friend at home and traveling. Have fun!!
posted by PJMoore at 12:04 PM on August 21, 2014

I can vouch for the quick dry Ex Officio undies. However, I was once in an Ecuadorian hacienda and had washed them out of a shower and left them to air dry in front of a small fireplace in the room. In the middle of the night, I woke up to the faint smell of smoke. A spark had jumped from the fireplace and landed in the crotch of the panties, and the crotch was literally on fire.

So, um, they're flammable. Lesson learned - next time just air dry. They'll be fine.
posted by HeyAllie at 12:11 PM on August 21, 2014

Hi all, thank you for the excellent responses! In the end I bought a pair of pants (Nomad roll up pants) and a mosquito repellent hoodie (Lumen) from Ex Officio, as well as several pairs of their underwear. Loved all of it! I wore a light tank top under the hoodie and while I wouldn't say it was cool, it was definitely bearable to wear in the jungle even though it was long sleeved. As far as I can tell I didn't get bitten by any mosquitos while wearing the hoodie. As for the leeches, one trek I tucked my pants into my socks and on the other I wore a pair of leech socks ( I definitely got leeches on my pants and boots, but none of them made it to a spot where they could bite me. So that worked! I also invested in some of the Snake brand prickly heat powder and have definitely enjoyed that. I also found that if I put it in my sandals at the end of the day and then dump it out in the morning it keeps the smelliness way down! Thanks again for all your help.
posted by kms at 4:55 AM on September 26, 2014

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