When you aren’t the stereotypical hiker body, standard hiking and camping gear can’t always provide the best comfort and ease of use. Plus size hiking gear matters.
Okay, so I (Meg) am not a plus-sized hiker. In fact – I’ll admit it – I’m just another white, lanky chick taking up space on the trail. But I really wanted to find an absolute pro to talk about plus-size hiking gear.
So I enlisted the help of Felicia Kemp, a badass plus-size hiker, camper, and backpacker. She’s worked with me to test gear professionally for big names like Backpacker Magazine and knows her stuff. So I’m turning the floor over to her for this post.
What To Know About Finding Plus Size Hiking Gear
All hikers deal with issues such as blisters, strap burns, and body aches. However, these pains are more likely to occur for plus-size hikers, due to improperly sized gear, more skin-on-skin contact, and additional strength necessary to get places.
Finding plus-size camping gear is a real luxury. Your body needs quality rest to get the most of your miles during the day – so having the right gear makes a big difference.
Being squeezed into a sleeping bag or tent never gives you a restful night’s sleep. In this guide, you’ll find recommendations on what to look for and some favorites for hiking, camping, and backpacking as a plus-size adventurer.
I’ve only ever known life in a plus-size body (ranging from size 10 to size 20), and always face the narrow options available to a larger active woman, especially in the outdoor industry. I’ve hiked the Grand Canyon down and up in one day, hiked dozens of miles in a week wearing a toddler in the Pacific Northwest, and recently day hiked Half Dome at Yosemite.
I need gear that works for my type of body and I’ve spent hours and hours researching, testing, and ruling out or clinging to those hiking, camping, and backpacking items that are the right size for someone who is plus size.
About this Guide to Plus Size Hiking Gear and Plus-Size Camping Essentials.
When it comes to finding the perfect piece of plus-sized hiking gear, you’re in the right place. Inside this guide you’ll find:
- Expert plus-size hiking gear recommendations
- Tips and tricks for finding the right plus sized gear for your outdoor adventure
- The top picks for the best plus-size camping gear
- Additional gear recommendations for hiking, camping, and backpacking
Essential Plus-Size Hiking Gear
We all love to challenge ourselves in a stunning setting, which brings us into nature.
Plus size hiking encompasses all of the challenges of a hike, but with a few added extras such as:
- Less space on a narrow trail
- The potential for greater impact on joints
- Additional areas prone to chaffing
These may be additional challenges but fear not, you’ve got this!
Two essentials for plus-size hiking gear are a great pair of hiking shoes and reliable hiking poles.
Carrying You Along: Hiking Shoes and Boots
Plus size hiking gear may not be labeled in an obvious way (historically an underrepresented segment). So it’s useful to really focus on your needs and then find suitable gear.
For example, some plus-size hikers may have longer or wider feet. While some women’s shoes have wide widths or run wide, women can also consider men’s shoes.
Pro Tip: I haven’t worn women’s hiking boots since high school, and I’m really happy with my hiking shoes.
You’ll also want to consider whether you have a preference for low cut, mid-cut, or high ankle. Mid-cut or high ankle waterproof boots alleviate the worry of wet feet – since you’ll stay high and dry. Low-cut hiking shoes offer more range of motion and increased breathability.
Pro Tip: Wear tall socks to avoid heat rash, bites, and scratches.
Remember, no matter what your size, your feet are personal! When it comes to choosing the right hiking boots, it’s best to go into your local outfitter and try on several brands and styles to see what works for you.
My Pick for the Best Hiking Boots for Plus Size Women
For short and easy day hikes, the Men’s Merrell Moab 2 is a classic that stands the test of time. These are my favorite because they provide more stability than a sneaker but are nimble enough to easily do activities like rock scramble.
My only issue is that even having broken in these shoes, I have a bunion on one foot that still requires added first aid protection.
For more technical hikes and multi-day adventures, the Men’s Keen Durand II Mid WP provides solid support and comfort. These boots are more of an investment, but not having a break-in period while hauling a 35lb kiddo was a real plus!
Keeping Balanced: Trekking Poles Are Plus Size Hiking Gear
Trekking poles aren’t just for “old folks” and easily qualify as plus-size hiking gear. Preventative tools such as poles are good for all hikers but are particularly useful as plus-size hiking gear because they enhance your stability and provide support on all types of terrain.
Most hikers have at least one story of how their poles saved their knees coming down on a steep trail. They help push you uphill and are useful even when walking on a flat path. As a result, your body feels more supported by having four points of contact instead of two.
Like hiking boots, poles aren’t labeled for any particular body type, but you have to think about your needs when considering plus-size hiking gear.
When it comes to choosing trekking poles, you’ll want to ensure that the poles are long enough to keep your elbows at a 90-degree angle when holding the poles with the tips planted near your feet.
My Pick for The Best Trekking Poles for Plus Size Hikers
My REI Co-op Traverse Trekking Poles are like bringing along a dear friend on a hike. The cork grips conform to the shape of your hand and won’t blister sweaty hands as easily as other materials. The shafts are made of aluminum, which is durable and unlikely to break under significant stress. Just note that the aluminum may not break, but it’s possible it could bend.
Plus Size Camping Gear You’ll Absolutely Love
It’s an amazing experience to spend the night under the stars as the calm of the wilderness lulls you to sleep. Plus size camping gear allows you to better enjoy your home away from home.
For general camping, there are great opportunities to get yourself set up for fun and relaxation, regardless of your physical size.
Plus size camping gear essentials include:
- A roomy tent
- Cozy sleeping bag and pad
- A relaxing camping chair
The Best Tent for Plus Size Campers
After a long day of hiking, it’s nice to have enough space to move around in your tent. Look for one that allows you to sprawl out when laying down and also permits you to stand up!
While the primary use of any tent is for sleeping, you can also use it as a changing room and stretching area.
Don’t forget the footprint or appropriately sized tarp under your tent and a rain fly to protect you from the elements.
Pro Tip: Most tents come with a rainfly, but not a footprint. Be sure to factor in the cost of the footprint, too!
My Pick for the Best Plus Size Camping Tent
For our family, we use the Caddis Rapid 6 Tent as an affordable option that serves our needs when car camping. Even when not with the hubby and kids, I like having this deluxe-sized personal space just for me. It’s super easy to pop up and pack up, and I’ve done it multiple times by myself. While I love all the space, sometimes campsites don’t have large flat pads to accommodate such a big tent, so be mindful when selecting a campsite.
How to Choose a Plus Size Sleeping Bag
You want your sleeping arrangements to be as indulgent as possible. (Well, as much as you can indulge sleeping outdoors). Look for a sleeping bag that is large enough for your body, but also consider other factors such as the weather conditions. For example, if you’re in the mountains you want your sleeping bag contained enough to keep you warm, whereas in the warm winter months in the south, you may mostly sleep on top of your bag (and want to take a light sheet). Also make sure to have a reliable sleeping pad for both comfort and insulation.
The Best Plus Size Sleeping Bag
Truth be told, I grew up using multiple sleeping bags zipped completely open and made myself the center of a sleeping bag sandwich when I camped! I love having a bit more pillowy softness between me and the ground.
For a plus-size sleeping bag, a double bag such as The North Face Eco Trail Bed Double 20 Sleeping Bag provides ample room at a reasonable price point, but without a hood, can be a bit drafty.
Have You Considered a Sleeping Quilt?
A sleeping quilt is an option to consider if you find yourself tossing and turning. Sometimes sleeping bags can feel too restrictive. If you’re nodding your head as you read this, don’t worry – you can still enjoy camping!
Sleeping Quilts are designed to be just like a comforter at home, except warmer, lighter, and cut slightly differently (typically tapered at the end with a foot box to keep your tootsies toasty).
You’ll get the ultimate amount of sleep mobility with a plus-sized sleeping quilt. A single version may work for you, but double models bring you twice the space.
Best Plus Size Sleeping Quilt
I have friends who opt for a quilt, which is also great for those who want to let themselves spread out without the constraints of a typical sleeping bag.
There are even two-person versions that are ideal plus-size camping gear, such as the Therm-a-RestVela Double Quilt, which offers full-perimeter side baffles for draft protection. The downside? It’s a bit pricier and you may want to bring some type of sheet to lay on top of so you’re not just sleeping on your sleeping pad.
The Best Plus Size Camping Pad
Plus size campers should definitely check out the Exped Megamat Duo. This incredible, double-wide closed-cell foam sleeping pad is uber-luxurious. It self-inflates and offers plenty of cushioning so you don’t have to worry about the air supporting your weight.
The foam offers the ultimate support and comfort while the added air gives a slightly bigger cushion to the 10cm of thickness. Bonus points for designing this to fit in the bed of a truck or back of a vehicle (measure first), but it is costly.
Plus Size Camping Chair
Chairs can be tricky for plus-size bodies! You don’t want to feel pressure on your hips or the sides of your legs, and you want a material and cut that won’t press into your skin. Plus, some chairs have weight limits that aren’t easy to determine or find.
My Pick for the Best Plus Size Camping Chair
My favorite chair for car camping, the Caravan Canopy Zero Gravity Chair, may be large and heavy, but it makes me really happy.
The Regular holds up to 300 lbs., the Oversized 350 lbs., and the Bigboy supports 400 lbs. You’ve got all the room you need and all the comfort you want to stay by the campfire for hours. But, like with a lot of perfect pieces of outdoor gear, the price tag is a little steep. Thankfully, these chairs are uber durable and built to last. We typically toss ours in a foldable sports wagon to transport from vehicle to campsite.
Starting at MSRP: $120
Plus Size Camping Gear for Backpacking
It’s a long-awaited step for the outdoor industry to start addressing the unique needs of plus-size camping gear for backpackers.
The first-ever plus-size hiking backpacks have even hit the market! This is an incredible advancement because other than hiking boots, this is the top priority for backpacking comfortably. No matter how much you love your tent, sleeping bag, and other gear, you have to carry it all on your back.
Plus Size Backpacking Pack
There are so many features to consider when choosing a backpacking pack and it really is best to try on several to figure out your own preferences.
Some of the things to look for are:
- A moisture wicking ventilated back panel
- Extended length shoulder straps and hip belt
- Zipper and pocket locations
My Pick for the Best Plus Size Backpacking Bag
The Gregory Kalmia 60 Plus Size Women’s Backpacking Pack is a game changer. It fit like a glove when I backpacked in Desolation Wilderness recently and I really appreciate that none of the straps dig into my body.
The shoulder straps and hip belt are comparable to 2x-6x in apparel sizing.
The one thing I can never figure out is how to put my water bottle back into the bottle holster by myself. The pack includes an internal hydration sleeve for a water reservoir, so I primarily rely upon that for my water intake.
Plus Size Backpacking Tent
Shelter is a basic human need and when backpacking in the outdoors, it can be critical for protection against the elements. You want to find a tent that’s light and compact enough to carry all day in your pack, but substantial enough in temperature rating and size to allow you to sleep well.
The Best Plus Size Backpacking Tent
Backpacking tents are always a little tough to shop for. It’s a balancing act between space and weight. You want extra room to spread out, but carrying a giant tent for miles wears out your body.
Pro Tip: Definitely head to a gear shop and try out tents before you buy. You may find that sitting or lying down in a particular model is a bit of a squeeze. Remember, you can always size up to a “plus” (only some models) or a 3-person model if you’ve got two people or a two-person tent for just you.
My Pick for the Best Plus Sized Backpacking Tent
The Sea to Summit Telos Ultralight and Freestanding is a pretty spacious model. For a backpacking tent, it has several inches more headroom, so you don’t feel like you’re sleeping in a nylon tube. At just over 3 pounds, it’s worth the added weight to be able to sit up comfortably inside.
The downside? The rainfly is a bit finicky and the packed size is a bit too bulky. Not to mention, the price tag is VERY hefty.
Plus Size Backpacking Sleeping Bag
Having a sleeping bag that suits your needs while backpacking is absolutely key. Like your tent, you want a sleeping bag that’s wide and long enough for your frame, has an appropriate temperature rating for your use and comfort, yet is light and compact enough to not add too much weight to your pack.
My Pick for the Best Plus Size Sleeping Bag
If I’m backpacking, I’m sleeping in my Big Agnes Diamond Park 30 Wide Long. The Diamond Park is a unique sleeping bag that can also be used as a comforter!
The Diamond Park 30 Wide Long specifically has plenty of room for those of us who are both tall and wide – midway down the bag it’s 74 inches wide and the bag fits a person up to six feet, six inches.
They keep it lightweight for backpacking by having less bulk on the bottom with a “Flex Pad Sleeve” that fits over your sleeping pad (up to 30 in. wide pad). The only downside is that if you pop up in the middle of the night, your pad is coming with you.
Pro Tip: If you like to stay snuggled up with your morning coffee but keep your pack light, zip off the top of this sleeping bag to use as a comforter outside of the tent!
MSRP: $300 MSP
Now there are more plus size hiking gear options than ever before, but it’s just the beginning. As we continue to voice our desires to hike, camp, and backpack, more gear will come onto the market.
It’s essential for the outdoor industry to recognize our needs and provide more plus size hiking, camping, and backpacking gear. So get out there and hit the trails with confidence this season – you’ve got this!
Felicia Kemp (she/her) spends her free time hiking with her husband and kids in California. Her mission is to encourage others to explore the outdoors through organized hikes and her socials – Family Trail Time.
Felicia’s youth included summers of canoeing at Camp Arnold, horseback riding at Peach Creek, hiking and camping at Texas state parks, backpacking at Philmont Scout Ranch, and earning her Girl Scout Gold Award.
Her favorite kind of vacay is to hit the trails, from Mount Rainier in Washington to Plitvice Lakes in Croatia.
She promotes diversity initiatives both in her professional and personal life and hopes that when people see her plus-sized, tall and brown (and beautiful) body hiking it inspires others to feel comfortable taking up that same space.
When not outside, Felicia has a busy career as a health insurance attorney. She also advocates for Tay-Sachs awareness, the disease that handicapped and ultimately took the life of her middle child at the age of five.
Felicia’s goal is to give confidence to would-be and newbie hikers that you can have great experiences in the outdoors. She’s living proof that you can always find your way to the trails; as a working mom, plus size body, person of color, or survivor of great loss.