Women hikers have hit their stride. Lacing up their hiking boots and hitting the hiking trail, women hikers are becoming sole mates in huge numbers—15 to 20 million American women hike regularly, and more than 50 million call themselves fitness walkers.
Hiking for women has been redefined, glamorized, aerobicized and declared the sport of the new millennium, leaving running and cycling in the dust. Health spas everywhere feature hiking trails, starlets and celebrities hike the hills of Hollywood, and women’s hiking clubs across the country enable women from coast to coast to enjoy the great outdoors in good company, and without hiking alone.
Women outnumber men as members of hiking clubs, and as participants on guided hiking tours and hiking vacations. Women are the dominant force in the hiking program associated with Team in Training, the signature program of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society that raises money for cancer research.
In The Trailmaster’s estimation, women outnumber men on suburban hiking trails or close-to-home pathways. Hike along with Gloria and Cheryl, who, equipped with a good pair of hiking boots, a sturdy daypack and water bottles, hike together weekly in the trails behind their Southern California subdivision—all year long. “We discuss everything from child care concerns to the state of the economy on our hikes,” says Gloria. “We’re so busy talking, we hardly notice the passage of time. Our friendship has strengthened with each of our hikes—it’s like therapy and a lot cheaper than seeing someone in an office, on a couch!”
“We are women on an adventure every week,” declares Cheryl, “two women hiking outdoors getting away from it all. Hiking has got me in great shape, and given me a new appreciation for the hiking trails located so close to home.”
Women hikers should remember to bring a healthy snack—power bar, piece of fruit, trail mix—and plenty of water. Hiking clothing for women is easy: a pair of loose shorts, a jogbra, and a couple of layers on top, preferably a synthetic t-shirt that wicks away sweat, and a button-down shirt over that. Add layers as necessary. Consider a pair of hiking pants that zip-off into shorts. Be sure to wear sunscreen and a hat for sun protection.
Women’s hiking boots have made huge strides recently, with lightweight choices easily available in a great selection of colors and styles—a nice change from the bad old days when women hikers had to make do with men’s hiking boots! Purchase hiking socks—they are well-worth the money.
The benefits for women hikers in this busy world include a greater sense of self and improved health, connecting with nature, self-confidence, spiritual uplift and a great workout.