The Women’s Outdoor Gear and Hiking Gear Scam

Women's Outdoor Gear

It is an inbuilt, automatic assumption that the chasm between men and women is wide and deep. This is particularly noticeable in the world of outdoor activities. Don’t think so? Type “outdoor gear for men” into a search engine and then look up “outdoor gear for women”. The results are startling. Sure, you get plenty of responses for both search terms but the difference is that there are no men’s specific articles. For women, however, the list goes on and on.

Now, this begs the question, do women really need all of that female-specific outdoor gear? For the most part, can they not use the same items as men? Well, let’s take a closer look at this:

Why Women Specific Gear Isn’t Always Necessary

The truth of the matter is that many people believe that anything outdoor related is typically a male-dominated environment. This meant that for the longest time, companies manufacturing outdoor gear were almost solely focused on this particular gender.

Over time, however, the industry realized that they had been overlooking a growing faction of adventurers – women. To take full advantage of this ‘new’ opportunity, they began to look for ways to appeal to female hikers, campers, climbers, and bikers. The problem arose when they seemed to be looking for information in the wrong places. The outdoor gear industry latched onto the idea that women were largely focused on pretty colors and looking good. This led to an overwhelming amount of outdoor gear being produced in shades of pink and floral colors and having pretty designs.

It is also easy enough to spot in the way that these items are marketed. Men’s gear bear terms such as durable, tough, and performance enhancing. Many of the female oriented gear focuses on words such as style and light weight. In reality, there are many types of gear that men and women can use interchangeably. Take climbing harnesses, for instance. As long as the fit and the size are right, there really is no sense in having one version for men and another for women. Another great example is trekking poles. Since these can easily be adjusted in terms of height, there is no reason to have separate options for each gender.

The problem goes beyond the unnecessary, however. In certain instances, outdoor gear for women are actually less effective than those of their male counterparts. This is a problem that is becoming increasingly noticeable among skiers, in particular. For instance, while men’s ski pants remain at a certain size and with adequate pockets, female ski pants appear to be evolving. Instead of the slightly baggy models, ski pants are becoming tighter and tighter, resembling leggings. This means that movement is restricted while skiing or snowboarding or even just trudging through the snow. Even the pockets have become shallower, more decorative than anything else.

It is not just the clothing that has been mishandled, however, but skiing gear as well. Skis that were targeted towards women didn’t perform as well because companies had drastically reduced the weight of the skis to make them appeal to women more.

This has also been noted in the biking industry, especially with mountain bikes. The female-marketed bikes didn’t contain nearly as much as grit or hardiness as male bikes. This was pointless when considering that they had to perform the same function.

There are many companies that are attempting to bridge this gap and to create lines for men and women alike. These are attempting to focus on creating performance enhancing gear rather than highlighting the differences between men and women.

When Women Specific Gear is Actually Warranted

At the same time, there is no denying that physical differences exist between women and men. Body shape, size, height, and weight can be quite dissimilar among the genders. So, when do you actually need to get gear that has been specifically made for women?

Clothing and Boots

On average, women tend to be at least several centimeters shorter than men. Therefore, the pants and long sleeved shirts need to be shorter than what males wear. Similarly, men tend to be broader in the shoulder area while men need clothing that is looser in the chest region. Also, women tend to have wider hips than men.

Basically this means, as you are well aware, that female clothing is sized differently from that of men. In most instances, manufacturers of women’s outdoor clothing follow similar standard sizes. Not only does this make it easier for women to discern what their size is but the clothes will also fit a lot better.

Now, there is some debate regarding men’s and women’s hiking shoes. The obvious reason that a woman would stick with hiking boots made for females is due to the size. Typically men tend to have longer and wider feet than them. Size aside, hiking boots for men also tend to be heavier. Last but not least, they also end higher up on the ankle.

So, as a woman, can you wear hiking boots for men? Well, that depends on the fit and the comfort level. There are many women who feel perfectly at ease wearing men’s boot so you could say that it is relative.

If you do choose to get hiking boots that have been designed for women, there are a few things that you should pay attention to. First, it is how much of your ankle is covered, and by relation, supported by the boot. As mentioned, women’s boots tend to have lower ankles on the boots. However, it should not be too low as you still need to make sure that your ankles are adequately supported. In some cases, hiking boots for women may also have narrower heels. If the heel is too narrow, your stability can once again be compromised. You should always check that you are getting an appropriate hiking boot, even it is supposedly tailored for women.

Sleeping Bags and Pads

Interestingly enough, there is a lot of thought and research that has gone into sleeping bags that are meant for women. Some of these features may be obvious enough such as the women’s sleeping bags tend to be shorter. It is important to get a sleeping bag that fits you just right so that you are less likely to feel the cold. While the sleeping bags may be shorter, they are roomier in other areas, especially around the hips where women tend to be wider.

Women’s sleeping bags are also well insulated. It is not a myth that women feel the cold more than men. To overcome this, these sleeping bags are made up with greater amounts of insulation.

While sleeping pads are popular, there aren’t as many options available for women as with sleeping bags. Like the sleeping bags, however, these pads are shorter and have better insulation. They also tend to be well-padded in certain areas. This way, women with wider hips are still able to sleep on their side.

Backpacks

As mentioned above, men and women are built differently. Women have closer set shoulders and their torsos are shorter. This is why getting backpacks that have been specially designed for women can actually be useful.

With women’s bags, the straps are thinner, able to rest on smaller shoulders. Also, there is less distance between the two straps, allowing them to settle on the right spot between your shoulders. Also, the length is adjusted so that the packs are shorter as well so that they are better aligned with women’s hips.

Another noticeable difference is the straps on the backpacks made for women. These allow for greater adjustment in the chest and waist area. Since women tend to be quite varied here, they need great options.

Other Women-Oriented Products

Now there are other products that are targeted towards women but very rightly so! Take, for instance, the innovative Go-Girl. This female urinary device changes the way that women can camp and tackle the outdoors. As you can imagine, there is no male version for this.

How to Know When You Should Buy Women Specific Gear?

As findings would indicate, sometimes women do have to choose gear that is meant specifically for them. However, how do you know whether the product is legitimate or just a product of skewed marketing?

Does It Fit You?

Really, one of the biggest reasons that there is need for women-related wear is due to the size. In most instances, women are shorter and curvier than men which is why they need clothing that is suited to those body types. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you will always be stuck with these options.

For example, if you are considered tall for a woman and not overly curvy, then you should be able to wear most items found in the men’s range. When buying women’s outdoor wear, make a point of focusing on the measurements provided rather than terms such as Small, Medium, or Large. This will indicate whether the clothes in question will actually fit you properly. This is because women who work out or are physically active may actually find that their physique is not catered to in women’s sections.

The same theory goes for accessories such as boots or even backpacks. As long as it comfortably fits you where it needs to, then there is no issue in you getting it. This logic can also be applied to bikes and even snowboards. For instance, women specific bikes are made to suit smaller frames. On a similar note, women’s snowboards are shorter and narrower. If you are of average or below average height and weight, then such gear would make sense. Otherwise, the generic versions should work just fine for you.

Which Option Has Better Features?

As we saw in the case of sleeping bags and pads, there is a good reason to get certain products that have been designated for women. In this instance, it is because it helps you to stay warmer and more comfortable than with unisex sleeping bags and pads.

This is why it is important to compare both women’s and men’s products. It will give you a better understanding about whether the ladies version is missing out on any crucial attributes. What most people tend to forget to look at is just how durable clothing items should be. If you are a climber or are all about getting lost in the wild, then you need clothing that can stand up to the elements and a little bit of wear and tear. On average, men’s clothing tends to be a little more durable. Therefore, you should always compare the material used for both females and males to see if they both offer the same protection and resilience.

If you are still confused, just think of the following as a rule of thumb in most typical instances. If the gear in question has something to do with the physique, you will be better off, getting items that have been created for women. In this case, gender really is quite important.

However, when the product or the item is most activity-focused, this doesn’t necessarily hold true anymore. As long as size and related factors are included, most women will be completely capable of using them.

What you need to remember is that there are no hard and fast rules about any of this. It is more important that whatever you are getting fits you – both physically and mentally – than anything else. The product that you do get should be able to cater to all of your requirements rather than simply pandering to a perception pushed by an industry.

The outdoor gear industry has certainly made a great deal of progress in how they cater to women. At the same time, they still have a long way to go. This is largely to do with the fact their efforts have led them in a direction that is not actually followed by women. In most instances, outdoorsy women are very much like their male counterparts. Their focus is on performance, durability, and getting your money’s worth. Hopefully, manufacturers and brands will catch up to this soon enough.


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Last update on 2018-11-09 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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