Plus Sized Hiking and the Backpacking World

Plus Sized Hiking and the Backpacking World

Author: Tina Eckerlin

There is a lot of judgment in life. People judge your clothes, car, job, hair colour, and size. You are judged at work, at the gym, and unfortunately on the trail. 

The trail is the place where I feel free, strong and complete. Yet, there is still judgement.

You will encounter different sized people on the trail: tall, short, thin and plus-sized. You may see a plus-sized hiker and think to yourself 'they are too big to be out here. What are they thinking?'.

The bottom line, is that the trail is for everyone.

Common misconceptions include that thin people are in 'better shape' and have more endurance. It is assumed that plus-sized means that a person is lazy and sits around eating potato chips all day. 

I am not trying to glorify obesity. However, I do advocate being supportive, inclusive and kind.

Many people have health issues such as syndromes, underlying diseases, and side-effects to medications that cause weight gain. You do not know about a persons life or health. Maybe they are just trying to get fit and change their lifestyle?

I myself experienced excessive weight gain due to hormone problems. I have a good diet and am extremely physically active, yet still look the way I look. I have experienced countless judgments in life, and on the trail.

I have had the pleasure of meeting an over-confident group of three young men on the trail at a crossroads, a common break area. I could sense the judgement as I walked up to them. All very fit. I could tell that my plus-sized and child-bearing physique jiggle was being accessed with every step closer I got to them.

They were doing a 2-night trip. They talked about how rough the trail was, and how they planned to do the whole trail later that year. They said that they were planning a 7 day trip but may need to extend the time due to the difficulty with the rocks, mud and tree roots. They looked at me almost waiting to hear my complaints.

I told them how I loved this trail, and how I had already completed it twice before, and how this time around I was knocking a day off the trip completing it in 5 days. 

They quickly looked at me differently,  jumping right into gear talk. We swapped base-weight information, brands that we carried and how we liked our trail runners. I guess that I suddenly deserved to be out there.

I normally don't feel plus-sized. In fact, I generally feel quite lean, confident and fit. That is until I look in the mirror, someone makes a comment or makes me feel less than I am.

Breaking News

Plus-sized people know they are plus-sized. If you were going to make a comment, it is best to keep it to yourself. Most are very self conscious and are always trying to better themselves. Your comments and looks do not help them achieve a healthy lifestyle. In fact, it tends to make it worse and compounds the problem.

Despite all this, one of the most painful experiences is trying to buy gear.

So why does the outdoor industry cater to standard sizes? Why do so many outdoor brands only carry standard sizes? Furthermore, what the hell is a standard size?

Should we not be trying to help plus-sized people have the right gear to be comfortable and safe in the outdoors?

Why do some manufacturers label size 12-14 as plus sized? Why can't I get the same items is a bigger size? Why do we need to label things plus or extended sizes? Why can't we just have sizing?

The idea of standard sizing is a relatively new one. US standard sizes were developed in the 1940's. Women's sizes were later revamped in 1958. These new sizing standards were based upon the hourglass figure, using the bust measurement as the arbitrary standard for sizing. Crazy right?

By being represented in the outdoors and being inclusive we encourage an active way of living.

If a company does not carry extended sized I suggest that you contact them to request more selection of sizing. If they see a demand for it they will eventually manufacture it.

On-the-flip-side, if a company already makes multi-sized gear, let them know to keep it up!

Sources for Extended Sized Outdoor Gear

Here at Terrain UL, we believe that everybody is different. I would love to see every company carry all sizes.

Until then, I would like to send a shout out to companies that are being inclusive and who are starting to or are already carrying extended sizes. Some outdoor apparel and gear companies that should be recognized are:

  1. Columbia
  2. Outdoor Research
  3. Eddie Bauer
  4. Sportiveplus
  5. Snow Country Outerwear
  6. MEC
  7. The North Face
  8. Gregory Packs 

The next time you pass another human on the trail consider what they have gone through to get where they are. We should commend each other for our accomplishments, and not pass judgement.

So the next hiker you meet, wish them a good hike and be kind. Instead of judging each other, let's support and commend each others accomplishments to lead our best and healthiest lives. 

Do you know any great sources for extended sized outdoor gear? Please share with us!

Make sure to leave us a comment below and share your thoughts!


Back to blog


Thanks for the comment @Linda,
I am so happy to see more companies carrying more sizes. If you find a company you really like, let them know to keep it up!
They will always carry what is in demand.
Also, let us know if you find any other great gear with extended sizes!
Happy Hiking from a fellow larger-sized-strong-active female-identifying hiker!


@Horak Attaque
Thanks for the comment! I agree that is the bigger problem in the world. Gender, no matter the situation goes deep.
Women in the same job as a man, with the same degree and same experience will always need to work harder to prove herself to others that she is deserving of the position.
No, I doubt I would have had to prove myself if I had met those fellas if I were a man.


Great article Tina!


Thanks for this article Tina…and the list of companies that are more likely to support larger sizes for strong, active female-identifying hikers. Like me! 🙂
Checking out your website soon!


Totally right on! I wonder if you mere male with the same bmi (ie packed with muscle as well as jiggly parts) if these young men would have responded the same way. Or if you would still feel you had to ‘prove yourself’ in the conversation, or one-up them in order to get respect? The gender component goes deeeeeeeep on both sides, thats for sure. Great piece Tina. Fierce!

Horak Attaque

Leave a comment