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Up until a few years ago, many outdoor apparel brands only made women’s clothing between sizes XS and XL, excluding anyone outside that size run. But plus-size hikers are done being an afterthought. Trails are for all shapes and sizes, and it’s time designers acknowledged that.
Many brands have a long way to go in terms of their plus-size offerings. It’s not enough to just add extra fabric to their existing styles; a proper piece of outdoor clothing forms and fits to a body. The products we tested are designed from the ground up for curvier, bigger-bodied women. Here are the ones that topped our testers’ lists.
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Best Puffy: The North Face Women’s Plus Thermoball Eco Jacket
Last year, The North Face extended sizing in some of its most popular outerwear pieces, and the Thermoball Eco was one of the products that got a boost. Its recycled polyester insulation kept our tester warm in 20°F weather, but the fill and face fabric are breathable enough that she didn’t get too clammy while hiking up Table Rock Mountain in North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest. The Thermoball Eco packs down to the size of an acorn squash in one of two zippered hand pockets, and elastic-bound cuffs block wind while an elastic drawcord helps dial fit around varying hip widths. Plus, one tester says that the princess seams—a stitching style that produces a tailored fit—“made me feel cute in a way few plus-size jackets do.” Bonus: This puffy is about $100 cheaper than many of its competitors. $199; Buy now
15.5 oz. (average weight); w’s 1X-3X
Best Shell: Columbia OutDry Ex Reign Jacket
Columbia’s designers did their sizing homework, and it shows. The OutDry Ex Reign’s loose-but-not-billowy fit means it doesn’t just look like a garbage bag; one tester says it drapes in a neat A-frame shape from the waist to the top of the hips. In downpours, precip beads up on the durable OutDry Extreme fabric (the waterproof/breathable membrane is located on the outside of the shell), and seam-sealing ensures moisture stays out. But even warmer conditions, our tester reports that the shell breathes well. Zippered underarm vents circulate air, and the drawcord hood and hem adjusts as the weather changes. Hand pockets can hold a phone, headlamp, and a beanie. The OutDry Ex Reign packs down to the size of a volleyball. $170; Buy now
15.8 oz (w’s 1X); w’s XS-3X
Best Fleece: Appalachian Gear Company All-Paca Fleece Hoodie
This 100-percent alpaca fiber fleece is luxuriously soft, lightweight, and packable. It scored an Editors’ Choice Award in 2019 for those traits, but our initial review didn’t cover one key attribute: The All-Paca is a great plus-size midlayer. Although the size run only goes up to a women’s XL, we discovered that the extra-stretchy material results in tons of comfort while still falling around the torso in a flattering cut. One tester, who usually wears a size 3X, says that the size large gave her plenty of room to fit layers underneath as she strode the trails on Vancouver Island. It kept her warm in 40°F but thanks to its breathability, she never overheated when the sun was out. The brand’s All-Paca Crew is also a solid option for plus-size hikers; the closer fit is more like a baselayer. $145; Buy now
12 oz. (w’s XL); w’s XS-XL
Best Pant: Alder Open-Air Pant
Because each woman’s body is unique, pants sizing is far from universal. But this women-led company nailed their signature product’s fit for all body types. The Open-Air is made of modal, a tightly-woven fabric made from beech tree pulp (produced using less water than cotton), which is also supersoft, water-repellent, and pill-resistant. On a soggy, 50°F hike in British Columbia, the material blocked wind, resisted mud stains, and dried from rain within an hour. Most importantly, though, the features are dialed: A crotch gusset warded off thigh chafing, and the elastic waistband, curved back yoke, and four-way stretch ensure that this pant moves with curvier bodies. “The fit and material are incredible for scrambling and big steps,” a size-3X tester says. And, unlike many women’s pants, this pair is packed with seven pockets. Two hand pockets in the front and two drop pockets in the back are deep enough to fit a pair of light gloves. Two interior front pockets inside the hand pockets hold smaller items like lip balm or credit cards, and one zippered pocket on the thigh fits a smartphone. $128; Buy now
12.7 oz. (w’s M); w’s XS-4X
Best Tights: SuperFitHero SuperHOLD Pocket Leggings
SuperFitHero offered the most diverse fit scale of any brand we tested, with multiple products in sizes up to 7X. The SuperHOLD Pocket Leggings come in bright colors like cobalt and burgundy—a noteworthy detail, as plus-size hikers often only have a choice of black or gray. We appreciated the two full-size thigh pockets that each fit a large smartphone and energy bar, a supportive 5-inch-high waistband that didn’t squeeze and laid flat under a pack, and flat-lock seams that prevented rubbing. The thicker-than-normal-tights polyester/spandex material offers light compression and is snag-proof; it’s ideal for chilly hikes and trail runs, but we wouldn’t recommend it for summer outings. $95; Buy now
11.6 oz (w’s 2X); w’s L-7X