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Re: Overweight and old, looking for backpacking clothes recommendations

Hi Ya'll! I am 55 years old, and need to lose a substantial amount of weight. I am also tall, female. I am having trouble trying to find suitable gear that is comfortable and fits. I have been outdoorsy all my life, ride motorcycles/camp/etc. but am just now getting into backpacking. I do pretty well for the most part with hiking a few miles backpacking, and have honed my gear down to a reasonable load. I'm wanting to get ready to do more extensive, hikes in cooler temps and higher elevations where it will be colder. Are there any suggestions on base layers, mid layers that come in larger sizes. I am 5'10" long legged and normally have to shop in the mens section because of my height/weight ratio. Any help will be appreciated.

8 Replies


Hi right back to you! Before I would make any recommendations about base and mid layers (and BTW, shop in whatever section works for you. I have, for example, a set of women's Cuddl Duds that I sleep in. They are warm and light, just the ticket for my winter backpacking set-up), the more important Q's are; 1) What kind of physical shape are you in now, and, 2) How high is "higher elevations"? Your greatest risk in pushing where you are at now as a hiker does not come from your gear (unless you have none, or the gear you have is so poor that it is useless, that is, just like having nothing) but from how ready your body and mind are to meet the next hiking challenge. Understand that this is a value-neutral assessment, that is, asking "am I physically ready for this hiking challenge" has nothing to do with any particular weight or fitness level.

For example, I am closer to sixty than fifty, I am in great physical condition, working out five to six days a week and hiking every week, and I always do a long (think 5 to 12 days) backcountry hike in the summer, typically at much higher elevations than where I live (elevation of my town - 700 feet about sea level). BUT, I am VERY careful to train for the hike, lose weight for the hike, and always have a physical before the hike. When you go out backpacking for longer days and higher elevations, you want to have that "Oh my Lord, it is so beautiful!" experience, and not the "Oh my Lord, how am I going to get out of here!" experience. The difference in that outcome starts with our most important piece of gear - ourselves.

That all being said, check this REI vid on layering ( ), keeping in mind that if you are on a tighter budget, you can shop the types of layers in all sorts of places, even stores like Walmart (again, my Cuddl Duds). And don't worry about which department (men's/women's) you get your stuff in, just keep moving forward - You will drop the weight that you don't want and reach the heights you are aiming for, one step at a time.

See you down the trail!


As the seasons change and weather gets colder, proper clothing becomes even more important for outdoor activities. The key to four-season success in the outd...

Thank you!! Trust me, I couldn’t care less what department I shop from, or if I match!! Lol!! I’ve always been tall, and even when I was young and skinny, women’s clothes just don’t fit. Thanks for the words of encouragement! I just really need to up my game before summer 2021 hits. 


HI @acheela - I can't comment from the perspective of women's clothing but I can comment on the old and overweight!

First, we're not old, we're experienced! LOL (I just turned 52). Last Summer I was just shy of 300 pounds. Never actually hit that mark but I was within a couple of pounds. Through hiking and walking (and a couple other activities) I've now lost 85 pounds.

I mention that because it plays into the clothing choices. 

If you get into hiking and backpacking, you'll find that your body shape will change (and even more so if you start dropping pounds). So I would recommend NOT dropping a lot of coin on the premier brands (Patagonia, Arc'teryx , etc.) because you'll find that you get less than one season from them before they no longer fit. I've been walking and day-hiking for a while but just getting into backpacking. So I have A LOT of gear I have to buy at once. That gets expensive.

Since I've not been fashion conscious since my 20s (and even then my "fashion choices" were suspect), I've been buying last year's discounted stuff from the REI Outlet (my new REI rain shell is awesome - especially at the ridiculously low price I paid.) And for things like base-layers, socks, etc. I've bought a lot of it from large membership-based warehouses and online vendors. When you go on YouTube and see how so many people dress on the trail anyway, who cares if you wear a red jacket, an orange shirt, and blue pants! LOL

Now as those lower cost items are starting to wear out and as my body has settled into something more consistent, I'll replace them with better quality. But I really found it economically advantageous to buy the "budget-friendly" items starting off. And the brands you'll often find online and in larger retailers will cater to a broader range of sizes, making it easier to purchase. (why do so many of the higher-end outdoor brands seem to cater to people already in good shape? <--- rhetorical question).

(Admins, if it's not cool to mention non-REI stores and brands please feel free to remove this next portion). The other day, my local Costco was selling Columbia puffy jackets and I've bought several packages of their 32 Degree performance t-shirts and thermal "compression" leggings (not a lot of compression, which is why I put it in quotes). Also, They have a 6-pack of marino blend socks for under $20. Darn Tough Socks will blow those socks out of the water every single day but they're almost 1.5× as much for a single pair as the entire 6-pack. So when you have to buy those along with a bunch of other clothing... 

Hope this rambling helps...


“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.” (John Muir)

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Thank you for your reply!! I’m in pretty good shape considering. I’m 55 and have been active and outside my whole life. I have been acquiring gear for several years ( funny how traveling on a motorcycle will get you into hiking gear!! Lol) and have everything except warm clothes pretty well dialed in. I am from Texas, and have moved to Wisconsin last year. I like to travel and camp during the summer, always seeking cooler temps, and so Colorado’s 12,000+ elevations and Jeep trails have been AWSOME the last couple of years. Next year I’m wanting to go to Idaho and knock around... but want to be able to stay warm. I actually do mist of the stuff you are suggesting, and need to just continue with this strategy for now. Thanks for your rambling!! It is very encouraging. 

@acheela we really appreciate that you've reached out to our community for advice on this topic, and we're glad to see a few members already chiming in. @JBG makes a great point about taking good care with your body first and foremost. And @Dad_Aint_Hip, you are completely fine to recommend gear from other places, as our goal in this community is to provide authentic advice on how to easily get outdoors!

We'll add a few other things to consider:

  • As @Dad_Aint_Hip mentioned, if you're hoping to spend a little less on the first round of gear, we recommend checking out both the REI Outlet and our Used Gear site 
  • We'd then recommend checking out this search - it includes both Men's and Women's options that we carry in extended sizes (this will include plus and petite, but you can refine the search by selecting plus only); you can then further refine the search by clicking the + symbol next to each category (base layers will fall in the 'underwear' category)
  • As you're deciding on base layers, we have Expert Advice articles on how to pick base layers, how to dress in layers, and cold-weather hiking tips that might be helpful

We hope this is a helpful starting point; if you find a few options you're considering and want help narrowing down your choices, don't hesitate to reach out again for specific advice! And if you don't want to or can't visit us in a store, you might consider setting up a free virtual outfitting appointment where one of our employees can make personalized recommendations that will work well for you!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

You guys at REI are my besties!! I’m actually finding out that I’m doing better with my gear than I had thought. I had an appointment with REI to go over my base weight items, and low and behold my whole setup was right at 20lbs. Much better than I had thought. I have an REI about 35 miles from home, so it’s a nice weekend stop. Got some great stuff from the garage sale, and bought several things from the outlet. Thanks for the other suggestions, I will definitely try those as well. 

As a fellow two-wheeler, I have complete faith in your ability to turn that mere 35 mile ride to your REI into a worthwhile 100 miles on a beautiful day!

“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.” (John Muir)

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

I've had good luck finding suitable (cheaper) clothes at Academy Sports. In particular, I use their baselayers, zip-off pants, and fleece jackets. I think the jackets are around $20, but I bought a couple on sale for $12.

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.