Women-Specific Gear - What's the Difference?

There is a multitude of women specific outdoor gear on the market today. These gear options span the categories of clothing, footwear, tents, backpacks, and numerous items in between.

Some of these options are truly amazing while some are downright questionable. This article explores design differences of women-specific gear categories and ways in which they may benefit you. (or not at all)

Why Do We Need Women-Specific Gear?

Outdoor gear companies created women-specific gear for a wide variety of reasons. These reasons are largely based on some general assumptions about the size, shape, and needs of women outdoor gear users.

These reasons include, but are not limited to, the following:

1) Women-Specific Body Shapes: Wider Hips, Shorter Torsos, Tapered Waists, Narrower Feet, and Breasts. 

2) Temperature Control: Women Sleep Colder (Sad but True)

3) Shorter Legs (Sometimes): Shorter Legs and Shorter Strides

4) Women-Specific Colors: Pink, Purple, and other 'women-specific' colors. (we have mixed feelings about this too)

Woman standing on a rock near a lake facing a view of mountains

Women-Specific Gear: The Good (Maybe)

Women-specific gear can be a wonderful thing. This may be especially true for women who fit the outdoor industry assumptions noted above. This is obviously not true for everyone.

1) Sleeping Bags: It is sad but true that women, in general, sleep colder. We are also likely to be larger around the hips and colder in the area of our feet. Women-specific sleeping bags compensate for these differences by packing in more insulation overall, cutting a wider hip area shape, and adding more insulation in the foot box. Ah. Warm.

2) Backpacks: Women-specific backpacks are built with shorter torsos, smaller shoulders, narrow waists, larger chests, and wider hips in mind. Is this you? Great! You may benefit from a women-specific backpack allowing you to carry loads more comfortably than a men's / unisex backpack could provide. 

3) Jackets: Purpose built for a woman's shape, many jacket manufacturers cut women-specific jackets with smaller shoulders, tapered waists, roomier chests, and shorter torso lengths. This may be great for you, or not, depending on how you are built. This may also present a challenge when selecting a jacket meant to layer over multiple other layers. (ex. winter parkas) 

4) Boots: Boots designed for women are often built with narrower widths, higher arches, and smaller heel cups in mind. This can result in a more comfortable fit, with less sliding around of your feet inside your boot, and a tighter fit to your heel to prevent blisters. This can also mean a cramped and uncomfortable foot prison. This all depends on how your feet are structured. 

5) Snowshoes: Women-specific snowshoes assume that the user possesses shorter legs, a shorter stride, and a lower weight than male users. Is this you? Great! Go get 'em! Are you taller, have longer legs, or weigh over 160 pounds? These may not be the right choice for you. 

What It Means - Choose Carefully

It is important to keep these general assumptions and manufacturer specific interpretations in mind when shopping for women's specific gear. One size, and one shape, certainly does not fit all. 

Our advice is to look carefully at size charts, weight charts, and model photos for a given manufacturer before making a purchasing decision. This can help you make the right choice for you, your body, and your pocketbook. 

This series will be continued to address the 'weird' of the women-specific gear world and the perfectly wonderful unisex options. See you then. 


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