I admit: It took me a while to give dresses for hiking a proper chance. But women’s activewear has come a long way, ladies. And the modern hiking dress is one of the most flattering, comfortable, and versatile pieces of clothing you can have in your outdoor gear lineup.
Especially for warm-weather hikes and casual adventures, a hiking dress is the perfect combination of trail performance and effortless flair. Plus, you won’t have to worry about near-maddening constriction of pants and shorts. Or about changing outfits when transitioning from trail to town!
So, if you’re ready to swap those traditional outdoor bottoms and tops for a dynamic adventure dress, I’ve got you covered. Read on for the best hiking dresses for all your outdoor escapades.
My Review Process
As someone who’s adventured near and far in search of memorable outdoor experiences, I have a pretty good sense of what makes hiking clothes stand the test of time. And let it be known, that the hiking dress of today isn’t some one-and-done trend. Some of the finest outdoor brands have added this super-versatile garment to their women’s collections, and it's easy to see why.
So what goes into making a solid hiking dress that will go the distance no matter what activity you’re powering through? Above all, I prioritize dresses made with quality performance fabrics that are lightweight, quick-drying, and allow unrestricted movement. I’ve highlighted other important features in the Buying Guide below, so be sure to have a look before committing to a purchase.
From hot weather hikes to mellow neighborhood strolls, Backcountry’s Destination Dress stands out as a hiking outfit built to tackle movement with utmost style.
It ticks all the activewear boxes: lightweight, durable, and just the right amount of stretch and coverage. The quick-dry nylon fabric also really moves with your body and does an excellent job repelling moisture when your heart rate (or the temps!) ramp up. I love the deep pocket on the shorts side, too; it allows you to stash a phone or emergency snack if you’re without a pack.
The top reason it’s my favorite choice for hiking, though? The unique cut-out design on the lower back. This key feature not only allows extra airflow but makes it possible to easily pull the bottom section down, making bathroom trips on and off trail a breeze. From personal experience, I can attest that’s a pretty huge perk!
I do wish it had some extra boob support or an internal sports bra, but that’s a simple fix: just layer with your favorite hiking bra and you’re set! At day’s end, Backcountry’s Destination Dress is a champ because it puts spunk and support in your step from the first go.
Want a dress packed with pockets that doesn’t sacrifice comfort, durability and style? Then you’ll love Patagonia’s popular Fleetwith Dress.
Minimalists can rejoice with the versatile, no-frills silhouette, made with recycled polyester. The tank-style top has a charming crossover back and looser fit, while the dropped waist and drawcord feature allows for a customized fit. I like that the skirt is a bit more fitted, too, without compromising movement. Also, did I mention not one, but three pockets?!
I love the drawstring waist for everyday outings but if you’re heading out for a long-distance hiking trail, it may cause some rubbing issues with backpack belts. For casual hikes, rest days, and daily activities, though, the Patagonia Fleetwith really shines. Whether you’re pairing it with hiking boots or heels, it’s a dress you’ll soon find on repeat because it’s that good.
Light as a feather but with a supportive core, the Mountain Hardwear Dynama Dress is true to its name, offering a dynamic design that thrives in the outdoors.
What’s to love? A stretchy nylon-elastane fabric puts mobility at the forefront in every way. And adjustable straps in the back make it possible to slip on and hit the trails with no time to waste. The shorts liner also creates what is essentially a built-in bodysuit. That makes the Dynama Dress a great option for cross-over activities that warrant a bit extra coverage, like cycling or bouldering.
Okay, but does the one-piece design make bathroom management outdoors a tad tricky? Yes, but only slightly. It’s a process that has easy solutions with the right attitude. For me, the uncompromising comfort and technical nature of Mountain Hardwear’s Dynama Dress make it one I’m excited to hit the trails with each time.
It may be designed with the female angler in mind, but Columbia’s PFG Freezer III Dress will excel just as much on your favorite trails as on the water. It’s my top pick for a sweaty hike or logging some relaxed miles at the peak of summer.
The magic is in the material. Specialized, sweat-activated “Omni-Freeze” fabric cools your entire body as it releases moisture, and is dry before you know it. Thanks to the quality blend of polyester and elastane jersey, the PFG Freezer III also feels criminally light and silky. UPF 50+ sun protection only further adds to the hot weather pot!
What about the cons? Well, a lack of external pockets and no built-in sports bra isn’t ideal, but for hikers specifically, the longer silhouette of the Freezer III Dress may cause thigh chafing. An anti-chafing balm will alleviate that, though, and allow you to take on trails with confidence. Days end, it’s a pretty darn versatile option for a range of body types wanting a warm-weather dress to be active in.
Chasing tame and challenging hikes alike, but want to look sleek doing it? The North Face’s EA Arque Dress may not look like hiking gear, but it most definitely performs like it.
The internal bodysuit provides support where you need it, with two drop-in phone-sized pockets on each side for your trail essentials. North Face’s trademark FlashDry fabric (made with recycled polyester) wicks moistures, dries quickly, and allows supreme mobility, too.
Like most of the awesome gear and clothing North Face offers, the price tag is a bit on the steeper end. But from my personal experience, the quality speaks for itself. This is a summer hiking dress that can power through quick high-elevation scrambles and nights on the town just as easily. A winner in my trail book.
Smartwool is a master of blending quality fabrics, function and design, and their Active Tank Dress is a testament to this. This stylish piece delivers everything you could want from a hiking dress in an elegant, capable and lightweight package that’s ready to take on the outdoors.
Unlike the synthetic material dresses on our list, the Active Tank Dress has the bonus of featuring a natural fabric blend. Merino wool and polyester are masterfully joined in key sections on the sides and back, promoting thermoregulation and breathability where you need it most. I also love the external drop-in pockets and peekaboo cutout at the back.
Does Merino wool gear come at an extra cost? Slightly. But honestly, this price tag is quite comparable to other frocks on our list! And for a merino-blend of any sort, it’s still a pretty great value. Sporty, comfortable, yet easy to dress up when you need to, I wouldn’t hesitate to add Smartwool’s Active Tank Dress to your forever closet.
Just because it’s the most wallet-friendly piece on our roundup doesn't mean it’s not fit for your wildest hiking adventures. The Avalanche Outdoor Supply Company has knocked it out of the park with their Mesh Zipper Pocket Hiking Dress, and it’ll help you go that distance.
Why the praise? For one, a super lightweight, mesh-like spandex blend keeps you cool and airy whether you’re exploring beautiful hikes, car camping or exploring downtown attractions. The strappy, open-back design also adds a unique touch, all while promoting extra airflow. I’m a big fan of the built-in shelf bra with removable foam cup pads, too; it provides just the right amount of support!
Be forewarned: for some, the mesh fabric of the Avalanche Zipper Pocket Hiking Dress may feel a bit too transparent. But for a summer frock meant for summer travels and adventures, it’s a small price to pay. At such a steal of a price, I say you buy two so you’re never without a clean option for your next hike!
Why Are The Pros Of Hiking In A Dress?
Especially when you already have a tried-and-true collection of hiking shorts, shirts, and pants for hiking, a dress may not feel like the most obvious choice for many. But a hiking dress has far more perks than meets the eye.
For one, you don’t have to deal with the often-uncomfortable constriction of pants and shorts. The lack of a defined waistband also means fewer hot-spots, especially when lugging a pack with a waist belt.
Another game-changer: no sagging bottoms beginning to ride low on those multi-day hikes! A dress is one streamlined piece of hiking garb that takes the place of two separate ones. If you’re packing for an overnighter or longer backpacking trip, that means less space and weight in your pack.
What Are The Cons to Hiking Dresses?
As great as a hiking dress is, it’s not for every hiker or for every season.
Most of all, your average hiking dress is generally limited to warm and hot weather. Although you can certainly still rock one in cooler months, especially when paired with a long-sleeved shirt or hiking jacket, a hiking dress has its comfort limits in cold weather.
Another negative, at least for some, may be exposure in the nether regions; mainly if a dress doesn’t come with built-in shorts. While the perk of this is more airflow, it definitely could pose an issue for some gals that prefer full coverage down there. No built-in shorts also means that chafing could potentially arise. A good way to combat this is by applying anti-chafing balm.
On that same note, built-in shorts do pose a bit more complication when popping a squat on the trail. Pulling the entire dress off just to go to the bathroom can become frustrating to say the least, but with the right mindset, you can nail a system that works for you.
Read more on built-in shorts in our Buying Guide below!
Women’s Hiking Dress Buying Guide
A great hiking dress is more than just a cute activewear frock. The most reliable designs are equal parts flattering, comfortable and technical, and made to please the most active woman on whatever adventures she embarks on.
Here are the most important features to consider when purchasing a dress for hiking.
As with all hiking clothes, material is everything. You want to ensure the fabric of your hiking dress is not only comfortable on the skin, but quick-drying, sweat-wicking and breathable. Generally, this means a synthetic, stretchy material, like polyester or nylon, but some dresses do feature a Merino wool blended with spandex or other synthetics.
Ease of movement is also critical when choosing a hiking dress. Going with a fabric that conforms to your body type and allows unrestricted movement when scrambling or pushing through a tough section of trail makes all the difference.
Hiking dress styles range from loose and simple slip-on designs to more performance-oriented pieces. The latter usually feature built-in bras or built-in shorts, and fitted, stretchy silhouettes that provide utmost freedom of movement.
As you’ll see from our shortlist, the exact length, shoulder strap width, and back design will vary from piece to piece. Some dresses will have adjustable racerback straps and slightly flared skirts, while others may be more fitted with a body suit design. Which you pick is mainly a matter of personal preference.
When it comes to attire for hiking, the same is true around the table: the more pockets the better! Granted, a hiking dress generally won’t feature quite as many pockets as, say, technical climbing pants. But the top hiking dresses will typically have at least one. Whether it’s a simple drop-in pocket or a secure zipper stash pocket will depend on the dress itself, of course, but definitely aim to have something there to carry your small essentials.
Built-in shorts are a pretty big deciding factor in the hiking dress realm, which is why I’ve featured dresses with and without them in the roundup. Yes, shorts mean more protection against chafing, and more coverage when on technical (or busy) terrain. But built-in shorts also make going to the bathroom in your dress a bit more complicated (yes, you need to pull the whole thing off.)
Which design is best for you? If you want ease, I’d choose a style with no built-shorts. You can always pair your dress with bike shorts if needed, after all. If you prize an all-in-one dress that will have your back, though, built-in shorts are the way to go. It may take a few rounds to find the best bathroom system for you, but rest assured, one does exist. The tradeoff is well worth it!
Prices for hiking dresses range anywhere from $30-$40 for a budget-friendly piece to upwards of $100 for one from a top outdoor brand. Even though the higher-priced frocks may seem expensive for a seemingly limited, seasonal piece of outdoor clothing, the versatility of a hiking dress truly makes it a worthwhile investment.
Besides merely wearing a hiking dress for outdoor adventures, most styles —like all of the ones I’ve featured above— can easily be worn for everyday outings, travels, and even relaxed nights on the town. This adaptable nature makes a hiking dress quite the chameleon of your wardrobe!
Want a hiking dress that offers equal parts support, style and ease of movement? Our Best Overall pick, the Backcountry Destination Dress, offers a unique design that the most seasoned hikers will appreciate.
If something a bit more refined and versatile is your aim, Smartwool’s super-sleek Active Tank Dress will really impress with its thermoregulating merino-wool blend and crowd-pleasing silhouette. Patagonia’s Fleetwith Dress is a close runner-up in terms of a sporty-yet-polished hiking look.
For those needing ultimate support and coverage for high-output activities, I wouldn’t hesitate with The North Face EA Arque Hike Dress. It’s one of my all-time favorite hiking dresses, and the FlashDry fabric stands the test of time and trails.
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.