DIY – Hiking Skirt and Tall Gaiters

I never thought I’d be one to wear a skirt hiking, heck I didn’t even wear them in my other life. But after developing a fabric sensitivity to my favorite pants, and subsequent rashes, I was motivated to make a change. Hemlock was my exemplar. She’d been wearing skirts and tall gaiters for several years while hiking in varied terrain and conditions. 

I trialed a skirt during my 90-day, 9,000 mile, 20 national park trip earlier this year. I could wear shorts or tights under it, shoes or sandals, and heck it was only $5. #$5skirtadventures

I even hiked in it occasionally. I was a convert! 

Although extremely comfortable, it really wasn’t trail worthy. So before I started the Arizona Trail, I upgraded to this Dollar General dress I converted to a skirt. 

It was certainly more durable than my $5 skirt, but still snagged on the stickery prickeries of the Arizona Desert. I liked the length and simple A-Line design of both skirts. It was time to find some fabric and make a real hiking skirt. Lucky for me, my friend Penny introduced me to Mill End Fabrics where I found the perfect fabric for $4 a yard. 

Step 1 – Determine length and bottom width of your skirt.  My dimensions were Width=58″ Length=25″.

Tip: Add 3-4″ to finished length for elastic casing and hem line. It’s easier to cut extra off then add it back.

Step 2 – Determine waist/hip width, then cut angle to form “A-Line” shape. I loosely measured around my hips, added a few inches and used that as the waist width. In my case that meant reducing the sides by 3″ each on this double thickness fabric (total of 12″ reduction). I then made an angled cut from the waist to the hem line. My new dimensions: Waist Width = 46″ Hem Width = 58″)

Step 3 – Stitch side seams, finishing edges as desired.  I used a flat-felled seam technique.

Consideration: Occasionally I find my stride slightly inhibited by the hem width. Side slits or a kick pleat would resolve and will probably be included in my next version.

Step 4 – Create casing for elastic, insert and determine fit. I used 1″ elastic, and created my casing by folding over 2.25″ fabric and stitching at both fold and hem edges. 

Step 5 – Determine length of skirt and hem accordingly. I used the rolled hem technique. 

Consideration: If you don’t already have a favorite length, I recommend making it longer initially as you can always shorten later. On my first hike, I thought it might be too long, but I got use to it by the third hike and I now like the length. It keeps my knees from getting burned and invites fewer bites, scrapes and scratches.

Step 6 – POCKETS? I elected to forego pockets after wearing my previous two skirts. I liked the freedom vs feeling my phone or other items banging against my legs.

UPDATE: I added pockets after using the skirt for a while.

When I wore pants, I rolled the legs up when I was hot and down when it was cold or buggy or I was bushwhacking. I decided to follow Hemlock’s example by making tall leggings for this purpose. 

Step 1 – Determine length.

Step 2 – Determine width at top and bottom. My dimensions: Top Width = 23″ Bottom Width = 15″

Tip: I used the factory edge for the bottom so I wouldn’t need to hem and would have a little extra stretch. Bottom width needs to include sufficient room to stretch over foot and ankle. I pinned and tested several times before sewing.  

Step 3 – Stitch the seam, finishing the edges as desired. I used a flat-felled seam technique.

Step 4 – Create a casing for elastic at top. I used rolled elastic and a toggle.

Yeah I look like a dork in my modified Brownie uniform, but it’s been fantastic. The fabric couldn’t be more perfect. It repels water, dries quickly, protects me from stickery prickeries, and has survived several encounters with tree sap. The skirt is comfortable and flows well while hiking. I’ve worn my tights under the tall gaiters when it’s been cold (protects my merino wool). They’ve worked to protect my legs from undergrowth scratches, drippy bushes, and pesky mosquitoes and black flies. When I don’t want to take time to remove them, I quickly readjust them to ankle height. I’ve sprayed both the skirt and gaiters with Sawyer Permethrin.

Ongoing challenges of bare leg syndrome: I’d still like to find a lightweight shorts option, especially for those times when I might slip (been there done that . . . makes for some nice scrapes on the backs of the legs), when the bugs are bad (they like that warm soft flesh), or when I have to shimmy across and over logs. I tried the Jockey Women’s Underwear Skimmies Wicking Slipshort as recommended by several female hikers. They worked for a few hours before beginning the dreaded upward crawl. Surprisingly my biggest concern, chub rub, didn’t become a reality when I ditched the malfunctioning Skimmies. Maybe the recently recommended Bandelettes Elastic Anti-Chafing Thigh Bands are the answer? More likely though on me they’d quickly become rubberbands, a Michelin Man or Pillsbury Doughboy necessity . . . I can’t stop chuckling . . . and as a lightweight hiker, it’s important to think of multiuses for your gear, so slingshot bands?


12 thoughts on “DIY – Hiking Skirt and Tall Gaiters

  1. I thread an elastic cord through the top waist band of skimmies and put a cord lock on to tighten if they start to migrate down. Or now I like the men’s seamless Jockey undies, the come in a length just as long as the skimmies but with a better waistband…. No downward migration.

    • Ah mine migrate the other way. They ride up my thighs. I got the long ones as I have pretty chubby thighs and they still rode all the way up to my crotch.

      Thanks for the feedback, I’ll check my wording.

  2. I love it!!! I am always one who loves a good bargain and custom made pieces. This will be the first summer that I will be hiking in a skirt. I use men’s long sport briefs underneath instead of women’s undies. The men’s briefs wick moisture away, and keep everything under wraps. They also help with thigh chafing, etc. And I figure I can go swimming in them too.
    Great post!

    • Oh how I’ve missed you. I’m guessing 10-25% of the guys on the long trails are wearing skirts or kilts. Mountain Hardware makes great products. Another one to check out is a small start up by a hiker for hikers. Here’s a link to my friend Allgood’s blog. He wears his skirt/kilt proudly and is on the CDT currently.

      BTW, hope you’re enjoying my LOCAL posts. It’s been fun to sneak in a few outings in my favorite wilderness areas but new to me places.

      • Oooo, perfect! Thanks for the link! Definitely going to check out! Local posts? I enjoy ALL your posts (but, yes, a special affinity to the local posts!). Thanks again!

  3. Not dorky at all! You won’t catch me wearing a kilt anytime soon but thinking about the unrestricted movement, breathabilty….

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