November 5, 2012 at 11:40 PM

Nothing’s Perfect (Especially Off the Rack)

"...the percentage of truly serious gear designed to fit women is still pretty small"

By Karen Denison

At Home Outdoors

Karen Denison is owner of Outspire Hiking and Snowshoeing guide service, a former biologist, and a shameless admirer of the outdoors.

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All good things must come to their end I suppose but my favorite fishing shirt isn't done yet. It's 10 years old and faded to just the right shades of green and dirt, literally coming apart at the seams. But it fits me perfectly and I'm still unwilling to give it up. So under the presser foot of my old Singer sewing machine it goes. I don't think my mother (or home ec teacher or 4H leader) ever imagined that those sewing lessons long ago would now be turned to tailoring fishing shirts and hiking gear rather than ladylike skirts and homey curtains.

Many manufacturers of outdoor gear have realized that women also hike, climb, fish and even hunt, but the percentage of truly serious gear designed to fit women is still pretty small. Not to pick on only one (very good) company, but although Patagonia offers lots of women's items the majority are very cute, stylish pieces rather than the tough, thoughtful technical items in basic black or tan that are sized to fit men. I know that bellows pockets are not flattering to a woman's figure, but they are eminently practical in outdoors wear!

And I have attained an age where settling for ill-fitting clothing or almost-right gear is a real drag. So thank you, Mom, for teaching me the basics of sewing and tailoring. Much of my outdoor clothing and gear is no longer as it was when purchased: hems are let down, darts added, colors changed with Rit dye, new straps or pockets added. My last concoction was a simple purse from a department store which became a fanny pack of just the right size for my backcountry fishing gear. 

So finally I come to my point: really OWN your outdoor gear. Whether you're a man or woman, make your gear what you really want. Don't rely on anyone else to limit your choices.  Get basic, well made items and be brave--if you don't have sewing skills yourself, then find a good seamstress. You'll be so much happier in the end!

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