While I have pieced together over the last year pretty much all of the clothing I need at the moment for enjoying myself outdoors, my wife was missing a few crucial pieces. Mainly, a good pair of pants, a long sleeve shirt, and a rain jacket. She had plenty of cotton based clothing which we usually wear when camping, but, as that’s not ideal for hiking we needed to fix it.
Sadly, women’s hiking clothing is full of fail for my wife. First, my wife is fairly tall – just shy of 6 feet. Secondly, she carries a lot of her extra weight in her hips, butt, and thighs. Apparently, all women, regardless of weight, are supposed to have little to no padding in these areas. It’s ridiculous.
Additionally, my wife really wanted a pair of convertible pants so that she had the option of zipping off the legs to make shorts. But, she wanted shorts that would come down to her knees. I’m not sure why, exactly, manufacturers think women want shorts that stop mid-thigh. Almost every pant we could find – both “larger” sizes and “regular” sizes – the women’s convertible pants stopped about 4 inches above the knee.
If you’re a larger person, I’m sure you’ve spent a fair amount of time online looking for clothing that you hope will fit, and then being disappointed when it finally arrives and you discover that no, it doesn’t. There’s nothing like being able to try on clothes in the store – even if you’re not keen on it in general – to ensure a proper fit. If you’re lucky enough to live in a larger city, you may be able to do this quite easily. For us, the pickings are a little slim when it comes to outdoor wear if we don’t want to stick to Columbia brand at the local Bass Pro Shop. And, honestly, I have nothing against Columbia, but it sucks being relegated to one brand.
So we drove the 3 hours to the nearest REI store after looking at their options online. I’m
always grateful to see an online store have a specific section for “big & tall” or “extended sizing”. It helps hold down the disappointment (and exasperation) of searching through loads of results only to find that the item you discover doesn’t even come in your size. I could have ordered online, but I wanted to make sure we found her something that fit appropriately (especially for our upcoming surprise trip). In my experience, convertible pants can be a bit of a pain in the butt as many of them wind up cutting into your thighs, or don’t have enough seat room, or have terrible zippers that you regret immediately, among other problems. After looking through what they had in the store, she wound up getting these pants ($50). Now, she’s got about a 31 inch inseam, so these were perfect, but the pants do come in several other inseams – up to 36 I believe.
I told her to make sure she could squat and kneel in them without any problems. After trying them on, she told me that they were a bit loose in the waist, but offered her the perfect amount of give in the thighs, seat, and crotch area without being baggy. I asked her if she attempted a squat and her reply was, “I squatted all the way down to the ground. Which, to be honest, surprised the hell of of me that I could even do.” The zip offs leave the “shorts” sitting right above her knee which is what she wanted. She bought the 2X size, which was as large as they came in-store. Online, they go up to a 3X.
Next on the list was a long sleeved shirt. I’m quite fond of my Columbia PFG “fishing” shirt. I wear a 2X regular in it. My wife also fits this size perfectly. Now, Columbia does have many women’s options in their shirts, but my wife, being almost 6 feet tall, has always found her arm length problematic in women’s shirts. The REI store only had 1 style of Columbia shirt in store, so I wound up buying her Columbia Sportswear Men’s Bahama II Long Sleeve Shirt on Amazon ($48).
Lastly, clothing-wise, we needed a rain jacket. Now, we weren’t looking for anything super heavy duty – just something to keep her dry in a light rain since we’re not expecting anything else at the moment. Again, REI brand came through for us with this affordable jacket: REI Co-op Rain Jacket – Men’s ($70 in store, but cheaper options online) in a 2X.
Bottom Line: Purchasing clothing online is a good way to find the sizing you need, but can suck when you’ve never worn the style or brand you’re purchasing. Supporting local businesses is always a good thing, but many of us must find a balance that works for us as money can definitely be a factor. Personally, I try to balance this by purchasing some items in the store, and some items online if there’s a good deal. This way I’m not just using the store as a convenient dressing room and I can help do my part to ensure that store is still around the next time I need something. Unless, of course, that local store has crap customer service – then all bets are off.