Reader questions on backpacking in kilts and skirts?

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    Emylene VanderVelden
    BPL Member


    Howdy gang,

    I have approval to test out some hiking kilts and skirts for a couple upcoming reviews. I have a brave Scotsman talked into backpacking with me in a kilt to make sure I have the male and female perspectives. (Props to this guy, he is very secure in his masculinity.)  If you have questions about hiking kilts and skirts, post them here and I will try to do a FAQ section as a companion to the equipment reviews. I’ll also see about testing out any scenarios you guys think of.


    Staff Author

    BPL Magazine

    Bob Shuff
    BPL Member


    Locale: SoCal

    I’m interested to know, is the cuben fabric is worth the extra cost?  Sure it’s lighter, but not by much for such a small piece of fabric.  I recently experienced some wet weather with a new cuben hammock tarp, and didn’t feel any condensation on the inside of the tarp – which was great.  On the otherhand, when I hung that tarp up to dry later, the sun didn’t really dry it as quickly as a silnylon version.  I had to wipe it off with towel.  If this translates to the quilt, the nylon might feel clamier, but would dry faster (and be cheaper).  The cuben might feel drier, but would need to be dried off instead of air-drying on the outside.  Good luck with your testing.  Inquiring minds want to know.

    -Bob (Slbear)

    Emylene VanderVelden
    BPL Member


    Hi Bob, I’m sadly not testing any Cuban fiber kilts or skirts, these would be the wear all day instead of pants or shorts type. I have a few different fabrics including a microfibre, a polyblend and a nylon Lycra.

    As far as Cuban fiber goes people seem to love it or hate it for gear. I may have to do a test of this fabric in a later article on rain kilts. It’s a great idea.

    When deciding on gear in my personal collection I usually ask: How light is light enough? How sturdy does the fabric need to be? What’s my gear budget?

    My personal feeling with Cuban is its not cost effective (yet) for most gear for most users. I suspect it will need replaced as often if not more often than nylon. If I’m testing gear, longevity is not too much of an issue for me. I just make note of wear and tear knowing I already have something at home to replace it with on my next outing. If it’s my personal gear, I get a bit more testy about it leaving me high and not so dry, knowing I have to replace it when I get home, before I head out again.

    I hope that sort of helps,

    thanks for the great question I won’t be able to answer yet,


    David Thomas
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Woods. Far North.

    Emylene: Thanks for developing this article.

    I’d be curious how the weight of the garments compared to the warmth provided.  I realize that is really hard to assess, objectively, but even subjective judgements about “in this quilt, I felt as warm as in Xxxxxx long pants” would help.

    Even harder or at least less pleasant to assess would be on the hygiene front: Are one’s nether regions less funky if one wears the quilt in the traditional Scottish manner (“going commando”)?  I could imagine letting things air out down there, for both sexes (OAWEATGS), could be helpful.

    So much of my hiking (here in Alaska) involves (1) mosquitos, (2) wild roses, and (3) Devil’s club, i may always stick with long pants, but I’m still curious.

    Mostly, when I think of kilts, it is to keep in mind that in a pinch, a tent fly, tarp, or trash bag could be wrapped around one’s waist and gain a fair bit of wind and rain protection while you keep moving.   When caving, we’d always tuck a hefty trash bag in the top of our helmets so that if someone got cold, potentially immobile, two trash bags could make a bivy for them and (if you VERY careful), you could even warm up that space with a candle or carbide light.

    *or anywhere else along the gender spectrum

    Bob Moulder
    BPL Member


    Locale: Westchester County, NY

    these would be the wear all day instead of pants or shorts type

    In that case, I salute your male tester as really having a nice pair. Of knees. :^)

    I’ve only done a short test (2.5hrs of rain hiking) of my zpacks Cuben rain kilt and really liked it. Don’t know that there are a lot of guys wanting (or willing) to wear a kilt all day, but I think Mtn Hardware used to make one. I will in all probability be sticking with shorts unless a kilt offers some really distinct advantages. I’d be interested to read about your findings.


    David Thomas
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Woods. Far North.

    Fine Homebuilding did an article on kilts for construction workers years back.  Some of them double as tool belts, but they didn’t look at all UL.

    “Guys?  Who’ll foot the ladder for me?  Come on, somebody!”

    Michael Sirofchuck
    BPL Member


    Locale: Great Wet North

    I recently purchased the Mountain Hardwear Elkommando hiking kilt, but have not tried it out yet.  My initial reaction upon opening the package is that the fabric and thus, the kilt, are too heavy.  I, too, live in Alaska, so most of my hiking is off-trail and usually involves bushwhacking, so the kilt is out.  However, I’m interested in it for desert hiking on constructed trails in the Southwest where bushwhacking is not required and the cacti are generally not too close to the trail (hopefully).  And I hope I don’t get in trouble if I go into a men’s restroom while wearing it.


    Rex Sanders
    BPL Member


    Kilt questions, from someone who’s never worn a kilt or a skirt:

    • How well do kilts work under a variety of pack waist belts? Does “ride height” matter a lot or a little?
    • How critical is kilt length in daily use?
    • How much do you expose while sitting in common positions? How careful does one need to be in more social situations?
    • How much difference does fabric type really make? Color? Color combinations?
    • If a kilt gets wet from rain or sitting on damp ground, how cold is it while hiking? How quickly does it dry out? Does DWR make a difference?
    • What’s the lowest comfortable temperature for wearing kilts? Highest? Do kilts have an EN rating, and why not?
    • Do mosquitos or other flying, biting insects fly and bite “up there”?
    • Pockets – critical or ludicrous? Discuss.
    • How high up your legs should you apply sunscreen?
    • Pleats – zero, few, or many?
    • Chafing? Could be in different locations than shorts or pants.
    • 2017 fashion forecast – which colors will be “in”? As the economy recovers, will lengths go up or down? Are random ragged holes in kilts a passing trend, or here to stay?

    And finally – are kilts significantly better or worse than typical nylon/polyester hiking shorts, e.g. Patagonia Baggies?

    — Rex

    PS – some questions are more serious than others.

    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    Victorian ladies use to travel the Alps on LONG skirts. On glaciers too.


    Emylene VanderVelden
    BPL Member


    You guys are great! Love the questions. I’m laughing as I read some and thinking what a great and valid points are made with others. I’ll be certain to keep the topic light hearted and as impartially informative as possible. Stay tuned and keep the questions coming, I’m reading the responses!



    Are you looking just for questions, or also feedback?

    I wear kilts sometimes.  All MYOG.   My favorite one is made from a fabric that appears to be the same that Prana uses for their Sutra line and i think another line.  It’s 53% Hemp, 44% recycled PET, and 3% Spandex.  I also have one made from 65% polyester and 35% linen, and a 1.1 oz/yd2 non coated and VERY breathable nylon (non-calendared and lower thread count).

    I find it keeps me drier/fresher than wearing pants or even shorts.  I don’t think i would wear them if i was doing bushwhacking (an odd term btw, how many bushes actually get whacked whilst bushwhacking?).

    I’m debating whether or not if i want to bring one on my upcoming CT trip starting early July.  I’ve gained a bit of weight of late, and my thighs rub together more than they use to.  If i do bring one, i’ll probably have to wear underwear.  The 1.1 oz/yd nylon one is extremely light and very small packing, wouldn’t be much of a weight penalty to pack it.

    Emylene VanderVelden
    BPL Member


    Justin W, that’s great! You should pitch a MYOG article on how you made those!

    Mostly I have product, I just need to know what people’s questions are in regards to use.

    Great info!



    Ed Biermann
    BPL Member


    Kate Magill
    BPL Member


    Ooh, I’m excited for this! I like my Melanzana skirt and have been contemplating adding either a Purple Rain or the Montbell Trail Skirt… any chance you’ll be testing either of those?

    Diane “Piper” Soini
    BPL Member


    Locale: Santa Barbara

    I made my own hiking skirt and wore it on a 200 mile hike on the PCT. It was my favorite piece of gear. It was both hot and freezing on my trip and I was comfortable in all conditions. I had knee-length gaiters I could wear for cooler weather or brush. I had spandex shorts I could wear for chafing. I went commando most of the time and felt cleaner and smelled better than I do with pants and underwear. The spandex shorts sometimes felt like rubber when it got too hot and fortunately the climate was dry enough I did not get much chafing in the heat without them. I’ve since worn my skirt locally and it is often too humid, my thighs get chafed and I have to wear the shorts underneath, and then I’m too hot.

    The thing I liked most about my skirt was the big pocket I put on one side and going commando. What I liked least was my pocket had no closure and that despite it being a modest skirt, it was easy to flash people. I even fell down on a road and wondered if anyone saw I was naked underneath.

    I made the skirt from a scrap of nylon fabric I found in a bin. The little tag said it had a water resistant finish, which it did seem to have, not that I cared. I made it without a pattern by folding the fabric in 4ths and tracing the outline of a quarter circle skirt (adding lots of extra just in case). I ended up with a 4-panel, knee-length, elastic waist skirt with one big pocket (ran out of fabric for a second.) I shirred the sides because it looked sort of frumpy. I also used French seams without even knowing it. It was a good length to prevent sunburn and be warm in cool weather. It was full enough to keep me cool and be modest and let me have full movement. I could straddle a large log without feeling constrained.

    Emylene VanderVelden
    BPL Member


    Kate: I indeed will be including one of those in the test :-) but no spoilers you will have to wait and see which one!

    Piper: very cool! Good to know they work well. Being as I’m doing this trial in Canada the cool temperatures have me a pinch nervous, let’s hope my trials go as well as your PCT! I’m totally doing the gaiters as well. The brush up here is unfriendly.


    Diane “Piper” Soini
    BPL Member


    Locale: Santa Barbara

    I found my skirt to be just as warm as pants. If it had been shorter than knee-length I’d think otherwise. You can always wear tights underneath. I wore my rain chaps when it was really cold. That reminds me of the other drawback I had: I had to sleep in my rain chaps at night. I didn’t have any other full-length thing like tights or anything, so my rain chaps were the closest thing I had to pants. I needed something to keep my sticky skin from bothering me. It really bugs me to have sticky legs touching each other. I tried to wash my legs every night but they were still sticky.

    BPL Member


    Locale: SoCAL

    Someone I know very well ;-), did a recent 2 week backpacking trip where he carried both full length pants and a 2.8oz (yes that is all it weighed) calf length man skirt (prototype testing of a possible future product of a guy on the WhiteBlaze forum).  It was a skirt not a kilt.  Can’t get pleats at that weight.  Opinion was it was worth carrying such minor weight to have a cooler alternative to pants. But in the case of most commercial products, the weight of all kilts and many woman skirts weigh as much or more than lightweight full length pants.  Though there are some woman skirts that are much lighter, most aren’t worth carrying if they aren’t your only pants.

    In any case, this is what he found that you can compare your skirt/kilt choices against as you test:

    Cons: Bushwhacking through overgrown trail, not so much fun on the legs. Having lower legs exposed without permithrin treated full length pants, was a tick vector (though no less than shorts would be).  Longer than knee length with such thin fabric meant it wrapped around the leg as he hiked so there wasn’t good airflow for cooling.  Rolling it up to knee length was definitely cooler since the knees kicking it forward allows good airflow.  On a man, draws more looks; both positive and negative.  Since the pockets were not on the very side of the leg but where placed more like pants, having objects in them caused the skirt to rotate to the side a bit after hiking awhile.  A heavier skirt with a more robust but hotter waistband might not have had as much issue with this.  You woman would know better.

    Pros: Allows easy changing of thermals or to/from pants without worrying about someone surprising you as you changed.  Easy to squat in.  Less convenient to pee for a man though.  Made it easy to take full backcountry baths without worrying about flashing a family.  Cooler and allows the body to dry and air out better.  In this specific case, a nice very lightweight second outfit to wear doing laundry at the hotel.

    Adam Kilpatrick
    BPL Member


    Locale: South Australia

    I’d love to wear a kilt, but my legs are far too bulky and chafe inner thigh. Only solution I’ve found that really works for me personally is longish underwear (current faves Ex Officio…). I’d have to wear them underneath. Which kinda feels like I’m being offensive to my Scottish heritage.

    A light rain kilt for thru-hiking sounds like a great idea though.

    Grzegorz Przeorski
    BPL Member


    Locale: Ontario

    On my avatar I’m wearing Mountain Hardwear Mountain Kilt in Pukaskwa National Park. I’ve been hiking in a kilt on my backcountry outings for about 17 years. When is raining I would add rain skirt (ULA). I get some scrapes on my shins but I think you have accept it as much as that you eventually will get wet when you hiking in the rain. For very prickly bushwacking I would put on some gaiters but still not underwear.

    Emylene VanderVelden
    BPL Member


    Very much enjoy hearing from you all. Love the tips, I won’t lie I’ve been a bit nervous about spending my 2016 backpacking season in a skirt or kilt. The feed back has been awesome while I’m prepping for my test run. I’ll be sure to include a link in the articles back to this stream, so you all get credit for the great ideas. Making a master list of questions today, while packing for a shakedown. Keep the questions coming!


    “It was a skirt not a kilt.  Can’t get pleats at that weight.”

    Well dang, i guess i can’t call most of my kilts, kilts, as they don’t have pleats. Skirts it is.  Good point about the weight, that’s part of why i didn’t put these in, that and it’s a lot more simpler to just make a skirt.

    To make a skirt, i took a real kilt that fits me well, laid it on top of some fabric and cut around it leaving about a half inch extra for hems.  Sewed on about 6 inches or so of velcro, and voila, lightweight, convection cooled heaven for down under (not Australia).



    Locale: The Cascades


    NM. Sorry, got carried away…

    BPL Member


    When’s the BPL limerick book coming out Doug?

    Justin Baker
    BPL Member


    Locale: Santa Rosa, CA

    I know a user on here, I have seen her hike in a full on dress.

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