Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Next Generation DIY Hiking Skirt

Holes are erupting on my old hiking skirt after all the use it got on the Pacific Crest Trail and Arizona Trail this past year.  Time to sew a new version of my favorite hiking skirt!
Next generation DIY hiking skirt--in upsidedown tree print!
I made two skirts this time in case I don't get back to my parent's house for a while.  The downside of traveling, couchsurfing, and life on the road is that I don't see my sewing machine very often, since I'm storing everything at my parents' house.  Thanks Mom and Dad for letting me transform your living room into a spacious sewing workshop for a few days!
A second glitter camo DIY skirt.
I took some photos while I was sewing so you can see how I made my hiking skirts.  I’ll also include a mock-up of my homemade pattern and include comments on fabrics and design notes for all you DIYers out there.

Advantages of hiking skirts
   - Prevent chafe and upper thigh heat rash because they are breezy.
   - Easy and fast to pee.  Allows peeing standing up.
   - Versatile- add long underwear underneath in the cold.  Wear rainpants over them, tucking extra material down into the pant legs.
   - For thick undergrowth and bushwhacking, wear with tall gaiters.

I am not bothered by biting insects while I hike in a skirt.  In camp, rainpants worn over my skirt prevent bites.

My skirt design features
   - Side pockets with double layer of material, sized to hold a map and smartphone.
   - Low-profile elastic waistband comfy beneath backpacking hipbelt
   - Cut to allow freedom of movement.  Plenty of material and flare to allow big steps.
   - Fabric in prints, colors, and glitter to make me smile.


Considerations in choosing fabrics:
  - Stretchy for motion (lycra).
  - Abrasion resistant for bushwhacking and overgrown trail (ripstop). 
  - Doesn’t chafe when wet.

I use more stretchy material on the sides for nice movement as I hike.  Lycra isn't as abrasion-resistant as the ripstop.  The ripstop on the back panel is good to sit on and provides more protection in front when bushwhacking.  Using the two fabric types together is a compromise.

Front, back, and pocket fabric:  Ripstop Supplex nylon from  More abrasion resistant, but only comes in solid colors.  Has slight stretch.

Side panels:  Lycra (tree print from a pair of leggings, glitter camo from Joann's fabric).  Fabric stores have limited selection of print fabrics, so I used a pair of lycra leggings with gorgeous tree print (my trail name is "Hemlock" because I love trees).  I cut them apart to use the material, but had to use it upside-down so it would be the right size.   Thus, the "upside-down" finished skirt. 
Ripstop material (left).  Cut open lycra leggings (right) to provide fabric for the side panels.
Basic Pattern
The pattern is my own design, and I've only ever made this skirt to fit me (about 34 inch waist--varies between 32 and 36 inches depending on weight gain/loss).  See Megan's notes below in the comments section for how to alter the pattern to fit your waist size.

This skirt was about 21 1/2 inches long when finished.  
Cartoon of the pattern for the front and back panels.
Cartoon of the pocket and side panel pattern.

Cutting out the material
Be sure to cut on the grain of the fabric.  I tried doing a skirt cut on the bias, and it stretched out too much.

My actual patterns are works in progress.  Years ago when I was obsessed with my pack weight and dropping ounces, I'd make the skirt short to keep the weight of the skirt down.  When I saw how much sunscreen I kept having to apply to keep my knees from burning, I decided to sew the skirts longer to provide more coverage (but I haven't weighted the new version- I know it has to weigh more but now I just don't care).

I allow for about 5/8 inch seams on the sides.  The top waistband allowed for about 1 1/2 inch.
Cutting the front and back panels out of ripstop on the fold.
Cutting pockets (left) on the fold.  Cutting side panels (right) out of lycra on the fold (cut 2).
Cutting the front panel (right) out of blue ripstop material.
Constructing the skirt
Simple slip pockets were constructed by sewing two pieces of material together (left) with a hole at the top to flip the material through.  Then topstitching the fabric around the edges.  I sewed the top again using the coverstitch on the serger as decoration.
Sew two fabric pieces right sides together (left) then flip and topstitch (right).
Attach the pockets onto the side panels six inches from the top, centered.  I sewed them on with several passes of the machine to provide extra stability.
Sewing pocket onto the side panels.
Reinforce the edges of the pockets with some ribbon on the inside.  The top of the pockets need extra durability or they will tear the thinner lycra.
Rainbow ribbons to reinforce the tops of the pockets (inside view).
Outside view of top pocket reinforcement.
Topstitch used the wide cover stitch on my serger.
Putting panels together
I used a serger to attach the side panels to the front and back.  The differential feed setting prevents puckering on stretchy fabric.  If you don't have a serger, you could use a narrow french hem.
Sewing the side panel to the front (and back) panel using a serger.
A narrow elastic waistband has less bulk to fit under the pack waistbelt.  I did a rolled hem but didn’t close off the channel.  Then I topstitched around the first seam with the serger for decoration.  Then, I threaded 1/2 inch elastic through the channel and tied it off with a knot that I can untie and adjust as needed.
Leaving the elastic band open allows quick adjustments to accommodate weight changes on the trail.
Bottom hem
Length of the skirt depends on preference.  Sunburned knees convinced me to lengthen this skirt a few inches to a final length of about 21 1/2 inches.  Previous versions used a small handkerchief hem (narrow hem twice).  For this version, I did a narrow hem and then added detail with the cover stitch on my serger.
Hem detail (inside view).
Comments, questions?  Please email me or use the comment feature if you have any questions!  I'd be especially interested to hear from anyone who tries this out!  Happy sewing!

References and further information

My first hiking skirt (made from an old hiking shirt)

My 2nd Generation skirt in Durastretch camoflague with DWR finish (from Rockywoods).

Can’t sew?  Here are two hiking skirts you can buy: 

This Melanzana fleece skirt was inspiration for my design, but I’ve modified it over the years.

Purple rain skirts are gaining in popularity.


  1. You are FANTASTIC! Can't wait to adapt for me. I'll be sure to include my experiences.

    1. Thanks so much, Jan! Can't wait to hear your modifications and ideas!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing! I'm on board with this. Will send you a picture of the end result.


    1. Awesome, Tina! Will look forward to seeing your creation!

    2. Finally got the ripstop nylon- each color. Now I just need to rustle up some old leggings for the side panels. Going to Oregon next weekend to visit my parents and gonna enlist mom's help with the sewing :-)

      Enjoying all your Montana posts!

    3. Hi there! Enjoy the fabric hunting- often a favorite part of any project. Never know what you'll find, especially with added help! Enjoy Oregon- that's my home state! :)

    4. My home state too- I didn't know you were from Oregon! I'm from a little town called Sheridan. Know where that's at?

    5. Must have gone through there to get to the coast, but I don't recall. Our family moved when I was in middle school, but I still feel like an Oregonian, or at least a west-coaster at heart. Think that's why I've taken so quickly to Montana-- having the mountains around, real mountains with snow-covered peaks, oregon grape, moss and ferns around feels like home. I think I was imprinted on ponderosa pine at a young age, always seem to come back.

  3. This is great, Joan! It really looks like you are perfecting exactly what you need in a hiking skirt. That's why I love sewing so much. I don't do nearly as much hiking as you and I get horrible between the thighs chafing, so what I have been making is skorts made just out of spandex or lycra/nylon blend fabrics. I've used the jalie running skort pattern and gone off book a bit, too. I really like your idea for using a ripstop fabric where more durability is needed. I actually have a stretch ripstop fabric that I bought from rose city textiles (a great source for activewear fabrics) that I should test out.

    As for making the "pattern" bigger, I would suggest that someone would first take their waist measurement (say 40") and subtract Joan's waist measurement from that (34"), equaling a 6" difference. You skirt appears to be made of 4 panels that are cut from 3 pattern pieces, the side pattern piece being cut twice. To add those 6" to the 4 panels, you will need to add 1.5 inches to each panel. Since each pattern piece is cut on the fold and thus only half of the resulting fabric panel, you will need to add .75 inches to each pattern piece to result in a 1.5 inches total increase in width for each panel. To achieve this, you can simply cut each pattern piece vertically down the center, slide them apart 0.75 inches (maintaining that evenly along the cut), and then retrace them at their larger size. Hopefully this makes sense! You can google "slash and spread method for pattern grading" if you want some images or more detail. It should work fairly well for any amount of enlargening or ensmallening needed for a simple pattern like this!

    1. OMG Megan, this is priceless information about how to make the pattern bigger!!! Thank you so much for taking the time to explain the method. Makes perfect sense! You ROCK!

      I hear you about the inner thigh chafing-- I know so many people do skorts or wear spandex tights under their skirts for this reason. I'll have to check out rose city fabrics-- oh I just love looking at material! :)

      Great hearing from you, and thanks again, Megan, for the sewing help!

  4. No problem, Joan, I use this method ALL the TIME so hopefully it makes sense for people. I really enjoyed all of your AZT posts, I'm going to have to get over there at some point since I'm in NM!

    1. I've been meaning to get over and hike in your state--the Grand Enchantment Trail is on my list!

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this. Your design and description are wonderful. I like the yellow!
    How much do these skirts weigh?
    Have you considered or experimented a wrap-skirt vs step-in skirt? Pros and cons?

    1. Thanks! My shorter skirt last year was 4.5 oz, but these new, longer versions are 4.7 and 5.0 oz. But that half an ounce increase is definitely worth the cost. You would not believe how many OUNCES AND OUNCES of sunscreen I go through on my knees. Not to mention the risk of skin cancer.

      I tried a wrap around skirt, but I like the step in type better because of all the wind I hike in. Also, the wrap around requires more material since there is a double layer in the front. My friend likes wrap around better though because it's adjustable and hers is super cute.

    2. Thanks. I go with 15-17" length because I don't like it hitting my knees. My favorite wrap models are a field hockey kilt or the RipSkirt. They do weigh a bit more. Trying the new Patagonia Baggies skirt.
      Would like to see your friend's model.
      Your writing is wonderful. Really enjoyed your AZT stories. Thanks again.

    3. Good to know there are other hiking skirt models to choose from--I'll have to check those out. My friend sewed her rap around one-I'll see if she had a pattern.

      Thank so much for reading and commenting,GK, great to hear from you!

  6. I really like your hiking skirt and gaiters. I'm a terrible seamstress though. So instead what I did was I made two different skirts by up-cycling thrift-store finds.

    One skirt I made out of a pair of ExOfficio capris following instructions I found online for turning a pair of jeans into a skirt. I'm pretty happy with it because it has a lot of good pockets and that nice ExOfficio fabric.

    The other skirt was way easier. I found a nice lycra skirt at the thrift store and a pair of lycra pants with patch pockets with zippers. I took the pockets off the pants and sewed them to the sides of the skirt like yours. I think I will turn the legs of the pants into a pair of knee-high gaiters because I really need something I can slip on easily for poison oak and overgrown trails for when I hike with shorts or skirts.

    I don't have a serger but found that zig-zag stitching worked well enough on the lycra.

    1. Thanks so much Piper for sharing the ways you found to make a skirt that didn't require much sewing! Especially like the idea of taking the pockets off old pants and adding them to another skirt. My friend Renee/ Pathfinder made her knee high gaiters like you plan to, just sewing a top and bottom seam on old pants to keep them up- she didn't even attach them to her dirty girl gaiters, and instead found she liked to make hers removable.

  7. I can't wait to make this for myself!!

  8. This looks like a great thru hiking unisex bottom. I had a speed bump that you helped me over with the stretch side panel. Thank you so much.

    Current project: slash and melt my REI cargo with zip-off legs to make a convertible skirt/shorts. Project #2: the skirt more or less as you've done here, but maybe with pockets on the front (my swinging hands too often whack what I have in the pocket).

    1. Always enjoy repurposing material to make a new project. Hope it goes well.

      Let me know how the front pockets go. I like the quick draw of side pockets, but stuff does fall out when I sit down sometimes. Though I guess I maybe shouldn't be sitting so much-- haha!

  9. Thank you! I'm going to make one with one of my son's army tops, and I'll cut off the arm pockets to apply to my skirt.

  10. how much of the riptstop did you need? would 1 yard do? how much of the spandex?

    1. When I made the skirt with all ripstop one time, I just used one yard.

      For the spandex, I've only ever used (recycled) old yoga pants- a single pair works perfectly. Just cut the leg seams.

      Funny- I just made two new skirts last weekend using this pattern. The last skirt made in 2015 finally ripped a huge hole and has gotten too threadbare to keep repairing.

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