The Curvy Girl’s Packing Guide for Every Adventure
Every curvy girl has their favorite places to shop for everyday clothes. But where do you look when you need something functional, not fashionable? This ultimate plus size packing guide provides you with resources for finding everything you need for your next adventure.
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Chasing northern lights in Iceland, skiing in Canada, snowboarding in Colorado. All these activities are possible when you find the perfect pair of snow pants and a warm down jacket!
- Snow pants or bibs– Columbia carries excellent snow pants in sizes up to 3X. I have their OmniHeat Bugaboo pants and love them, though they need to be hemmed (short girl problems). If you need something larger than a 3X then check out the Arctix brand on Amazon. They carry bib overalls and pants in sizes up to 4X (28W/30W) at very reasonable prices. DSG Outerwear also has snow bibs in sizes up to 5X but snow bibs tend to be more expensive, often over $200.
- Down jacket– Land’s End offers a variety of down jackets in sizes that go up to 26W and if you catch them on sale you can get them for under $70. Columbia offers a plus size hybrid down jacket with stretchy elastic bands on the side which made it appealing for me because most of my weight is in my tummy. However I’ve found that it’s not as warm as my full down jacket so if you’re going somewhere really cold or staying outdoors for an extended period of time then a full down jacket or jacket with waterproof shell is the way to go.
- Snow boots– Wide width snow boots aren’t easy to find but Vasque carries some wide widths in their Coldspark model. If you need something besides waterproof hiking boots (see below) then unfortunately you may have to check in the men’s department.
- Mid layers- My mid layers (when I need them) are loose fitting warm clothing, usually fleece material. My favorite brands are Under Armour ColdPruf and Cuddl Duds.
- Base layers– Honestly my base layers mostly consist of polyester leggings and capris (the same ones I wear to the gym) and tight, polyester shirts. Nothing fancy or expensive, just whatever I find at Kohl’s. Though I do LOVE these long underwear from Land’s End and I got some of the long sleeve shirts on clearance for about $13.
Who doesn’t love sunny vacations next to the water? This section covers everything from relaxing days on the beach to water sports such as scuba diving.
- Swimsuits– My favorite place to shop for plus size swimsuits is on Swimsuitsforall. Their selection is AMAZING and their swimsuits go all the way up to size 34. Swimsuit shopping is stressful for me so I like the ease of just picking something online instead of trying on a dozen styles in store. You can also try Torrid, Old Navy and Land’s End for great selections of plus size swimsuits.
- Coverups and Sarongs– You can get plenty of coverups at Swimsuitsforall. I purchased their Cassandra dress for our trip to Costa Rica and it was opaque enough to wear as a traditional dress around town.
- Casual Dresses/Skirts– I love my skirts from Torrid but I’m about to dive into the world of Modcloth that everyone’s raving about. I also have a few dresses from Nuu-Muu for when I’m more active or around water. Nuu-Muu’s are made from the same stretchy material you find in swimsuits and other activewear and they’re SO comfortable. If you’re seeking something a little more dressy then take a look at Rainbow. They have an excellent selection at a much cheaper price than Torrid or Lane Bryant.
- Wetsuits– You can find shorties and full wetsuits in sizes up to 24 at Wetsuit Wearhouse. But if you plan to scuba dive as a regular hobby then investing in a custom suit is probably your best bet.
- Rash Guard– Rash guards can be used as an alternative to sunscreen or as added protection against the sun. They’re especially good for water activities such as snorkeling. Land’s End has a decent selection of rash guards but Torrid and Swimsuitsforall are woefully lacking.
- Reef Safe Sunscreen– This product isn’t just for plus size people but I have to mention it. PLEASE consider using reef safe sunscreen such as Raw Elements when snorkeling or scuba diving. Oxybenzone, found in almost all sunscreens, is linked to coral bleaching and products such as Raw Elements contain zinc oxide instead. It’s such a small gesture but it really does make a huge impact and helps to ensure that future generations can enjoy our coral reefs.
Good to Know: If you’re interested in scuba diving then check out Weightless, a short documentary film about plus size scuba diving. You can view the trailer here or watch the full film on Indieflix.
Well I wouldn’t call hiking and camping a vacation, it’s more like an adventure. But whether you’re climbing a mountain or trekking through the jungle you’re going to need suitable gear.
- Hiking Boots– I have wide feet and it was difficult to find a boot that fit me well. After trying on a dozen different brands I went with my Lowa Renegade GTX boots for Kilimanjaro 2016 and Everest Base Camp 2018. When I realized they were too small I decided to switch brands and got Vasque Breeze III Mid GTX. ** UPDATE 2019** I took then with me on this most recent trip on Kilimanjaro and they felt great. My fellow Curvy Kili Crew found different brands they like such as Merrell, Keen, Asolo, and Oboz. Keen’s are the best option if you’re just doing day hiking instead of long distance backpacking and I feel that they have the largest toebox of all the brands I’ve tried on.
- Hiking Socks– Curvy girls with wider calves can also struggle with finding comfortable hiking socks. Darn Tough is my go-to brand because their socks are just high enough to cover my boots but not so high that they start cutting into my large calves. Plus they’re incredibly soft! As a rule of thumb you should get light or medium cushioning socks if you have wide, high volume feet. Buy medium or heavy cushioning socks if you have regular or narrow feet. But if you’re just starting out with hiking then buy a pair of each and see how your feet do on a long hike.
- Hiking Pants– I just love love LOVE my hiking pants and capris from Columbia. They’re light and stretchy and good for practically any type of travel. These pants were especially useful on my African safari where there was no air conditioning in the Jeep. The only downside? I can’t wear them at home because they act like a magnet for the pet hair!
- Sleeping Bags– REI carries a few styles of sleeping bags that come in wide widths. I have a Lyra 24 (no longer available) and am taking it with me to Everest Base Camp. Big Agnes generally has the widest sleeping bags but they’re also pretty expensive, some costing over $300. Also be sure to check the weight on any sleeping bag you purchase. Some are over 8 pounds which is fine for car camping but not practical for backpacking. My Lyra 24 is less than 3 pounds which was a big factor in my purchase. If you’re not a fan of mummy sleeping bags then you may want to consider a camping quilt. They’re still made of down, much lighter than a sleeping bag, and feel more like a blanket. Hammock Gear has a great selection of quilts and they can even make custom quilts to fit your specific size.
- Backpacks– My daypack is the one thing I’m able to purchase in a size small! Backpacks are sized according to torso length so short girls will likely need a small or extra small. I climbed Kilimanjaro with an REI brand backpack but have recently switched to Gregory Jade 28. If your hip belt is too short then fear not, most manufacturers can send you an extension.
- Camp shoes– Crocs, man. What can I say, they’re light as a feather and are practically indestructible. And being stylish is not on my priority list when I’m camping.
Vacations in Conservative Countries
Sometimes our travels take us to countries and historic sites where conservative clothing is encouraged or even required. Here are a few things you can include in your suitcase when vacationing in these destinations.
- Skorts– Because tight leggings and pants are generally discouraged it’s a good idea to bring along a solid colored skort to wear over your leggings. Skirted leggings are another option but a skort allows you to mix and match.
- Maxi skirts– Many conservative countries are located in warm climates so a thin maxi skirt will keep you cool as well as properly covered. I usually find mine at traditional department stores such as Kohl’s or online at Zulily.
- Cardigans– Cardigans are wonderful because they can be draped over dresses or shirts when entering temples and religious sites that require you to cover your shoulders. Modcloth has the best selection of cardigans in sizes that go up to 4X.
Chub Rub Prevention
Thigh chafing, or “chub rub”, is a big problem that plus size travelers face. Luckily there are plenty of products out there to keep you dry, happy and rash-free.
- Lady Anti Monkey Butt Powder– Traditional baby powder made with talcum increases the risk of ovarian cancer but Lady Anti Monkey Butt doesn’t contain talc. I use it everywhere I go, especially on airplanes when I have to stay seated for long periods of time.
- Body Glide– For those that don’t prefer powders the Body Glide balm works well too. Its deodorant-stick style also makes it less messy than powders and gels.
- Undersummers– These anti-chafing shorts are wonderful for wearing under dresses or loose pants and they come in sizes up to 5X.
- Bandelettes– Bandalettes are anti-chafing thigh bands used under dresses and skirts. Kind of like Undersummers but a little more sexy.
Items for Every Vacation
As a plus size woman there are just some things I can’t live without when I go on vacation. Here is a list of miscellaneous items and toiletries that I always bring with me.
- Lightweight luggage– With larger bodies comes larger clothes and many travelers find their suitcases tipping the scales, especially on long vacations or teeny tiny airplanes. That’s why I highly recommend lightweight luggage like the Samsonite Winfield collection. You can save 2-4 pounds of weight by getting a lightweight suitcase versus a standard suitcase, depending on the size. Your back will thank you!
- Packing Cubes– My packing cubes help me squish more clothes into my suitcase. They’re extra helpful when I’m visiting different cities because I’ll pack my clothes according to each destination. That way I only have to pull one cube out of my suitcase at a time!
- Folding fan– I may look like an extra in Gone With the Wind but I don’t care. A folding fan is always in my purse to keep me cooled off. I brought 3 with me to Costa Rica!
- Tweezer/mirror set– Anyone else with PCOS knows EXACTLY why I can’t go more than a few days without tweezing.
- Swim towel– Whether I’m dabbing sweat off my forehead or cleaning up a spill that my 5 year old made, I always find a use for my super absorbent swim towel
- Rain jacket– My Columbia rain jacket is what I bring on almost every vacation because it’s light, compact and I rarely need anything warmer.
- Compression Socks– These babies are a must have for long haul flights as they reduce the risk of blood clots. Not all socks fit the same and many people have their own favorite brands so try a few to see which ones you like. Mojo carries compression socks in sizes up to 5X.
- Cork Massage Balls– These balls are so important for keeping my blood circulation in good shape while I’m traveling, especially on airplanes. I also use them to roll out the bottoms of my feet after a long day of walking. You can read more about massage balls in my review of Rawlogy here.
I hope this packing guide has given you some good ideas for packing for your next adventure! Please feel free to share your own packing tips in the comments below.