Plus Size Outdoor Wear

“I may be chubby, but I still want to be waterproof!”

I’m not a fashion blogger…. I’m a Geologist! Over the past 14 years, I have travelled around the world visiting volcanoes and learning about how the Earth works. I’m an outdoorsy kind of person – I’m much happier in the field than I am behind a desk, I love camping, I’m even happy when it’s pouring down! Or at least I used to be.

As happens to the best of us, I’ve gotten slightly softer around the edges in recent years, I like the outdoors, but I also really like biscuits! While my weight hasn’t in the least bit affected my ability to be an excellent geologist, it has affected my abilities to dress like one! In recent years, I’ve found it harder and harder to find suitable outdoors gear available in sizes to fit. I’ve ranged in size between a 14 and a 22, but even at the smaller end of that spectrum I’ve struggled.

In 2010 I was working on the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in Iceland and needed warm clothes suitable for spending all day on a glacier at temperatures of at least – 8 ˚C. Ski pants seemed like a good option to me, but I couldn’t get my (then) size 14 bottom to fit into anything! I had to settle for Men’s XL waterproof trousers, which while waterproof, didn’t really add an element of insulation or warmth. Men’s outdoor clothes have become a staple of my fieldwork wardrobe.  However, these clothes are designed for men who are c. 6 foot, with long arms and legs; the clothes are triangle shaped, with plenty of room for broad shoulders, but no space for bosoms or child-bearing hips! Not really ideal at all.

The key brands in outdoor wear – The North Face, Berghaus, Patagonia and Mountain Equipment – very generously stop at an XL / 16, if you’re really lucky you may find a size 18.  However, I’m not sure where these companies get their measurements from, as their size 18s are skin tight, with no room to breathe never mind room to wear much needed extra layers. This isn’t good enough! And quite frankly it’s bordering on discrimination. Yes I’m chubby, but I also enjoy climbing mountains, cycling, kayaking, and I’m a damn fine field geologist! I would spend good money on high quality gear, but seemingly these big brands don’t want my money! Moreover, has the outdoors industry not realised that the clothing industry as a whole is embracing body positivity, plus sizes and inclusivity?

plus size outdoor wear

A size 14 me dressed for warmth in Iceland, 2010, wearing a Patagonia coat and (Men’s) XL Berghaus waterproof trousers.

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Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom…. In recent investigations I have discovered that a small number of businesses are branching out and extending the size of their ranges. Regatta are selling women’s outdoor clothes up to a size 20 (this is not a huge size range, but the clothes are at least true to size). Gelert also have items up to a generously sized 22. Yours Clothing are good for field work basics such as leggings, lightweight trousers and shorts. Recently however I made an excellent buy! In a moment of boredom, searching for plus size clothes online, I discovered Bonprix and bought this fantastic coat! The coat has a waterproof outer shell, and a fleece which can be zipped in to the coat or worn on its own. In addition, the coat came with an extra triangular section of waterproof material, which can be added into the zip to transform the coat into a maternity jacket! Bonprix currently stocks items up to a size 28, and the sizing is quite generous.

If you have any suggestions for plus size outdoor wear, I’d really love to hear from you!

plus size outdoor wear

A size 20 me dressed for tipping down rain in Swansea, 2016, wearing my new Bonprix coat.

Rhian Meara

Dr Rhian Meara, Geology and Physical Geography Lecturer

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