When I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2021, I knew I wanted to carry two pairs of clothes: one pair for sleeping and the other for unique and rugged adventures. When summer came, I needed something with pockets — also, lightweight, versatile and different.
Mandy Bland, founder of Purple Rain Adventure Skirts, was kind enough to send me a prototype of her new adventure dress, which at the time was still in R&D.
Adventures were made easier with the dress as I found myself ascending and descending, bouldering over mountains and diving into valleys. For thousands of miles I donned the Purple Rain Adventure Dress.
In the end, I found my freedom in something I resented wearing as a little girl, a dress. Here’s why.
Specs + Features
- Made from eco friendly recycled polyester
- Modest neckline, empire waist and stretchy fabric to accommodate different bodies
- Colors: Black and gray only
- Two wonderful pockets on each side (the same famous pockets found in Purple Rain Adventure Skirts)
- No buttons, waistbands or zippers — making it incredibly well suited to carrying a pack!
- Excellent ventilation and breathability
- Quick drying
What I Loved About the Purple Rain Adventure Dress
Flexibility & Freedom of Movement
What I really loved about the Purple Rain Adventure Dress is how versatile and flexible the it is. While hiking my movement is free and not restricted. I flow like the river. The fabric is stretchy, allowing a wide range of motion, from crawling under downed tree branches to stepping over big boulders. Because the dress is fitted, I found myself not worrying about it getting snagged. In colder weather, it’s easy to slip on baselayers under the dress, as the sleeves are cut like tank top.
Bathroom Breaks are Easy
Using the bathroom in a hiking dress is significantly more discreet than pulling down pants or shorts. I like using a p-style urine funnel, and I found that I could still maintain a level of discreteness while urinating, as all I had to do was open my legs and pee. No squatting involved. This was especially useful in communal areas on trail. The dress also makes putting underwear on and off much easier. No need to go and run deep into the woods for privacy. I found myself comfortable just standing and changing in front of others. The dress is a great curtain!
Dials Your Clothing System
A thru-hike is one big exercise in efficiency — with each passing mile, the ounces begin to really count, and so do efficient systems. With the Purple Rain Adventure Dress, pulling on your hiking clothing in the morning is simple — one single item of clothing and you’re ready to roll.
Say Goodbye to Gender Norms
This is the one time in my life that I felt proud to wear a dress. Empowerment came tackling a thru-hike while blurring the lines of what is considered feminine. I wore a dress to express my rigor and toughness. I wore this dress to say ‘yeah yeah, I may look cute in this dress, but I am not one to be challenged.’ I felt like a superhero. Not only that, Purple Rain dresses and skirts are non-binary, as I’ve seen many folks of all genders rocking these fabulous garments. Adventures are for everyone!
What I Didn’t Love
Ventilation in Humid Heat
There were days on the AT that were sweltering hot to the point that I just wanted to sit under a waterfall all day long. The AT in the summer is a buggy and humid one. Below my waist, I felt heat radiating around my thighs and genital region. Not only was this uncomfortable, creating hours of swamp butt, it forced me to have to hitch up my dress and tie a rubber band around it to keep air flow in that area. I also found myself fanning the dress back and forth to release the flames.
Thigh chafing is a real possibility with both hiking dresses and skirts. I experienced this once — enough times that I can see this being an issue for others and a nuisance to deal with. I used a lot of body and anti-chafing glides while hiking in this dress. Another solution would be to wear a pair of boxer briefs or biking shorts underneath. For me, I found that too heavy of a solution. It’s worth noting, I found chafing to be much more of an issue in summer than in winter.
The Bottom Line
The Purple Rain Adventure Dress includes everything you need for your next adventure. It is perfect for any season given its versatility and ability to be layered with other clothes. Lightweight and durable, it’s perfect for a thru-hike. Two deep pockets on each side, give plenty of room to store snacks or small electronics. I love and will continue to sport my adventure dress. The weight and flexibility cannot be beat for the comfort and rewards it brings.
Continue Hiking with Dragonfly: @i_am_dragonsky