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Frum Girls can definitely backpack

So I always have the debate with people as to whether I can even find a girl who enjoys the outdoors as much as I do. The argument usually centers around the almost impossibility of finding ladies who like to immerse themselves in the wild more then the occasional walk through a city park. Most frum girls would love to go camping for a day, at a place with showers and maybe bathrooms, but backpacking is a rare find, and with that I bring you Lydia, a BT who lives in Madison, WI and who sent me this post about the tough ordeals of finding food and clothing for long distance backpacking trips.

Lydia writes:

This summer before my sophomore year I went on a two-week backpacking trip in the Smoky Mountains, with two of my friends—neither of them observant Jews. In fact one of them was Catholic, from the Catholic university I go to. Backpacking is a hard enough task, but backpacking when you wear a skirt and keep kosher is a whole other thing. The first issue I encountered when planning my trip was what to eat. I am a Baal teshuvah, so I have never been backpacking when wearing a skirt or when keeping kosher. My friends were packing their own freeze-dried trekking food, none of which had heckschers. I tried to research kosher trekking food, but found nothing. After seeking advice from Hesh and my mum, I decided on taking quinoa, a grain that has a lot of protein and is easy to cook, different dried beans, a whole bunch of Luna bars (over priced protein bars made “for women”) and a bunch of instant meals from Osem. I attempted at making my own tofu jerky, but failed miserably.

After the food problem I realized I really didn’t have so many skirts that were appropriate for trekking 5 miles a day with ascending altitude in. My mum suggested I wear a really stretchy a few inches below the knee length skirt. But I didn’t think it would hold up against not being formally washed for two weeks. My friends suggested I wear a jean skirt, but I didn’t think that would be flexible enough. So again, I had to call in the expert—even though Hesh is a dude, I knew from a past blog entry he went on a shidduch with a biker chick and she wore skirts. So, he gave me his advice, but being a dude, his advice did not quite suffice.

I googled trekking skirt and found macabiskirt.com, an awesome company that makes skirts to do outdoor activity in, you can convert into pseudo-pant-shorts. Unfortunately, like all other outdoor-activity-designed clothing it was extortionately over priced for no good reason other than some middle-aged chick invented putting drawstrings in clever places that you could pull and a skirt becomes fake pant-shorts. I decided to let myself get suckered and buy one damn 80-dollar skirt. I figured one good skirt and one mediocre skirt that I could pair with pants/shorts would last me 2 weeks.

After all my preparation I thought I was set, and if anything did go wrong it would be with kashrut, since my pack was a bit heavy with all the inept packaging and the fact that I like to eat a lot. But the first thing to go wrong within the first week was the damn 80-dollar skirt. It was pretty humid, especially in N. Carolina and Tennessee. One day it rained and my skirt got all muddy and the snaps that you use to snap it up to a shorter skirt/shorts got all gunked up so I could no longer snap it up. So I was sweltering and chaffing from the humidity with a full-length skirt on, even though the skirt material was breathable and quick dry the humidity got the best of it. Other than the skirt snaps getting caked thoroughly with mud I had no issues of my kosher food. I took enough to last me 2 weeks and no one tried to borrow my dishes or share food with me.

{ 83 comments… add one }
  • Left Brooklyn and never looked back October 25, 2007, 6:46 PM

    Lydia, if you were trekking with 2 girls why didn’t you try pants or long shorts? Maybe I’m missing something ??

  • Left Brooklyn and never looked back October 25, 2007, 6:48 PM

    BTW, for kosher trekking food, jusst Google “kosher MRE”

  • Anonymous October 25, 2007, 7:24 PM

    Why dont you wear a slinky skirt? I have at least 5 of them in different versions. I have one that is long and flowy for comfort and stretching yet durable for biking. It dries in a second and it doesnt ruin in the rain or dirt. They sell such skirts all over NY. If you are ever here or know someone here you should pick one up! They also have them in shorter versions!!!

  • math girly October 25, 2007, 7:47 PM

    luna bars are amazing.

    “Other than the skirt snaps getting caked thoroughly with mud I had no issues of my kosher food.”

    muddy skirt snaps is an issue with food?

    power to you, though! 🙂

  • Erev Rav October 25, 2007, 8:15 PM

    Hesh, I’m trying to organize a Jewish nudist colony and I need help deciding on a set of rules which would be acceptable by all the different Jewish sects – which you know so well. Do you think you could help? Here’s what I have so far:

    – Absolutely no talking to anyone!
    – Hats are allowed. But only on Shabbat!
    – Whistling is ok, provided it’s not directed at anyone.

    I think this is a promising start, but now I’m stuck…

  • Erev Rav October 25, 2007, 8:18 PM

    ok, one more:

    – In order not to offend anyone; no shaving during the 3 weeks (plan ahead).

  • Erev Rav October 25, 2007, 8:21 PM

    – No pushing

  • Erev Rav October 25, 2007, 8:34 PM

    And, without seeming to be crass, which do you prefer, Bare-O-Park, Glattbush, or my first instinct; Queens?

  • Erev Rav October 25, 2007, 8:45 PM

    This just in:

    – special heter for high heels/F.M. Boots, again just for Shabbat

  • A23 October 25, 2007, 8:49 PM

    Sounds like a Flaming BT. Skirts for an all-girls hiking trip??

  • Frum Funky Fab (slightly eidel) October 25, 2007, 9:43 PM

    First of all, from an FFB POV, 2 things in response to the “Sounds like a Flaming BT. Skirts for an all-girls hiking trip??” comment…

    1 is that there is a concept of tznius even when no one else is around. Different people have different takes on this, but the concept is out there. (There is also an opinion out there that pants are beged ish even if made for women. I’m not going to go into what that entails and how much it annoys me…even more so since I have started to see some truth in it.)

    2 is that, plain and simply, you never know who you’re going to run into. A23, would you go on a hike alone in the woods completely naked? My guess is probably not because you’d be afraid to run into someone. Tznius should be taken at least that seriously.

  • Frum Funky Fab (slightly eidel) October 25, 2007, 9:52 PM

    OH, and my point was that you can pass along the following info regarding a hiking/camping friendly attire for the ladies.

    Long sleeved T with optional sweatshirt goes without saying. On the bottom, lounge pants with a knee-length cotton skirt over. Depending on how comfortable you are in denim, and if there is any water involved, a jean skirt might be the way to go. They also make good sweat-skirts these days (knee-length) to wear over the lounge pants.

    BTW you can also make your own knee length sweat-skirt by cutting the legs open and then turning the whole shebang sideways, cutting and sewing the legs together as it fits, skirt style, and hem for durability.

  • Frum Funky Fab (slightly eidel) October 25, 2007, 10:17 PM

    You also have to remember that when making out with the other girls tznius still applies, which makes things easier as a skirt provides easy access.

  • flatbush gal October 25, 2007, 10:32 PM

    wow to go so far for tznius, kudos

  • Slightly Addled October 25, 2007, 10:39 PM

    I liked your suggestion for all those layers of warm hiking clothes, but I think cutting your legs open and then sewing them back together is really uncalled for. Are you at least doing this at home with properly sanitized tools and an online manual or out in the woods with a can opener and a lighter?

  • Frum Funky Fab (slightly eidel) October 25, 2007, 11:57 PM

    Hiking in lounge pants and a cotton skirt over is not particularly warm. And I assume you were kidding and NOT entirely stupid, but just for anyone who is, cutting open the legs of pants, ESPECIALLY on skater jeans, will generally provide enough material to make something funky.

    I miss the days of funky clothing. Small sacrifice for the One I love.

    P.S. – Are there any GIRLS in E.Y. who would want to go camping somewhere random before it gets too freezing?

  • Frum Funky Fab (slightly eidel) October 26, 2007, 12:08 AM

    P.S.S. – Not looking for a sexual relationship, just a hiking one. 😉

  • heshman October 26, 2007, 12:14 AM

    Ok so to respond to skirts on an all girls hiking trip:
    It is halacha to dress tznius around other women as well. Think about sheitles- do women whip them off the second they get alone with other women?

    Do girls in all girls schools wear pants?

    Exactly, I think its a perfectly reasonable thing to do- and halacha doesn’t change just because you are not around the opposite sex.

  • Sheva-Liraz (lydia) October 26, 2007, 12:56 AM

    Wow, I did not expect this many comments!

    Left brooklyn– I chose to wear a skirt because there are other people also hiking on the trail– aka men will see me in pants. And also the reasons hesh stated above. Thanks for the tip on kosher hiking food.

    Anonymous- I don’t own any slinky skirts and don’t know any frum Jews well enough in NYC, oddly enough.

    Math girly– sorry about the typos– I meant to have a comma in there.

    b23- nope, I think I out grew my flaming Bt stage two years ago.

    Funky frum- great ideas, I thought about cutting open some corduroy pants I have, but figured it was too much sewing.

  • Sheva-Liraz (lydia) October 26, 2007, 1:12 AM

    and why does everyone think I went with all girls, maybe I went with a dude and a girl. And the dude slept in a different tent far away.

  • shlemazl October 26, 2007, 9:58 AM


    Can we have some picks of you in your skirt so that we know what we are talking about? Front, back and sideview should do it.

  • JDMDad October 26, 2007, 1:02 PM

    Since she mentioned trying to make tofu jerky, I found this recently, although I haven’t tried it yet. kosherbeefjerky.net.

  • Jennthejewess October 26, 2007, 5:00 PM

    Hey Lydia

    I have many cotton (exactly the same material as T shirts) skirts from H & M, Loehmanns etc…That are totally convenient. They are loose- (u can basically do a split in them and they dont hike up) dry super quickly and are cheap and can be scrunched up and take up little space. Im sure you can find them wherever you are. All you need are warm pants underneath.

  • notsofrummie October 26, 2007, 5:45 PM

    We need that pic asap, make sure you have slabs and slabs of mud on you. i find frum hiker and backpacker chics very sexy..

  • Hesh October 26, 2007, 8:07 PM

    I have tried kosher beef jerky and since I am not familiar with non-kosher I would say beef jerky tastes like petrified roast beef.

  • Sheva-Liraz October 26, 2007, 8:27 PM

    Jenn- I have the exact same thing. They are too flimsy. They wouldn’t hold up and I find them to dry slowly and be super hot. My mom thought they would be a good idea.

    JDM- Thanks for the recipe, but I am a vegetarian.

    As for the picture, I will try to post it sometime after motzei shabbos.

  • Frum Funky Fab October 27, 2007, 7:12 PM

    OMG that last comment that was attributed to me was NOT ME!!! Who wrote that…blasted foreign computer, I cant find the question mark!!!

  • Frum Funky Fab October 27, 2007, 7:18 PM

    Oh and its not crazy sewing though I own a machine. And slinky skirts are very flimsy, they just DIE. The second you try to take big steps in them you need a slip anyway, which defeats the purpose. Ill bet they were being advocated for by guys. They are totally not tznius at all. Hello, theyre SLINKY!!! That has to say something. Oh, yay, look what I found! ??????? But I cant find the apostraphe or the keys needed to make a smiley!

  • AF October 28, 2007, 3:59 AM

    “Sounds like a Flaming BT. Skirts for an all-girls hiking trip??”

    Last time I checked, G-d is everywhere… all-girls hiking trips included. And if you’re not doing it for G-d, why the hell bother at all? Consult your local edition of Shulchan Aruch…

  • Hesh October 28, 2007, 4:33 AM

    You speak the truth man

  • chatul October 28, 2007, 6:38 PM

    Hey Lydia,
    I’m frum and been hiking a lot. My hiking partner ( another frum woman) is yeshivish and so out of deference to her and the fact that we do indeed meet men on the trails in Colorado, I wear skirts on the trail as well. Here are a few things we do for that one:
    1) we both go bargain bin shopping and get stretchy ugly skirts that we can tamper with and honestly we have foudn that taking a package of safety pins on the hikes has been incredibly useful. If a snap ever clogs -you’ve got several sizes of safety pin to hold you together. (not to mention that they’re useful for things like pinning sandals to your rucksack when you need them to dry, becuase you’ve just stomped through a creek.)
    2) I wear warmup pants and regular pants or all-weather rain/sleet/etc pants under my skirts, so I get away with wearing cheap bargain bin skirts that only go to my knees or mid calf. (Ah, the luxury of not being yeshivish! or BT!) My hiking partner on the other hand often wears a cotton wrap-around skirt or a stretchy elastic skirt over leggings. EXPECT mud. Test the fabrics and skirts at home by standing in the shower with them and figuring out how awful it will or will not feel walking with your skirt wet. I made a skirt out of parachute material once, but found it wasn’t so good as the material doesn’t take rain/sleet/snow as well as I’d like. The best materials are polyester/rayon/nylon type blends -which here’s a trick I just tried out a couple years ago… you can spray with a (often silicone-based) water proofing/water-resistant spray you put on shoes (it’s available also for tents, etc.) Stay away from true denim and tencel. Those materials are (pardon me Hashem) Godawful. (Leggings and pants incidentally are better anyway if you’re in tick-country, which we have been.) I actually sewed a couple of skirts to trash for our hikes and none of them have fallen apart after four non-consecutive weeks of wear on the trail -if you’re interested in doing this it’s super easy. I also wear them when I ice skate. I find that short skirts with slits on the sides over warm-up pants or hiking pants so I can take a nice stride if I’m climbing up rocks or/and long A-line skirts over pants or leggings work best for me. My hiking partner prefers full stretchy cotton-type skirts over her leggings. We both anticipate mud, and wet weather so we make sure that these are not skirts we’re terribly attached to. I had a linen wrap-around skirt I wore for our first one in the rockies it tore and part of it became a bandanna on the second day out. These are just things that worked for us, which I hope you can take and use so that hiking and camping will work for you. My latest idea which I haven’t tried yet is to buy to really large ultra thin pack-towels (sold by REI and other places) and sew two together into a skirt and wear that, because those pack towels are supposed to dry superfast.
    3) food: so I usually pack salamis (romanian kosher meat in Chicago makes the best trail worthy salamis as they are edible at various stages of hardness and dryness– and they are meant to dry out, etc.) as you are a vegetarian -here are your other options, because my hiking partner and I had to find a nubmer of interesting ways to survive out there. 1-peanut butter and crackers go a long way. 2- make your own trail mix -all sortsof nuts can be bought cashew, peanuts, almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts and mix it with dried fruit -cranberries, blueberries (dried with hechsher available at trader joes), strawberries (dried with hechsher available at trader joes), apricots, raisins, etc. Also things like sesame sticks, minipretzels, etc. are good to add to your “gorp” or trail mix. Pack it in doubled zip locks and as you finish the littler bags you can convert the [plastic bags into packing your trash/waste disposal. (My partner and I prefer to hike with the leave-no trace philosophy so we pack our trash back out.) 3- cracker packs of pb & cheese crackers are good to take along. 4- also try taking a package of Zelda’s Sweet Shoppe biscotti (search for zelda’s sweet shoppe on google) her biscotti are not stale and will not go stale on a hike unless you expose it directly to a torrential downpour -but then you have other problems. Take the biscotti out of Zelda’s’ packaging and put it into a double bagged siplock. Excellent snack. Choose the nut and dried berry type and you’ve got extra protein and nutrients, too. (Sorry, I know I’m making mostly Chicago-based suggestions, but this is where I live.) 4- you can make fish jerky, if you eat fish. Also you can make a dried almost pemmican type snack out of tuna that you roast in your oven slowly so it completely dries out. add spices to taste. 5- grains/rice/oatmeal are phenomenally hard to mess up on the trail, so I always pack rice or oatmeal or both. We also take hard-boiled eggs (which we eat the first day out usually for lunch), fresh fruit, cliff energy bars (O-U-Dairy), and soy or rice protein powder (which takes awful, but it’s really useful on the trail).
    That should give you a good start for the next time you hit the trail.
    And for everyone else who is not Lydia -yes, I typed this really fast and no I did not spell check, grammar-check, or look for other typos so please forgive me all errors. I ‘m lazy about stuff like this. Maxima mea culpa.

  • chatul October 28, 2007, 6:54 PM

    by the way, hard crust breadrolls are also decent (don’t take a breadloaf, because the last time I did that, we had to go rock-paper-scissors to decide who was going to eat the most squished and disgusting looking pieces of bread.) and you can take honey or jam to sweeten it up. My hiking partner also likes taking some veggies for the first few days’ out meals so beans, tomato sauce, etc. which it already sounds like you did. We pack a lot of things like clementines/tangerines/oranges, apples, peaches, pears, plums, avocados, carrots, etc. Once I took an eggplant, but -I never tried that experience again. Oh, yeah and half a head of cabbage. That one was funny.
    Anyway, frum girls can definitely hike/camp.

    Sometime I should write someplace about taking a mini-Kehati volume to learn mishnah on the trail. LOL.
    Ah, those were the days.

  • Sheva-Liraz October 28, 2007, 8:26 PM

    Chatul, thank you very much! I will definitely try out those skirt ideas. I recently found that if you have atheltic pants you can cut them and sew them into a skirt for something that is really breathable.
    Fish jerky eh? Does it have a good texture? I did have luck bringing a lot of fruit, I forgot to mention that. I also hiked with all women, but that’s very fortunate that you found someone who is also frum to hike with. If only there were more frum women in the midwest who liked to hike. If you are ever in the Milwaukee/Wisconsin area (since Chicago is like 1 1/2 hours away) we should hit the trails up here.

    • Chana May 31, 2018, 12:37 PM

      I am in Chicago! are you still interested?

  • Anonymous October 30, 2007, 3:16 AM

    I was wondering if anyone could suggest a winter backpacking trip? Thanks.

  • Hesh October 30, 2007, 4:24 AM

    Well I have hiked the Smokies in the Winter, it snowed but it wasn’t too cold. It depends where you are located. The southwest in lower elevations should be fine.

    Death Valley is awesome this time of year, but I don’t know if they get snow in the winter.

  • Anonymous November 1, 2007, 2:36 AM

    Thanks, I think I’ll look into the smokies, they’re closer and there’s just so much to do. Get to do some reading on camping in bearcountry and other fun stuff. I’m totally craving some quality time outdoors.

  • chatul November 6, 2007, 5:01 AM

    Sheva-Liraz –I might just take you up on that and introduce you to my hiking partner as well.

    winter hike suggestion: I did parts of the appalachian trail and it was great! Also, some good nearly-winter-time hiking in California. Check out Pt Reyes and Mt. Lasser.

  • Sarabeth November 15, 2007, 2:14 AM

    To Lydia on skirts…

    Does Beged Eesh apply when it’s from another culture?

    Cuz I like the Indian-style thing where you have a skirt with slits up the side over pants. Has saved my life numerous times during strenuous wedding dancing (chub rub ain’t fun!)

    As far as I know, if you are already wearing pants BENEATH the skirt, it’s not a beged eesh issue for you.

    And having the cloth covering the fronts and backs of your legs will mean you’ll be safe, tznius-wise. Plus, would probably be wayyyy easier to move around it.

  • Sarabeth November 15, 2007, 2:21 AM

    And to Hesh about finding frummies that hike-

    I’m trying to get an internship at SPNI (Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel), and so by perusing their site found this:


    So, hypothetically, there ARE frummies who like to hike! And probably the madrichot/whoever runs these are more your age. (Unless you go for the 14-18 crowd.)

  • Sheva-Liraz November 15, 2007, 2:47 AM

    Sarahbeth, I am also a fan of Indian/Korean style with the slits of the sides over pants. I did wear cargo pants under the other skirt I brought with me just because it had no pockets. And it was easier to move around in. Again thanks for the suggestions!

  • 'nother funky frum hikergürlchicka.. March 2, 2008, 1:04 AM

    FFF (se)– re: Hiking in E.Y…

    hell yea! I’m here for another few months. Wouldn’t mind doing a yam l’yam to get started again. A frum friend is currently in the US but lives here, and regularly skates/d down to the yam he’melach, and basically all over the world (check out her blog!). And yet another frum, hikergürl™ lives in NY but gets here every so often.

    We definitely exist (even if I did go into hibernation a bit after I recently got married), question is..who has the guts to admit it? ;).

  • 'nother funky frum hikergürlchicka.. March 2, 2008, 1:06 AM

    her blog:

  • gingerkid December 17, 2008, 11:54 AM

    i went on derech hateva last summer…most awesome thing i have ever done. 3 straight weeks of backpacking and it was all girls (and there is an all boys group too), completely shomer shabbat and kashrut and all that good stuff….
    amazing program. if anyone is interested you can apply to be a madricha

  • stuckinvilliamsburg December 17, 2008, 12:52 PM

    it’s really not so difficult to be tznius while hiking. unless you’re wearing a pencil skirt any stretchy knee length skirt over pants is fine (like those black bubble skirts or israeli tiered denim skirts from horbakir on ben yehuda). c’mon am i the only one who went to sternberg?…
    and poineers was always the most popular part of sternberg and it involved living in a tent for 6 weeks w/out normal bathrooms and showers- there’s plenty of frum outdoorsy girls out there

  • 'nother funky frum hikergürlchicka.. December 17, 2008, 1:20 PM

    nope, S-t-e-r-n-b-e-r-g rocks! It’s a genuine shame they’re the only frum camp that has a real outdoors-program. No electricity, no heat, no carpets (like those other camps do), lotsa mud and fresh air…priceless!

  • stuckinvilliamsburg December 17, 2008, 1:31 PM

    it is sad that the other camps are too jappy and afraid a hike might mess up everyone’s ironed hair. i guess you have to look good at all times starting at freshies?
    my bunk in older pioneers had the honor of being sent to the meeting with the dh about being too grungy. well the only way to take a “shower” was to stand by the sink collecting a few drops in a negalvasser cup.

  • 'nother funky frum hikergürlchicka.. December 17, 2008, 1:33 PM

    Too grungy?? In Sternberg??Wow, I wish my bunk was like that way back when! How long ago was this and what did the dh say?

  • Frum Satire December 17, 2008, 8:21 PM

    Woa how did you people suddenly find this post?

  • Anonymous February 15, 2009, 9:18 AM

    wow! sopunds good to me.

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