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The Activewear Hijab That Doesn’t Compromise On Comfort, Modesty Or Performance

"I found a lot of people staring at me on my hikes. Maybe it was because I was unfit…or because I was the only brown, Muslim woman wearing the hijab," says Zahrah Mahmood, also known as @the_hillwalking_hijabi.
Glasgow-based Zahrah hiked her first Scottish mountain (a Munro) in 2015 and although a love of hiking wasn’t instantaneous, she soon realised that getting outdoors and into the elements triggered a huge mental release. Fast-forward eight years and Zahrah’s sharing her hiking adventures with over 15,000 Instagram followers and is an ambassador for outdoor stalwart Berghaus.
Together, Berghaus and Zahrah have created something exciting: an activewear hijab designed so Muslim women can enjoy the outdoors with confidence, and without compromising on comfort, faith or performance.
Ultimately it’s about taking the necessary steps to ensure everyone feels welcome – and properly equipped – to explore the incredible landscapes around them. If there are more hijab-wearing women on the hillside, then those stares that Zahrah experienced will become a thing of the past.
The Berghaus hijab, available now, is based on a traditional scarf wrap style. The wearer can drape, fold and fasten the hijab to their liking – much like an everyday hijab. This sets the Berghaus hijab apart and was an important design decision for Zahrah and Berghaus design lead, Kate Ablett.
"Myself and other hijabis I know often use the phrase 'egg heads' [for pull-on-style hijabs] as the material will just stick to you and not feel good," Zahrah says.
"I think we can all relate to when you feel good in something. It breeds confidence and ultimately can enhance your experience. So it became really important to make sure this wasn’t lost as we got into the performance elements," Kate adds.
To inform the design and material choices, Zahrah and Kate discussed the issues that many Muslim women face when exercising outdoors in the hijab. Fastening with pins doesn’t work well, for instance, as they fall out easily or jab the skin when moving about. At the same time, Zahrah and Kate were conscious that the Berghaus hijab should be inclusive and fit a variety of face shapes and sizes.
"Berghaus really understand how magic getting outside can be, as does Zahrah. We really wanted to create something that had all the performance needs for the outdoors in a product that still felt like a hijab and allowed the wearer to both look and feel good," Kate explains.
The Berghaus hijab has multiple popper fastenings, allowing the wearer to drape and secure it in a way that fits them comfortably. For extra security, a concealed headband sits at the forehead beneath the scarf layers and ties at the nape of the neck to ensure the hijab doesn’t slip.
Zahrah can attest to the strength of this particular feature, having pushed it to extremes in Scotland. "I wore it in crazy winds and it didn’t budge," she tells us.
Finding a fabric that would meet all the needs of an activewear hijab was also important; nothing too slippy, hot or see-through would do. Berghaus and Zahrah landed on Polartec Delta fabric, a technical high-spec material that is lightweight and breathable, wicks away sweat and is quick-drying. The fabric always feels cool and comfortable against the skin.
The Berghaus hijab design process was a long one, protracted by COVID restrictions and the extra care taken by the team. For Zahrah, the process coincided with having a baby. "We went through around three or four prototypes," she says. "I have pictures of me trying it on from when I was pregnant to when my baby was born. It was a constant, open dialogue and from the first conversation I felt heard."
"It’s not been a tick-box exercise," she adds. "Berghaus want people to feel included and valued. If you don’t feel properly equipped to be outdoors and hike, it doesn’t feel as though you belong. Now, seeing the Berghaus hijab come to life over the last three years feels amazing. It’s something that feels like it’s made for the outdoors. I’m not having to squeeze into or fit into a mould; this is made for [women like] me."
The Berghaus activewear hijab encourages Muslim women to make their mark on the great outdoors without compromising their modesty, faith or beliefs. So what’s Zahrah’s advice for those curious about taking their first steps in the hills? "Start local and start small. Build up your confidence then go a bit further afield. You don’t have to walk a massive mountain your first time; tackle a smaller hill first."
Small steps lead to mountainous accomplishments. "I hope the Berghaus activewear hijabs make people [feel] included and valued," Zahrah concludes. "I hope Muslim women can feel confident, secure and ready for anything."

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