What to Wear Hiking: The Essential Clothing and Gear for Any Hiker
So you’ve decided to take the plunge and go hiking. That’s great! But now you need to know what to wear. You may not realize it, but your clothing choices can make or break your experience on the trail. You might think that all you need is a pair of hiking boots, sturdy jeans, and a shirt but there are actually some key decisions to make when choosing your outfit for a day hike.
In this session, we’ll talk about what kinds of clothes are best suited for hiking, how to layer them in order to stay warm without getting too hot or too sweaty, and how to avoid dreaded chafing.
Whether you’re a weekend warrior or an avid hiker, it’s important to choose the right clothing for your next adventure. Whether you’re planning a multi-day trek or a quick day hike, it’s important to have the right gear. With that in mind, let’s take a look at clothing strategies for hiking.
Embrace layering: Layered clothing is key to staying warm and dry while hiking. You can layer synthetic fabrics like fleece over wool or cotton layers for added warmth and comfort. The trick is finding out what works best for you and your hikes.
Anticipate conditions: The weather can be unpredictable when hiking, so it’s important to keep an eye on conditions so that you don’t get caught off guard by rain or cold temperatures. Wear waterproof boots and rain gear if there are signs of precipitation on the horizon.
You’ll also want to consider what kind of terrain you’ll be navigating will it be rocky or steep? If so, wear sturdy shoes with good traction that won’t slip when wet.
Focus on function, not fashion: When it comes to fashion, the first rule of hiking is that function matters more than form. It’s tempting to think that you can look cute while you’re hiking, but in reality, the most important thing is to wear clothing that is comfortable and protects you from the elements.
Don’t wear anything too tight or restrictive, especially around your chest and shoulders. You want your clothes to move with you as much as possible so that they don’t restrict your movement on the trail or make you feel uncomfortable.
Think about comfort, durability weight, and price: If you’re just going on a short day hike or even a camping trip, you don’t have to worry too much about what clothes you wear, you can just throw on whatever is at hand and be on your way.
But if you’re planning on going for an extended hike (or even just a longer one), it’s important to make sure that your clothing is up for the task. Clothing should be comfortable, durable enough to withstand damage from rough terrain and weather conditions such as rain or snow, lightweight enough not to weigh down your pack too much (since weight will add up quickly), and priced within reason so that it doesn’t break the bank once it gets damaged or lost.
Get good hiking boots or trail shoes: If you’re just starting out, it’s best to get a pair of hiking boots. These have a thick sole and are designed specifically for walking through rough terrain. They’ll give you the traction and support that you need while still keeping your feet cool and comfortable. If your budget allows, go ahead and invest in some waterproof boots—you’ll be glad you did when it starts raining!
If you’re looking for something more casual or if you don’t like the feel of hiking boots, then trail shoes might be a better option. These are lighter than hiking boots and offer less support, but they still have plenty of protection from the elements. Plus they’re usually cheaper than their boot counterparts!
Key Fabric Properties
When you’re hiking, the fabric you choose to wear can make or break your experience.
Wicking: If you’re hiking in a humid climate, or if you sweat a lot, wicking fabrics are essential. These fabrics help draw moisture away from the skin. This is important because it keeps the skin feeling dry and cool while also preventing chafing and blisters. A good example of this type of fabric is wool. It’s not just for fall anymore!
Insulating: If you’re hiking in a cold climate, then insulating fabrics are what you need—and they come in many varieties. Insulating fabrics trap air within their fibers, which helps maintain body heat by keeping the body warm even when it’s wet or damp outside. They also protect against wind chill and aid in regulating temperature when temperatures fluctuate dramatically between day and night. Insulating fabrics might include down jackets or fleece pullovers made from synthetic materials like polyester or nylon blends.
You’ll want to think about how much time you spend on the trail versus off trail when deciding what type of fabric will work best for your needs—and don’t forget about layering!
Waterproof and Windproof: If you’re going to be hiking in the rain, then it’s important to have a jacket that’s both waterproof and windproof. The fabric must be able to keep out moisture (watertight) and keep out wind (windproof). If a jacket doesn’t do this, then you’ll end up getting soaked from the inside out!
Breathable: It’s also important for outdoor gear to be breathable so that you can regulate your body temperature effectively. This means that the fabric allows air molecules through, but not water molecules or other materials. The more breathable a jacket is, the more comfortable it will be during physical activity like hiking or camping.
Waterproof/Breathable: Advanced shells offer this coverage combo, protecting against rain and wind while still allowing sweat to escape so you don’t get too warm. If you’re going on a multi-day hike in rainy conditions, opt for a jacket that has at least 20k waterproofing. If not, look for something with at least 10k waterproofing—but keep in mind that anything less than 5k waterproofing isn’t going to be enough to protect you from rain or snowfall.
Sun Protection: When choosing a hiking fabric for sun protection, it’s important to remember that UV rays can damage any fabric over time. So if your trip is longer than one day and/or takes place during the summer months (when UV rays are strongest), be sure to choose a jacket with UPF 50+ protection. This will keep harmful UV rays out of your skin and away from your sensitive skin cells.
Basic Fabric Choices
When you’re out on the trail, you want your clothing to be as comfortable as possible. But sometimes it can be hard to know what fabric is best for hiking. So we’ve put together this guide to help you choose the right fabric for your next hike!
Wool: Wool is a natural fiber that’s very breathable and moisture-wicking, so it’s great for keeping you cool when you’re sweating. It also has natural stretch, which makes it easy to move in while still giving you some support. However, wool tends to be expensive and may not hold up well over time with lots of use or washing.
Polyester/nylon clothing: Polyester/nylon clothing is relatively inexpensive and durable, but it tends not to breathe well and absorb moisture, as well as other fabrics, do. It will also tend to retain more odor than other types of fabrics after repeated use or washing.
Fleece: The most common type of fleece is made from polyester and nylon. This material is great for keeping you warm when it’s cold out, but it also traps heat inside your jacket so that it does not evaporate quickly if you get too hot. This makes them good for cool weather hikes but not so good in hot or humid conditions (like summer).
Polyester/nylon jackets: These jackets are made from both nylon and polyester fabrics and are popular among hikers who want something lightweight, breathable, and waterproof. They’re also easy to care for—just throw them in the washing machine after use! These jackets tend to be more expensive than other types but they’re worth it if you want something comfortable that will last longer than cheaper materials would.
Silk: Silk is one of the most durable fibers around, which makes it perfect for hiking. It’s naturally breathable, so it’ll keep your skin from getting too sweaty even when you’re hiking uphill or in hot weather. And because silk is so strong and stretchy, it won’t snap or tear when you’re moving around on your hike.
Cotton: Cotton is another great fabric choice for hiking because it’s soft and comfortable against the skin—but unlike silk, cotton doesn’t hold up very well over time. If you have any plans to do some serious hiking with cotton clothing, it’s best to make sure that your gear is durable enough to handle whatever conditions come your way without falling apart before your trip even starts!
Base Layer: Undergarment Options
There are many different types of base layers available for hikers, but some of the most popular are:
Underwear: It’s important to wear underwear that fits properly, or else it could cause you discomfort while hiking. Make sure they’re neither too tight nor too loose around your waist, thighs, and calves. You’ll also want to make sure they’re not too thick—you don’t want them weighing you down when you’re going uphill!
Tank top/camisole: Tank tops and camisoles provide excellent sun protection for your arms and back. They also keep you cool in hot weather conditions so you won’t overheat as easily during strenuous exercise sessions like hiking. The best thing about these types of shirts is that they’re lightweight and breathable which means less sweat buildup on your skin throughout the day!
Base layer top and bottoms (long underwear): Base layer top and bottoms (long underwear) are the most important pieces of hiking clothing to consider. A good base layer will wick sweat away from your body, keeping you dry and comfortable during strenuous activity. The best base layers are made of merino wool or synthetic fibers that are designed to move moisture away from the skin.
Should you wear undies under long underwear?
There’s no right or wrong way to do it, so do whatever makes you most comfortable. Undies are not necessary and fabrics can bunch up uncomfortably, but some people like the added support and warmth.
Head-to-Toe Clothing Options
If you’re planning a day hike, you can choose from a variety of clothing options that will keep you comfortable and protected. You may already have many of these items in your closet, but it’s always good to know what options are out there.
Hats: Hats are great because they protect your face and head from the sun, rain, wind, and bugs. You should look for one that’s lightweight, breathable, and has a wide brim to protect your face from the elements.
Shirts: Your shirt should be long enough to cover your lower back when you’re bending over or kneeling down. Look for shirts that have moisture-wicking fabric that can dry quickly after getting wet.
Shorts/pants: You should have at least one pair of shorts with zip-off legs so you can convert them into short pants when necessary. Shorts should be loose enough that they don’t restrict movement when bending over or kneeling down (they shouldn’t ride up), but not so loose that they flap around in the wind.
Convertible (zip-off) pants: Convertible (zip-off) pants are ideal because they give you two options when it comes to hiking clothing—you can wear them as shorts or convert them into pants when needed!
Yoga pants and tights: If you’re going on a short hike or just need something quick and easy for the trail, yoga pants are great. They offer comfort and support for your legs, plus they don’t take up much room in your bag.
Hiking skirt, dress or skort: For longer hikes with more terrain, consider wearing a skirt or dress instead of pants. These provide ventilation for your legs and can be more flattering than bulky tights or heavier shorts if you’re worried about how you look hiking alone (or with friends).
Gloves and socks: Gloves protect your hands from blisters while hiking up steep trails or rocky paths; they also keep them warm on chilly days. Socks help prevent blisters on long hikes by keeping your feet dry and comfortable throughout the day.
Gaiters: Gaiters are a great option for keeping water out of your shoes while hiking in wet environments such as rain forests or snow-covered mountains where there might be streams running alongside trails or even down into them!
Mid Layer: Fleece and Puffy Jackets
you’ll want to wear a base layer that wicks away moisture and keeps you dry. Second, you’ll want to wear a mid layer that will keep you warm. And finally, if it’s really cold out, you’ll want an outer shell to protect you from the elements.
Here are some options for each of those layers:
Fleece jacket: A fleece jacket is great because it’s lightweight but still warm. It’s also breathable so you won’t get too sweaty when you’re working up a sweat on your hike. Plus, they come in all kinds of colors!
Fleece pants: If you have a pair of fleece pants that’s made for hiking (they should be stretchy and have pockets), then these are another great option for keeping warm on your hike. They’re also super comfortable!
Puffy insulated jacket or vest: This is a great layer because it’s extra puffy and will keep you nice and warm even when temperatures drop below freezing outside. The downside is that they’re heavier than other types of jackets so they might not be great for long hikes where weight matters.
Outer layer: rain jackets and pants
You’re going to want to bring a rain jacket with you on your hike, especially if the weather is unpredictable. Rain jackets come in two main categories: those that are lightweight and packable, and those that are more heavy-duty and not as compressible. If you’re planning on doing a lot of hiking in wet conditions where you will get wet regardless, then a heavy-duty waterproof jacket might be your best bet. However, if you’re hiking in dry climates or are planning on being mostly dry through all of the activities you take part in at the end of your hike (like swimming), then you might want to consider bringing along a lightweight waterproof jacket instead.
As for pants, there are generally two types: heavy-duty waterproof pants and lighter-weight breathable pants. The heavier weight pants tend to offer more protection from wind and rain, as well as cold temperatures if it gets really cold out during your hike; however, they can also be bulky and difficult to pack up into smaller spaces like your backpack or luggage bag when not being worn by hikers who have already packed them up into smaller pieces before leaving home base on their trip.
It’s also important to remember the environmental impacts of your gear.
Bug-protective clothing: Wearing light-colored clothes can help you avoid attracting bugs, which can be especially helpful if you’re hiking in bug season. Light colors will also help you stay cool when it’s hot out!
Tall leather hiking boots: Hiking boots are a great choice for long hikes, because they provide traction and protection from any rocks or other hazards that might be in your path. They’re also waterproof, so you won’t have to worry about getting your feet wet if the weather turns unexpectedly rainy.
Waterproof gaiters: Gaiters are another great option for keeping your feet dry on the trail. They go around your ankles and keep them protected from mud, snow, or water—which means they’re great for keeping your boots clean as well!
There are a lot of factors that go into what to wear hiking. You need to consider your personal comfort level, the weather conditions and terrain you’ll be hiking in, and whether or not you’ll be in an area with bears (which means no cotton!).
The most important thing is to always take into account your body’s needs and how they will change over the course of your hike. You may start out at a brisk pace, but as you begin to tire and sweat more, you’ll want to make sure you dress accordingly.
If you’re planning on being in a bear area, don’t forget the bear spray!