Gear Up Right: What To Wear Hiking

There is nothing quite like spending a day out in nature, exploring new trails and enjoying the fresh air. But before you hit the hiking trail, it’s essential to make sure you are dressed appropriately.

what to wear hiking

The right hiking attire can help keep you comfortable, protected, and ready for any weather conditions that come your way.

In this blog post, we will cover everything from layering techniques to materials designed for moisture-wicking, dressing for different seasons, and even bug and sun protection essentials.

We’ll also explore various clothing options such as hiking pants and shorts, shirts and base layers, outer layers for protection, hiking shoes & socks, and accessories that can make your hike more enjoyable.

So grab your gear and let’s get started on making sure you’re dressed for success on your next hike!

What to Wear Hiking – Layering

Layering is an essential technique for hikers to ensure comfort, protection, and adaptability to changing weather conditions on the trail.

Here are some basics to keep in mind when layering for hiking:

  • Base Layer: The base layer is the first layer you put on and is in direct contact with your skin. It should be moisture-wicking and quick-drying to keep you dry and comfortable by moving sweat away from your body. Choose a lightweight and breathable material such as merino wool or synthetic fabrics.

  • Mid Layer: The mid layer provides insulation and helps regulate your body temperature. Fleece jackets or down-filled sweaters are common choices for the mid layer. They trap body heat and provide warmth when the temperature drops. Look for lightweight and compressible options for easy packing.

  • Shell Layer: The shell layer is your outermost layer and acts as a barrier against wind, rain, and snow. It should be waterproof, windproof, and breathable to protect you from the elements while allowing moisture to escape. Consider a waterproof jacket or a shell with a waterproof membrane such as Gore-Tex.

  • Insulating Layer: In colder conditions, you may need an additional insulating layer between the base and shell layers. This layer can be a down or synthetic-filled jacket or vest that provides extra warmth without adding too much bulk. It can be easily added or removed as needed.

  • Accessories: Don’t forget to layer your accessories as well. Wear moisture-wicking socks to keep your feet dry, and consider adding a hat, gloves, and a neck gaiter or scarf for extra protection against cold winds. Sunglasses and sunscreen are also important to protect your eyes and skin from the sun.

Synthetic Materials for Moisture Wicking

Synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon excel at wicking moisture away from your skin. When hiking, your body generates sweat, and if moisture is trapped against your skin, it can lead to discomfort, chafing, and even blisters.

Synthetic materials help keep you dry by pulling moisture away from your body, allowing it to evaporate more quickly.

Unlike natural fibers such as cotton, synthetic materials dry much faster. This is especially crucial when hiking in wet conditions or when crossing streams.

If your clothing or gear gets wet, synthetic materials will dry more rapidly, reducing discomfort and the risk of hypothermia in cold weather.

Many synthetic fabrics are designed to offer excellent breathability, allowing air to circulate and heat to escape. This is especially beneficial during strenuous activities like hiking when your body generates heat and sweat.

Breathable synthetic materials help regulate your body temperature, keeping you more comfortable and reducing the risk of overheating.

Hiking Pants & Shorts

Hiking enthusiasts need to carefully select their clothing for maximum comfort and performance during their treks. When it comes to selecting the best hiking pants or shorts, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Material: Look for pants or shorts made from lightweight, breathable, and quick-drying fabrics. Synthetic materials such as nylon or polyester blends are popular choices as they offer durability, moisture-wicking properties, and fast drying times. Some options also include built-in UV protection.

  • Fit: Opt for pants or shorts that have a comfortable and relaxed fit. They should allow for a wide range of movement without being too baggy or restrictive. Consider features like articulated knees or gussets that enhance mobility. Look for adjustable waistbands or belts to ensure a proper fit.

  • Length: The length of your pants or shorts is a personal preference. Longer pants provide better protection against brush, insects, and sun exposure, while shorts offer increased breathability and freedom of movement in warm conditions. Some pants come with zip-off legs, allowing you to convert them into shorts when needed.

  • Pockets: Having well-placed pockets can be convenient for carrying small essentials like a map, compass, or snacks. Look for pants or shorts with zippered or secure pockets to prevent items from falling out while you hike. However, too many pockets can add unnecessary weight and bulk.

  • Protection: If you plan to hike in areas with dense vegetation or encounter insects, consider pants or shorts with built-in insect repellent or treated with permethrin. This provides an added layer of protection against bug bites and ticks.

  • Weather and Season: Consider the weather conditions and the season in which you’ll be hiking. For colder climates or higher altitudes, choose pants with additional insulation or layering options. In hot and humid conditions, lightweight and breathable shorts can help keep you cool.

  • Durability: Hiking can be tough on clothing, so look for pants or shorts that are durable and resistant to abrasions. Reinforced knees and seat areas can enhance durability in high-wear areas. Double-stitched seams and quality construction contribute to the longevity of your gear.

  • Try Before Buying: It’s best to try on hiking pants or shorts before purchasing to ensure a proper fit and comfort. Walk around, squat, and move your legs to test their range of motion. Pay attention to any potential chafing or discomfort.

Hiking Shirts & Base Layers

For maximum comfort on the trail, it’s important to choose the right hiking shirt and base layers. Here’s a few tips to help you out:

  • Material: Look for shirts made from lightweight, moisture-wicking, and quick-drying fabrics. Synthetic materials like polyester or nylon blends are commonly used for hiking shirts as they offer breathability, durability, and the ability to wick away sweat from your skin. Natural fibers like merino wool can also be a good option as they provide excellent moisture management and odor resistance.

  • Breathability: Hiking can be physically demanding, so choose a shirt that allows air to circulate and keeps you cool. Look for shirts with mesh panels or vents under the arms or on the back to enhance airflow and ventilation. This helps in regulating your body temperature and reducing sweat buildup.

  • Fit: Opt for a hiking shirt with a comfortable and relaxed fit. It should provide freedom of movement without being too tight or restrictive. Consider shirts with ergonomic or articulated designs that offer increased mobility, especially if you’ll be engaging in activities that require a wide range of motion.

  • Sun Protection: Hiking often involves spending long hours under the sun, so consider shirts with built-in UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating. Look for shirts labeled with UPF 30 or higher to provide adequate protection against harmful UV rays. Additionally, shirts with long sleeves and collars can provide extra sun protection for your arms and neck.

Hiking Shoes & Socks

For a successful hike, it’s important to choose the right footwear that will keep your feet comfortable and protected throughout your journey.

Here’s a few of our best tips:

  • Know your hiking terrain: Consider the type of terrain you’ll be hiking on. Different trails and environments require different types of footwear. Determine if you’ll be hiking on well-maintained paths, rugged terrain, muddy trails, or rocky surfaces. This will help you choose the right level of support, traction, and durability needed for your specific hiking conditions.

  • Comfort and fit: Proper fit is crucial for hiking shoes. Try on shoes at the end of the day when your feet are slightly swollen to ensure the right fit. Look for shoes that offer ample toe room, a snug heel fit, and no pressure points. Consider the width of the shoe as well, as some brands offer different width options to accommodate different foot sizes.

  • Ankle support: Decide if you prefer low-cut shoes, mid-cut shoes, or high-cut boots. Low-cut shoes are lighter and more flexible, suitable for well-maintained trails and day hikes with light loads. Mid-cut shoes provide a bit more ankle support and are suitable for uneven terrain and longer hikes. High-cut boots offer the highest level of ankle support and protection, ideal for rough and challenging terrains or carrying heavier loads.

  • Breathability and waterproofing: Consider the climate and weather conditions you’ll be hiking in. If you expect wet conditions or frequently encounter streams, consider waterproof hiking shoes or boots with breathable membranes like Gore-Tex. Keep in mind that waterproof shoes may not be as breathable in hot and dry conditions.

  • Traction: Look for hiking shoes with a good outsole that provides reliable traction. A lug pattern with deep and multidirectional treads is beneficial for various terrains, including muddy, rocky, or slippery surfaces. The outsole material, such as durable rubber, should offer grip and durability.

  • Stability and protection: Consider the level of stability and protection you need. Hiking shoes should have a firm midsole that provides support and cushioning. Look for features like a shank or a plate in the midsole to enhance stability on uneven surfaces. Toe caps and heel counters offer additional protection against rocks and roots.

What “Not” To Wear Hiking

  • Cotton clothing: Avoid wearing cotton clothing while hiking as it retains moisture and takes a long time to dry. Opt for moisture-wicking and quick-drying fabrics instead, such as synthetic materials like polyester or specialized hiking clothing made of merino wool.

  • Jeans: Jeans are heavy, restrict movement, and are not designed for outdoor activities. Choose lightweight and flexible pants or shorts specifically designed for hiking. Look for materials like nylon or spandex blends that offer durability and stretch.

  • Flip-flops or sandals: While they may be comfortable for casual outings, flip-flops and sandals do not provide adequate support or protection for hiking. Choose sturdy hiking boots or trail shoes that offer ankle support, traction, and protection from rocks and other trail hazards.

  • Heavy or non-breathable jackets: Avoid wearing heavy jackets or non-breathable materials that trap sweat and moisture. Instead, choose lightweight, breathable, and moisture-wicking layers that can be easily adjusted based on changing weather conditions.

  • Jewelry or accessories that may get caught: It’s best to avoid wearing jewelry, long necklaces, or accessories that can easily get caught on branches or other objects while hiking. They can become a safety hazard or get lost. Stick to minimal and functional accessories like a watch, a hat, and sunglasses.

  • Overly loose or tight clothing: Wearing clothing that is either too loose or too tight can cause discomfort and restrict movement during hiking. Choose clothing that fits properly, allowing you to move freely without being too constrictive or hindering your mobility.

  • New or untested footwear: It’s important to wear well-fitting and broken-in hiking footwear to prevent blisters and discomfort. Avoid wearing brand new or untested shoes or boots on a long hike as they may cause discomfort, pain, or blisters. Make sure to wear your hiking footwear before the hike to ensure they are comfortable and well-suited for your feet.

Wrap Up

In conclusion, dressing appropriately for hiking is crucial to make sure you are comfortable, protected, and able to enjoy your time on the trail.

From layering for comfort and functionality to choosing the right materials for moisture-wicking, it’s important to pay attention to detail when packing your hiking attire.

Don’t forget essentials like bug and sun protection, as well as sturdy hiking shoes and socks. Invest in high-quality gear that will last you through multiple hikes.

Be Well.