To hike successfully, you need to be prepared. A hiker’s clothing is the most important factor in their safety, but what does that mean for you? What will work for one person may not work for another. We will go over wearing layers as a rule of thumb and give some different suggestions on what to wear depending on the temperature and terrain.
Layers are the key to comfortable hiking. Let’s get started. The layer closest to your skin should be 100 percent synthetic, such as polypropylene, Capilene, or Thermax. This will wick the moisture away from your body and not absorb water. The second layer is cotton or wool long underwear with a T-shirt over it.
QUICK SUMMARY: WHAT TO WEAR (AND NOT WEAR) HIKING
1) On your feet:
– 100% waterproof leather boots with wool socks. Avoid Gore-tex boots, as they are expensive and get very hot and uncomfortable in warmer temperatures. Gore-tex shoes are suitable for cool weather hiking. Avoid ankle-high boots when hiking trails that involve a lot of elevation gain and loss, as they will inhibit your balance. Stick to low heels, preferably in the 0.5 inches to the 1-inch range with good ankle support (the best is an internal shank). Definitely avoid lace-up boots, as they are a useless waste of time
2) On your legs:
– 100% synthetic pants (“Wind Pro” or “Soft-shell”). They will shed rain and keep you warm in cool conditions and cool in warm conditions. 100 percent nylon pants are not recommended. They don’t have enough stretch and are too restrictive, especially with a backpack on. Avoid jeans, especially those with rivets or metal buttons.
– 100% synthetic long underwear
– Synthetic/textile shirts (midweight wool) over the long underwear (“Wind Pro” or “Soft-shell”) or wool sweater
3) On your lower body:
– Synthetic/textile long underwear (“Wind Pro” or “Soft-shell”) or wool sweater, depending on the temperature. The shirt will keep you warmer in cool weather, and a sweater in warm weather. In cold temperatures, consider a balaclava.
– Synthetic/textile pants (“Wind Pro” or “Soft-shell”) or wool pants. It’s more comfortable to carry a pack without jeans.
4) Your upper body:
– The combination of synthetic insulation layers and wool T-shirts is the key to warm layers, which are why I recommend basing your ensemble around this configuration (a synthetic shirt, long underwear, and a wool T-shirt). Note that you will feel more comfortable with additional insulation for cold weather and less for warm weather.
– Traditional wool sweaters (“Wind Pro” or “Soft-shell”), as long as they have a reasonable amount of stretch. Avoid synthetics and synthetically treated wool. They are too fragile, often do not have enough insulation, and are heavy to carry.
– Synthetic/textile shirts (“Wind Pro” or “Soft-shell”) or wool shirts over long underwear (“Wind Pro” or “Soft-shell”. Avoid cotton as it absorbs water easily when wet.
5) At the head:
– Synthetic/textile hat (“Wind Pro” or “Soft-shell”) with a neck gaiter. Avoid cotton because it soaks up water when wet and doesn’t insulate when wet. A balaclava is more versatile, but can make you too hot in warm weather. Remember to wear your waterproof hat over your ears.
6) At the feet:
– Wool socks for hiking. Avoid cotton as it absorbs water easily when wet and does not insulate when wet. Synthetic/textile socks are fine but they don’t absorb as much water when saturated, and dry faster than wool. Do not use regular cotton sox – they will keep your feet wet and cold.
– Outdoor boots with a gaiters over them. They will keep your feet dry and warm, even if the toes get wet. Avoid ankle high boots when hiking trails that involve a lot of elevation gain and loss, as they will inhibit your balance.
– Traditional wool socks for sleeping (Better if they have a waterproof toe but not mandatory). Do not wear cotton socks because it absorbs water when wet and does not insulate when wet. Synthetic/textile socks also dry faster.
7) At the hands:
– Gloves. There are two types of gloves: light weight “Wind Pro” or “Soft-shell” and heavier mountaineering or ski gloves (“Wind Pro” or “Soft-shell”). The lighter ones are better for most hiking purposes, about 150 grams for each pair. They should be made of 100 percent synthetic without cotton material inside. Avoid gloves with leather on the outside.
What to Wear Hiking: The Basics
You want to wear synthetic, not cotton under clothes. Cotton absorbs water when wet and doesn’t insulate when wet. Synthetic/textile underwear will keep your legs dryer, warmer, and easier when maintaining body heat. Wool is the traditional material for long underwear but it comes in synthetic fabrics as well. There are two types of synthetic/textile underwear: Insulation layers and tops (i.e. “Wind Pro”, “Soft-shell”) and tops with a cotton layer. The insulation layer wicks moisture away from the body and keeps your skin dry while the top wicks moisture away and insulates when wet. Both layers retain their properties when wet although some of the insulating qualities are lost if the temperature drops below 0°C/32°F. Below 0°C you want these layers to be kept dry as you will lose heat quicker in your lower half of your body when wet.
- Pants – shorts – leggings
You want to wear synthetic/textile pants. They don’t have enough stretch and are too restrictive, especially with a backpack on. Avoid jeans, especially ones with rivets or metal buttons. Synthetic/textile pants will keep your legs dryer, warmer, and easier when maintaining body heat. Wool pants are fine if it is warm enough (they are warmer than synthetic pants in cold conditions but they get hot and sticky in warm conditions). Do not wear leather mountaineering pants or shorts as they will keep your legs warmer. Down pants and shorts can be used in extreme conditions but you should put them on only when you stop to make camp. Once you start hiking again the down material takes a long time to dry out.
You want to wear synthetic/textile shirts (midweight wool or synthetic) and wool sweaters (midweight wool or synthetic). The shirt will keep you warmer in cold weather and a sweater in warm weather. In cold temperatures, consider a balaclava. Long underwear can be underneath your shirt or sweater depending on the temperature. The shirt will keep you warmer in cool conditions and cooler in warm conditions.
- Long underwear
You want to wear synthetic/textile long underwear (“Wind Pro” or “Soft-shell”) and a wool sweater. The shirt will keep you warmer in cold weather and a sweater in warm weather. In cold temperatures, consider a balaclava.
If you are going on colder expeditions do not wear your pants over your long underwear unless you want to freeze your butt off! This is the least popular option with long-haul backpackers as it looks stupid. Insulating jacket and/or vest is also a nice option.
- Insulating jacket/vest – down vest – down jacket
I would only consider using a down jacket or vest for extreme conditions for which it is specifically designed. In these cases, I wouldn’t use any other insulation. The one downside to this type of garment is that it takes longer (or takes more care) to dry out after a period of immersion in water, especially in cold weather.
- Waterproof jackets – rain jacket – rain pants
You want to wear waterproof/waterproof jackets and pants. If you are going to be doing a lot of wet weather hiking, consider a gore-tex jacket or pants and an “Wind Pro” or “Soft-shell” shirt (that can dry out quickly).
A balaclava may also be useful in wet weather, depending on the time of year and your level of experience. Mountaineering Gore-Tex suits are available in a wide range of values, but these are not necessary for most hiking purposes.
Do not bring cotton jackets/pants – they absorb water when wet and do not insulate when wet. Tents also use waterproof breathable fabric, so if you bring a tent, you will probably want to carry a lightweight waterproof breathable rain jacket or poncho as well.
- Hat – cap – beanie:
I would recommend a lightweight synthetic cap or hat. A balaclava is useful in wet weather, depending on the time of year and your level of experience.
- Gloves – mittens
You want to wear gloves or mittens (not both). There are two types of gloves: lightweight “Wind Pro” or “Soft-shell” and heavier mountaineering or ski gloves (“Wind Pro” or “Soft-shell”). The lighter ones are better for most hiking purposes, about 150 grams for each pair. They should be made of 100 percent synthetic without cotton material inside. Avoid gloves with leather on the outside.
- Footwear – hiking boots – trail runners
I would recommend a pair of lightweight “Wind Pro” or “Soft-shell” for middling temperatures and light trail runners for steady snow (not just snowshoes). Do not bring heavy leather mountaineering boots unless you are going on very cold expeditions as they will be too warm in summer/spring conditions. If you are going on colder expeditions do not wear your boots over your socks, especially in summer/spring conditions.
- Socks – wool sock – synthetic sock – liner sock
You want to wear wool socks that go up to the top of your leg with a synthetic liner sock. The additional layer of wool will keep you warmer in cold conditions and help preserve heat in hot conditions. Wool socks are popular as they are warmer when wet and more breathable than synthetic socks. In cold conditions, it may be better to wear two pairs of wool socks for warmth. It may take longer for your feet to dry out in cold conditions. A balaclava can be useful in wet weather, depending on the time of year and your level of experience.
- Hiking shoes/boots:
You want to wear lightweight “Wind Pro” or “Soft-shell” hiking shoes/boots. If you are going on cold expeditions do not wear your boots over your socks, especially in summer/spring conditions.
- Backpack – daypack – daybag
You want to use a lightweight backpack that weighs less than 2kg (4-5 lb). The average backpack will weigh between 30% and 40% of your body weight. It should be comfortable, waterproof (if you really need it), and have appropriate padding. You want to use a lightweight daypack/daybag that weighs less than 1kg (2-3 lb). This is in addition to the weight of your sleeping bag, clothes, and shelter for that day. It should be comfortable and waterproof (or at least not get wet).
- Gaiters/compressor hose
I would not use gaiters because they will cut down on ventilation and make you sweat more. I would use a compressor hose for about 1 hour per day for every day of your trip at the rate that you would normally wear one. This takes about a minute to do in cold conditions or after a shower. You want to use a lightweight pair of collapsible hiking boots with out-of-the-box sock liners (not a winter boot/bootie).
Important Factors When Choosing Hiking Clothing
Durability – your hiking clothing should be durable, washable, and easy to repair. If you get it wet, dry off as soon as possible or use a towel or poncho for a warm-up. Avoid cotton (for pants, shirts, and socks) that keeps you from perspiring.
Materials – synthetic materials are lighter and generally more durable than the same material in a cotton blend. Synthetic materials also wick away moisture better than cotton.
Weight – the ideal hiking clothes should be durable, non-cotton, light, and breathable. They should also be washable, dry quickly and easy to repair. They should also provide sufficient insulation in cool/cold weather, but not weigh too much (1.5-3 kg). The more technical your clothing is (e.g Gore-Tex), the less suitable it is for hiking purposes.
How to Wash Hiking clothing and gear:
- Apply a light detergent to your hiking clothing and let them soak in the washing machine or tub.
- Put the clothing under a mesh strainer. Rinse the clothing in cool water, and squeeze out as much water as possible (never wring). You can use a pair of pliers to twist the material almost dry after rinsing it.
- Put your hiking clothes into a tumble dryer set on Low (or hang dry). Air drying is the most important factor, so dry your hiking clothes out completely. If you need to wash your hiking gear, find a place to dry them on a sunny day in the sun (in a spare room or veranda).
- If necessary use waterproof spray or DWR (Durable Water Repellent) to repel water and help with drying out. Do this BEFORE washing your hiking clothing as it will help your clothes last longer.
- If you are going on an expedition where you will be sleeping in a tent, use light polishing spray paint to repel moisture from your sleeping bag and jacket or rain gear.
- Opt for a hiking sock liners. These are thinner and lighter than hiking socks, but provide the same level of insulation when worn inside your boots. These liners can be worn inside boots that do not have wool socks in them or waterproof membrane on the outside of your boots.
Basic Fabric Choices
Here’s a primer on some popular fabric options for outdoor apparel:
Pros: Durable, breathable, insulating when wet.
Cons: Heavy, absorbs moisture and takes a long time to dry. It can be hard to clean because it holds on to stains and dirt.
Pros: Lightweight, quick-drying, insulating when wet. Dries faster than cotton does because it doesn’t absorb water. Doesn’t hold onto odors like cotton can.
Cons: Washing it can be tricky because it doesn’t always come out of the wash clean. It takes more effort to dry because it’s not as insulating when wet.
These fabrics are all water-repellent, breathable and generally insulate when wet (synthetic fabrics can breathe better than cotton). Because of that, synthetic fabrics can sometimes be worn over your underwear/socks in warm weather or if you get sweaty from hiking.
Pros: Warmth to weight ratio, durability.
Cons: Not very breathable, can be warm in summer conditions when worn over a base layer. (If you are hiking in cold conditions and wearing long underwear underneath your fleece, it probably wouldn’t be suitable as your only insulation layer.)
A final word on fabrics: There’s no perfect fabric that you should use for everything. The choice of fabric depends on your clothing/gear situation. If you live in a cold climate, I would suggest using synthetic fabrics, but if you live in a warm climate where you don’t sweat much and don’t need to be able to wear wool outside, you should consider cotton. As long as your clothes are durable and washable and the fabric doesn’t shed fibers when worn, the choice is up to you.
Sun Protective SPF Clothing
Another vital aspect of outdoor clothing is the sun protective factor. You will generally want to be able to stay in the sun for a while when hiking, fishing or camping. However, you don’t want to burn and you don’t want to get sunburnt. This is where sun protective clothing comes in. In most cases they are made from combinations of fabrics (either woven or knit), plastic, and/or reflections that help protect you against UV radiation while on the trail.
Is It Better to Wear Black or White in the Sun?
Black is hotter than white, which is why many people wear white in the summer. When you’re wearing a black shirt, it absorbs and retains more heat; when you’re wearing a white shirt, it reflects the sun’s rays, thus keeping you cooler. I think black is better because it absorbs more light.
What to Wear Hiking in Summer
A cotton shirt that’s long-sleeved and light-colored is best because it will keep your skin cool when you’re hiking in warm weather. A cotton shirt with a built-in sun protection factor SPF rating provides better protection than one made of some other fabric (e.g. Polyester, nylon).
You need to protect your eyes from the sun’s UV rays when you are hiking in hot conditions. A pair of sunglasses with 100% UV protection is essential. The goggles might protect your eyes better but they tend to be too dark to see where you are going.
Sun Clothing Tips
Wear sunscreen and a hat (when you are hiking in the summer). If you are wearing a cap, choose one that has a good sweatband around the edge, or just wear one under your cap. If you want to stay cool in the sun, wear a light shirt and long-sleeved shirt or jacket.
Hiking with Children
Children learn from experience, so it is important to provide them some safety rules and guidance in order that they don’t damage their clothes. The best way to ensure your children’s clothing is not damaged is to talk about what you do and why you are doing it. Let them know how important it is for you that nothing gets damaged or lost. Wear bright colors so they can be seen easily.
What to Wear Hiking in Winter?
When it’s cold and wet, it is important to protect your skin from the cold and wind. The best way for this is to wear suitable clothing.
Winter Clothing Tips
The weather when you hike in the winter is much more extreme than in the summer, so you need something that will keep you warm and dry while you are walking or hiking. A proper base layer is essential. For the proper fit of your pants or pants, check out our online guide on how to measure your jeans.
A warm, waterproof layer of clothing is needed to keep you protected from the elements, including rain and wind. In the summer, cotton might be your best choice for a warm layer because it absorbs water. There are many different options when it comes to cold weather hiking clothing, but you need to make sure that whatever you choose offers protection against the wind – even if you’re stationary.
Wearing too many layers can be uncomfortable and may make your hiking clothing bulky and heavy. The best way to keep warm when you are hiking in cold temperatures or during extreme weather conditions is to wear as little as possible. Also, please wear layers that are close to the body. For example, instead of wearing a long coat, a good alternative might be a windproof jacket with a fleece lining.
Many people wear corduroy pants because they have many pockets and are comfortable. Corduroy pants and jeans are a good idea if you are going to hike in the winter because they can be kept as warm as possible. They are also easy to get dirty so they’re not perfect. A corduroy pant is perfect for a cool, fall or spring day when you need more warmth than your summer hiking pants provide.
Hiking Robe and Sleeping Bag
A sleeping bag can be an important piece of hiking gear, especially if you are camping in cold conditions. A warm hiking robe and a warm sleeping blanket are also good for keeping you warm. You may choose to use these both when you sleep and when you are walking. You can find a lot of hiking robes on our website that have many different features, including temperature regulation and water resistance.
What to Wear When Hiking in Spring?
A light hiking trousers/pants, a raincoat and long-sleeved shirt will do the job of keeping you dry and warm when you hike in spring. Warm layers are a must for hiking in any season.
Hiking Clothing Tips
In order to hike comfortably, the clothes you wear need to stay out of your way. Thinner fabrics that let your skin breathe are great for this – as well as anything loose fitting to keep you comfortable. Lighter pants are preferable because they’re less bulky and better for circulation.
What to Wear in Summer?
A good pair of hiking shorts – that isn’t too short or tight – will keep you cool when you’re hiking in the summer heat. Also, wear a cap with a good sweatband on the inside. If you hike in hot weather, your hiking shorts should be made of a breathable fabric to keep your skin from being too hot and sweaty. If you are going to be hiking for a long period of time, it is important to have a good pair of shoes.
Hiking Clothing Tips
The best way to keep cool when you’re hiking in hot weather is by wearing as little as possible. This might mean avoiding puffy coats in favor of windproof jackets or shirts with breathable materials, like mesh. Also consider whether or not you need extra pockets, which add heat. Your clothing should cover your wrists and ankles while hiking.
What to Wear Hiking in the Fall?
A jacket, a long-sleeved shirt, and a pair of pants will be perfect hiking clothing in fall. When you are hiking, it is better to wear clothes made of breathable fabric or quick-drying material, as they will absorb sweat and dry quickly.
Hiking Clothing Tips
Wearing a hat and sunscreen is essential when you’re hiking in the fall. This is because the sun can be very strong at this time of the year, especially during midday – so you need to protect your skin.
What Shoes to Wear Hiking
When you’re going hiking and exploring a new area, it is important to wear something that will be comfortable while walking. Shoes with a good grip are also a must – especially if you are going on rocky surfaces or someplace where there is a lot of mud.
Hiking Shoes Tips
A good pair of shoes for hiking must be made of waterproof material, to keep your feet dry inside the shoe at all times. The shoes must be made of breathable material, so it won’t rub against your skin and cause blisters.
Choosing the Best Hiking Shoes
Many hiking boots are made with a Gore-Tex lining, which is a very strong, breathable material that will take care of your feet and keep them as dry as possible. The best hiking shoes/boots have many good features that will protect your feet – ones such as ankle support, stability, and good grips. To find the right pair of hiking shoes for you and your needs, please check out our Buyer’s Guide to Hiking Shoes.
Hiking Clothing Tips
On a nice day, you can wear light clothes – such as shorts, t-shirts and a hat. On cold days, you should wear a pair of hiking pants that have a synthetic coating or water-resistant material on them. You should also keep your hands and feet warm by wearing thermal gloves, socks, and thermal mittens.
What to Wear for Hiking in the Spring As the temperatures rise, it’s important to think about what type of clothing you will need for hiking when the weather is warm.
A good pair of hiking boots will make the difference between enjoying your hike and being on your feet all day. When you are looking to buy hiking boots, it is important to do some research before you go shopping. The best way to find the right pair of hiking boots is by reading lots of articles and reviews. There are many different types of hiking boots, each with its own benefits and drawbacks – so make sure that whoever you buy them from can offer the best customer service for all your needs.
I love finding and reviewing the latest in outdoor gear and apparel. I’m a writer and adventure seeker who is obsessed with the outdoors. I love to hike, ski, mountain bike and spend time exploring our beautiful province. This blog will be packed with tips on how to make the most of your time outside whether you are out for a weekend or an extended family vacation. I’ll also share my adventures in hopes of getting you off the couch and into the wild!
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