To feel comfortable on the trails, you need to wear appropriate clothing, irrespective of the weather. If you are new to hiking, you may be uncertain of the garments to use. Also, you may not know how to layer your clothes properly. In this hiking clothes guide, you will learn what to wear hiking.
What to Wear Hiking – The Quick List
If you are in a hurry and you are looking for a list to help you get on the trails as quickly as possible, this section should help you out:
- Merino wool, nylon, or polyester undies – These materials are capable of moving the sweat off the skin. They also dry pretty quickly. These qualities make them ideal for the layers that go next to the skin, including socks, briefs, tees, sports bras, and long underwear.
- Sturdy and comfortable pants – Hiking trails feature turns and twists – you need to have the ability to move freely.
- A warm jacket – Polyester fleece is an ideal material for a hiking jacket. For colder conditions, it will be wiser to put on a puffy jacket featuring a water-resistant inside or a polyester fill.
- Rain jacket – “Breathable or waterproof jackets” is the name commonly used by hikers. These types of jackets feature the ability to resist both wind and rain. They will also let you sweat without having to feel as if you are wearing a plastic bag. If the conditions are seriously soggy, consider donning hiking rain pants.
- Brimmed hat – On top of keeping your head dry, the brimmed hat should protect you from the sun. A good hiking hat should keep the sun and rain out of the eyes. For better protection against the sun, be sure to bring some hiking sunglasses.
- Sturdy shoes – You don’t need to wear leather boots. However, your footwear should offer enough support and protection against roots and rocks. Ideal hiking boots feature traction on dry and wet surfaces.
Hiking Clothes Strategies
To get the best outfit, you need to understand different clothing strategies. Below, we have the clothing strategies you need to keep in mind:
This is a tried and true strategy. Basically, each clothing layer will feature a unique function. When using embrace layering, you can easily subtract or add the layers to adapt to the changing conditions.
Your protection and health will be largely dependent on what you pack in your backpack. After you lace your hiking boots and step into the hiking trails, you will probably leave your climate-controlled car/vehicle miles behind.
It is worth noting that forecasts are not always correct – in some instances, there are off. Keep in mind that conditions can turn hotter, wetter, or even colder than predicted.
Focus on Function, Ignore Fashion
If you are feeling miserable, looking good won’t be important. Hence, focus more on feeling good than on looking great.
Consider Price, Durability, Weight, and Comfort
In most instances, gear buying will involve some tradeoffs. Before you go shopping, you should sit down and decide on both your budget and preferences. While ultralight gear may be ideal, you have to keep in mind that getting it may force you to dig deeper into your wallet.
Key Fabric Properties You Will Need to Consider
Irrespective of the material used to make your hiking clothes, you will want the different layers to feature a combination of properties. The right property combination should offer enough comfort. Below, we have the properties you need to watch out for.
This property is extremely important for the base layer or any clothing that touches your skin. Simply defined, wicking refers to the outfit’s ability to pull sweat (or moisture) away from your skin and move it to the outer surface of the fabric where it gets to dry. This allows you to sweat without feeling chilled or clammy.
This property is extremely important for the mid-layers. It is basically the ability to keep you warm. As you probably already know, clothes do not generate heat, they just keep the heat generated by your body around. To retain heat, an outfit should feature good insulating capabilities.
Windproof and Waterproof
This is crucial for the outer layer, often called the shell. This property keeps the elements from saturating your layers with rain, or chilling your body when the wind whisks the body heat away.
It is worth noting that water and wind “resistant” hardshell jackets may not have the ability to block the wind and the rain completely. These types of jackets will basically offer moderate protection from the weather elements. While waterproof down jackets may not indicate that they are also windproof, most of them will be.
This quality is important in all your clothing layers. It will help the wicking layer dry more swiftly. If your layers lack the ability to collectively breathe, the perspiration that wicked off the skin ends up drying inefficiently. You may get soaked by your own sweat.
You should be able to find this great combo in advanced shells. It is, however, worth noting that the majority of the technologies will put more focus on blocking the wind and the rain than the breathability.
This means that even the shells featuring the waterproof and breathable combo may end up struggling more with the breathability when the exertion and humidity levels go up. Keep in mind that while the coated nonbreathable shells may be cheap, they often eliminate all the comfort – they keep all the moisture inside.
Hiking clothes featuring the UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating are capable of protecting the skin against Ultraviolet rays. However, even if you are wearing clothing featuring the UPF, you must apply sunscreen before joining other hikers on the trails.
The Basic Fabric Choices
The majority of the hiking clothing you find in the market will be made using one of the following fabrics:
Merino wool features fine fibers that make it moisture-wicking, breathable, and soft. It dries pretty quickly and does not retain odors.
Compared to merino wool, Nylon/Polyester is more affordable. These synthetics perform extremely well when it comes to drying quickly and wicking the sweat away.
Their major downside is that they tend to retain a funky smell – this is the main reason some of the garments feature an antimicrobial treatment to help with treating and neutralizing the bacteria that cause the odor.
Fleece jackets are generally made out of polyester. However, the jackets feature a great balance between warmth and being functional. They usually feature thick and soft fibers.
Silk features only moderate wicking ability. This makes it less ideal for a more strenuous hike. It is worth noting that treated silk may have enhanced wicking ability. While silk’s luxurious and soft feel may be nice, the material is generally not good at resisting odors.
Notoriously inefficient at drying and wicking. In fact, cotton excels at soaking up the sweat, retaining this sweat, and chilling you.
If you will be hiking in the sweltering heat, you can choose to wear cotton if you do not mind feeling sticky and clammy. When hiking in cold weather, placing cotton next to the skin is considered a recipe for hypothermia – you may end up getting too cold to the point where your body cannot generate enough heat to keep you at the normal temperature range.
Undergarment Options – The Base Layer
On a summer hike, the ability to wick and a little bit of warmth are extremely important in your next-to-skin layer. Below, we will show you what to wear next to your skin:
Whether you prefer to put on boy shorts, boxers, bikini briefs, or just briefs, you are allowed to go with your personal preference. Cotton, however, is still a no-no. Most hikers prefer non-chaffing underwear. This makes seamless designs a more ideal option for hikers.
The best option here is a pullover sports bra. Ideally, the bra should not feature any clasps. Metal or plastic parts could end up digging into the skin under the hiking backpack straps.
This versatile piece is capable of adding core warmth on cooler days. On the warmer days, it could work as a light alternative to your T-Shirt.
Long Underwear (Base Layer Top and Bottoms)
These are available in heavyweight, midweight, and lightweight fabrics. You will need to select the weight depending on the anticipated temperatures. Also, you may need to figure out whether your metabolism runs cold or hot beforehand.
A crewneck top is usually more affordable. The pricier zip-neck allows you to adjust as you get cold or hot. Bottoms can be worn under shorts for both warmth and protection from the sun. Wear them under the hiking pants and in the case of a storm, wear them under the rain pants.
Head to Toe Clothing Options
While you will always need to wear a base, mid and outer layer when hiking, what to wear hiking may vary when you get on the trail. Below, we have the clothing options you may want to consider:
When hiking in a sunbaked environment, consider wearing a wide-brimmed hat. Also, you can put on a billed cap featuring a sun cape.
The wide brim hat can be a plus when you have to deal with the rain – it can keep the rain out of the eyes. For cooler conditions, be sure to pack a synthetic or wool cap to help with insulation.
In warm weather, a short-sleeved, wicking T-shirt should be ideal. In colder conditions, a long-sleeved wicking top should be perfect. When hiking on a sunny day, be sure to wear a UPF-rated shirt featuring long sleeves.
Shorts and Pants
A large number of hikers prefer zip-off pants (Convertibles) because they eliminate the need to choose between shorts and pants. Choose a quick-drying fabric. If you like to stash things in your pants, invest in cargo shorts and pants.
Tights and yoga pants are generally not a good option. While they offer great flexibility, they do not offer good protection against bushes and sandstone.
Gloves and Socks
Based on the weather, you will need to go thinner or thicker. Hiking socks should be taller than the hiking footwear. For wintry conditions, consider wearing waterproof and insulated hiking gloves.
These generally look like warmers and appear atop the hiker’s boots. Gaiters keep trail debris, pests, and rain from invading the top of the boots.
This is the layer responsible for ensuring you stay warm. The standard recommendation is that you bring 2 options – a lightweight fleece jacket or top and a lightweight puffy jacket. Both should compress perfectly to fit in your day pack.
This is ideal when you are hiking on the colder days. Fleece comes in heavyweight, midweight, and lightweight – you should select the weight depending on whether your metabolism usually runs cold or hot and the weather forecast.
If you expect severe cold, then you should consider putting on fleece pants as part of the mid-layer. On the majority of the hikes, however, long underwear bottoms do offer all the additional leg warmth you may need.
Puffy Insulated Vest or Jacket
In mild conditions, the fleece jacket should be enough. In severe cold, consider donning a puffy jacket. The ideal puffy jacket should feature good insulation.
To avoid hypothermia, you have to focus on staying dry at all times. Therefore, even if the sky is clear, you should consider packing a breathable/waterproof rain jacket and pants.
Certain trails may feature unique challenges. Before embarking on the hiking trip, you must check with the locals to see if they have any special clothing recommendations. Examples could include:
Bug Protective Clothing
If you intend to go hiking in bushy woodlands or deep forests, when the population of black flies, mosquitoes, and ticks are on the rise, you should wear clothes featuring insect repellants. Also, consider wearing long pants and long sleeves.
Tall Leather Hiking Boots
If you will be hiking in the desert, these are important. They should offer protection against snakes.
These are ideal if you will be hiking through the snowfield. If the snow gets soft, you could end up dealing with post-holing. The waterproof boots can also be a plus in this case.
Globo Surf Overview
For aerobic activities such as hiking, layering clothes helps you stay comfortable in changing weather conditions. You can add or remove the clothing layers depending on whether the temperature is reducing or increasing.
If you are still wondering what to wear hiking, our guide should hopefully help answer your question. It is worth noting that hiking clothes largely depend on comfort. Therefore, you should always focus on wearing what makes you feel good when exploring the trails.
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