Whether you’re an avid hiker or someone who hikes just once in a while, you know a successful outing comes from wearing the right hiking clothes and packing the right hiking gear.
There’s often no knowing what nature’s got in store for us or how the weather will change during the hike. So, the best thing we can do is to come prepared for the outdoors. Especially when it comes to what we’re wearing.
Simply wearing good clothing can improve your comfortability, mobility, and most importantly, your enjoyment. So, I’ve put together this guide on what to wear when hiking to ensure you have a great time on the trails and even look forward to your next hike.
What to Wear for a Hike – The Hiking Essentials
Each hike is different, and you probably won’t be wearing the same hiking clothes every time. This all depends on the season and terrain. But, there are some essentials that every hiker needs to be wearing.
Listed here are some basic trekking clothes you’ll want to wear or bring with you on every hike, regardless of the weather, terrain or duration.
Good Hiking Boots
A good pair of hiking boots are needed for support and to protect your feet from harsh terrain like rocks, debris, and mud.
When it comes to selecting the right boot, you’re looking for comfort, durability, and incredible grip. They’ll also need to keep your feet warm and dry in the colder seasons, or if you’re hiking near rivers or bodies of water where you could get wet.
These are an updated version of the pair I wear and love. My Keen Targhee II’s have gone with me on every hiking and outdoor trip across 5 continents. They’re incredibly durable and supportive.
What’s most noticeable, though, is how comfortable they are! I can wear them all day with no worrying over blisters or chafing. They’re made to withstand all terrains and even have a leather mud shield. They retail for a cheaper price than standard hiking boots but are a great value as an on and off-trail shoe.
Perfect for trails that have uneven ground, or even wet and muddy terrain. The boots are made with premium leather to withstand the wetness throughout the years. The boots also come with a supportive midsole to protect the feet from debris. My hubby swears by his pair!
Good quality hiking socks offer comfort and protection against blistering, not to mention wicking away sweat. Don’t waste your time buying imitation socks like I first did. They were uncomfortable and trapped heat inside my shoe which caused chafing and a bad smell…usually my husband’s department, not mine!
These are extremely comfortable and the merino wool controls moisture and helps prevent odors. (Hallelujah!) They’re great for any type of hike, from mountain summiting to a simple day hike. The socks reach halfway up your ankle, which offers protection against the elements if you’re wearing shorts.
A Pair of Good Hiking Pants or Joggers
Choosing the right pair of pants ultimately comes down to what works best for you. You can hike in joggers, leggings, hiking overalls, or even high-performance jeans, depending on what type of hike you’re planning.
Whatever you decide, here are some key factors to consider:
- Wear pants that are flexible and offer good mobility.
- Hiking pants that can regulate your temperature are ideal. This is determined by the fabric that has been used.
- Convertible hiking pants allow you to unzip the pants to shorts, which is great when you’re not sure about the weather.
I’ve worn and love all of the above hiking clothes for outdoor treks from a day trip to Montserrat to full days in the tropical jungles of Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula. Two completely different climates but with the right hiking pants for each, I could enjoy the experience instead of being uncomfortable wearing the wrong gear.
A Waterproof Jacket for Unexpected Weather
Rain jackets don’t have to be a bulky burden to lug around on the hiking trail. A lightweight rain jacket is all you need for 3-season weather protection. I’ve also learned that choosing a jacket of good quality, comes with important features like waterproofing and breathability, but also a longer life-span and a solid return on the investment.
My biggest pet peeve with a jacket and hiking is what do you do with it when don’t need to wear it. Tying it around my waist only means it’ll be slipping off a few minutes later. This is why I love jackets that fix this problem! This coat can be easily stuffed into its own pockets and then clipped onto your backpack, taking up no space at all.
And because this jacket is not at all bulky, it’s easy to wear a fleece underneath for added warmth, while still allowing you to move comfortably.
Fall Hiking Outfit
Fall is a beautiful season and arguably one of the best times of the year to hike. It can come with clear-sky, pleasant days, as well as chillier temperatures the closer winter gets. The good news is that as long as you’re well-prepared, you can be comfortable and enjoy the colorful beauty that comes with hiking in the fall.
Hiking in El Chalten, Argentina during autumn was magical because of all the foliage and its brilliant oranges, reds, and yellows! With some added coverage for warmth, it was a spectacular time of year to be outside.
What to Wear Hiking in Fall
A great pick for fall because it is insulated for warmth on those chilly autumn mornings and evenings. The breathable knit material is super stretchy, allowing the fabric to stick close to your body. And if it warms up, you can stuff it into its own pocket and store it away easily.
You’ll want to protect yourself from chilly breezes when hiking. A long-sleeve shirt is a simple way to do so, without much bulk. Merino wool is the best material for regulating your body heat and wicking away sweat to keep you comfortable and dry. Best of all, it can be worn in multiple seasons, including as a base layer for winter hiking.
I love these athletic joggers! They are perfect for any terrain and also pretty stylish! They stretch but also have some weight to them for added warmth. No worries, though, because they’re designed to repel moisture and promote breathability. These are also great for travel. You can easily wear them on the trails but also for a day of city sightseeing.
What to Wear for Hiking in Winter
Hiking in the winter doesn’t need to be a challenge. In fact, there are many people who choose to hike in winter. But during the cold seasons, keeping warm and wearing proper clothes that are insulated and waterproof is a necessity.
The key to surviving the cold is layering with long underwear, body warmers, and an insulated jacket. More so than in any other season, winter is the time to invest in good quality clothing. You don’t want to sacrifice warmth just to save a few dollars.
How to Dress for Hiking in Winter
Fleece jackets are great to wear as a layer and provide that extra bit of warmth. If you start getting too warm in your insulated jacket, this fleece jacket can be worn as a top layer on its own. I love the deep pockets on this Columbia fleece. I can store my chapstick, phone, and other supplies within easy reach and keep them safe by zipping the pockets.
These warm waterproof pants are also heat-reflective. If you’ve grown up around snow or you’ve packed for a ski trip, you know that adventuring out into the snow and cold is never taken lightly. These are my go-to outdoor winter pants, whether I’m snowshoeing in Finland or skiing in Mont Tremblant.
You need your hands free and available to hike safely. These gloves have grips and touchscreen-finger compatibility, perfect for taking photos with your phone. Best of all, they have Columbia’s Omni-Heat technology which reflects your own body back to your skin for amazing warmth.
You can also take a look at this article about what pants to wear hiking in winter for women.
Best Hiking Clothes for Spring
Hiking in spring offers a little bit of everything. Although the days are generally warmer, there’s still the chance of rainfall, and evenings can still be quite chilly.
Clothing for a spring hike tends to be pretty light-weight, but with layers to make sure you’re comfortable no matter what the weather brings. The insulated jacket you hiked with in winter may still come in handy on the chilliest spring days. It also easily packs away into its own pocket, saving space in your backpack for other important hiking essentials.
If it looks like rain, the raincoat mentioned at the top of this list will come in handy.
What to Wear While Hiking in Spring
Available in both men and women’s wear, these shirts are made of quick-drying, ventilation fabric. They’re super light-weight and made of moisture-wicking nylon that’ll prevent a buildup of sweat or wetness. What’s great is you can wear it as a long-sleeved shirt but roll up the sleeves should it get warmer or you want to wear it for a summer hike, too.
Capri pants are awesome for mild climates and seasons like spring where the weather is variable. These are super comfy and made to move with a hiker’s body. They have UPF 50 sun protection and are made to repel stains and water. I never wear hiking clothes where I have to worry about getting them dirty or wet.
Convertible pants will allow you to control the temperature by easily unzipping the bottom half when needed. With nylon ripstop, advanced wicking fabric and UPF 50 protection, you’ll be cool and dry throughout your hike. As well as providing protection, the seams of the zips are well hidden and blend in with the overall design of the pants.
Another spring jacket option is this lightweight jacket, similar in style to the winter fleece jacket above. This Columbia jacket has a water and wind-resistant shell and a layer of warmth without being too bulky. It works perfectly as a top layer for those spring days where you need some protection but not the full coverage of a rain or insulated jacket.
What to Wear Hiking in Summer
One of the most important factors to keep in mind during summer is the sun. Summer hikes mean sweaty clothes, which can lead to them sticking uncomfortably to your body. But also a lot of sun exposure, which is harmful to the skin.
You’ll want to be wearing light-weight clothing that is designed to regulate body temperature and protect the skin.
Hiking Outfit for Summer
A vital part of any hike, but especially during summer, is applying sun protection on exposed skin. With my sun-sensitivity, this is one of the only sunscreens I’ve found where I don’t have to worry about reacting to the sun’s rays. The sunblock is also water-resistant, which means it’ll stay on regardless of how much you sweat, or if you come into contact with rain.
Invest in a hat that can shield your face, head, and neck from the harsh sun rays. I bought this hat because of its UPF 50 protection. But I also love how the back flap can be velcroed up or down depending on how much coverage I need. The adjustable drawstring and toggle keep the hat in place on more active hikes or in breezy conditions.
Ultra-wicking is a cooling fabric made with sweat-activated cooling technology. This technology allows the fabric to pull moisture away from your skin, and through the clothes, releasing it into the air. The shirt also has Omni-Shade UPF 30 sun protection (a handy extra for a sunny day).
I’ve purchased several of these UPF 50 shirts and use them for everything from hiking in summer to protection on the beach. Your skin is completely protected but the lightweight fabric feels soft and keeps you cool. When you’re out on the trail and don’t want to worry about sun exposure, this is the shirt you want on your back.
Other Hiking Essentials and Backpacking Gear List
While what to wear hiking is one of the most important things to get right, you’ll also want to make sure you have a few essential hiking items. These are a few things I always bring along on a hike.
Keep all your hiking essentials tucked away in a well-sized daypack. The lightly padded shoulder straps on this backpack will help support your shoulders, and the compression straps will hold the pack surely on your back. The many pockets keep everything organized and within easy reach. And the trekking pole attachments and the water bottle and reservoir compartments make it easy to hike with all your gear and stay hydrated.
A headlamp always comes in handy. Early mornings and evening hikes don’t have the best lighting, and when you’re hiking in unfamiliar terrain, you’ll need to see where you’re heading. The headlight barely weighs anything so it’s easy to pack and comfortable on your head.
I always have my headlamp, even when I plan to just do a day hike. If I’m out on the trail for longer than expected and lose daylight, I know I’ll have light to get me safely back to the trailhead.
Staying hydrated is a must for a successful hike. A dry cottonmouth is not a great feeling and neither are the symptoms of dehydration! The Hydro Flask holds 32 oz, and water is kept cool with the stainless steel for up to 24 hours. Made of stainless steel, you can keep this eco-friendly flask for years and protect the planet by not buying plastic water bottles.
A Power Bank
You never want your phone to run out of juice when you’re in an unfamiliar area, or if you’re hiking solo. So carrying a power bank is a helpful essential. You’ll always have access to (downloaded) google maps or emergency contacts if anything should go wrong.
I camped with this power bank in Africa and used it to charge my phone and camera for days and even had enough energy to share with a few of my travel companions.
To Sum Up: What to Wear to Go Hiking
Hikers know that a good hike isn’t just about the destination. What you wear impacts your hiking experience.
Hiking technically doesn’t require any expensive gear, and if you’re just getting started, it’s great to know what you should be spending your money on. As long as you’re sticking to good quality products that are durable and fit for the outdoors, you really have nothing to worry about.
Even better, many of the pieces here can be worn on their own or as layers, making them useful for multiple seasons.
I hope these hiking clothes recommendations will leave you warm, comfy, dry and leave you wanting to hike more often!
What do you wear when hiking?
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