It’s far more vital to choose what to wear hiking than it is to look attractive, especially with winter weather on the horizon. Your clothing acts as a screen against the harsh weather that the wilderness might throw at you. Hiking clothing is vital for remaining comfortable, staying dry, staying cool, and maintaining a warm temperature.
‘Bad weather doesn’t exist; only unsuitable attire does.’ Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the great explorer and adventurer – and a few others, too – once stated. This is coming from a man who has lived through some of the harshest conditions on the planet. A blizzard can be made tolerable if you layer properly and have the ideal waterproof jacket and pants combination.
So, when it comes to deciding what to wear hiking, the weather you’ll be trekking in certainly plays a big role. Many city dwellers will be seeking a healthy dose of escapism on the beach pathways, forest trails, and mountain trails this winter. When the weather is expected to vary, the extras you take in your hiking bag become just as crucial as the clothes you’re wearing.
From your shoes to your hiking cap, we break down the choices you’ll need to make before hitting the trails this season, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of various options. In addition to clothing, we evaluate the backpack you choose as well as the accessories that will enhance your hiking experience.
From boots to hats, here’s what to wear for hiking.
Footwear for hiking
Hiking boots or shoes are undoubtedly the most crucial component of what to wear hiking, therefore it’s worth investing in a durable pair that will last. Leather hiking boots keep you warm in the winter, while fabric boots keep you cool in the spring and summer. If you wish to eliminate animal products entirely, the greatest vegan footwear is always available.
Choose footwear that is appropriate for your intended activities. Choose boots with thick, grippy, durable rubber bottoms (search for Vibram) that are entirely waterproof if you’re traveling into the hills and are likely to face rainy weather, snow, boulders, and stream crossings. In-person, try on shoes and make sure they fit precisely, with no rubbing or pinching.
If you’re planning on taking shorter walks in the spring and summer, there’s no need to invest in a really technical pair that will be heavier and stiffer. If this is the case, hiking shoes or even walking sandals may be more appropriate, but make sure you get a pair designed exclusively for trekking, with grippy rubber bottoms, wide adjustable straps, and sufficient heel support.
If you prefer scrambles and easy climbs, approach shoes, which fall in between hiking and climbing shoes, might be right for you. They’re more comfortable to walk in than climbing shoes, but their sticky rubber bottoms provide significantly greater traction on tricky, rocky terrain than hiking shoes.
Socks for hiking
The best hiking socks work in tandem with your boots to keep you comfortable as you hike for miles and miles. In chilly weather, well-padded hiking-specific socks will prevent blisters and keep toes warm. Look for breathable, naturally antibacterial wool or merino wool socks (such as Smartwool or 1000-Mile), and make sure the pair you choose has reinforced heels. In the summer, go for a lighter, breathable cotton pair like Mountain Warehouse’s IsoCool collection.
Layers of base
When it comes to backpacking clothing, a good base layer is the cornerstone of your layering system, and it’s critical to get it correctly.
It may sound like something your grandmother would say, but investing in a good pair of thermals to use as a base layer on cold-weather hikes is well worth it. Look for inner layers made of merino wool, which is warm, sweat-wicking, and naturally antibacterial — Icebreaker’s outstanding base layer collection for men and women is a good example. At the present, the company Kora is spearheading a developing trend for yak wool, which has characteristics similar to merino.
Swap your base layers for lightweight synthetic t-shirts and shorts on summer walks.
Are you going out in the cold? Over your basic layers, put an insulated mid-layer to keep your body warm. A mid-layer can be anything from a technical t-shirt or shirt (great for protecting your neck from sunburn) to a warm fleece jacket, a gilet, a thick hoody-style layer, or an insulated down jacket or synthetic choice (some of the latter are also water-resistant enough to work alone in a light shower). Before purchasing a down jacket, it’s a good idea to educate yourself about ethical down.
If you can, bring a spare mid-layer to swap out if the other one gets wet from sweat or rain.
A jacket that is waterproof
On wet days, knowing how to remain dry while hiking might mean the difference between delight and pain. A waterproof is the most important piece of your equipment, along with good boots and a good backpack. Hopefully, it will stay firmly stowed in the bottom of your bag most of the time, but when the heavens open, you’ll be pleased you have it.
So, don’t let the rain stop you from having a good time – pack a reliable waterproof jacket on your outings. Jackets featuring a Gore-Tex membrane are more expensive, but they’re well worth it because this technological layer keeps rain out while still allowing the jacket to breathe, keeping you dry and cool. TNF’s Futurelight fabric, introduced in 2019, is a breathable waterproof alternative to Gore-Tex that comes highly recommended.
Otherwise, search for a device with at least 10,000mm-15,000mm of hydrostatic head. A jacket with well-fitting hood zipped pockets, and ventilation zips under the armpits is a good choice.
Which is better: hiking pants or trekking tights?
Looking for something to wear on your lower half while hiking? For males, we recommend breathable classic-cut hiking pants, while for women, we prefer more form-fitting trekking tights (the latter tend to be better tailored for women’s bodies, with higher waists). Fjallraven’s walking pants and tights are pricey, but they’re worth every penny for their functionality and fit.
Some of the best hiking pants include reinforced rear and knee areas, which are perfect for sitting around your tent on overnight trips, while other models, such as Berghaus, have dedicated map pockets, which we have found really handy on the route. Consider pants with detachable legs, which make changing from pants to shorts on a hot day a snap.
With a nice hiking backpack, you can carry your gear in comfort. Look for a lightweight daypack with a capacity of up to 35 liters if you’re going for a short walk. If you want to go trail jogging, you’ll need a hydration pack. Choose a larger backpacking pack of 35–70 liters for longer trips, thru-hiking, and multi-day journeys. Osprey makes a wide range of backpacks, from little 9l backpacks to large 105 expedition packs (see What Size Backpack Do I Need?). Check that your backpack has a rain cover and plenty of pockets.
The best women’s hiking backpacks are built exclusively for women’s bodies and so differ significantly from men’s options. If you’re doing activities like kayaking or the outlook is extremely bleak and you want to keep your valuables dry, there’s also an increasingly broad assortment of dry bags.
If you’re going trekking in the hills throughout the shoulder seasons of spring and fall, as well as, of course, during the winter, it’s a good idea to have hiking gloves and a hiking cap on hand. Because you’ll be cold and fumble by the time you admit you need them, put them in a pocket in your pack where you know you’ll find them. A buff can also be useful for keeping your face warm or shielding it from the elements such as wind, sun, and sand. In hot weather, wear a hat or a cap.
Use a good sunblock to protect your skin from the elements, and keep in mind that it’s easy to burn even on cloudy days. P20, which applies as a clear liquid and provides all-day protection, is our go-to for daring pursuits. If you’re going to remember to apply sunscreen, make it factor 50 and reapply as needed if you sweat or stop for a wild swim.
It’s important to remember that the sun’s UV rays are stronger the higher you go. If you’re hiking beside large snowfields and glaciers in the Rockies, Alps, or Greater Ranges, you’ll need to be even more cautious. The sun’s rays reflect off the snow’s surface, so UV is coming at you from all sides!
You don’t need to spend a lot of money on sunglasses if you’re not going on a climbing trip, but you should bring a pair that blocks 100% of UV radiation (polarised lenses are also good but are designed to cut glare, not UV light).
Look for a wraparound pair from Julbo if you wish to wear them on longer travels. Wraparound variants provide additional eye protection. When the elements of sun and snow are factored in, such as on a summer trip to the Alps, you’ll need plenty of protection.
Finally, let’s discuss what NOT to wear while hiking.
You’ll be comfortable in any weather if you outfit yourself with the essentials from our list above. It’s alright to use non-hiking apparel on more casual short walks, but if you’re going further afield or the weather looks iffy, it’s a bad idea to rely on clothing that isn’t meant for the elements.
Cotton, including pants, should be avoided since once wet, it takes a long time to dry, lowering your body temperature quickly while also being uncomfortable. Casual plimsolls or trainers won’t provide adequate protection underfoot and are unlikely to be weatherproof, and it may seem self-evident, If you don’t want to end up with a fractured ankle on the walk, though, any shoe or boot with a heel is a horrible choice.
Howdy! This post could not be written much better! Looking through this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He always kept talking about this. I most certainly will send this post to him. Pretty sure he will have a great read. Thank you for sharing!