You might have heard, on numerous occasions, hikers saying that there’s no such thing as bad weather during hiking, only inappropriate clothing. Well, nothing could be closer to the truth.
Technically speaking, hiking does not require you to have any form of special clothing. That’s because dressing up for hiking is part science, part art, and all survival! I’ll show you what to wear hiking below!
When it comes what to wear during hiking, the key is to stay safe, healthy, and comfortable. The type of clothes that you wear hiking can ultimately be the difference between enjoying yourself out there and having a nightmarish hiking adventure.
When gearing up for a hiking adventure, you undoubtedly have to make sure you have all the right and appropriate equipment.
Whether it’s the maps, a proper backpack or any other gear such as water purifier (Read my post on how to purify water here), nothing can certainly be taken for granted.
More importantly, you have to wear the right clothes. Without that, your adventure could quickly and without warning turn nightmarish.
We all love being out there hiking in nature. Whether you’re taking a casual walk or hitting the hiking trails, preparing accordingly and being comfortable is fundamental.
In order to wear the right hiking clothes, it’s crucial to know the type of trail you’ll be on, how long you will be outdoors, and what the temperature and climate will be.
Without all these, your fun hiking adventure can instantly become an excruciating and potentially dangerous adventure (and that’s something we all do not want).
So before dressing up, let’s look at some critical factors in regards to what to wear hiking!
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Factors to Consider When Choosing
What To Wear Hiking
As we’ve noted above, there are a lot of factors that will influence what to wear hiking. Taking these factors into consideration may seem daunting at first, but they’ll help make your adventure more fun. You should keep the following factors in mind:
Anticipate Climate and Weather Conditions
They always say that you should dress for the weather. There’s no better place to apply this philosophy than when choosing what to wear hiking.
Needless to say, different clothes can be great for certain weather conditions and turn out to be inappropriate for another condition.
For instance, a raincoat may be crucial when you’re hiking during the rainy seasons but may turn out to be of not-so-much help if you’re hiking in a hot weather condition. Again, you do not want to be hiking in a cold area wearing a light t-shirt.
Basically, it’s important to keep up to date with the anticipated weather conditions in the area where you’re planning to go hiking. This will give you the best chance of choosing the right gear for your adventure.
Know the Type of Trail You’ll be on
Planning is a fundamental part of successful hiking. You shouldn’t expect to have fun on the trail if you didn’t plan in advance. An important part of planning in advance requires you to know the type of trail you’ll be on. This can then help you choose the right gear for the trail.
A typical example would be when choosing hiking footwear. Footwear that can be great for a plain hiking trail can prove to be completely inappropriate for a mountainous hiking trail.
That being said, you should make sure that you’re fully aware of the type of trail you’ll be on and choose the right clothing and gear that are fully appropriate for that given terrain or environment.
The Amount of Time You’ll be Outdoors
Knowing the amount of time you’ll be outdoors is essential in the sense that it gives you the idea of what type of clothing to wear hiking.
For instance, you can go for something simple if you’ll be out for less than an hour. On the other hand, you may need more gear if you’re planning to be on the trail for the entire day.
Hiking should always be fun. You should, therefore, put a lot of emphasis on the weight of the clothing that you wear hiking.
That’s because you actually do not want to wear something that’s not necessary for your well-being while out there.
In fact, it’s important to avoid anything that’ll wear you down, especially if it’s unnecessary for your comfort, safety, and well-being.
Be Prepared For An Emergency
Just like it can happen with weather changes, emergencies can occur when you’re out there on the trail. The way you deal with such scenarios will hugely depend on your preparation.
Always carry a small first aid kit with you! Even if you are just going out for a short day hike. There are some great lightweight options that include all the essentials.
While we can’t tell what might happen, keep in mind that your safety is the most important thing. Any preparation for an emergency must be geared towards your safety but without destroying the fun part of hiking.
What are the Best Materials for Hiking Clothes?
Avoid Cotton – When it comes to the right materials for hiking clothes, you should always keep in mind that there’s a good reason why hikers often say that cotton kills in the backcountry.
In other words, clothes made of cotton are NOT suitable for your hiking adventures.
Once a cotton material gets wet, it’ll most likely stay wet for extended periods and will obviously make you cold and miserable.
This can happen during winter or when it rains. Cotton can also trap sweat and moisture during hot weather conditions, which will make you quite uncomfortable.
Go Synthetic – The most appropriate hiking clothes are made of synthetic materials. In addition to being lightweight and soft, synthetic materials are durable and moisture wicking.
Synthetic materials such as polyester are great in allowing your body to breathe much more. They have the ability to release pent-up heat and can keep your body very comfortable for days on end.
Merino Wool is also a better option – Clothes that are made with merino wool base layers are also great for hiking, especially during winter.
Wool is an excellent material when it comes to the warmth-to-weight ratio. It’s also superb in wicking away moisture and will discard odors for days.
In other words, you can put on clothes made of wool for days without washing them and they’ll not have any stench.
What are the Best Types of Clothes to Wear Hiking?
Tops and Shirts
When it comes to tops and shirts, you may consider putting either a short or long-sleeve shirt. This will obviously depend on how the weather condition.
However, keep in mind that short-sleeve shirts will leave your skin exposed to various elements such as scratches from plants and rocks, and also sunburn.
What Pants or Shorts are best for Hiking?
Although the decision to wear hiking shorts or pants lies squarely with you, you should keep in mind that trails are often full of twists and turns. This requires you to have pants or shorts that can let you move freely while remaining comfortable and sturdy.
Keep in mind that shorts will afford you a lot of freedom while on the trail. They’re also cooler than pants and can be great if you’re looking for what to wear hiking in summer.
When it comes to pants, choose something made of durable, quick-drying fabrics like nylon or spandex. Pants can be excellent if you’re looking for what to wear hiking in winter or when you’re expecting heavy vegetation on the trail.
All in all, we’d prefer pants to shorts since pants will keep your legs protected should you come across things like poison ivy or allergenic plants. They’ll also keep you warmer should there be a sudden drop in temperature.
So Can You Wear Jeans Hiking?
The straightforward answer to this question is NO!
While jeans are casual and can be worn for a relaxed walk, they’re absolutely a bad idea for your hiking escapades.
As we noted earlier, cotton is your enemy when hiking and most jeans are made of 100% cotton.
And even if that’s not a reason enough, jeans are inappropriate for hiking since they become extremely cold when the temperature drops and can be uncomfortably hot and chafe when the temperature becomes hot.
In fact, they won’t give you the much-needed freedom. Just avoid jeans at all costs for your hiking adventures.
Can You Wear Leggings for Hiking?
Absolutely yes! Hiking in anything spandex such as leggings, yoga pants, and running tights makes complete sense.
They not only fit well but are also very comfortable and breathable. If anything, you already have a lot of them in your closet so you won’t have to spend any more money when it’s time to go hiking.
Boots and Socks
There is one item of G.I. gear that can be the difference between a live grunt and a dead grunt. Socks, cushion, sole, O.D. green. Try and keep your feet dry when we’re out humpin’. I want you boys to remember to change your socks wherever we stop. The Mekong will eat a grunt’s feet right off his legs.
Lieutenant Daniel Taylor – Forrest Gump
As Lieutenant Dan said, take care of your feet!
There are a lot of options for hiking boots and socks out there and it can get a bit confusing.
Whatever you choose, it’s very important to go for boots and socks that are comfortable, durable, and very suitable for the conditions.
For instance, you should pick boots that are slightly higher on the ankle if you’re planning for a very rocky trail. Such boots are essential in providing you with increased support.
If, on the other hand, you’re planning for a muddy or excessively wet trail, consider going for boots with waterproof material such as Gore-Tex to keep your feet dry.
But because hiking boots can be quite expensive, it’s recommended to go for something that can be absolutely perfect for all conditions.
Some of the best hiking boots under $100 currently available in the market include:
The best part is that these boots are all under $100 and come in both men’s and women’s versions.
When it comes to hiking boots, fit and comfort should be everything. You do not want your idyllic outdoor adventure to be ruined as a result of crushed toes, with a barrage of blisters, and dampness just because you chose ill-fitting hiking footwear.
Again, the best hiking boots must go hand in hand with the right socks. The best socks are those made from wool or synthetic materials that let your feet and toes breathe and can also dry fast.
Darn Tough Hiker has a great merino wool hiking sock that is naturally antimicrobial and quick dry.
Even if there are no signs of rain in your weather forecast, you should NEVER leave home without a suitable rain jacket.
As you’ve probably experienced a couple of times, weather conditions can change very quickly and you wouldn’t want to be caught off guard.
You should, therefore, always have with you a breathable and waterproof rain jacket in your hiking backpack.
Go for something that can let out sweat and body moisture while preventing rain or other precipitation from getting inside.
At minimum you should always carry a packable rain poncho like these.
Hats and Eye Shades
Hats and eye shades can protect both your face and eyes from harmful UV rays. When it comes to choosing hiking hats, go for something that’s fully-brimmed, breathable and water-repellent.
These features will not only help in keeping your head warm but can also keep the rain out of your head and face.
The most important strategy in terms of what to wear hiking has to be layering. Before leaving the house, keep in mind that the weather conditions can change on a whim and without any warning.
You do not want to find yourself on the wrong side of sudden weather changes, and so you should always be prepared for such changes. The best way is by having a three-layer system of clothing.
On the base, go for something lightweight; a garment that can wick away moisture and sweat. If it becomes cold, pull on light-or-medium weight clothing out of your backpack to protect you from the chilly weather or vice versa.
Generally, the basis of layering for your hike is to have clothing that you can add or subtract depending on how the weather changes.
What are some of the Best Hiking Clothing Brands?
There are lots of clothing brands out there that you can consider when shopping for what to wear hiking. They include The North Face, Cotopaxi, Columbia, Kuhl, Kathmandu, Marmot and many more.
If there’s one thing that every hiker should have, it’s appropriate outdoor clothing. That’s basically because you never want to be out there exposed to elements just because you chose the wrong gear.
For many hikers, choosing the right wear for hiking can be daunting. There are a lot of factors such as the type of trail, weather conditions and the best materials for hiking clothing that you should always consider.
It’s, therefore, important to spend a considerable amount of time learning what is appropriate for you while out there. That’s because you don’t want to spend a fortune on something that will not serve you accordingly.
Gear such as an appropriate rain jacket and comfortable hiking boots should be non-negotiable. Remember; you should not focus on fashion but functionality. You do not want to look good out there while feeling utterly miserable.
Luckily, there are some great budget options available so money is not an excuse to stay off those trails, so get out there and take a hike!