Best hiking clothes for summer, fall, winter, and spring.
Don’t know what to wear hiking?
This article is a comprehensive guide on what to wear and what not to wear hiking.
I’ll explain what hiking clothes are best to wear, according to the weather conditions, season, and more.
I’ll also share with you tips on must-have hiking accessories such as backpacks, sunglasses, and fitness trackers.
Finally, we’ll look at how to be cost-effective and choose affordable but very effective hiking clothes.
IN THIS ARTICLE:
Wearing the right hiking clothes is critical if you want to enjoy the trails, focus on your excellent company, and fill your lungs with the fresh air instead of worrying about how uncomfortable you are.
There’s a saying in hiking:
“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.“
… and that applies to any kind of day hike.
Very accurate, and in this article, I will share with you the essential clothes to wear when you go hiking to ensure an optimal experience.
Hiking Clothes Tips (A Beginner’s Checklist)
Any adventure sport has certain materials you should never wear.
Equally, there are materials you should and should not wear hiking.
Regardless if you’re looking at hiking clothes for women or men, the recommended materials below work on all types of hiking trails.
To help, I’ve put together an easy-to-use checklist of materials to look for and tips to pay attention to when choosing your hiking clothes:
Polyester, nylon, or merino wool
I prefer hiking clothes from these materials as they dry much faster.
Polyester and nylon are ideal for next-to-skin layers such as underwear, briefs, tees, sports bras, and socks.
Shoes are one of the most important things when you go hiking.
Any hiking footwear you choose should protect you from rocks, roots, and extra support and traction on wet and dry surfaces.
Comfortable yet strong pants
Trails have twists, turns, unexpected terrain conditions, so you need to move freely and safely.
Imagine hiking in stretchy tights or yoga pants; branches and boulders will shred them to pieces.
For that, the rain pants you’re choosing must be durable, waterproof, and comfortable enough to let you climb and move with ease.
A hiking-ready jacket
Polyester fill or water-resistant down inside jackets are always a smart choice, no matter the weather conditions.
Also, the jacket must be waterproof/breathable, block rain and wind, but without feeling like you’re wearing a plastic bag.
Since jackets are the most important components of hiking clothes, make sure you get them from the top outdoor clothing brands.
A brimmed hat
Any hat can keep your head dry and protected from the sun.
Yet, the brim keeps the rain and sun out of your eyes.
When it comes to hiking clothes, each layer has a unique function, and you add or subtract those layers to adapt to changing conditions.
See below for more details on how to choose your hiking layers.
Focus on function, not fashion
Yes, looking fashionable clothes while hiking will boost your confidence and stamina.
But, remember, nobody looks good when feeling miserable because they’ve just twisted an ankle or are soaked wet.
Function always comes first but, if you can turn your apparel to convey a style hiking fashion, that’s a great bonus on your side.
Hiking should be open to all; you should be able to grab your boots and backpack and head for the horizon.
With this in mind, be sure to keep an eye on spending.
While the investment is worth it, the latest tech-infused hiking clothes can be very pricey.
So, if you don’t want to spend on new hiking gear, here’s everything you need to know about your winter base layer, from materials, repurposing, upcycling, and much more.
Check weather conditions
On the one hand, your health and protection depend on the hiking clothes you’ve packed.
On the other hand, the hiking clothes you pack depend on the weather conditions to check and avoid any surprises.
No denim jeans or cotton clothes
Cotton holds onto water, so it keeps you feeling sweaty in hot temps and chills you if things turn cold and wet.
Detailing your hiking outfit
Now that you’ve got the basics of hiking clothes, what to wear, what to avoid, let’s detail the must-have hiking clothes for a complete outfit.
A non-debatable option for hiking is the use of layers, regardless of whether you’re going for a summer hike or participating in a winter hiking session.
There’s layer after layer of clothing in any hiking gear or hiking apparel, so get used to the idea of having an extra layer on you.
Base Hiking Layers
Never underestimate the humble base layer, as the layer closest to your body can make a HUGE difference!
This item of clothing has a fundamental role in ensuring your overall comfort when hiking.
Whether it’s boxers, briefs, boy shorts, bikini briefs, or something else, cotton is a no-no.
Even if it’s organic cotton underwear!
You also want your underwear to be non-chafing, low profile, and a supportive fit.
Always wear hiking base layers made from materials that include polyester, nylon, and merino wool.
Hiking clothes made from these materials move moisture away from the body, prevent chafing and uncomfortable wetness.
Base layers also help regulate your temperature, keeping you warm all the same time.
Remember that all of these clothes fall under the category of outdoor clothes.
Therefore, select your hiking long underwear layer according to the expected weather.
You can wear long underwear or bottoms under your hiking shorts for extra sun protection or warmth.
You can also wear them under hiking pants, rain pants, and when conditions get stormy.
Similar to the base underwear layer, choose a sports bra that’s made from sweat-free materials.
Also, choose a hiking bra that’s relevant to the intensity of your activity and, thus, the level of support you need.
Hiking Tank Top/Camisole
Hiking tank tops are super versatile pieces, but you have to make sure you’ve chosen the right one.
A well-chosen hiking top will add core warmth on cool days and act as a lighter alternative to a T-shirt on warm ones.
Hiking shirts are a body layer that can be summed up in one word: wicking.
Whether it is a base layer on a cold winter hike, a short-sleeved shirt on a spring hike, or a long-sleeved UPF-protecting shirt in the summer, this layer must be able to wick away sweat efficiently to keep you comfortable and dry.
Merino wool and synthetic materials are the best choices for this layer.
A wicking short-sleeve T-shirt is fine in warm weather, while a wicking long-sleeve top is fine for colder weather conditions.
For a sun-drenched day, wear a long-sleeve UPF-rated shirt (many have a flip-up collar for neck protection).
Whether you prefer pants, shorts, skirts, dresses, etc., freedom of movement and quick-drying materials are key here.
Environmental hazards (such as ticks, poison ivy, sharp rocks) play a significant role in the most practical length and thickness that bottoms should be.
For example, a trail that requires some rock scrambling could tear up a thin pair of yoga pants, while a hike through tall grass may require long pants to prevent unwanted travelers from attaching to your legs.
Most hikers love zip-off pants because there’s no need to choose between pants and shorts.
Quick-drying fabrics are the rule here, and some hiking shorts with built-in liners can double as swimwear.
Cargo pants and shorts are also popular because hikers love to have places to stash things.
Another type of must-have pants for hiking is the fleece pant, as severe cold is always a possibility.
With an insulating layer, fleece pants are an excellent choice for cooler hikes.
Also, the warmer layer or mid-layer addition helps with cold temperatures on an extended hike and with rainy conditions.
On most hikes, though, long underwear bottoms offer all the added leg warmth you might need.
The type of hiking jacket you’re going for depends a lot on the season and the kind of weather you’re hiking in.
A good rule of thumb is choosing a packable jacket (if you need to remove it along the way), waterproof and windproof.
This way, you ensure the jacket is usable in any weather condition and unexpected changes during your hike.
Keeping dry is key to avoiding hypothermia, so pack a rain jacket and pants that offer waterproof/breathable protection.
Some hikers bring two jackets with them; a lightweight fleece top jacket and a lightweight puffy jacket that fits in a daypack.
Regardless of your choice, make sure you chose your jacket according to the weather conditions and as needed for your specific journey.
Great for colder days, hiking fleeces come in lightweight, midweight and heavyweight.
Make sure you choose the weight based on the forecast and whether your metabolism runs hot or cold.
Puffy Hiking Vest
In most cases with mild weather conditions, a fleece jacket is sufficient.
However, if the weather gets cold, you better have a puffy vest.
Not ideal for wet conditions, puffy vests lose their warmth-retaining abilities if you get them wet, so synthetic insulations are a better bet.
You can also bring a jacket filled with water-resistant down or a hybrid that combines a synthetic fill with water-resistant down.
Just as is the case with cotton clothing, it is best to stay away from cotton socks.
Since cotton absorbs sweat, your feet will stay wet for the whole hike, leading to painful blisters.
In general, hiking socks must be taller than your hiking footwear.
Also, always have a spare pair of dry socks just in case you wade too deeply in a creek or your feet start to blister.
As a general rule, having a pair thicker and one thinner will get you covered for all types of weather.
Insulated and waterproof gloves are best for wintry conditions, and mittens are always warmer than gloves made of the same materials.
On the trail, you might see what looks like legwarmers atop hikers’ boots. Called “gaiters,” these accessories keep trail debris, rain, and even pests like ticks from invading your boot tops.
There’s also another type of gaiter that hikers tend to use, especially in freezing weather – neck gaiters; check this article for some of the best neck gaiters you can buy right now.
Hiking boots are a bit more complex than your average shoe, designed with hiking in mind.
These dedicated shoes have sturdy and robust soles to protect your feet and ankle and offer extra protection.
Designed to tackle all kinds of terrain, these shoes will keep your feet safe and comfortable.
The choice for best hiking shoes depends on three key factors:
Weather conditionsHiking on snow or rainy weather requires waterproof footwear. On the other hand, you’ll need dedicated hiking sneakers or sandals on a short summer day.
Type of terrain
If you are hiking on flat tracks, a pair of comfortable sneakers may be all you need. However, once you build elevation and the terrain turns rocky, a sturdy pair of hiking boots with ankle protection is a far better choice.
I tend to stick with my clunky hiking boots most of the year, thanks to the ankle support and extra traction provided. However, I have friends who wear hiking sandals all year, up to the point snow makes them impractical.
Hats are as essential as hiking shoes, and here’s why:
Hiking hats will keep your head warm in winter, the sun off your face and neck in summer, and your head dry in the rain.
Also, there’s a hat for every season, and here’s what I mean by that:
If you’re hiking in the desert or other relentlessly sunbaked environment, wear a wide-brimmed hat or a billed cap with a sun cape attached.
A wide brim can also be a plus to keep the rain out of your eyes if a soggy forecast suggests bringing a waterproof hat.
For cold weather conditions, pack along a hiking hat made of wool or other synthetic material to insulate your head.
So, regardless of hot weather or heavy rain, hats are hiking essentials for any hiking adventure, outdoor adventure, or backpacking trip.
Unfortunately, most sunglasses you can buy from high street retailers won’t protect your eyes from the sun unless you add special filters.
As the glare of the sun could be damaging to your eyes, choose specialized, high-quality sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection.
Avoid the temptation of taking an oversized backpack while hiking and pack only the things you need.
Keep to a smaller bag (something like 25L) and be super selective with everything you put in the pack.
Ensure it’s high-quality materials, super waterproof, and durable.
The backpack should also help with your posture and be soft and snug on your back and shoulders.
Fitness Trackers (Bonus!)
For fitness trackers, make sure you choose a waterproof, durable and affordable fitness tracker.
That’s because you’ll get it scratched and wet a lot.
Hiking Clothes by the Season
Now that we’ve detailed the critical hiking clothing to wear let’s classify the hiking clothes you wear by season (i.e., early fall vs. late fall).
Here are some general tips for choosing the most appropriate outerwear by season.
Spring and fall hiking clothes
Personally, in spring and fall, I wear hiking boots and avoid sneakers or hiking sandals.
That’s because of the temperature fluctuations, muddy trail conditions from snowmelt, and rain.
The boots add traction, extra ankle support, and keep my feet dry – if waterproof.
In addition, I always have a packable waterproof and windproof jacket with me to keep me safe and comfortable in case of wet and unpredictable weather.
Moving inward, I wear a long-sleeved hiking shirt that makes a great mid-layer, depending on how chilly it is during the hike.
Follow with a short- or long-sleeved wicking base layer.
A zip-up fleece jacket is a good addition if the temperatures are chilly.
I prefer convertible pants on a chilly spring/fall morning hike so I can quickly zip off the pant legs when things heat up.
Finally, I wear a hat to keep the sun out of my eyes – or rain from drenching my head.
Summer hiking clothes
Hiking in the summer gives you a lot of flexibility for clothing choices!
For once, you do not have that extra burden of adding and removing layers.
Second, there’s always the possibility of a fun hiking/swimming combo.
That said, it’s essential to keep in mind environmental hazards (e.g., ticks, poisonous plants, snakes, etc.) and terrain when choosing summer hiking clothes.
Hiking sandals and sneakers are appropriate for most terrain, though longer treks may require hiking boots.
Breathable wicking materials (no cotton) are essential for shirts, bottoms, and hiking socks to keep the sweat off your skin.
Lighter colors absorb less heat and can keep you cooler on hot days.
Finally, always have a pair of hiking sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat with you to keep the sun off your face and neck!
Winter hiking clothes
Hiking in the Winter is a whole different animal, but it’s worth the extra effort to enjoy the beauty of nature.
The key here is layers:
– A base layer with insulating properties such as wool or budget-friendly synthetic materials
– An insulating, removable middle layer
– A waterproof/windproof outer layer
Hiking boots, warm wicking socks, a wool-made or synthetic beanie hat, and pair of heated gloves are also crucial to a comfortable winter hike.
Now it’s your turn…
What do you recommend wearing on a hike?
In your opinion, what is the best hiking outfit for women?
Recommend three cute hiking outfits you think I should promote in this article.
Is there any other tip you would like to add to this list?
Please leave your comments below so others interested in learning more about hiking can benefit from your expertise.
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