Besides a handsome pair of hiking boots, there really aren’t any specific pieces of clothing to wear when hiking. But happy hikers have discovered the sweet spot between either sweating or freezing and enjoying the beauties of nature. In this article, we’ll discuss the most recommended pieces of clothing to wear.
Remember that the human body is better at heating up than cooling down, so dress in lightweight, breathable, and comfortable layers.
Day Hike or Longer Outdoor Adventure?
What you should wear for a hike depends on how long your outdoor trek is going to be. A day hike is shorter, so the good news is that you don’t have to wear as many layers of clothing. You can even get away with wearing sneakers or lighter hiking shoes. A simple day hiking outfit would be:
- Sturdy but light hiking shoes
- One pair good hiking socks
- Lightweight, breathable hiking pants
- Soft, comfortable T-shirt
- Light outer layer, such as a sweatshirt or light jacket
- Protective headwear
But for longer and more strenuous hikes, you’re going to want to not only choose sturdier shoes, but also plenty more layers. That’s to take into account not only the terrain, but the changing weather. You’ll need a variety of clothes for different outfits:
- Durable and protective hiking boots
- At least two pairs of hiking socks
- Multiple pairs of hiking pants and shorts
- Several soft T-shirts that are both short-sleeve and long-sleeve
- At least one jacket of a medium weight
- Protective headwear
Those are the basic outfits, but what about the details for each piece of clothing? Read on to discover the criteria you should look for when putting together your hiking outfit.
Hiking Shoes or Boots
Hiking shoes or boots are the most essential thing to wear when you hit the trail. They’re specifically designed for weather protection, comfort, and durability. They’ll cushion and protect your feet from sharp rocks, tree branches, and natural ruts in the dirt, while also keeping your feet warm and dry. Hiking boots are traditionally heavier than hiking shoes, which are more like heavy-duty sneakers.
Many first-time hikers start out wearing sneakers. Is that a bad choice? It depends on the outdoor weather conditions. Sneakers generally aren’t constructed as ruggedly as hiking boots. They’re not designed for all-weather terrain, either. You could wear sneakers for short day hikes in mild weather and in areas that aren’t too muddy or wet. For all other hikes, actual hiking shoes or boots are recommended.
Don’t overlook this important piece of your hiking ensemble! You’ll definitely appreciate investing in good quality socks during muddy, wet, sandy, or cold hikes. The best socks are made from a fine merino wool, which naturally wicks away moisture and keeps your feet dry. They’re not as hot as you might think, so your feet won’t sweat.
Your socks should be of crew height at least, to prevent chafing with your hiking boots, and look for the right amount of cushioning to correspond with the weather.
While you might be tempted just to hike in jeans (and they are durable and versatile), you do want to purchase specific hiking pants. They are made of a range of lightweight materials that keep you cooled down, and they come in different styles, too. You can get a convertible pair that also zips into shorts. Pants keep you warmer than shorts and, more importantly, protect your legs from harsh plants and brush on the trail. Hiking pants use mesh for breathability.
With the popularity of yoga pants and similar athletic pants, those are also a good choice for hiking. Since they’re made for body movement, they’re great for hiking, too. They don’t offer as much protection as more durable trouser materials. Look for a pair with at least one set of pockets.
Here is where your personal preferences for shirts and tops help when choosing a hiking outfit. For longer hikes and backpacking trips, we suggest you look in the athletic department for moisture-wicking shirts. Shorter hikes would suffice with a simple long- or short-sleeved T-shirt made out of cotton. In any case, comfort is key when hiking, so choose what you’re most comfortable wearing.
Pocketed vests, light jackets, and heavier coats are all clothing options to choose when hiking. You’re going to want some type of outerwear, and make sure it has pockets to free your hands up and carry essential items, too. Vests and jackets come in all types of colors and materials. You could choose nylon, polyester, canvas, cotton, or wool.
For longer hikes, you’ll want something waterproof with a hood to protect your neck and face. Before you go on your hike, figure out the weather and then pack accordingly. A light anorak-style jacket with deep pockets suits a vast majority of your hiking trails.
While we’re on the subject, yes, it’s also important to wear comfortable underwear, too! Ladies, a sports bra in your size is definitely going to give you much more comfort and support. Even if it’s just a day hike, it will make a big difference. Sports bras are also designed to wick away moisture, helping you feel less heated. For men, you want your underwear to be just as comfortable and breathable as the hiking pants.
Even if you don’t normally wear hats, you’ll want to at least pack a baseball cap to shield your eyes from the sun and protect the top of your head. Some hats come with neck shields to protect the delicate skin. A beach sunhat will also suffice.
Light, Sturdy Bag
Swap your regular purse for a light, sturdy bag to hold all of your essentials to bring on the hiking trip. You’ll want to pack sunscreen, tissues, a bottle of water, at least one snack, lip balm, a small umbrella, and bug spray. When you’re out on the trail, these necessary items will give you the best experience possible!
Heading Out on the Trail
Every time you lace up your hiking boots and get out there will be another experience teaching you what’s best to wear. Head out on the trail by wearing protective gear, have plenty of pockets, and document your hiking trips. You’ll be glad you did!