In this part, we’ll go through what to dress for a walk. Below, I discuss what to wear when hiking, along with some tips based on which season you are hiking in.
Important Factors When Choosing Hiking Clothing
While looking nice on the trail is a plus, there are a few things to consider before purchasing that gorgeous (but not so useful) trail jacket or shirt:
Clothing safety will be heavily influenced by the area you’re hiking in, as well as anticipated weather conditions. For example, if you’re hiking in an area with a Lyme disease outbreak, it may be best to be cautious and wear long pants and long sleeves that are treated with insect repellent, even in the summer months. Furthermore, if you’ll be trekking in the rain, a windproof rain jacket is essential since wind and rain tend to go hand in hand.
Your comfort level:
There is a reason why the phrase “cotton is rotten” persists in the hiking community. Sweating is our bodies’ mechanism of controlling our body temperature when exercising. Cotton absorbs moisture and draws perspiration in toward your body, keeping you comfortable in hot weather and cool in cold weather. Instead, wicking materials that move sweat away from the body, such as merino wool, polyester and nylon, can keep you much more comfortable throughout your hike.
The fit of the clothes is crucial in addition to the material. When I started hiking, I made the mistake of trying to look good on a hike and selecting clothing that was more fitted and tight. Unfortunately, this meant that I had a more restricted range of motion, which made hiking in these garments a really unpleasant experience. Choosing a more roomy fit allows for more flexibility and comfort when trekking. Nobody looks nice on a trek when they are uncomfortable and unpleasant, let’s face it!
Quality equipment may be expensive, so consider apparel that can serve numerous functions. Two articles of clothing that come to mind are a) lightweight hiking shirts with long sleeves that can be rolled up and secured, and b) convertible pants with pant legs that zip off into shorts.
It’s taken me years of hiking to realize that the layer closest to your body can make a HUGE difference! Cotton just does not work on our most delicate assets! Better materials include polyester, nylon and merino wool, which move moisture away from the body, helping to prevent chafing and uncomfortable wetness.
This layer may be summed up in one word: wicking. Whether it’s 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, it needs to wick away sweat to keep you comfortable and dry. For this layer, merino wool and synthetic fabrics are the finest options.
Whether you like jeans, shorts, skirts, or dresses, mobility and quick-drying fabrics are essential. Environmental risks (such as ticks, poison ivy, and sharp pebbles) influence the most practicable length and thickness for bottoms. 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.
The sort of jacket you wear is mostly determined by the season and weather conditions in which you are hiking. Choose a jacket that is packable (in case you need to remove it along the route), waterproof, and windproof. This guarantees that the jacket may be worn in any weather situation that may arise throughout your walk.
To avoid sounding like a broken record, avoid cotton socks! Because cotton absorbs perspiration, your feet might remain damp during the journey. This might cause painful blisters and ruin your journey (not to mention put you out of action if the blisters get infected!).
The hiking shoes you wear are mostly determined by three factors:
What makes you the most at ease? I tend to stick with my clunky hiking boots most of the year due to the added ankle support and traction. My pals, on the other hand, will wear hiking sandals all year until the winter makes them unfeasible.
A snowy or wet trek would need waterproof, robust footwear, although a short summer hike could possibly be done in sneakers or hiking sandals.
If you’re hiking on a somewhat level terrain, a pair of comfy shoes could suffice. However, once you start increasing in elevation and the terrain turns rocky, a sturdy pair of hiking boots with ankle protection may be a better choice.
Every season necessitates the use of a hat! It keeps your head warm in winter, the sun off your face and neck in summer, and your head dry in rain. Hats are just as important as hiking boots!
By the Season
Now that we’ve covered the fundamentals of clothes, let’s get more particular about clothing requirements by season. These requirements may vary based on where you reside and what season you are in (i.e., early fall vs. late fall). Here are some basic guidelines for selecting the best outerwear for each season.
Spring and fall:
These seasons are grouped together because the layering requirements in these more moderate and changeable seasons are comparable. For footwear, many outdoor experts recommend hiking boots vs. sneakers or hiking sandals due to the possible temperature fluctuations and muddy trail conditions from snowmelt and rain. The boots provide grip and support, as well as keeping your feet dry if they are waterproof. In addition, a packable waterproof and windproof jacket will help keep you comfortable in these wet and unpredictable seasons.
Moving inward, a long-sleeved hiking shirt makes a great mid-layer depending on how chilly it is during the hike. After that, put on a wicking base layer, either short or long sleeves. If the weather is cold, a zip-up fleece jacket is a smart option. On a cool spring/fall morning trek, I like convertible pants so I can simply zip off the pant legs as it warms up. Last but not least, a hat to keep the heat off your eyes and the rain off your head!
Personally, I like summer hiking and the variety of clothing options it provides! It normally does not need the frequent addition or removal of layers, and it allows for a walk and swim combination. That being said, it’s important to keep in mind of environmental hazards (e.g., ticks, poisonous plants, snakes, etc.) and terrain when choosing summer hiking clothes.
Hiking sandals and sneakers are suitable for most terrain, while longer hikes may need hiking boots. Breathable wicking materials (no cotton) are key for shirts, bottoms and hiking socks to keep the sweat off your skin. On hot days, lighter colors absorb less heat and may keep you cool. Furthermore, undesirable hitchhikers favor darker hues. A hat with a broad brim helps keep the sun off your face and neck!
Hiking in the winter is a whole other beast, but it’s well worth the additional work to experience the beauty of nature in the winter! The key here is layers: a base layer with insulating properties such as wool or budget-friendly synthetic materials; an insulating, removable middle layer; and a waterproof/windproof outer layer.
Warm wicking socks, a wool or synthetic beanie cap, and warm gloves are also essential for a pleasant winter trip. For more detailed tips for winter outerwear, check out these articles on adult winter gear and what to wear when hiking in the rain and winter.