Hiking safely requires must-have gear such as a backpack, maps, and first-aid kit, but it is equally as important to wear the right hiking outfit when you head out onto the trails.
Not only do suitable clothes keep you comfortable, but it may also be a matter of safety if you run in inclement weather, get wet or the temperature changes unexpectedly.
Hiking Outfit Explained
Choosing the correct clothing to wear when hiking depends upon many factors: Trail type, temperature and weather report, and the length of your hike.
Always take these things into consideration when you decide what to put on before you head out into the wilderness.
Hiking Boots and Socks
Many hikers believe that any pair of athletic shoes and usual cotton socks are enough for times on the trail. This combination will lead to blisters and sore feet faster than anything.
Instead, invest in a pair of comfortable, high-quality hiking shoes or boots. They should offer ankle support, a sturdy sole to protect from rough trails, be waterproof or water-resistant and very durable.
Proper hiking socks should be used to keep your feet dry and comfortable. For especially wet trails, Gore-Tex is an option.
Fabrics and Materials
Leave the cotton T-shirts at home when you go hiking. Instead of keeping you dry and comfortable, cotton holds onto moisture and leads to poor temperature regulation.
It can actually be dangerous if the temperatures drop as you change location or altitude. Choose synthetic materials instead. They can be just as soft as cotton, are lightweight and quickly sweat away from your body in order to keep you drier.
One popular synthetic is Techwick. It is often used for tight T-shirts or under layers for comfort purposes only. Polyester and other manufactured fabrics not only wick away moisture more quickly, but allow for greater airflow that can help keep your body temperature stable.
Lightweight shirts with long sleeves are great for layering, plus give you some protection from the sun, insects and scratchy plants along the trail. Short-sleeved shirts are a great option for base layers and warm temperatures.
One natural fabric that is perfect for wicking moisture, reducing odors and maintaining a comfortable temperature level is merino wool. While this is often used for inner layers during chilly weather, lightweight garments are suitable for warmer weather as well.
The Pants Vs Shorts Debate
If you are hiking in the hot summer months, shorts may be the natural selection to wear when you are out in the wilds. As long as the weather stays dry and the temperatures high, and you will not be walking through brambles or poison ivy, shorts are a good option.
A pair of durable pants in a lightweight fabric that dries quickly, such as nylon or spandex, is an excellent choice to protect your legs from irritating plants, scratches and scrapes and insects as well.
They are also more suitable for hikes in locations where the weather might change quickly or the temperature fluctuates.
Even if the weather forecast doesn’t give a positive indication of rainfall, a light rain jacket is still a practical addition to the backpack.
Climatic conditions on the hiking trails can change suddenly, especially if hiking in mountainous regions. A preferred rain jacket should be lightweight, breathable, and waterproof.
A proper hiking rain jacket makes it possible for body moisture and sweat to escape while stopping the penetration of rain.
Other options for the hiking trails include the ponchos which are perfect for keeping you dry in the event of the occasional rainstorm.
Wear a hat if walking on the trails under the blazing sun. This protects the face from being constantly exposed to the direct UV rays.
A preferred hat is full-brimmed for sunny climates. Others can be breathable and water-resistant for cooler climates.
Temperatures can easily change on the hiking trails, so it benefits to hike well-prepared and that includes wearing layers. A three-layer system is a practical choice to stay warm and comfortable in the changeable weather conditions.
The base layer, closest to the skin, should consist of a garment in a light, moisture-wicking material.
A second-layer should include a light-medium fleece material, and the outer layer is there to protect against rainfall and wind.
A bit of preparation goes a long way when hiking. So remember to check out the weather forecast and any local trail advice for what you should be wearing.
The latter is particularly important as the number of times I have set out in the blazing sun, only to find myself enveloped in fog and cold hail at altitude does not bear thinking about! So make sure you are prepared!
Enjoy the trails
Matt Green, is an avid hiker and lover of the great outdoors. He is always planning his next big trip or hitting the trails for a solo hike.
He’s traveled extensively to many remote regions and has plenty of experience exploring various terrains, and stories to tell.