What to Wear Hiking

If you’re gearing up to head out on a hike, you’ll certainly want to make sure you have all the right equipment, such as the proper hiking backpack, maps, and other gear—but if you don’t also wear the right clothes, your trip will quickly become an uncomfortable experience. .

Wearing the right hiking clothes means knowing the type of trail you’ll be on, what the temperature and climate will be, and how long you’ll be on the trail. So before you get dressed, take these factors into consideration and make your decisions accordingly.

What to Wear Hiking


The best hiking clothes are made of synthetic materials that keep you dry as you start to work harder and sweat more. While you may be tempted to wear that soft cotton tee, don’t: it will actually just trap sweat and moisture and stay wet. In addition to being uncomfortable, this will also quickly lead to the chills if you’re heading up a mountain and the temperature drops.

The best materials are soft, lightweight, and moisture wicking. Techwick is a great example of such material, and can be used as a skin-tight base layer or a T-shirt. In addition to staying dry, you’ll notice synthetic materials, such as polyester, allow your body to breathe much more, releasing pent-up heat to keep you comfortable.

You may want to wear either a short-sleeve or long-sleeve shirt, depending on how hot it is, but remember that a short-sleeve shirt leaves your skin exposed to the elements, including sunburn and scratches from plants and rocks.

Merino wool is also an excellent material that not only wicks moisture away, but also drives away any odors. This makes a perfect base layer in colder weather, but can also be a good choice for any warm-weather hikes.

Pants and Shorts

The decision to wear pants or shorts is up to you, so let’s look at the pros and cons of both. Shorts give you ultimate freedom and are also cooler than pants, so if you’re going on a low-altitude summer hike, you’ll most likely be in good shape with shorts.

Pants, which should be made of durable, quick-drying fabrics such as spandex and nylon, should be worn if you expect any drop in temperature or heavy vegetation along the trail. Wearing pants keeps your legs protected from hazards such as poison ivy or other allergenic plants, and keeps you warmer when the temperature drops as you gain elevation.

Boots and Socks

There are as many different kinds of hiking boots as there are trails out there, but whatever you choose, you’ll need to make sure your hiking footwear is durable, comfortable, and appropriate for the conditions. If the trail is excessively wet or muddy, consider Gore-Tex to keep your feet drier. If the trail is very rocky, such as you find in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, pick boots that come up slightly higher on the ankle for increased support.

Of course, when it comes to footwear, fit is everything. The wrong boots could leave your feet aching and give you serious blisters. Get with experts like the Foot Gurus at Eastern Mountain Sports to find the perfect-fitting footwear.

But the best boots must be complemented by the right socks. The best socks, like other garments, are made of wool or synthetic materials that dry fast and let your feet and toes breathe.

Rain Gear

Even if there’s no rain in the forecast, don’t leave home without a good rain jacket. The weather conditions can change quickly, so it’s best to be prepared with a waterproof, breathable rain jacket inside your hiking backpack. These jackets use advanced technology to let sweat and body moisture out without letting rain or other precipitation in.

Ponchos also work well for keeping you and your pack dry during an unexpected rainstorm, but they won’t be as comfortable, or stylish, as a solid rain jacket.


A hat is a great way to keep the sun off your face and protect your head from direct harmful rays. Some of the best hiking hats are full-brimmed, water-repellent garments that are extremely breathable and keep your head warm, and can keep the rain out of your face in the event of a storm.


Before you go hiking, always assume that the temperature could drop significantly, especially if you’re going up in elevation. One of the best ways to stay protected from any changes in weather is to use a three-layer system of clothing.

As your base, wear a lightweight, moisture-wicking garment. If it gets chilly, pull a light or medium-weight fleece out of your hiking backpack, and use an outer shell to keep out any wind or rain.

Wearing the right clothes on a hike will keep you comfortable and help you enjoy your time in the outdoors.

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