Guide to Clothes for Hiking

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The outdoors is great fun and hitting the trail lets you free yourself from the daily grind and take time out to relax and de-stress. Hiking is one of the most unique activities in that you don’t need to be in any special shape or learn any special skill to get started. Beginners can start with walking short distances and as they learn to love this form of recreation slowly increase the distance and difficulty of the terrain.


Choosing Clothes for Hiking

We’ve discussed in anther post the things to wear when you go hiking. In this installment we specifically focus on hiking clothes. We take a look into the different pieces of clothing that may make up your walking wardrobe.

With hiking clothing a lot will depend on where you are headed, what type of environment you will be going through and how long you will be gone for.

For anyone starting out or will be walking for a short distance and time, you won’t need anything more than comfortable sneakers, a regular t-shirt, cap and shorts or pants. This, of course applies when the weather outside is sunny. During less cooperative weather you’ll want to bring along a jacket in case it rains as well as clothing that will keep you dry and warm.


Characteristics of Good Hiking Clothes

  1. Dress in Layers – as in backpacking and camping, one of the best ways to combat possible cold environments is to dress in layers, or what is commonly called layering. With layering, you wear multiple layers of thin, lightweight clothing to keep yourself warm. This lets you add more layers if you feel cold and remove them when you feel like you’re beginning to sweat. This method has been shown to be more heat efficient than putting on one or two thicker pieces of clothing.
  2. Moisture Wicking Clothing – when you’re out hiking, you’ll be walking at brisk pace and tackling uphill climbs and rugged terrain. Eventually you’ll be breaking a sweat. This type of material helps pull out the moisture of sweat instead of absorbing it. This leaves you more comfortable. During the cooler seasons, wicking material also keeps moisture away which helps keep your warmer.
  3. Breathable – with both shoes and clothing, you want to get something that allows your body to breath. As your body’s temperature rises from physical activity it will get warmer and sweat. Your clothing has to be able to let out that heat and not keep it trapped. This leaves you with a more comfortable feeling and not leave you feeling dehydrated or drained easily.
  4. Water Resistant/Waterproof Clothing – when the weather is unclear and possible showers or rain is predicted, having water resistant or waterproof clothing for your hike is essential. This usually comes in the form of your jacket and pants. You’ll want to note the difference between the two terms. Water resistant works well in instances you don’t get soaked. It is able to shed away moisture and water. But if you expect heavier rain for longer periods, waterproof clothing would be a more practical pick.


Introduction to Layering

Layers of Clothing

Dressing in layers has long been used in difference outdoor activities. These including skiing, mountain climbing, backpacking and hiking. What you’re doing is keeping yourself warm by introducing a different layer of clothing. Each of the layers have their own function and in hiking clothes, we have three basic clothing layers.


1. Base Layer

This is the layer that’s closest to your body. This is your underwear. This layer serves two purposes. In warm weather conditions it helps wick away sweat, while during the colder months or winter it acts as an extra layer of insulation.

What’s important with your base layer is choosing the proper type of material. You want something that wicks moisture, dries quickly and regulates temperature. Comfort is also a big factor as you’d expect.

As such one material you’ll want to avoid is cotton as this absorbs wetness instead of wicking it away. Silk, wool and some synthetic materials are better choices here. During sunny weather conditions, regular underwear will do just fine. In the winter you may need to bring out your thermal underwear when it gets cold.


2. Mid Layer

This layer refers to our regular clothing. Your choice will depend on the climate and weather. When the sun is out and no signs of storm clouds are around, a regular t-shirt and shorts will be more comfortable than thicker, longer sleeved clothing.

However, if the sun is really blazing, pants and a long sleeved shirt will keep you more protected from the harsh, harmful rays of the sun.

One of the most useful types of pants we like are the zip off pants. These are long pants that come with horizontal zippers just above the knee. These zippers let your unzip the lower pant legs off converting the pants into shorts. Zip off pants definitely don’t look the coolest nor the most stylish but they win a lot of points of versatility and let you quickly adapt to changing weather.


3. Insulation Layer

The insulation layer is what keeps you warm when it starts to get chilly. During the summer months you don’t need to worry about this and you can stop with the mid layer. However, as the temperature drops, having that warm sweater or extra layer of clothing, usually made of fleece or wool will keep you much more comfortable throughout your trek.

The basic job of this layer is to help keep you warm.


4. Outer Layer

This is the outermost layer of clothing during your hike. It keeps you warm at the same time functions to block the wind and keep you protected from the rain. A waterproof jacket is an excellent choice as it is able to keep moisture from seeping through and getting into your inner layers. This will let you stay warm and dry even as it pours.

An extra tip when choosing a jacket for hiking will be to look for one with pockets. This will let you store small belongings like your cellphone, pocket knife, GPS and other important items.


The Importance of Clothes for Hiking

Wearing the proper clothing when hiking lets you be prepared for the environment you will be encountering. It consists of choosing clothes that are comfortable and made from the right materials. You want to ensure that you wear moisture wicking clothing, that lets your body breath. Dressing in layers helps keep you warm while a waterproof jacket will let you stay dry even when the weather isn’t cooperating.

To see the other things you should be wearing when you go hiking, see our article here.


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