What to wear to go hiking? This is one of the most popular questions we always receive from those who are looking to get into hiking or are just starting out. I had the same question when in the beginning.
But as much as we’d like to tell you that there’s a straight definite answer, there isn’t one.
The reason there isn’t a fixed answer for this is what you wear for hiking depends on a number of factors. These include:
1. How far is the hike going to be?
Hikes can vary from short distances of a few kilometers for those starting out to a multitude of miles spanning cities for those who are more serious. The further the distance you expect to travel the more comfortable and versatile your you need to dress for.
Good footwear will prevent blisters from occurring after hours of walking, while bringing a jacket, and extra clothing will let you be able to quickly adapt should the weather abruptly change.
2. How long do you expect it to take?
Like distance, this can vary significantly. Day hikes can span from a few hours to over 12 hours, while more serious adventures can last for days. With the latter, you’ll need to prepare food, overnight accommodations like tents and extra clothes. While those on a day hike may not need anything more than a t-shirt, shorts and sneakers.
3. Where will you be hiking?
Do also take into consideration the environment you’ll be traveling on. This makes a big difference on what you’re going to be wearing. For example, if you’re going to do urban hiking, then a comfortable pair of sneakers will get the job done. But for more rugged trails where you’ll be climbing hills and dealing with small rocks on the path, hiking boots will be more appropriate.
You’ll want to know the answers to these questions before going forward with choosing what gear to take with your on your hike.
4. How is the weather on the day of the hike and the climate where you’re hiking?
Before setting out on your hike, do check the weather forecast. If the forecast calls for a sunny day you can easily wear shorts, a shirt and cap. However if there is any uncertainty in the forecast or the skies don’t look bright always err on the side of caution and make provisions by wearing more versatile clothing or bringing extra apparel that will let you adapt should the weather change while you’re in the middle of your journey.
If you’re doing something longer than a day hike, do check the forecast for the days covering the span of your entire trip. Weather has been known change between days. This way you’re well prepared.
What to Wear When Hiking
For us, footwear is one of the most important things to get right. Having the proper footwear for the environment and distance of your hike can make the difference between a happy adventure and a troublesome one. It can also make the difference between getting to your destination without experiencing any injuries.
Hiking boots are the most popular choice here. But you’ll want to know when to use them. These are built for comfort as well as protection. They are designed so you can navigate through soil, sand and rocky paths.
Hiking boots come with extra cushioning so even after long walks the bottoms of your feet don’t feel worn out. With hiking boots you’ll want to use them beforehand. For longer hikes, using broken in boots are a lot more comfortable than just lacing up new ones. Use them a few times over short distances so you get a good feel for them.
One tip when wearing these boots is you’ll want to wear two layers of socks. This helps prevent blisters from forming specially after walks of a few hours or more.
Sneakers or Trail Shoes
As great as hiking boots are for rougher terrain, they aren’t the best when you’re looking to be running part of the way or most of the way. One reason for this is that the cushioning that makes them comfortable in uneven surfaces also makes them less supportive on your feet.
When you run you want the added support that sneakers or trail shoes can offer. These work better in these instances.
Also, if you will be on an urban hike or following a relatively flat trail. Buying an extra pair of expensive hiking boots may not make the most economical sense. Your sneakers or trail shoes will be more than capable of handling this.
Whichever type of choose, it is essential to get a pair that fits you well and is comfortable. You’ll be wearing them for at least a few hours so they have to feel good as you walk.
This seems easy enough, but one thing you shouldn’t do is slap on any pair of socks. Using a good quality pair of socks makes all the difference when you take long walks. You will want to choose ones that will let your feet breathe and not trap all the moisture and sweat.
Just as important is using a comfortable pair of socks. You’ll be wearing them for hours which can really cause irritation and discomfort if you don’t like how they feel.
As mentioned above, wearing two pairs when your out for longer hikes will reduce the chances of forming blisters.
The type of shirt you wear will depend on the weather outside. For warm climates a regular t-shirt or tank top are good options. When the weather isn’t clear being prepared for drizzle or rain will help you get continue with your travel even when nature decides to let it pour. In this situation bringing a wind breaker or jacket will help shelter you from any downpour or strong blowing winds. For colder weather or really blazing sun, consider long sleeved shirts. For more on this, see our clothes layering article.
Wearing pants or shorts will depend a lot on the weather as well as where you will be crossing. If it is cold or you’ll be going through a lot of bushes, plants and leaves, wearing long pants will keep you warm as well as prevent insect bites or allergies.
Warm weather on the other hand, will allow you to enjoy wearing shorts. This will allow your body to breathe more.
One thing never to forget when going hiking is to wear a hat. This is specially true when the sun is out or the weather isn’t too predictable. A regular baseball cap works very well for hikers. It shades the top of your head as well as a portion of your face including your eyes from the rays of the sun.