Last Updated on March 16, 2021
If you are a hiking enthusiast or you are considering taking up hiking, it is important to have the right hiking gear. This includes both equipment and clothing. Having the right gear makes a significant difference to your comfort while hiking. It will also impact on your enjoyment of outdoor pursuits. At different times of the year, you will need different clothes for hiking. This guide explains the types of hiking clothing you need for different conditions and offers tips for choosing the best hiking clothing for you.
Why Do You Need a Hiking Clothing Guide?
Inexperienced hikers may wonder why they need special clothes for hiking. It is a common mistake of the hiking novice to assume that you can simply hike in your everyday clothes. However, this is not the case as an experienced hiker would tell you. Hiking is different from day-to-day walking as you will cover larger distances over diverse terrains and in various conditions. The clothes you wear will make a significant difference to your overall enjoyment of your hiking experiences. It also makes a difference to your comfort throughout the day. Furthermore, having the right hiking clothing is a health and safety issue as you must make sure you are properly dressed for the type of terrain you will cover and the weather in which you will hike.
Choosing Summer Hiking Clothes
Hiking during the summer poses different challenges to hiking at other times of the year and the heat is the main obstacle. Therefore, it is important to wear clothes that are suitable for this type of weather. You should consider the following points when buying hiking clothing for summer:
- Always opt for lightweight and breathable clothing.
- You still need water-resistant clothing in case of unexpected showers. However, showerprotection will give enough protection.
- Always take some form of head wear hiking to protect this exposed area from the sun.
- Consider wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes from the glare of the sun.
- Wear thin wool or synthetic socks.
- Take a lightweight, shower protection jacket with you.
- Wear a light, loose T-shirt or shirt.
- Wear hiking shorts on hot days or long trousers if covering rough terrain in your hike. If the weather is unpredictable or you are not sure about the terrain, opt for conversion pants.
Choosing Winter Hiking Clothes
There are even greater challenges for hikers throughout the winter months. This is predominantly because of the unpredictable and changeable weather you may experience during your hikes. Hikers face freezing conditions, wind, rain, snow, storms, hail, and sleet. Therefore, it is important that you are dressed to protect yourself from the elements. Keeping warm and dry are the two priorities. These tips will help you to choose winter hiking clothing that will fulfill these requirements.
- Wear a good quality pair of hiking boots that can cope with the wet, slippery, or frozen terrain.
- Use the ‘onion’ approach to dressing. This means wearing lots of layers for extra insulation.
- Wear base layer insulation. A wool or synthetic long-sleeved jumper is ideal.
- For mid-layer insulation, choose either a thin fleece or a woolen jumper.
- Buy good quality thick wool socks to protect your feet and keep them warm.
- Your hiking jacket is one of your most important pieces of hiking clothing during the winter months. You will need a warm, storm-resistant hiking jacket to cope with all conditions.
- Protect your extremities by wearing an insulated hat and gloves.
- Leave your hiking shorts at home and wear comfortable hiking pants with pockets.
- Wear hiking goggles to protect your eyes and help you see your path clearly.
- Take spare clothing in your backpack so you are not wet and uncomfortable all day.
- In extreme conditions, consider wearing a face mask or a balaclava.
Key Factors When Buying Hiking Clothes
To make sure you buy the best hiking clothes, there are several things you should consider. These include:
The price of hiking clothing is an important factor in decision-making for many people. Those who hike regularly may want to buy the best hiking clothing and are often willing to pay a little more. On the other hand, people who only hike occasionally and those on a limited budget may prefer to buy cheap hiking clothing. The price of the clothes often reflects the quality as those that are well made using good materials are often more expensive than lower quality items. However, this is not always the case as it is possible to buy cheap hiking clothing that is still good quality and costs less because a lesser known brand manufactures them.
The materials used in hiking clothing are an important factor to consider when making a purchasing decision. You must choose materials that are breathable yet retain heat. Wool and synthetics, such as polyester, are good examples. You will also need waterproof materials on outer garments, such as your hiking jacket. Remember that the materials used in hiking clothing are reflected in the price.
Which hiking clothing you choose will depend on the conditions in which you hike. If you only hike occasionally in the summer, you need lightweight and breathable clothes. People who hike throughout the year in various conditions will need different clothing to suit the weather. For example, they will need a thin waterproof hiking jacket for summer and a well-insulated, waterproof jacket for cold and wet conditions in the winter. Those who hike in extreme conditions, such as hiking at high altitudes in freezing weather, should buy specialist hiking clothing that is designed for extreme weather.
It is vital that all clothes for hiking are fit for purpose. This means they are appropriate for the weather, they are comfortable, they allow movement, and they are suitable for the terrain. Words to look out for on clothes labels include waterproof, durable, lightweight, breathable, and insulated.
Hiking involves spending time outdoors in various environments and conditions. You need your clothes to stand up to the test of these different factors and to last for a long time. The durability of the clothing may depend on the materials used.
Different Hiking Clothes Selection Guide
Hiking Shoes and Boots
One of the most important pieces of hiking clothing you will buy is your hiking shoes or boots. Buying the right footwear is essential as your feet will take most of the strain of your hiking activities. Comfort, practicality, and durability are all important. The following tips will help you to choose the best hiking boots or shoes.
- You should always buy boots or shoes that are specifically for hiking as these are designed to offer comfort and support.
- Having hiking shoes or boots that fit well is vital to avoid blisters and general discomfort. Trying the shoes on before buying is essential.
- You should try on shoes wearing the socks you will wear for hiking to get the best fit.
- There are three main types of hiking boots; backpacking boots, day hiking boots, and hiking shoes.
- Hiking shoes have a flexible mid-sole and are low-cut. Ultralight backpackers sometimes use these shoes for trail running.
- Day hiking boots are most suitable for day hikes when you are carrying a light load. They are available in mid-cut and high-cut options.
- Backpacking boots are worn by hikers who go on longer hikes and have a heavier load due to the need for carrying extra equipment, such as a tent and a sleeping bag. They are high-cut to give the ankles extra support and have stiffer insoles than day hiking boots.
- Hiking boots come in a range of materials but are usually either synthetic or leather.
- The most durable material for hiking boots is full-grain leather and these are also water-resistant. On the downside, they are heavy and not as breathable as synthetic hiking boots.
- Another option is split-grain leather. This is a combination of synthetic mesh and leather. They are breathable and lightweight. The cons of this option are that they are less resistant to abrasion and water than full-grain leather boots.
- Boots made from synthetic materials are the lightest and cheapest option. They are also fast-drying and quick to break-in. The negative is that they are not as durable and you will soon see signs of wear and tear.
Another important item of clothing for hiking is your hiking jacket. This will protect you from the cold, rain, and wind while out hiking. There are lots of hiking jackets to choose between and there are three main factors to consider. These tips will give you some guidance for choosing the best hiking jacket.
Level of water-resistance: Hiking jackets have different levels of water-resistance. Shower protection is the lowest level of water-resistance and is most suitable for summer hiking. Storm protection is the highest level of water-resistance and this is the option you would choose for hiking in extreme conditions.
Lightweight and warm options: A lightweight hiking jacket is the better option for summer hiking when you simply want a jacket on standby in case of a sudden shower. Warm hiking jackets are intended for use in the winter months as they offer extra insulation.
Ventilation: The level of ventilation in a jacket is important. If you are going on intense hikes that will cause you to sweat a lot, then it is important that the hiking jacket is well ventilated. The best hiking jackets in this situation are those with mechanical ventilation.
Hood: A proper hiking jacket will have a hood to protect you from different conditions. Some hoods are retractable. The level of protection offered by a jacket depends whether you have bought a shower protection or storm protection jacket. Some hoods are adjustable, so you can secure the hood around your face to stop the wind and rain entering your jacket.
Pockets: Plenty of pockets is a bonus as this will give you somewhere convenient to keep smaller items.
Comfort: Always try on a jacket before buying to make sure you will feel comfortable when wearing it for longer periods and that it is easy to move around.
Hiking Shorts and Pants
The worst thing you can possibly wear on your legs when hiking is a pair of denim jeans. They are heavy, absorb a lot of water, and will cause chaffing to your legs. Depending on the time of year you hike, you should buy hiking shorts or hiking pants. There is also the option of choosing pants that convert to shorts. Here is an overview of the different options and other considerations you should make.
Hiking shorts: Most hikers wear hiking shorts in the summer. One of the best materials for these is nylon as this is lightweight and quick drying.
Hiking pants: The same rules apply to buying hiking pants. These are best for winter hiking and hiking in wet or windy conditions. If you are hiking over rough terrain that has high grass or brambles, you may also choose to wear hiking trousers.
Convertible hiking shorts/ pants: Some people prefer a pair of hiking shorts for the summer and hiking pants for the winter. An alternative to this is to buy a pair of pants that convert into shorts. The main advantages of this are that you will save money on buying separate items of clothing and you will also have the option to switch throughout the day according to the weather.
Comfort: Comfort is essential, and they need to allow you to move easily. Therefore, you should always try the shorts or pants before you buy. Elasticated waistbands or pants with an adjustable cord are the best options.
Pockets: Try to get hiking shorts with pockets so you have somewhere to store smaller items, such as your phone.
Hiking Hats for Summer and Winter
Your head is one of the most exposed parts of the body and needs protection from the elements. In the summer, this means protecting your head from the heat to prevent sunburn and sunstroke. In the winter, this means keeping your head warm and dry. You will need different types of hats depending on when you hike and the conditions at that time.
Hiking hats for summer
During warmer weather, you need a hiking hat that offers enough protection from the sun but does not make your head too warm. Many hikers simply wear a baseball cap as these are made from light, breathable fabrics. Others opt to wear a simple bandana as this covers the head without making it sweat.
Hiking hats for winter
In the winter, protecting your head from the cold, wind, and rain is essential. You will need a hat that is both warm and waterproof. There are many options available, but a beanie hat is a cheap hiking clothing option. If you hike in extreme conditions, opt for an insulated hat that extends over your ears.
There are not tops, such as sweaters and T-shirts, that are specifically designed for hiking. However, some hiking clothing companies sell such items, but they do not differ to other non-hiking items. Common sense is the key when choosing what to wear on your upper body. While a T-shirt or a loose short-sleeved shirt is best for summer, you should choose long-sleeved tops, sweaters, or fleeces in winter.
Other Hiking Clothing
During cold weather, gloves are important as your extremities will feel the cold and gloves will reduce this problem. Insulated gloves are especially important if hiking in extreme conditions. Although you do not necessarily need the heat protection from gloves in the summer months, it is wise to keep them in your backpack. They can protect your hands if you are rambling over rocky terrain.
Thick wool hiking socks are best for winter hiking while thin wool hiking socks are better for summer. You should never wear cotton socks for hiking, but you can wear synthetic socks if your feet sweat a lot.
In the summer you may need sunglasses to protect your eyes from the glare. Similarly, goggles can protect your eyes in extreme weather.
Wearing boxer-style briefs can help to prevent chaffing.
Choosing the best hiking clothing is important. Not only will buying the right gear increase your comfort, it will also protect you from the elements. This means your hiking clothes play an important role in your overall hiking experience. From head to toe, you should always wear clothes that are comfortable, fit well, and are appropriate for the conditions you will face at different times of the year. The latter is particularly important as not dressing according to the weather will leave you at risk. There is plenty of hiking clothing available and it is always best to compare the options and to try each item on before buying. This will ensure you get the most suitable and the best hiking clothing to meet your needs.