Hiking Basics: What To Wear On A Hike2021-08-03T07:11:44-04:00

Hiking Basics: What To Wear On A Hike

what to wear while hiking
Are you scratching your head, wondering what you should wear when hiking? If so, you’re not alone.

The topic can seem detailed at times, but not to worry. Stick around and be sure to read the whole article as we will dive into each item of clothing and it’s specific function and purpose.

In this article, we cover what you need to know about hiking clothes so that you can make your next hike a success.

We classify a hike as a success if you are able to arriving home safely, have had a fun time on the trail all while avoiding being sticky, sweaty, or soaking wet from the rain. With that being said, let’s dive into what should you wear while on a hike.

The quick answer is:

  • A Synthetic Shirt
  • Synthetic Underwear
  • Athletic Shorts
  • Pants
  • Fleece Shirt
  • Rain Jacket
  • Medium Length Socks
  • Hiking Boots/Shoes/Sandals
  • Hat
  • Gloves

What To Wear On A Hike


Materials are everything when it comes to a comfortable hiking experience, no matter what the season. If you get the materials right, you can enhance your experience tremendously

Dyneema: If you have the budget for dyneema, then go for it. This material is lightweight, waterproof and ridiculously strong.

Polyester: The best moisture-wicking material is 100 percent polyester. You want your base layer – garments that come into contact with your skin – to be made of this. It allows moisture to escape from the skin’s surface, keeping you comfortable and dry.

Waterproof fabric: Most waterproof fabrics feature several layers. You need all of these to protect you against the rain while keeping the clothing breathable. Typically, jackets feature a combination of a nylon or polyester outer layer, a coated or laminated PU of teflon membrane, and an inner tri-coat mesh to secure the membrane in place. Waterproof fabrics have different ratings depending on the volume of water they can support without leaking. Anything about 30 mm is excellent.

Down and synthetic down: If you’re hiking in cold conditions, you’ll need a downy hiking gear. You can either get clothes with traditional goose down or synthetic variants. Goose down can become matted over time compared to synthetic, but offers superior insulation.

Gore-tex: Gore-tex is a proprietary waterproof fabric and one of the best on the market. You typically find it on waterproof jackets and bottoms.


Depending on the conditions, you’ll want to take between two and four layers of tops with you on a hike. We run through them in sequence here, from inner to outer.

Base layer top: Your base layer is a short or long-sleeved shirt that comes into direct contact with your skin. The best base layer tops are made of 100 percent polyester – a sweat wicking material. During summer weather in temperatures above 70 degrees F, you can wear a base layer on its own.

Fleece: When the weather is cool and dry, you may want to add a fleece. Hiking fleeces combine polyester and cotton since the goal is to generate warmth, not to wick sweat from the body.

Thermal Jacket: Quality thermal jackets are down-stuffed jackets designed to trap pockets of air and keep you warm in cold weather. You’ll need to wear a jacket once temperatures fall below around 60 degrees F.

Outer shell: Some manufacturers incorporate outer shells into their thermal jackets. Others sell them separately. Some do both. Ultimately, it is up to you how you arrange your layers. Outersheels protect against the wind and rain. You can either put them on separately when conditions require it, or buy jackets that incorporate them already.


Just as with tops, you’ll want to arrange bottoms into layers depending on the weather and season. Here are the layers you should consider and when to use them.

Hiking pants/shorts: Hiking pants are made of quick-drying fabrics like nylon and spandex. If the weather is warm you can wear them by themselves without the need for any other layers. In summer weather, you can wear hiking shorts made of the same materials.

Tights: Tights are a base layer that you can wear under your hiking pants to keep you warm. Hiking tights are usually made of polyester or polyester-wool mixes, such as Merino.

Waterproof trousers: Waterproof trousers fit over your regular hiking trousers. They are made of waterproof materials, such as Gore-tex.

When choosing hiking outfits, consider comfort. Hiking pants should not rub on your skin. They should also be made of durable materials that can survive sitting on natural surfaces and brushing up against thorny plants.


For hiking, you need footwear that chimes with the type of terrain you are likely to cover.

Hiking shoes are low-cut around the ankles and feature flexible midsoles. These are the perfect shoes for day hiking or for when you plan to run part of your route. They are most suitable for flatter, smoother, less technical trail terrain.

Day hiking boots are a little more robust. These have a higher cut around the ankle, providing more support to the lower leg. Most shoes of this variety are designed for people hiking on day trips with relatively light pack weights.

Backpacking boots are for multi-day expeditions when you have to carry more weight. They are usually high cut, offering support to the entire ankle joint. They often feature inserts that help to cushion the feet for wearers with heavy packs. They work both on and off the trail.

Material choices are important too. Full leather boots offer good water resistance and perform well on rugged terrain. Synthetic materials are lighter than traditional leather and have better breathability. However, they may wear faster.

If you’re hiking in cold conditions, you may want to look for boots that offer additional insulation. This helps when hiking across snow or glaciers. If you plan on doing any mountaineering, you will need to check that your boots are crampon compatible. Not all are.


There are various hiking accessories that you could take with you on your trip:

  • Gaiters – They provide protection from branches and thorns and prevent mud and snow from entering the top of your shoes.
  • Waterproof Hiking Backpack – A good backpack will have utilize quality materials, be water proof, have convenient storage, be lightweight, and comfortable.
  • Gloves or Mittens – Mittens are best for extremely cold conditions, and gloves are good for grip and fine motor movements.
  • Neck Gaiter – Keeping the face and neck protected during icy weather or extreme sunshine and chafing.
  • Lightweight Wind Jacket – Great for stormy or windy conditions.
  • Warm Hat – Keeps core temperature up and keeps head and ears warm..

Warm hat
Bandana of buff
Sun hat

Check Out This Detailed Tutorial on What to Wear While On A Hike


Knowing what to wear hiking can be a challenge. However, once you understand some essential principles, hiking clothing is quite straightforward. Both hiking clothes for women and hiking clothes for men can help to make your experience much more pleasurable.