Knowing what to wear while hiking and backpacking is very important. Having the wrong footwear can result in painful blisters, being too hot can dehydrate you, being too cold is very uncomfortable… the list goes on.
Planning what to wear largely depends on the conditions you will be hiking in. There are some general rules to follow, and certain items you shouldn’t leave home without however. I will do my best to cover everything you need to know in this article.
Waterproof jackets, or hard shells as they are also called are your outer layer. This is the first line of defense against the elements, so you need to choose carefully and not leave home without it. (unless you’re hiking in perfect sunny conditions of course).
It’s worth investing in quality when choosing a jacket. If you’re doing mostly day hiking then pick a lightweight, breathable jacket. The colder and wetter the conditions, the heavier and more durable your jacket needs to be.
Choosing the right base layers is important to help you maintain the right body temperature when hiking. You will keep moisture off the skin in the wet, retain body warmth in the cold weather, and in the summer wear thin layers to keep your core temperature lower.
For example, synthetic materials are lightweight and will keep moisture out, ideal in the warmer weather. While wool materials are warmer and has a nice soft feel, ideal in colder weather.
Having a good pair of hiking pants is very important if you’re going to be comfortable. There are a lot of styles, fabrics, and types to choose from. Three of the most important considerations are; how many pockets you need, do they need to be convertible (does the bottom half zip off to turn them into shorts), and what material should they be.
Pockets – It’s hard to say that you can ever have too many packets. I’m sure you know all too well how useful it is having as many items close to hand as possible. For this reason, combat-style pants are almost always the best choice.
Convertibles – Having the option to zip the bottom half of the pants off to turn them into shorts in hot weather can be a lifesaver. You can wear these in all weathers and just not zip them off if it’s cold. There are some warmer pants for extreme cold however, pick the most appropriate material type for your hiking needs.
Material – When hiking in wet climates it’s common sense to wear waterproof pants. There are few things worse than soggy pants soaking through to your skin. There are some really comfortable fabrics, but you may want to wear waterproof pants just in case it rains, they are typically lightweight and comfortable.
If your budget allows you can buy a pair of combat pants that are convertible, waterproof, and durable, like these from Kuhl.
As I mentioned in the opener, having the wrong hiking boots can cause some painful foot problems. These problems can be avoided by choosing the best type of boots for the terrain and weather conditions you’re going to hike in.
Some of the different types of hiking boots and their uses are as follows:
Low-cut hiking boots – Low-cut hiking boots look a lot like regular shoes. They are flexible in the mid-sole and are very comfortable for hiking in the dry, across long journeys, and over normal terrains.
Mid-cut hiking boots – Mid-cut boots are higher around the ankles and provide more support around your ankle and heel. This type of hiking boot is better for backpacking and carrying some weight. As well as trekking over rougher terrains.
Backpacking boots – As the name suggests, backpacking boots are designed to be worn while backpacking. They have a lot of support around the ankles and strong mid-soles.
Good quality hiking boots with have reinforced stitching, breathable materials, and will not let you down. Not all hiking boots are designed to be waterproof, so look for waterproof-specific boots if you know you will be doing some wet weather hiking.
Some items of clothing that are more weather dependent include:
Sunglasses – Not everyone likes to wear sunglasses. If it’s sunny out you really should invest in a good pair though they protect your eyes.
Walking socks – If you’re camping in the hot weather you should take some walking socks. They help wick the sweat off your feet and prevent blisters.
Hat – It’s surprisingly to most how quickly a blazing hot sun can cause sunstroke or sunburn. Take a hat in hot weather to avoid this.
Gloves – An obvious choice for cold weather hiking.
As you can see from the above items there is some flexibility and a lot of what you wear depends on the environment. You absolutely have to be comfortable though, don’t even break in hiking shoes for the first time on a long hike. Try on all your other clothes before heading out too.
This covers what to wear while hiking and backpacking. When shopping for clothes always think practical before style. Have fun!