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What To Wear On A Hiking Trip


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Antoinette Gross



Embarking on a hiking trip is an exhilarating opportunity to connect with nature and explore breathtaking landscapes. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a beginner, proper clothing is key to ensuring your comfort, safety, and enjoyment throughout your adventure. Knowing what to wear on a hiking trip can make all the difference, as the right clothing will protect you from the elements and provide the freedom of movement necessary for tackling challenging terrains.


When it comes to hiking apparel, it’s essential to strike a balance between functionality and comfort. The clothing you choose should be durable, lightweight, and breathable, allowing your body to regulate temperature and moisture effectively. In this article, we will delve into the essential clothing items and accessories required for a successful hiking trip, providing you with valuable insights to help you make informed decisions.


As you read through the following sections, keep in mind that the specific clothing you’ll need can vary depending on factors such as the weather, the duration of your hike, and the difficulty of the terrain. It’s vital to consider the environmental conditions and plan accordingly to ensure you have the appropriate gear for your adventure. So, let’s dive into what to wear on a hiking trip to maximize your comfort and safety.


Essential Clothing

When it comes to hiking, certain clothing items are considered essential for your comfort and protection. Let’s take a look at each of these essential pieces:

  1. Hiking Pants: Look for pants that are lightweight, breathable, and quick-drying. Choose a pair with a durable fabric that provides freedom of movement and has reinforced knees for added durability.
  2. Hiking Shorts: If you prefer shorts, opt for a pair that is made of quick-drying material and provides ample freedom of movement. Look for shorts with multiple pockets for easy storage of small essentials.
  3. Hiking Shirts: Choose moisture-wicking, quick-drying shirts to keep you comfortable on the trail. Look for options with UPF protection to shield you from the sun’s harmful rays.
  4. Base Layers: Base layers are crucial for regulating your body temperature. Choose lightweight, moisture-wicking tops and bottoms to keep you cool in hot weather and warm in cold conditions.
  5. Hiking Socks: Invest in good-quality hiking socks that provide cushioning and moisture-wicking capabilities. Look for socks made of merino wool or synthetic blends to prevent blisters and keep your feet dry.
  6. Hiking Underwear: Opt for moisture-wicking, seamless underwear to minimize chafing and discomfort during your hike.

These essential clothing items will ensure your comfort, protect you from the elements, and allow for easy movement on the trail. However, keep in mind that your choice of clothing should always be tailored to the specific weather conditions and terrain you’ll encounter on your hiking trip. It’s crucial to check the weather forecast and research the trail conditions beforehand to make informed decisions about the clothing you bring.


Hiking Footwear

Choosing the right footwear is paramount when it comes to hiking. Your shoes or boots should provide adequate support, traction, and protection for your feet throughout the journey. Here are some key points to consider when selecting hiking footwear:

  • Hiking Boots: If you plan on tackling challenging terrains or carrying a heavy backpack, sturdy hiking boots are essential. Look for boots that provide ankle support, a durable outsole for traction, and waterproof or water-resistant materials to keep your feet dry.
  • Hiking Shoes: For less demanding hikes on well-maintained trails, hiking shoes may be more suitable. These offer a lighter and more flexible alternative to boots, still providing good traction and protection.
  • Proper Fit: Regardless of whether you choose boots or shoes, ensure they fit properly. Ill-fitting footwear can lead to discomfort, blisters, and even foot injuries. Take the time to try on different brands and models, and consider getting professionally fitted at a specialty outdoor store.
  • Break Them In: Before embarking on a long hike, it’s crucial to break in your footwear. Wear them on shorter hikes or during everyday activities to allow your feet to adjust and prevent discomfort during your trip.
  • Socks: Don’t overlook the importance of good-quality socks. Opt for moisture-wicking, cushioned socks that provide support and prevent blisters. It’s a good idea to bring an extra pair of socks to change into during extended hikes.

Your choice of footwear will depend on the terrain, weather conditions, and personal preference. It’s always a good idea to research the specific trail and conditions beforehand to determine the most suitable footwear. Remember, investing in high-quality hiking footwear is vital for your comfort and safety on the trail, so choose wisely and take care of your feet.


Layering System

The layering system is a fundamental concept in outdoor apparel that allows hikers to effectively regulate body temperature and stay comfortable in changing weather conditions. By wearing multiple layers, you can easily adjust your outfit to accommodate fluctuations in temperature and activity levels. Here’s how to build an effective layering system:

  1. Base Layer: The base layer is the first layer of clothing directly against your skin. It should be moisture-wicking and comfortable. Choose a lightweight and breathable material, such as merino wool or synthetic blends, that helps draw sweat away from your body.
  2. Mid Layer: The mid layer provides insulation and warmth. Fleece jackets or synthetic insulated jackets are commonly used as mid layers. They trap body heat while remaining lightweight and breathable.
  3. Outer Layer: The outer layer, also known as the shell layer, protects against wind, rain, and snow. Look for a waterproof and windproof jacket that has breathable properties to prevent you from overheating during intense activities.

The layering system allows you to add or remove clothing items as needed, ensuring you stay comfortable without overheating or getting too cold. It’s important to choose clothing that can be easily added or removed and packed small when not in use.


Remember that the specific layers you choose and the number of layers you wear will depend on the weather conditions and personal preference. It’s important to consider the temperature, wind, humidity, and forecasted weather when deciding how to layer your clothing.


By using an effective layering system, you can stay comfortable and protected from the elements, allowing you to fully enjoy your hiking experience.


Backpack and Gear

Choosing the right backpack and gear is essential for a successful and comfortable hiking trip. Here are some key considerations when selecting your backpack and other hiking gear:

  • Backpack: Look for a backpack that is comfortable, supportive, and appropriately sized for the duration of your hike. Consider the capacity, fit, and features such as adjustable straps, hip belts for weight distribution, and compartments for organization. Make sure the backpack is durable and water-resistant or comes with a rain cover to protect your belongings.
  • Hiking Poles: Hiking poles provide stability, especially on steep and uneven terrain. They can also help reduce strain on your knees and provide balance during river crossings or challenging descents. Choose poles that are adjustable, lightweight, and sturdy.
  • Navigation Tools: It’s essential to have navigation tools such as a map, compass, and GPS device to ensure you stay on the right track. Familiarize yourself with the area and use these tools to navigate trails.
  • Headlamp or Flashlight: A reliable headlamp or flashlight is crucial, especially for hikes that continue into low-light conditions or overnight trips. Ensure you have enough battery life and bring spare batteries.
  • First Aid Kit: Carry a well-stocked first aid kit that includes essentials such as bandages, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and any necessary personal medications.
  • Water Bottle and Filtration System: Stay hydrated by carrying a sturdy water bottle or hydration bladder. Additionally, consider a water filtration system, especially when hiking in areas without reliable water sources.
  • Snacks and Meals: Pack lightweight, nutritious snacks and meals that provide energy on the trail. Choose items that are easy to eat and require minimal preparation.

Remember to evaluate the specific needs of your hiking trip and pack accordingly. Consider the length of the hike, the terrain, weather conditions, and any special requirements depending on the location.


Having the right backpack and gear ensures you’re prepared for any situation, helping to make your hiking trip safe and enjoyable.


Headwear and Accessories

Headwear and accessories play a crucial role in protecting your head, face, and eyes from the elements while hiking. Here are some essential items to consider:

  • Sun Hat or Cap: A wide-brimmed sun hat or a cap with a visor is essential for shielding your face and eyes from the sun’s harmful rays. Look for lightweight, breathable materials with UPF protection.
  • Sunglasses: Invest in a pair of sunglasses with UV protection to protect your eyes from the sun’s glare. Look for sunglasses that are durable, lightweight, and have polarized lenses for optimal clarity and reduction of glare.
  • Buff or Neck Gaiter: A versatile accessory like a buff or neck gaiter can provide protection for your neck, face, or head. It can be worn as a headband, neck warmer, or even as a face covering in dusty or cold conditions.
  • Gloves: Depending on the weather and the terrain, a pair of lightweight gloves or thermal gloves may be necessary to protect your hands and provide grip during challenging sections of the trail.
  • Insect Repellent: In areas where insects are prevalent, don’t forget to pack insect repellent to ward off mosquitoes, ticks, and other pesky bugs.
  • Sunscreen: Protect your skin from harmful UV rays by applying sunscreen with a high SPF rating before starting your hike. Remember to reapply regularly, especially if you sweat excessively or come into contact with water.
  • Bandana or Sweatband: A bandana or sweatband can come in handy for wiping sweat, keeping your hair out of your face, or even providing temporary relief from the heat by wetting it in water and draping it around your neck.

These headwear and accessory items will enhance your comfort and protect you from the elements while hiking. Always consider the specific weather conditions, terrain, and the duration of your hike when deciding which accessories to bring.


By being properly equipped with the right headwear and accessories, you can enjoy a more enjoyable and comfortable hiking experience.


Rain Gear

When hiking in wet weather or unpredictable conditions, having proper rain gear is crucial to keep you dry and comfortable. Here are some essential items to consider:

  • Rain Jacket: Invest in a high-quality, waterproof, and breathable rain jacket to protect you from rain and wind. Look for sealed seams and adjustable hoods and cuffs for added protection.
  • Rain Pants: Pair your rain jacket with waterproof rain pants to keep your lower body dry. Make sure the rain pants are lightweight and have adjustable features for a snug fit over your hiking pants.
  • Waterproof Backpack Cover: To protect your gear from water damage, consider using a waterproof backpack cover. It’s a simple yet effective way to keep your belongings dry during a downpour.
  • Rain Hat or Hood: In addition to your rain jacket’s hood, a rain hat or a brimmed hat with a waterproof lining can provide extra protection for your face and neck.
  • Waterproof Storage Bags: Keep your essential items and electronics dry by storing them in waterproof storage bags or dry sacks. These can be a lifesaver for keeping your gear safe and dry, especially during prolonged periods of rain.

It’s important to remember that no rain gear is completely impenetrable, and prolonged exposure to heavy rain can still result in some moisture getting through. Nevertheless, investing in high-quality rain gear will significantly reduce the chances of getting soaked and can make a difference in your overall comfort on the trail.


Before heading out on a hike, always check the weather forecast and be prepared with the appropriate rain gear. Being equipped with proper rain protection will allow you to confidently face rainy conditions and ensure an enjoyable hiking experience, no matter what the weather brings.


Cold Weather Clothing

When hiking in cold weather, it’s crucial to dress appropriately to stay warm and protect yourself from the elements. Here are some essential cold weather clothing items to consider:

  • Insulated Jacket or Fleece: Layering is key to regulating body temperature in cold weather. Wear an insulated jacket or fleece as a mid-layer to provide insulation and trap body heat.
  • Thermal Base Layers: Invest in thermal base layers made of merino wool or synthetic materials to provide warmth and moisture-wicking properties. These will keep you comfortable and dry even when you perspire during strenuous activities.
  • Warm Hat and Gloves: To protect your extremities, wear a warm hat and gloves. Opt for materials that are insulating and moisture-wicking to keep your head and hands warm without causing excessive perspiration.
  • Neck Gaiter or Balaclava: Keep your face and neck protected from the cold with a neck gaiter or balaclava. These versatile accessories can be adjusted to provide just the right amount of coverage.
  • Insulated Pants: Depending on the temperature, insulated pants or thermal leggings can provide extra warmth for your lower body. Look for pants that are windproof and water-resistant for added protection.
  • Warm Socks: Choose thick, moisture-wicking socks made of wool or synthetic blends to keep your feet warm and dry. Layering with a pair of liner socks can provide extra insulation and prevent blisters.
  • Hand and Toe Warmers: If you’re expecting extremely cold temperatures, consider bringing hand and toe warmers. These small packs generate heat and can provide extra warmth when necessary.

It’s essential to wear layers and adjust accordingly based on your level of activity and the temperature. Remember to dress in breathable and moisture-wicking materials to prevent sweating, which can lead to discomfort and chills when you stop moving.


Regardless of the weather, always be prepared for changing conditions. Check the weather forecast before your hike and bring additional layers or cold weather gear as needed.


By dressing appropriately for cold weather, you can stay warm and comfortable, allowing you to fully enjoy your hiking adventure even in chilly temperatures.


Hiking Pants and Shorts

Choosing the right hiking pants or shorts is essential to ensure your comfort and mobility on the trail. Here are some factors to consider when selecting your hiking bottoms:

  • Hiking Pants: Hiking pants are a versatile option for various weather conditions and terrains. Look for pants that are made of lightweight, quick-drying, and durable fabric. Consider options with zip-off legs, allowing you to easily convert them into shorts when the weather gets warmer.
  • Hiking Shorts: If you prefer hiking in shorts, choose a pair that offers freedom of movement and is made of moisture-wicking and quick-drying material. Look for shorts with multiple pockets for convenient storage of small essentials.
  • Fit: Regardless of whether you choose pants or shorts, opt for a comfortable and functional fit. The bottoms should allow for a full range of motion without being too tight or restrictive. Look for options with gusseted crotches for added flexibility.
  • Durability: Hiking bottoms should be durable enough to withstand the rigors of the trail. Look for reinforced knee panels or abrasion-resistant fabric in areas prone to wear and tear.
  • Weather Protection: Consider the weather conditions you’ll be hiking in and choose pants or shorts that provide the appropriate level of protection. Look for options with water-resistant or waterproof coatings for wet environments, or pants with integrated sun protection for hot and sunny climates.

It’s important to try on different styles and brands to find the fit and features that suit you best. Consider your personal preferences, the climate of your hiking destination, and the length and difficulty of your hike when making your decision.


Remember to also consider the type of terrain you’ll be traversing. For rugged or brushy trails, pants may provide better protection against scratches and insect bites. However, for hot and humid conditions, shorts may offer more breathability and freedom of movement.


By choosing the right hiking pants or shorts, you can ensure comfort, protection, and optimal performance on the trail, allowing you to focus on enjoying your hiking experience to the fullest.


Hiking Shirts and Tops

Choosing the right hiking shirts and tops is essential for your comfort and performance on the trail. Here are some key factors to consider when selecting your hiking tops:

  • Moisture-Wicking Fabric: Look for shirts and tops made of moisture-wicking materials such as merino wool or synthetic blends. These fabrics help to pull sweat away from your body, keeping you dry and comfortable during your hike.
  • Quick-Drying: Hiking shirts and tops that dry quickly are ideal, especially in wet or humid conditions. This feature allows you to stay comfortable even if you encounter rain or sweat heavily.
  • UPF Protection: Consider shirts and tops with UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating to shield your skin from harmful UV rays. This is especially important when hiking in sunny or high-altitude locations.
  • Ventilation: Look for shirts and tops with ventilation features such as mesh panels or zippered vents. These allow for increased airflow, keeping you cool and preventing overheating during strenuous activities.
  • Fit: Choose tops with a comfortable and functional fit. They should provide enough room for movement without being too tight or restrictive. Consider options with articulated sleeves and stretchy fabrics for enhanced mobility.
  • Layering Compatibility: Ensure that your chosen hiking tops can easily be layered with other clothing items, such as base layers, fleeces, or jackets. This allows for versatile temperature control in various weather conditions.
  • Color and Design: While not directly related to performance, consider choosing tops in brighter or more visible colors, which can improve visibility on the trail for safety purposes, especially during hunting seasons.

In addition to the features listed above, it’s important to think about the specific needs and conditions of your hiking trip. For hot climates, prioritize lightweight and breathable fabrics, whereas for colder temperatures, consider long-sleeved tops or those that can be easily layered.


Ultimately, the best hiking shirts and tops are the ones that suit your personal preferences and meet the requirements of your hiking adventure. Experiment with different options and brands to find the combination of features and materials that work well for you.


By choosing the right hiking shirts and tops, you can stay comfortable, protected, and ready to tackle any trail with confidence.


Base Layers

Base layers are a vital component of your hiking attire, providing a foundation for comfort and temperature regulation. Here’s what you need to know about base layers:

  • Material: Choose base layers made of moisture-wicking materials like merino wool or synthetic blends. These fabrics help to transport sweat away from your body, keeping you dry and reducing the likelihood of chills.
  • Insulation: Consider the climate and conditions you’ll be hiking in to determine the appropriate level of insulation for your base layers. Thicker base layers provide more warmth in colder weather, while lighter ones are suitable for warmer conditions.
  • Fit: Base layers should fit snugly but not restrictively, allowing for easy movement and layering. They should contour to your body and provide a comfortable, second-skin feel.
  • Layering: Base layers serve as the foundation for your layering system. Pair them with mid and outer layers to trap heat and create insulation for cold conditions. In warmer weather, base layers can be worn on their own.
  • Long Sleeve or Short Sleeve: Choose between long-sleeve and short-sleeve base layers based on the weather and personal preference. Long sleeves provide additional warmth, sun protection, and versatility for layering.
  • Odor Control: Look for base layers that have odor control properties, especially for longer trips or multi-day hikes. Merino wool base layers, in particular, naturally resist odor buildup.
  • Multiple Pairs: Plan to bring multiple pairs of base layers, especially for longer hikes. This allows for rotating and drying out sweaty or wet base layers to maintain comfort throughout your journey.

Base layers are designed to keep you comfortable by regulating body temperature and moisture levels. They wick away sweat and provide insulation, keeping you warm in cool conditions and cool in warmer weather.


Whether you’re hiking in cold or warm climates, investing in high-quality base layers is a wise choice. They form the foundation of your hiking attire, ensuring your comfort and helping you to fully enjoy your outdoor adventure.


Hiking Socks

Hiking socks are a crucial component of your hiking gear, providing comfort, support, and moisture-wicking properties to keep your feet happy throughout your journey. Here’s what you need to know about choosing the right hiking socks:

  • Material: Opt for hiking socks made of moisture-wicking materials like merino wool or synthetic blends. These fabrics help to keep your feet dry by wicking away moisture and preventing sweaty feet.
  • Cushioning: Consider the level of cushioning you require based on the terrain and the weight you’ll be carrying. Thicker cushioning provides more impact absorption and is suitable for rough or rocky terrain, while lighter cushioning is appropriate for easier trails.
  • Height: Hiking socks come in various heights, from ankle to knee-high. Consider the conditions and personal preference when selecting the right height for your hike. Crew-height socks are a popular choice as they provide a balance between coverage and breathability.
  • Fit: Find hiking socks that fit well without being too tight or too loose. They should hug your feet and stay in place, preventing blisters and reducing friction. Look for socks with extra support in the arch and ankle areas.
  • Seamless Design: Choose socks with seamless construction to minimize irritation and potential rubbing against your skin. This reduces the risk of blisters and enhances overall comfort.
  • Layering: For colder conditions, consider layering your hiking socks by wearing a thin liner sock underneath thicker hiking socks. This can provide added insulation and prevent blisters caused by excessive friction.
  • Bring Extra Pairs: It’s important to pack extra pairs of socks for your hiking trip. This allows you to change into fresh, dry socks when needed, preventing discomfort and reducing the risk of blisters and foot issues.

Investing in high-quality hiking socks is essential to ensure the well-being of your feet on the trail. They provide cushioning, support, moisture management, and temperature regulation, ultimately enhancing your overall hiking experience.


Remember, everyone’s feet are unique, so it’s essential to try on different brands and models to find the socks that fit your feet perfectly. Take the time to find the right hiking socks, and your feet will thank you during those long, rewarding hikes.


Hiking Underwear

Choosing the right underwear for hiking might not be the first thing that comes to mind when planning your outdoor adventure, but it’s an important consideration for your comfort and hygiene on the trail. Here’s what you need to know about hiking underwear:

  • Material: Look for moisture-wicking, quick-drying materials such as synthetic blends or merino wool for your hiking underwear. Avoid cotton, as it tends to retain moisture and can lead to discomfort and chafing.
  • Fit: Choose underwear that fits well without being too tight or too loose. It should provide support without causing restrictions or bunching up. Consider styles with a snug, athletic fit to minimize friction and chafing.
  • Seamless Design: Opt for underwear with seamless construction or flatlock seams to reduce irritation and rubbing against your skin. This helps in preventing chafing during long hikes.
  • Moisture Management: Hiking underwear should effectively wick away moisture and keep you dry. This is especially important to prevent chafing and discomfort during intense physical activity or in hot weather.
  • Odor Control: Look for underwear with odor-control properties to minimize odor buildup during multi-day hikes. Merino wool is known for its natural antimicrobial properties, making it an excellent choice for reducing odor.
  • Bring Extra Pairs: It’s a good idea to carry extra pairs of underwear on your hiking trip. This allows you to change into fresh, dry pairs when needed, ensuring optimal hygiene and comfort.

When it comes to hiking underwear, personal preference plays a significant role. Some hikers prefer briefs for a more secure fit, while others opt for boxers or boxer briefs for added coverage and support. It’s important to choose what feels most comfortable for you.


Remember, hiking underwear is an essential part of your overall hiking gear lineup, so take the time to choose moisture-wicking, well-fitting options that will keep you dry, comfortable, and odor-free throughout your hiking adventures.


Sleeping Gear

Having the right sleeping gear is crucial for a restful and comfortable night’s sleep during your hiking trips, especially if you plan on camping overnight. Here are some essential items to consider:

  • Sleeping Bag: Choose a sleeping bag that suits the expected temperature range of your hiking destination. Look for one that is lightweight, compact, and has a temperature rating suitable for the lowest expected temperature.
  • Sleeping Pad: Invest in a sleeping pad to provide insulation and cushioning between you and the ground. Look for options that are lightweight, easy to inflate, and provide adequate thickness for comfort.
  • Pillow: While optional, a camping pillow can significantly enhance your comfort while sleeping. Look for compressible and lightweight pillows that offer good neck and head support.
  • Tent or Shelter: If you plan on camping, make sure you have a suitable tent or shelter that provides protection from the elements. Look for a tent that is easy to set up, lightweight, and offers good ventilation and weather resistance.
  • Groundsheet or Tarp: Consider using a groundsheet or tarp underneath your tent for added protection against moisture, sharp objects, and ground-coldness. This extra layer can help extend the lifespan of your tent and keep you dry.
  • Sleeping Clothes: Have a dedicated set of clean and comfortable sleeping clothes to wear at night. These should be loose-fitting and appropriate for the expected temperature range to ensure a restful sleep.
  • Ear Plugs and Eye Mask: If you’re a light sleeper, earplugs and an eye mask can be valuable accessories for reducing noise and blocking out light, allowing you to sleep more soundly in unfamiliar environments.

When it comes to sleeping gear, it’s important to consider the specific conditions and requirements of your hiking trip. Research the expected temperatures and weather conditions to ensure your sleeping gear will keep you comfortable and protected.


Remember, a good night’s sleep is essential for your overall well-being and enjoyment of your hiking adventure. By investing in high-quality sleeping gear and creating a comfortable sleeping setup, you can recharge and wake up ready for another day of excitement on the trail.



Choosing the right clothing and gear for your hiking trip is crucial for your comfort, safety, and enjoyment on the trail. By considering the specific weather conditions, terrain, and duration of your adventure, you can make informed decisions about what to wear and bring. Here’s a recap of the key points to keep in mind when preparing for a hiking trip:

  • Select clothing items made of moisture-wicking, quick-drying, and breathable materials to keep you comfortable and dry throughout your hike.
  • Layering is essential for temperature regulation. Use a base layer, mid layer, and outer layer to adapt to changing weather conditions.
  • Invest in high-quality hiking footwear that provides support, traction, and protection for your feet.
  • Headwear and accessories, such as hats, sunglasses, and buffs, provide crucial protection from the sun, wind, and elements.
  • Be prepared for rain by bringing a waterproof jacket, pants, and backpack cover to keep you and your gear dry.
  • In cold weather, choose insulating layers, warm socks, and accessories to stay warm and comfortable.
  • Hiking pants and shorts should be durable, lightweight, and provide freedom of movement.
  • Base layers, such as tops and bottoms, made of moisture-wicking materials, are crucial for temperature regulation and comfort.
  • Hiking socks made of moisture-wicking materials provide cushioning, support, and protection for your feet.
  • Consider the importance of proper underwear for moisture management and preventing chafing during your hike.
  • For overnight trips, choose appropriate sleeping gear, including a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tent or shelter, and comfortable sleeping clothes.

Remember, everyone’s hiking needs and preferences may vary, so it’s important to experiment, customizing your gear setup to suit you best. Plan ahead, research your hiking destination, and strive to strike a balance between functionality, comfort, and personal style.


By being well-prepared and equipped with the right clothing and gear, you can maximize your comfort, safety, and enjoyment while exploring the great outdoors on your hiking adventures.