What to Wear Hiking: The Best Clothing Options
Going hiking is one of the best forms of exercise that you can do for yourself. You can get your heart rate up, go as far as you’d like to, and build strength by increasing the amount of incline that you’re hiking. One of the things that makes hiking better than going to a regular gym is that it is incredibly easy to get into because all you need to get started is a pair of shoes and a trail!
But as you get more advanced in your hiking, going further into the wilderness, you’re going to want to make some serious changes in your clothing. Gym clothing won’t due out in the backcountry! Why is that? Well for starters, the weather can change in an instant, making it incredibly dangerous to be outside without the right clothing on. That’s why the best clothing options for hiking are layers.
If you’ve never layered your clothing before or you’re looking to learn about some awesome options to upgrade your current layering system, you’re in the right place! We will help you figure out the best system for you so that you can remain safe all throughout your hike.
The outer most layer of your system is going to take the form of two kinds of clothing options: a warm jacket and/or a waterproof jacket. These will be your first lines of defense against the elements, so you should look for something that will keep you warm and dry in any environment.
For warm jackets, the best material that you’ll find for compressing down nicely in your backpack is down. Down is the same sort of material that geese and penguins use to keep warm in the harshest of conditions. When it is lofted up, it provides insulation like no other material.
A great option is the Drake Waterfowl Double Down Jacket. If you are looking to buy a down outdoors jacket on a tighter budget, consider the Columbia Autumn Park Down Jacket for Men.
Ariat has an excellent down jacket for women that is stylish, affordable, and versatile. If cost is not an option and you are looking for a down jacket that will serve its purpose, consider the Columbia Autumn Park Down Hooded Mid Jacket.
In addition to a good down jacket, you’ll want to also have a rain jacket that will keep you dry should the weather change from bright and sunny to dark and rainy. Rain jackets will help guard you against getting wet, which can make staying warm incredibly difficult.
When your clothing and skin gets wet, air blows over it and heat is transferred away from your body. All it takes is for temperatures to dip below 50°F for you to start to experience symptoms of hypothermia, so on a relatively cool, rainy day, you can be in real danger if you’re not prepared.
Rain jackets that have hoods are the best, as you’ll want to make sure that your head is covered should it begin raining while you’re hiking.
The Simms Challenger Rain Jacket for Men is an excellent option that is versatile enough for fishing, hiking, camping, or even handling some work around the yard on a rainy day. For a lighter, more cost-effective option, the Ascend 2.0 Rain Jacket might do the trick.
Ascend also makes a comparable rain jacket for the ladies. If blending in with the outdoors in more your style, the SHE Outdoor Performance Rain Jacket is an attractive and functional camouflage-patterned option with strong reviews.
Once you have picked out a good warm layer and waterproof layer, it’s time to consider the next layer that you’ll wear while hiking.
The mid layer is important as it will provide you with additional insulation, which will help you keep a lot warmer when you have your down jacket on than when you don’t. It is also helpful to wear when the weather is too warm for wearing a down jacket but is still too chilly to just wear your base layer.
Mid layers can be made out of a variety of fabrics, but the best ones to take with you will be made out of polyester or merino wool. These two fabrics will be incredibly lightweight for how much they weigh and also help you stay dry by wicking away moisture when they get wet.
The last thing you want to do is wear cotton while out hiking. Cotton absorbs water and holds onto it for a long time, making it difficult to dry out. As mentioned before, being wet in the backcountry can be disastrous, so give yourself the best chance to stay warm by avoiding cotton at all costs!
The best way to find a mid-layer is to search for a fleece jacket that is made out of polyester or merino wool. Fleece will help you stay warm, even when it gets wet. This makes it unparalleled in its value while wearing it in the backcountry. Fleece jackets are lightweight too, making them easily packable if you need to take it off when you get too hot.
The RedHead Fleece Jacket for Men is a popular option that is both comfortable and affordable. For the ladies, the Columbia Collegiate Give Full-Zip Fleece Jacket is incredibly stylish and comfortable as a mid-layer or a stand-alone outer layer in Spring and Fall.
Finally, you need to be sure to wear an appropriate base layer when you go hiking. Appropriate basically means that you’re wearing something that will match the general weather conditions.
If you’re hiking in warm weather, where the high will get above 60°F, you’ll want something that is short sleeved and lightweight. That way, if you get hot, you can help yourself cool down with a nice t-shirt. If temperatures aren’t going to be too warm during the day, it’s better to wear a warm, long sleeved base layer to help your body stay insulated against the cold.
Regardless of how warm or cold it’s going to be, remember to avoid cotton! Choose a base layer that is made out of polyester or merino wool for the best results. Aside from being able to wick away moisture, these fabrics are also breathable, making them very comfortable even when you are hot.
For the guys, the RedHead Lightweight Crew-Neck Base Layer Long-Sleeve Shirt is affordable, comes in a variety of earthy colors, and it has thumb-holes to keep the sleeves from riding!
On warmer days, or days where you may be relying on your outer or mid-layers for warmth, ladies may enjoy the Under Armour Freedom Tech V-Neck Short-Sleeve T-Shirt.
Final Thoughts on What to Wear Hiking
Layers will help you regulate your body temperature by allowing you to put on more when you’re feeling cold and stripping off a few when you’re feeling hot. Remember that the weather can changed quickly, especially in mountainous environments, so it’s best to go prepared every time you go hiking out there.
There are a lot of options for layers out there, so it’s important to shop for the clothing that best suits your needs.
As for shoes, be sure to check out our complete guide to choosing the best footwear for hiking.
And, no matter what, avoid clothing made out of cotton!