How To Dress For Hiking (Expert Advice)

Hiking is a great way to get some exercise, spend time in nature and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors. 

But if you’re going to be hiking for more than an hour or two, it’s important that you dress properly. 

The right clothes can help keep you warm on chilly days and cool on hot ones and make sure your skin doesn’t get sunburned. 

It also helps if your clothes are comfortable and rugged enough for an active day on the trail. In this article we’ll discuss ways to dress for hiking as well as what not to wear when you hit the trails

What to Wear Hiking
Key Takeaways – What to Wear Hiking
Plan ahead and check the weather forecast before choosing what outfits to wear for a hike.
Layering is important for temperature regulation and adapting to changing weather conditions.
Choose moisture-wicking and quick-drying fabrics to prevent discomfort and chafing.
Wear sturdy and comfortable footwear to protect your feet and prevent injury.
Don’t forget to wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays.

Wear Clothes That Are Comfortable, Flexible And Breathable

It is important to wear clothing that is comfortable, flexible, and breathable. There are many different types of clothing available today (both types you can buy or make yourself) and each has its benefits. 

Breathable fabrics such as nylon or polyester are good choices because they allow moisture vapors to escape through the fabric. 

Cotton may be comfortable but it absorbs water so should not be worn when hiking in wet conditions unless you want to get soaked!

Durable fabrics like wool and polypropylene are also suitable for hiking boots and pants because they do not easily tear or wear out under stress. 

Lightweight materials like fleece jackets provide warmth without adding too much extra weight in your pack but take care if it rains as you won’t be able to just wipe off any splashes from a raincoat like some other fabrics would allow.

When packing a hiking backpack, it’s important to organize and prioritize your gear. Start with the essentials like water, food, and a map, then focus on packing your heaviest items in the center of your pack to maintain balance. Check out our guide for how to pack a hiking backpack for more tips on what to bring and how to pack efficiently.

Don’t Wear Cotton

Don’t wear cotton. It’s slow to dry, it absorbs sweat and holds it against your skin, it’s heavy and not very breathable, and the list goes on.

Cotton is often itchy especially if you’re doing any kind of physical activity in hot weather. It also gets heavy when wet, which makes hiking harder as well as uncomfortable.

Some people love hiking in cotton clothes because they can be more casual looking than synthetic fibers; however, this is also a reason why they should avoid cotton unless necessary (like sleeping).

Put On A Pair Of Base Layers

Base layers are the first step to staying warm, dry and comfortable on your next hike. Base layers wick sweat away from your skin, which keeps you from feeling clammy and ensures that you’re not dripping wet by the time you reach the top of a mountain (or halfway up it). 

They can be made of wool, synthetic or down, but they should be comfortable and flexible so that they don’t get in the way while hiking. 

They should also be breathable to allow moisture to escape—without this feature there’s no point in wearing them!

Hiking can be a fun and rewarding activity but preparing for a hike requires some planning. Before heading out, make sure you have the right gear and know the terrain. Our guide on training for hiking offers some valuable tips for beginners and seasoned hikers alike, including strength training exercises and how to build endurance.

Pack Extra Layers

The most important thing to remember when packing for a hike is that you should bring layers, and lots of them. Most hikers will tell you this, but the reason is simple: 

The weather on a hike can change dramatically in just minutes. It’s not uncommon for it to start out sunny, cool and dry then turn into a thunderstorm with sleet or even rain. 

You need to be prepared for both warm weather and cold weather (even if it’s just slightly cold).

So what should go in your backpack? Here are some guidelines:

Dress In Layers Made Of Synthetics Or Wool Or Down

Synthetic fabrics are more durable than natural fibers and they tend to be more resistant to water and wind. They’re also less likely to absorb water, so they dry quickly. 

On top of that, synthetic fabrics are often more breathable than natural ones, which means you won’t get as hot or sweaty in them (especially if it gets really hot outside).

There are some things to consider when choosing your hiking clothes:

You want clothing made out of synthetic fabrics (nylon is an example) because these materials are sturdier than natural fibers such as cotton or wool and will last longer with repeated washings. 

This can be important if you plan on doing a lot of outdoor activities like hiking because your clothing will need regular cleaning from all the dirt you pick up while working up a sweat outdoors!

Choosing the right backpacking gear can make a big difference in your overall experience. From ultralight tents to water filtration systems, there are many options to consider. Check out our guide on how to pack a hiking backpack for expert advice on the best backpacking gear to bring on your next adventure.

Keep Your Core Warm

When you’re hiking, your body is working hard and generating heat to keep you warm, so you don’t need as much insulation where there’s not as much activity. 

The important thing is to keep your core the center of your body where all the vital organs are warm. 

That means wearing a hat, gloves or mittens (depending on how cold it is) and possibly even a scarf or neck gaiter if you feel like being festive. 

You can also wear down jackets or vests in milder temperatures; these provide extra insulation without adding bulk underneath an outer layer if it gets really cold for a moment or two. 

Finally, bringing along rain shells that have pit zips will let you ventilate when needed without letting any water seep through the fabric itself

Wear Proper Socks And Boots

You might be tempted to wear flip-flops or sneakers, but hiking boots are the best option for keeping your feet dry and comfortable. 

They should fit snugly, and have extra space at the toe in case you need to wear thick socks. Remember: just because you’re hiking doesn’t mean that you don’t need proper footwear!

Wool socks are also recommended; they’ll keep your feet warm even when wet, so they’re ideal for cold days or when hiking along snow-covered trails. 

Just remember that wool can take some time to dry out if it gets wet, so bring an extra pair of dry socks with you if possible.

One of the most essential items to bring on any hiking trip is a map of the area. Knowing the terrain and where to find water sources or campsites can help you plan your route and avoid getting lost. Our guide on important tools for hiking covers what you need to know about choosing the right map, compass, and other essential tools for your next hike.

Protect Your Eyes And Skin From The Sun With Sunglasses And Spf Clothing

You know the sun can be harsh on your skin and eyes, and you want to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays. 

You should wear sunglasses that block 100% of UV light. You should also use sunscreen with at least SPF 30 and 4 or more stars for UVA protection.

If you are hiking in an area where there are trees or other shade, you can wear a long sleeve shirt to cover up your skin from the sun. 

If it is hot out, make sure to wear pants as well! Be sure to check for ticks frequently if you are hiking in an area known for having them because they can cause Lyme disease (a bacterial infection).

Lastly, wearing a hat will help protect your scalp from getting burned by the sun as well! Always remember: safety first when hiking outdoors!

Don’t Forget To Protect Your Extremities

Protect your extremities, particularly your hands and feet. The high altitudes can make you lose feeling in them, so it’s best to keep them protected as much as possible. 

Wear a hat to shield your face from the sun and cold wind. Instead of just a simple baseball cap, choose one with a brim that extends past the crown of your head so it provides more protection from both elements. 

Wear gloves or mittens to help protect against frostbite in case you get stuck outside overnight or if one of your hands becomes frostbitten while hiking on an icy mountain trail.

Gaiters are another piece of clothing that will keep moisture away from your body when hiking through wet areas and mud puddles they’re basically waterproof leg coverings below the knee that also serve as a barrier between your pants/shorts (or skirt) and shoes/boots (or sneakers). 

They’re available at most outdoor stores such as REI or Cabela’s, but gaiters can also be purchased online from retailers like Amazon for less than $10-$20 USD depending on how high-quality you need them to be and they last for years!

Hiking is a great way to stay active and enjoy the outdoors, but it’s important to prepare your body for the physical demands of the trail. Our guide on hiking and fitness offers some useful tips on how to improve your cardiovascular endurance, build strength, and prevent injury while hiking. Incorporating these fitness tips into your routine can help you get the most out of your hiking experience.

Gear Up For Rain With A Waterproof Jacket And Pants

You don’t want to get soaked, so make sure all of your clothing is waterproof. Wear a rain jacket, pants, hat and boots; waterproof gloves; and waterproof socks. 

If you’re wearing a backpack (which we recommend), make sure it also has a raincover.

Gear Up for Rain: Waterproof Clothing Checklist

Clothing ItemDescription
Waterproof JacketA rain jacket made with water-resistant materials to protect your upper body from getting damp.
Waterproof PantsPants made with rain-repellent materials that are lightweight and packable.
Rain HatA water-resistant hat to protect your head and face from raindrops.
Rain BootsBoots made with waterproof materials to keep your feet dry and comfortable during a rainy hike.
Waterproof GlovesGloves made with water-repellent materials that keep your hands dry and warm.
Waterproof SocksSocks made with water-resistant materials that keep your feet dry and comfortable during a rainy hike.

Pack An Insulating Hat, Gloves And Gaiters

While you want to avoid getting overheated on the trail, you also don’t want to be cold when it starts getting colder. Insulating your extremities will keep you warm while hiking in the morning or evening hours. 

A good hat is necessary: a hat that covers your ears but also fits comfortably under your helmet will do nicely (and make sure it has earflaps!). Gloves should be comfortable for walking; waterproofing is not required unless you are going through rainy conditions. 

Gaiters are optional but come highly recommended they protect your legs from dirt and debris kicked up by other hikers, as well as help insulate them from harsh winds that may blow through at higher elevations.

Consider Dressing In Bright Colors To Make Yourself More Visible

Consider dressing in bright colors to make yourself more visible to other people on the trail.

Wear high-contrast colors, like neon or fluorescent yellow, which stand out against the green and brown of the forest. You can even wear a reflective vest to help others see you from far away!

A headlamp is a good idea at night; it keeps your hands free and makes sure you don’t trip over roots or rocks while you’re looking down at your feet instead of where they are going.

Stay Visible: Bright Clothing Options for Hiking

Clothing ItemDescription
Neon or Bright-Colored ShirtsShirts in neon or bright colors like yellow or orange can help you stand out on the trail.
Reflective or Light-Colored PantsPants in reflective or light colors like white or beige can also help you remain visible to others.
Hi-Vis AccessoriesConsider adding reflective or bright-colored accessories like hats, belts, vests, or backpack covers to make yourself more visible.
Hiking Specific ClothingClothes that are specifically designed for hiking may include built-in reflectors, contrasting colors, or reflective piping, making them a great choice for staying visible on the trail.

Go For A Bright Color During Hunting Season So That Hunters Can See You

Don’t wear camouflage. It might make you blend in with the forest, but it also puts your life at risk by making it easy for someone to shoot you without realizing it’s not their prey.

Wear a hat with a brim, so that if shots are fired accidentally (which happens more often than we’d like to think), they won’t hit your head.

If there is no hunting season going on where you live, or if your hiking area is away from any wilderness areas where hunters could be roaming around looking for prey, then feel free to wear whatever colors and styles of clothing that suit your fancy!


Hiking is a great way to get exercise, commune with nature, and take in some fresh air. Whether it’s an easy stroll or a strenuous hike, hiking requires proper clothing so you don’t get overheated or irritated by bugs or other irritants. 

You want clothes that are lightweight but still protect against sun and wind or even rain if you’re going on a longer trek!

Further Reading

Here are some additional articles you may find helpful when preparing for your next hiking trip:

What to Wear Hiking: The Ultimate Hiking Clothes Guide: This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about selecting the right clothing for your next hiking adventure, from base layers to outerwear.

How to Choose Hiking Clothes: This informative article from REI explains how to choose hiking clothes that are comfortable, functional, and suited to your specific needs.

What to Wear Hiking: Backpacker Magazine’s guide to hiking clothing offers detailed information on types of fabric, layering techniques, and gear selections.


What are some essential clothing items to wear when hiking?

You should always wear moisture-wicking base layers, sturdy hiking boots, and a waterproof jacket or rain poncho. In cooler weather, you may also want to wear fleece or insulated layers to stay warm.

How do I choose the right hiking clothes for my body type?

When selecting clothing for hiking, choose items that fit well and allow for a full range of motion. Look for brands that offer a variety of sizes and be sure to try on clothing before purchasing.

Should I wear cotton clothing when hiking?

It is generally recommended to avoid wearing cotton when hiking, as it retains moisture and can cause chafing or discomfort. Instead, opt for synthetic or wool fabrics that are breathable and quick-drying.

How many layers should I wear when hiking?

The number of layers you wear will depend on your personal preference and the weather conditions. A basic layering system typically includes a base layer, mid-layer, and outer layer, but you can adjust the number of layers based on temperature and activity level.

What should I look for when buying hiking boots?

When selecting hiking boots, look for a comfortable fit, sturdy construction, and good traction. Consider factors like ankle support, waterproofing, and breathability when choosing the right pair for your needs.