What to Wear Hiking for Any Outdoor Trip

It’s natural to have questions about what to wear when you first take to the trail. For your first few hikes, we suggest you head out in whatever is comfortable, but don’t forget a hiking jacket, phone, and water. However, as your hikes lengthen and you delve deeper into the wild, you’ll need some solid fundamentals.

It’s a good idea to have a smart strategy regarding clothes. The most basic fundamental layers are crucial for temperature management and aid in protection from the elements. Good quality clothes can differentiate between a good day and a bad one. Cold weather, rain, sunburn, or bugs will ruin any unprepared hiker’s day. We share our favorite tips and clothes for what to wear hiking.

Tips On What to Wear Hiking

Make Your Plans

Cameron Sits On Top of Watchman's Hike In Zion National Park

Regarding what to wear hiking, you don’t need everything on this hiking attire list; it all depends on where you’re trekking, the season, your preference, and the route aspects. Every hike, run, scramble, or mountaineering objective starts with the planning phase. Walking through the forest to a waterfall in the summer is not the same as summiting a mountain in the winter. We make last-minute checks on the weather the day before and the morning of any hike and pack accordingly.

We research the route and understand what kind of terrain we will face. Knowing the route’s topography and checking the weather forecast is a good idea. Mountain Forecast and Windy is a great resource to check the weather, which forecasts temperatures, precipitation, and wind speeds at various elevations.


Cameron On The Summit Of "Little Hector" A High Alpine Subpeak of Mount Hector

The most basic principle of what to wear hiking is layering. Anyone who has spent time in the wilderness or mountains can say that their temperature fluctuates greatly on a hike. Clothing aims to help regulate their body temperature, protect elements, and manage moisture. A layering system is best for all of that. The system may not be as important for short hikes at low elevations in the summer, but since many hikes in the mountains occur at elevation, hikers often face cold temperatures.

As you venture further into the wilderness areas, the risk of a night outside also presents a greater threat, so additional layers are paramount to a safe hike. You do not want to spend a night in the wilderness without some basic forms of protection.

Chose The Right Materials

Cameron Gorilla Trekking Green Safari Clothes

While layers help manage moisture, the choice of material is equally important. Synthetic materials dry fast thanks to their moisture-wicking qualities. In cool weather like the mountains, if clothes aren’t dry when you stop, you’ll develop a chill fast.

In hot and humid climates, wet clothes encourage the growth of bacteria and present various hygiene issues. It’s best to avoid cotton, as it is slow to dry and heavy. However, the cotton rule can be broken when hiking in the desert heat. Synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester are breathable, wick moisture away, and durable.

For a more natural choice, try wool or canvas. While it is more cost-prohibitive, wool fabrics offer great comfort and performance. The best thing about wool is that it’s not a petroleum-based product. If possible, opt for recycled, Bluesign-certified, or natural fabrics.

Invest In Your Hiking Attire

 Natasha Hiking Through The Alpine In Zermatt On A Sunny Day

Price tags on quality gear can be eye-watering. However, the investment often pays off in performance and longevity. Cheap items usually have a shorter life and thus end up in the landfill sooner. It only adds to consumerism and waste, much like fast fashion.

Our favorite outdoor brands are vehemently against this and regularly work to keep their products on their customers’ backs. The environmentally conscious approach is purchasing quality goods that will last many seasons and thousands of miles. If you’re on a budget, check out your local sporting goods consignment store.

Do You Need New Hiking Clothes?

Cameron Under Waterfall In Mashpi Cloud Forest Of Ecuador

The short answer is NO. You probably already have a lot of this stuff at home. Wool socks, underwear, and sunglasses are all things I imagine everyone has at home. I’ve added recommendations on what we currently use during hikes. Of course, there are hundreds of comparable products. We’ve tried to balance all quality gear for performance and value. I recommend several vital fundamentals, like a decent shell/rain jacket and comfortable boots/shoes.

What to Wear Hiking Checklist

  • Sunglasses
  • Sunhat
  • Sports Underwear
  • Wools Socks
  • Thermal Layers
  • Performance Shirt
  • Mid Layer
  • Shell Jacket
  • Down Jacket
  • Hiking Shorts
  • Hiking Pants
  • Trail Running Shoes
  • Hiking Boots/Shoes
  • Buff Headband
  • Beanie
  • Gloves


Natasha Walks Under Larch Trees

Ensure you protect your eyes from the sun. Since hiking is an outdoor activity, wearing UV protection is essential. UV strength is increased when you’re at elevation or near reflective surfaces such as water or snow. This is important at high altitudes with sparse vegetation and intense UV rays. For the health of your eyes, it’s best to ensure they have UV protection. Our favorites are the Smith Lowdown 2 and Knockaround Premium Sport sunglasses for hiking.

See Our Recommendations


Natasha Scrambling On Mount Baldy In Canada With Blue Jacket and Sunglasses

You should pack at least one type of hat to give an added layer of sun protection. We commonly use a ball cap, but a well-designed sunhat with a wide brim is most effective. It’s all a matter of personal preference. On a sunny day, you’ll see a lot of sun on the trail, so it’s important to protect yourself. My favorite hats are the LoPro Trucker hats from Patagonia.

See Our Recommendations

Sports Underwear

Natasha In Underwear Swimming In Berg Lake

It’s best to wear underwear that wicks away moisture from your body for multiple reasons. The first is that moisture pulls away heat from your body when you’re in cold temperatures. However, more importantly, it keeps you dry in hot weather and reduces the risk of chafing or discomfort. It’s also antimicrobial, which is super important.

Chafing might sound a little comical, but it’s a real risk when the distance adds up—ask any endurance athlete. I have a couple of Icebreaker Anatomica boxer briefs that I’ve been hiking in for years. The women’s version from Icebreaker is the Siren and comes in bikini and thong versions.

See Our Recommendations

Wool Socks

Natasha Hiking In Vorarlberg

We’ve learned to love our feet with a good pair of socks. You will want to keep your feet dry while walking around. Most importantly, wool socks stay fresh for several days as they have natural antimicrobial properties. Avoid cotton socks as they cause blisters since they slip, rub, and hold moisture. My favorites are Darn Tough Merino socks, and my feet have never felt cold or wet. As a bonus, they’re produced in Vermont!

See Our Sock Recommendations

Thermal Layers

Cameron Stands On The Summit Of Mount Athabasca

This is specific to winter hikes and when temperatures drop below freezing. In general, we do not wear thermals. If the temperature is above freezing, you’ll be too hot. However, it’s essential if you’re in alpine conditions while hiking, snowboarding, scrambling, or camping. We recommend that base layers fit snugly and are made from a noncotton material like nylon or wool. We’ve had a lot of base layers, but our favorites are wool base layers from Helly Hansen and Smartwool.

See Our Recommendations

Performance Shirt

Natasha On Parker Ridge Hike In The Canadian Rockies

I love to wear a comfortable shirt made from performance fabric that handles sweat on hot days. You should look for a fabric that is lightweight, breathable and dries quickly, such as merino wool, nylon, or polyester. We’ve tried a ton of hiking shirts, but we think the Outdoor Research Echo Shirts are a great value. They have long-sleeve, short-sleeve, and tank top options, but I wear long-sleeve shirts more these days for added UV protection.

If you’re unsure about synthetics, try a wool-based shirt. They’re more comfortable than synthetic shirts and perform equally well. The only negative aspect of wool shirts is their price. We post on our favorite hiking shirts if you’d like to learn more.

Mid Layer

Natasha In A Lightweight Mid Layer Along Bow River In Canmore, Alberta

On the trails, you often encounter cold temperatures in the mountains. A comfortable sweater or mid-layer is a great way to remain warm in the mornings and evenings. There are a few options for hiking mid-layers: a fleece, thermal, down jacket, or softshell jacket. It depends on what you find comfortable and the weather on the trail. We have a multitude of mid-layers.

The Patagonia Better Sweater is a classic mid-layer and versatile fleece jacket that is perfect on and off the hiking trail. The mid-layer is the one piece of hiking clothing that does not have to be technical. A hiking-specific mid-layer will perform better, but it’s easy to get by with a comfy fleece or flannel shirt. There are also a plethora of hiking-specific mid-layers that blend insulation and technical shells. One that stands out, particularly, is the super popular Arc’teryx Atom.

Arc’teryx Atom LT

Down Jacket

Cameron Sits Along Lake O'hara In Yoho National Park

We recommend only a few items everyone carries, and one of them is a down jacket. A down jacket is a versatile staple for travel and outdoor activities. It packs down and fits easily in a backpack. However, despite its lightweight nature, it can offer a lot of warmth. We always recommend you bring a down jacket on any hiking trip. It’s a great way to keep warm without eating up too much space in your hiking backpack when dealing with the mountains and vast temperature shifts.

Hikers can get a great deal with the REI Co-op Down Jacket 2.0, but it’s far from the best down jacket. My favorite down jacket is the Arc’teryx Cerium, which blends the perfect balance between lightweight, performance, style, and fit. No matter the month or season, it’s always down jacket season in the mountains!

See Our Recommendations

Shell Jacket

Natasha Stands Wearing Helmet, Shell, and Pants Ascending Obervation Peak Gully

The essential clothing item for hikers is the shell jacket. You have two options for shell jackets, and it is a good idea to have both as it depends on the climate. One option is a sturdy multi-layer rain jacket, and the other is a lightweight windbreaker. They’re both great items on the trails, as the shell jacket protects you from the wind and rain. If there is a chance of rain or cold weather on the trail, we always pack GoreTex shell jackets.

We have a couple, but I love my Arc’teryx Beta Jacket for its lightweight construction and robust performance. Arc’teryx makes the best outdoor apparel, but expect it to come with the highest price tag. Other great options that are far more affordable are the Patagonia Torrentshell and the REI Co-op Drypoint.

A lightweight windbreaker is great for those warmer days where a chance of rain looks unlikely. They can help you out in a pinch against a surprise shower, chill, or even hordes of insects. A light windbreaker also packs down small and fits easily in a backpack.

See Our Recommendations

Hiking Shorts

Cameron Stands On The Hiking Trail With Shorts and Shell — Ha Ling Peak In Background

A great pair of shorts is self-explanatory for keeping yourself cool on a hot hiking day at lower elevations. On warm weather days, we love a pair of hiking shorts. Of course, it all depends on the terrain and landscape, as sometimes a pair of hiking pants can remain cool while protecting your legs from thick brush or rocks when scrambling up a trail.

You don’t need to get too fancy with shorts, as athletic shorts will do the trick. I spend most of my days hiking in shorts. They are far more agile uphill and less likely to snag on branches or rocks. My personal favorite as we get more into trail running is the Lululemon Fast & Free Shorts.

Hiking Short Recommendations

Hiking Pants

Cameron Stands On Summit Of Mountain With Cornice Behind Him

Lightweight pants made from synthetic material are tremendous to have in your pack. It’s what we wear most days when hiking as they’re comfortable, antibacterial, and protect our legs from mosquitos and branches. Lightweight pants made from synthetic material are tremendous to wear for hikes. It’s what we wear most days when hiking as they’re comfortable, antibacterial, and protect our legs from mosquitos and branches.

The Keb Trouser from Fjallraven and Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pants are awesome hiking pant recommendations. The most versatile would have to be Outdoor Research pants, which are lightweight, look great, and are extremely comfortable. We recommend neutral-colored pants, as they’re great at hiding dirt and can match most shirt colors. If you want to mix it up, you can opt for hiking leggings—Tasha loves those!

See Our Hiking Pant Recommendations


Tasha on Tent Ride With A Jelt Belt

This is one of those obvious things that is easy to forget at home. I like the simplicity of a canvas belt that has a locking buckle. I’ve had one that’s lasted almost four years without any issues. Canvas belts treated us well, but we’ve now opted for a Jelt belt. Jelt is a B-corporation based out of Montana that creates elastic belts from recycled bottles. The belts are tremendous for physical activities as they are slim, lightweight, and comfortable.

See Our Recommendations

Buff Headband

Natasha Descending Summit From Windtower

We have a collection of Buff Headwear neck gaiters and bring them everywhere. They’re great for many reasons, such as sun/wind protection, a scarf, a headband, or an ear warmer. We always have one in the backpack, no matter the hike. I imagine most people have one or two of these by now!


Natasha Stands On A Viewpoint In The Faroe Islands

As I’ve said before, cold evenings and nights are frequent at elevation, so a small beanie to keep your head warm is always nice to have in your pack. Covering your ears is one of the best ways to warm up.

Beanie Or Hat


Natasha Scrambles Up Tent Ridge

Heavy winter gloves are not necessary on the average hike, but a lightweight pair is great for those prone to cold hands. If you’re trekking in freezing temperatures, consider a pair of lightweight, weatherproof gloves that protect your hands from the elements. Many gloves are purpose-built for hiking, jogging, or general sports activities, which is great.

Hestra Gloves

Hiking Footwear

Natasha On Summit Of Cascade Mountain

I could write dozens of articles on the best shoes for hiking. Truthfully, there are a ton of variables when it comes to footwear. Things to consider are terrain, fit, style, and intended use. I have several different options for footwear for the trail, and I choose based on the day.

Choose a shoe that best fits your everyday needs. A trail running shoe is perfect for most hikers as it is capable on and off the trail. That way, you get plenty of use out of your investment. Low-elevation and easy hikes are on well-maintained trails, so a good pair of hiking or tennis shoes is more than adequate.

It would be best if you also were cognizant of your body’s health. Do you have previous injuries, or are you prone to ankle rolls? If you need extra support, do not hesitate to choose the best option for yourself. For most, these will be high-ankle boots.

There has been a long debate on whether you need high-top boots or low-cut shoes to protect your ankles. Truthfully we own both types and like to wear high tops on muddy trails or areas with thick vegetation and shoes in warm and dry destinations. A still sole in boots helps carry weight on multi-day camping trips.

Trail Running Shoes

Cameron Runs Along Healy Pass In Canada

We both have the Salomon Speedcross 6, which is great on the trails. If you’re big on trail running, beating the Salomon Speedcross 6 is tough. They have a diehard following and for a good reason. The lightweight shoe is high on comfort, and the aggressive tread pattern ensures you always have a grip. We’ll burn through a pair of these each summer. Of course, you’re not a local trail runner until you’ve owned a pair of Speedcross.

Most easy hikes are on well-maintained trails, so a good pair of hiking or tennis shoes is more than adequate. We mix it up, but if you plan to take big mountain hikes/scrambles, PLEASE wear hiking-specific shoes or boots. Too often, people get in trouble with the wrong footwear on a trail where a slip could mean serious injury or death.

See Our Recommendations

A Natural Shoe Option

Natasha In Carolina Beach State Park

There’s a strong argument that many of the foot and joint issues that plague modern-day humans are from overdesigned shoes. Shoes cause our feet to move unnaturally and restrict natural muscle movements. The result is weak feet. Vivobarefoot crafts natural shoes designed with minimal support, allowing the feet to move naturally. It’s like walking barefoot.

We’ve been trying out the new Tracker Forest ESC on our hikes and have been impressed with the performance of a boot that also feels as if we’re barefoot. These new boots are naturally water-resistant. The non-slip sole and exceptional arch grip for gripping and sticking to surfaces are the most interesting. Inside the boot is an air mesh lining that allows for proper airflow. They are broad, thin, and flexible to promote the foot’s natural movement.

Shop Vivobarefoot Tracker Esc

Hiking Boots

Cameron & Natasha At Naiset Huts. In Assiniboine Provincial Park

When hiking, it’s tough to beat purpose-built synthetic boots as they are lightweight, breathable, quick-drying, and often waterproof. While hiking in the mountains, loose rocks are a real threat on the trails, and it’s a good idea to wear decent hiking boots or shoes.

I’d say wear what you’re comfortable with, but if you plan to head to the wet areas, it would be good to bring a pair of high-ankle boots. Ankle-high boots protect against thick brush, bugs, and loose rocks. So, owning a good pair of hiking boots will come in handy if you explore different climates. We love the Merrell Moab III, which comes in both women’s and men’s versions and high- and low-cut versions.

They are not the most technical boot, but they’re always reliable and never give you a blister. I took a brand new pair on a backpacking trip and hiked 30 kilometers daily in them with no threat of blisters. Most importantly, they’re the best value for hiking boots!

See Our Recommendations

Peak Design Capture Clip

Best Hiking Jackets Ascendent Hoody Outdoor Research

This has been one of our favorite additions to our camera equipment and hiking outfit. The Peak Design Capture Clip allows a camera to be clipped onto your backpack strap or belt. It must be one of the best accessories we’ve ever used to carry our camera. This has been one of our favorite additions to our camera equipment and hiking outfit. The Peak Design Capture Clip allows a camera to be clipped onto your backpack strap or belt. It must be one of the best accessories we’ve ever used to carry our camera.

The clip feels secure and robust, with a straightforward design that makes switching straps easy. We’ve brought it on several hikes around the Canadian Rockies, which has changed how we photograph it. The access it provides to your camera is much better than a camera strap, allowing it to swing and bang into everything. It’s handy and a must for anyone who wants to carry their camera on hikes but does not have to fumble around in their bag whenever they want to take a photo.

Capture Clip


Cameron And Natasha On Hornli Ridge Under The Matterhorn In Zermatt

A daypack should be enough to hold your belongings if you’re not going on an overnight backpacking adventure. No matter the hike, you will want a daypack to store your belongings. My daypack usually consists of a shell jacket, down jacket, hiking poles, bear spray, snacks, water, gloves, chapstick, a buff, a camera, a first aid kit, navigation, and an emergency blanket.

While not everyone needs an alpine pack, the key to take away is to opt for the correct size pack. I love a versatile size around the 30L mark. 30L gives enough room for gear-heavy days, but it’s light enough for light, short treks or walking around town. Any nice backpack will do the job if you don’t have plans for big hikes.

See Our Recommendations

Bear Spray*

Bear Spray - Hiking in Banff

This is a non-negotiable item if you’re in bear country. Some parks even require visitors carry the deterrent. Bear spray should be on your person and not in your pack. We each have a neoprene sleeve that holds our bear spray on our belt pocket or places it in our vest. It’s easy to reach in case of an emergency which is the most important detail.

It’s a good idea to make noise while hiking in the bear country, whether singing, ringing a bell, clapping, or banging your hiking poles. Be wary of blind spots on your hikes, such as tight bends and forested sections of the trail.

About Cameron Seagle

Cameron Seagle is one of the principal writers and photographers for The World Pursuit. He is a travel expert that has been traveling the world for the past decade. During this time, he established a passion for conservation and environmental sustainability. When not traveling, he's obsessed with finding the best gear and travel products. In his free time, you can find him hiking, mountain biking, mountaineering, and snowboarding. His favorite countries are Scotland, Indonesia, Mozambique, Peru, Italy, and Japan.

You can learn more about Cameron on The World Pursuit About Us Page.

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