What to wear hiking will depend on the time of year, weather conditions, the length of your hike, the height of the mountain, and how challenging your hike will be. Whether you’re going on a short day-trip or spending multiple nights on the trail, it’s important to have the proper clothing in order to have the most enjoyable and safest hike possible.
Some clothing will perform better than others to keep you more comfortable no matter your experience level. In this post, I break down what to wear hiking by season/temperature so that you’ll know exactly what you’ll need to get started on your future hiking adventures.
Layering is the most important concept to understand when it comes to determining what to wear hiking. Basically, you fine-tune your layers depending on the temperature you’ll be hiking in. Keep in mind that the temperature and weather at the base of the mountain may be much different than at the top.
I have linked all the gear I personally use or similar gear in the appropriate sections below so you can see exactly what I’m talking about. If you do decide to buy from these links, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Of course, you are not obligated to use my links, but it does help fund these posts in hopes of bringing more value to you! That being said, I am not sponsored by any of the companies I recommend. They just make high-quality, affordable performance clothes for both men and women and have great reviews.
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What To Wear Hiking In The Summer
Summer is a great time to go hiking, the weather is nice and the scenery is beautiful and the wildlife is abundant. If you’re hiking all day, the temperature will vary throughout the day. For this reason, you will find the layering system described below to be suited for hiking in the summer. You can use this summer system as your base foundation and then add upon your hiking arsenal as temperature decrease.
Breathable Moisture-Wicking Upf 50+ T-Shirt
Polyester t-shirts are ideal for hiking in the summer because they are lighter, stretchy, breathable, moisture-wicking, and come with sun protection options. Cotton is not a great choice for hiking because it absorbs more moisture and will weigh you down when wet which will drain your energy. I would recommend the BALEAF UPF 50+ t-shirt.
Breathable Moisture Wicking Upf 50+ Long-Sleeve
I also like bringing a polyester long sleeve shirt for the same reason listed above. BALEAF also makes a Long-Sleeved Version of the t-shirt mentioned above. The benefit to having a long-sleeve is that it barely takes up any room and it will provide an extra layer that can be worn on top of, or instead of the t-shirt. The long-sleeved version does offer arm protection from the sun as well.
Lightweight Polyester Quick Drying Sun-Hoodie
A sun hoodie is a lightweight, thin, breathable hoodie that offers protection from the sun while adding a little bit more warmth when worn over the two shirts mentioned above. Additionally, a lightweight sun-hoodie is another good option for the warmest days of summer. I would recommend the BALEAF Athletic Sun-Hoodie.
Polyester Quick-Drying Hoodie
A lightweight hoodie is a great option to have with you when hiking. I like having a hoodie when hiking early in the morning because it’s usually colder in the morning, and it helps my body get up to temperature faster. Later in the day as it warms up, I will take it off and put it in my backpack.
Additionally, there are so many instances it’s just practical to have a hood. They help keep your head warmer on cooler days, they help keep bugs off you neck and ears, they help keep water off your head in light rain events, you can protect your head from the sun, and you can sleep in them and pull the neck string to keep your head warm on cold nights when in your sleeping bag.
Personally, I like a hoodie with a full zipper. A full zipper will allow you to regulate your temperature much better by zipping to your desired comfort. I would recommend the Peak Velocity Polyester Hoodie as it is affordable and has all of the qualities mentioned in this post.
Shorts are a good option for hot summer days. Because polyester is lightweight and breathable they make great shorts. Shorts with some spandex in them allow for high elasticity which is nice when hiking because you’ll get a full range of motion with each step, even if your shorts are a little wet from sweat, swimming, or rain. Another feature to look for is pocket. It’s really nice to have pockets to hold your phone, wallet, keys…etc. when it’s convenient. For this reason, I recommend the XKTTAC Lightweight Hiking Short because they are a solid mix between an athletic short and cargo short. They are 90% polyester and 10% spandex so they also dry quickly.
Convertible Pants For Hiking
Convertible pants are also a good option for hiking. The ability to unzip at the knee and turn them into shorts provides a lot of versatility for varying temperatures. I would recommend the Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pant. They are made of nylon so they are less stretchy but are more durable. These pants are moisture-wicking and are UPF 50 so they provide protection from the sun as well.
Lightweight Hiking Pants
If you’re not a fan of the convertible pants then I would recommend a quick-drying, stretchy, and strong pant. These hiking pants linked below are a good option as they offer everything mentioned above as well as are waterproof and windproof.
Rain Jacket & Windbreaker For Hiking
Most don’t plan on hiking in the rain but sometimes the rain sneaks up on you. If you’re hiking for multiple days, you’re bound to get caught in the rain at some point. This is especially true in mountainous climates. You’ll want to be prepared otherwise you won’t have a very fun experience.
Another benefit of a raincoat besides protection from rain, is that it can serve as a windbreaker. I’ve used my raincoat as a windbreaker on many occasions and even a thin raincoat can make a world of difference on a windy day.
This Columbia Raincoat is a good option that is very reasonably priced and will work well as both a raincoat and a windbreaker. It offers OMNI-Shield which is breathable which is important for hiking to stay dry. Breathability is important because raincoats that can’t breathe will keep your heat in and make you steam inside the jacket. On warmer days this can be uncomfortable.
There are more expensive raincoats that have a Gore-Tex membrane, which is an even better option for breathability. You’ll want these more expensive raincoats if you know you’ll be spending time in the rain. The Mountain Hardwear raincoat is made with a Gore-Tex Paclite membrane which is breathable and will keep you the most comfortable in wet conditions. This rain jacket is also an effective windbreaker.
Rain Pants For Hiking
I don’t pack rain pants for day hikes unless I know conditions are calling for heavy rain. Usually, if heavy rain is in the forecast I wait for a better day. If you’re backpacking through, you never know what the weather might do after a few days. Additionally, if you end up walking through tall dewy grass in the morning, you’ll be happy you had rain pants. The Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic rain pants are great rain pants because of their stretchiness and breathability, but are a bit pricey. They are worth the price though because they have side zippers that allow you to put them on over your shoes and boots. Additionally, they have a pocket which many rain pants do not have.
For a more affordable model, I recommend these Marmot Full-Zip Rainpants. These pants are waterproof, breathable, has pockets, and a full-length side zipper so you can put them on over boots and shoes. Once you’ve owned a pair without pockets or side-zippers as I have, you’ll appreciate those features, trust me!
Merino Wool Socks
DON’T SKIMP HERE! Wool socks are not that expensive and offer probably the most bang for your buck as far as comfort goes when hiking. They don’t cost much, but offer great comfort and protection. Even in the summer, wool socks are superior.
Wool is a natural fiber and has amazing benefits against the outdoor elements. These benefits include:
- Great moisture-wicking abilities (dries fast)
- Temperature Regulation (warm when wet, breathable, and cooling when hot)
- Wonderful Insulator
Your feet take the brunt of the force when you’re on the trail. If you don’t treat your feet well, you will get blisters. Merino wool is soft and helps prevent against blisters. Additionally, you can get socks that are padded in all of the right places so that it will give you further protection. I suggest these lightweight Merino Wool Socks for hiking in the summer.
Best Lightweight Hiking Footwear
There are a lot of different types of hiking footwear on the market and a lot of differences of opinion, and it can be difficult to determine what you should buy. I will recommend a few different options that I like and that have worked well for me.
The first shoe I’m going to recommend surprised me on how much I liked it. They are the MHITIN Barefoot & Minimalist Shoe. These shoes aren’t for every situation, but do their job well. They have very aggressive treads that do really well on rocks. You almost feel like Spiderman. I also like having a very lightweight and agile feel. I’ve worn heavier leather boots and they drain energy and make your legs and feet more tired than they need to be.
These shoes are not for long hikes, nor are they waterproof so you’ll need to be okay with getting your feet wet if you come across a stream or wet area. However, they do dry fast and on a nice summer day you’ll barely notice or care they are wet.
Best High-Ankle Boot
You also don’t want to skimp on your hiking footwear, you’ll end up paying for it later. In my opinion, the best features to look for in a good hiking shoe will be a good fit, lightweight, breathable, waterproof, and a quality sole. I like the high-ankle Oboz Bridger B-DRY boot because it has all of these qualities. I like the high ankle because it offers some added protection against wet grasses, brush, and rocks.
Best Low-Ankle Shoe
If you prefer a low ankle shoe, you can get the Oboz Bridger Low B-Dry Hiking Shoe. Even though these are low-ankle I would still wear full-length wool socks. The longer wool socks will protect from ankle blisters as well as getting scratches from rocks or brush.
On hot summer days when you know you won’t need much for layering the Osprey Talon 6 Lumbar Hiking Pack (fanny pack) is a great option. It’s comfortable, has room to store an article of lightweight clothing, and room for food and water. A small fanny pack like this is nice when temperatures are hot. You’ll waste unnecessary energy carrying a backpack if it’s not needed.
A backpack is a must-have for an enjoyable hike. The ability to store food, water, and layers while on the trail is important for hikes of any substantial distance. The Osprey Talon 22 is a great mid-sized daypack that is comfortable and will carry everything you need. It is a well thought out backpack and has all of the features a hiker is looking for.
What To Wear Hiking In The Spring/Fall
Wool Long-Sleeve Shirt
Once you’re equipped for the summer months, you can use those same clothes to layer with in the colder months. There is not much more that you will need. Just a few more articles of warmer clothing and you’ll be good to go for hiking in the Spring and Fall.
I would recommend getting a wool long-sleeve shirt for the cooler months. The MERIWOOL Merino Wool Thermal Shirt is my go-to. It’s a medium weight so it has some quality warmth to it. I wear this shirt all the time, even when I’m not hiking. This can be worn over the polyester t-shirt and polyester long-sleeved shirt or instead of them as a base-layer.
The next piece of clothing I would recommend is the Columbia Steens Mountain Fleece Jacket. This fleece jacket is made of polyester so it is lightweight and provides good insulation. This fleece works well underneath a sweatshirt. It also has a full zipper so that you can regulate your body heat effectively.
Down Puffer Jacket
For the coldest Spring/Fall days I would recommend a Down Puffer Jacket. The best insulator is air, and these jackets give you the biggest bang for your buck in that regard. Not to mention it’s lightweight, windproof, and easily packable.
When the temperature starts to drop I like to wear gloves. When it gets cold the skin on your hands get more brittle. For this reason, I like gloves for when I’m climbing up ledges. Additionally, the wind can be very brutal especially as you get higher in elevation. When the temperatures are cold and the wind is blowing you can feel the wind blow through your clothing if you don’t have good wind protection. For this reason, gloves that offer wind protection work so much better.
I recommend the The North Face Apex + Etip Glove These gloves have a soft shell that offers some protection against rain and wind. They also work with touchscreens so you can use your phone without getting your hands cold!
What To Wear Hiking In The Winter
Once you start hiking and your body gets to temperature you will warm up fast, and you will probably notice that you did not need the number of clothes that you initially decided to wear. Often new hikers are surprised how little clothing they need when it’s cold out. For this reason, proper layering and a good backpack are needed in order to carry your extra clothing. This will go a long way in order to provide maximum enjoyment and comfort in cold conditions.
By layering the combinations mentioned above correctly you are almost ready for hiking in the winter. There are just a few more pieces of clothing I would suggest for the coldest days:
I would recommend only you get a Merino Wool Long John Bottom for the winter temperatures to give your lower body more warmth.
A Heavy Wool Sweater is a good layering option for the very cold days. You can easily get too hot in this so be cautious of that when preparing for your trip. Although heavy, this is a very warm piece of clothing that has all of the qualities of wool mentioned above.
Other Mention-Worthy Hiking Accessories
Don’t be fooled into thinking you won’t get burned on cloudy days, I’ve made this mistake a few times. Even through the clouds, you will be surprised that the sun can burn you just as easily on overcast days. Sunscreen is a good idea when hiking on most days.
Neck gaiters are awesome. They protect your neck from the sun and bugs and they can be worn in different ways for further protection or warmth of ears and head. I use neck buffs in combination with a ballcap in order to fully protect myself from the sun. They are lightweight and don’t take up any room if you choose not to wear it.
As I mentioned in the above paragraph I prefer to use a ballcap. A ballcap that wicks away sweat is ideal. I prefer this Under Armour Hat below because it’s made of mostly polyester and elastane so its light, breathable, and stretchy. I use this hat in combination with hoods or neck gaiters in order to maximize protection or warmth when needed.
You can also get a sun hat which work well. I personally don’t use these because I like my method but have tried them in the past. This unisex sun hat would work well for hiking on sunny days.
Another good option for the colder months is a beanie skull cap. This will keep your head and ears very warm, I love mine! I often use my beanie in combination with my ballcap. I’ll just slide my beanie over my ballcap.
I’ve owned a bunch of different sunglasses from cheap to expensive. If you’re just starting out cheap sunglasses will work. You can even get polarized ones for around 10$. However, there is something to be said for more expensive glass. There is less glare, better lens science, they often look and fit better, and are more durable.
I would stay away from square-framed lenses because the sun has a habitat of getting around the edges of your sunglasses. This is annoying whether hiking or driving. For this reason, I suggest wrap-around sports glasses. One of my favorites, that is affordable is the Under Armour Igniter 2.0 Sunglasses.
I’ve also own Oakley’s who have great lens quality and durability. A quality pair of Oakley sunglasses for hiking are the Flak 2.0’s.
Of course, after you’ve been hiking a few times you’ll be able to fine-tune your own layering preferences and you’ll get a feel for what to wear hiking. Each body type is different and will likely prefer slighting different preferences. So the most important thing is to get out there and experience the outdoors.
Now that you know the types of clothing that work best in certain temperatures you can use this information to fine-tune to your specific hike. For example, if your hike is very short you may not need anything but a t-shirt, shorts, and hiking shoes. However, as the length of your hike increases the greater amount of gear you need.
What To Wear Hiking In The Summer List
- Breathable Moisture Wiking UPF 50+ T-Shirt
- Breathable Moisture Wiking UPF 50+ Long-Sleeve
- Lightweight Polyester Quick Drying Sun Hoodie
- Polyester Quick-Drying Hoodie
- Lightweight Polyester Hiking Shorts
- Convertible Pants for Hiking
- Rain Jacket & Windbreaker for Hiking
- Rain pants
- Merino Wool Socks
- Waterproof & Breathable Hiking Shoes
- Hiking Backpack & Lumbar/Fanny Pack
What To Wear Hiking In The Spring/Fall List
- Wool Long-Sleeve Shirt
- Polar Fleece Jacket
- Lightweight Gloves
What To Wear Hiking In The Winter List
- Wool Long Johns
- Heavy Wool Sweater
Mention-Worthy Hiking Accessories List
- Neck Gaiter