Hiking in jeans and an organic cotton t-shirt sounds like the perfect outfit for a beautiful spring day. But it isn’t the most comfortable choice. Not only could you end up feeling cold and clammy (yes, exactly as awful as that word sounds), it is a recipe for chafing. Instead, dress better for the outdoors.
Hiking clothes should avoid cotton and be worn in layers, including paying attention to your underwear. You want lightweight fabrics that offer sun protection but are breathable and moisture-wicking, including your waterproof gear. Also, don’t forget a brimmed hat and good shoes.
Hiking does require a person to dress with practicality. Even the cute shoes for the gym are not suitable footwear for many trails. However, the era of shaming people for wanting flattering hiking clothes is ending. These days they even have cute hiking leggings with excellent pockets.
So if you’re wondering what to wear on a hike, read on!
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What To Wear On A Hike By Season?
When packing for a hike, you’re supposed to include extra clothes. Also, it is advised to pay careful attention to what you wear. Dressing for the outdoors seems to follow two main rules:
- Avoid cotton
- Embrace layers
But this advice is pretty broad and doesn’t go into tailoring it to the time of year. Nonetheless, every season behaves differently, depending on where you live. Also, it might be winter, but a balmy day can crop up in the days of climate change. Thus, always check the weather before heading out.
Nonetheless, layers are wise, no matter the time of year:
- Base Layer
- Outer Layer
- Rain Protection
Lastly, it doesn’t matter what season you’re heading out: don’t wear cotton underwear or socks. You want all your underthings, including sports bras, to do their job in a way that doesn’t chafe and won’t create an unfortunate “environment” around your delicate regions. Breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics, even in winter:
- Soft wool
What To Wearing Hiking In Spring
Spring is the most challenging season to dress and pack for as it is infamous for the cliché: four seasons in one day. Also, some day hikes mimic this four-season experience if they involve dramatic changes in elevation. These elevation hikes can swing from high summer temps to snow, making it challenging to keep your pack light.
Spring hiking should involve good, water-resistant, or waterproof hiking boots. Some people like hiking sandals, but given the propensity of ticks, they might want to save those only if walking through streams. You also must pack extra socks. You should do this anyway, but spring is a high-risk season for wet socks.
But the key to spring is having lightweight clothes that can quickly dry and keep you warm if needed. Always pack a waterproof layer for those unexpected showers, such as Marmot PreCip Eco Pant (men’s and women’s) and Arc’teryx Beta Gore-Tex Shell (men’s and women’s). Even your hat can do double duty, protecting from rain and sun.
Example of a men’s spring hiking outfit:
- Asolo Flacon GB (Gortex) Hiking Boot
- Wigwam Hiking Outdoor Sock
- Arc’teryx Boxers
- prAna Men’s Stretch Zion Convertible Pants
- Smartwool Merino Sport 150 Tee
- Arc’teryx Rho LT Zip Neck
- Eddie Bauer Microlight Down Vest
- Outdoor Research Unisex Seattle Rain Hat
Example of a women’s spring hiking outfit:
- Vasque Talus UD Hiking Boot
- Dickies Women’s Dritech Advanced Moisture Wicking Socks
- Icebreaker Sprite Hot Pant
- Icebreaker Sprite Merino Sprite Racerback Sports Bra
- Columbia Women’s Saturday Trail Stretch Pant
- Helly-Hansen LIFA Baselayer
- Arc’teryx Delta LT Hoody Fleece
- Eddie Bauer Women’s Microlight Down Vest
- Outdoor Research Unisex Helium Rain Full Brim Hat
What To Wearing Hiking In Summer
Summer is hot. But when you start in the early morning, things can be nippy. Also, temperatures can be impacted by mist or altitude. But shorts are rarely the answer. It sounds great in theory until the bugs eat you and the rocks and foliage scrape up your legs. Thus, lightweight coverage is ideal.
If you want hiking boots or a sandal will depend on the terrain. But if going the sandal route, a closed toe is usually best. Also, don’t forget a waterproof, such as Under Armour’s Outdoor Impasse Wind Jacket (men’s and women’s).
Example of a men’s summer hiking outfit:
- Hoka Kaha GTX Boot
- Keen Clearwater CNX Sandel
- Farm To Feet Damascus Lightweight Crew Merino Wool
- ExOfficio Give-N-Go 2.0 Sport Mesh Brief
- Fjallraven Abisko Midsummer Zip Off Trousers
- Arc’teryx Cormac Crew SS Shirt
- Arc’teryx Atom LT Hoody
- Columbia Unisex Bora Bora Hat
Example of a women’s summer hiking outfit:
- Keen Women’s Voyageur Hiking Shoe
- Keen Clearwater CNX
- Feideer Outdoor Socks
- ExOfficio Give-N-Go Sport Mesh Bikini Briefs
- Panache Underwired Sports Bra
- prAna Women’s Sky Canyon Jogger
- Outdoor Research Women’s Echo Hoody
- Arc’teryx Atom LT Jacket
- Outdoor Research Rada Pocket Cap Unisex
What To Wearing Hiking In Fall
Fall isn’t known for buckets of rain, but you always need to bring some wet weather gear. Also, take care before exposing your legs or arms, as fall is high tick season. Not all long-sleeved base layers are for cold temperatures. You can find lightweight shirts for high temps, keeping your arms bite-free.
Remember, it is good to pack for the cold, even if the day begins with warmth. A good jacket is Outdoor Research Foray II (men’s) and Outdoor Research Aspire (women’s). Lastly, don’t leave the sun protection at home.
Example of a men’s fall hiking outfit:
- Salomon Men’s X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking Boot
- Swiftwick-Pursuit Medium-Weight Merino Wool Socks
- Icebreaker Merino Men’s Anatomica Boxer
- Outdoor Research Men’s Ferrosi Pants
- Rab Force Hoody Lightweight Long-Sleeved Base Layer
- Smartwool Smartloft 120 Jacket
- Tilley Ltm6 Airflo
Example of a women’s fall hiking outfit:
- Salomon Women’s X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Boots
- Smartwool Women Performance Cushion Socks
- Smartwool Merino Bikini Briefs
- Handful Front Closure High Impact Racerback Bra
- Fjallraven Abisko Trail Tights
- Under Armour Women’s Tech ½ Zip
- Smartwool Smartloft 60 Jacket
- Tilley Hemp Hat
What To Wearing Hiking In Winter
Winter hiking clothes vary depending on climate and location. For certain places, the spring or fall suggestions will be enough. In others, our recommendations will need to be beefed up with some thermals, such as Meriwool baselayer (men’s and women’s).
On cloudy days, you might be able to get away with a beanie, but you’ll still need sun protection (yes, even in winter). However, a brimmed hat should be worn on sunny, cold days. But as always, a waterproof outer must be packed, such as Rab Kinetic Alpine (men’s and women’s).
Example of a men’s winter hiking outfit:
- Salmon Men’s Quest 4 GTX Hiking Boot
- Smartwool Men’s Classic Hunt Maximum Cushion Socks
- Smartwool Men’s Merino 150 Boxer Brief
- Arc’teryx Gamma LT Climbing Pant With Stretch
- Smartwool Men’s 250 Baselayer ¼ Zip Shirt
- Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2
- TrailHeads Fleece Ball Cap
Example of a women’s winter hiking outfit:
- Salomon Women’s Quest Element Boot
- Falke TK5 Merino Wool Socks
- Icebreaker Merino Boy Shorts
- Smartwool Seamless Racerback Bra
- Fjallraven Keb Trousers
- Kari Traa Rose Half Zip baselayer
- Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2
- TrailHeads Fleece Ponytail Hat
Is Hiking In Cotton Always Bad?
Boomers hiked in cotton and denim and promptly stuck Gen X into the stuff for most of their childhoods. Thus, people have survived in the all-natural fabric. Partly because the weather doesn’t always turn, and things don’t always go wrong.
Wearing cotton on a hike is similar to riding in a car without a seatbelt. There are plenty of times a person could go for a ride without buckling up and lived without a hint of danger; it’s that one bad day everyone is worried about.
Cotton is highly absorbent, able to absorb up to 27 times its weight. Thus, it is the perfect material for fluffy towels. But on a person, it will make the trail harder as the clothes gain weight.
Wool is also highly absorbent. However, unlike cotton, it still keeps you warm. Also, it pulls the moisture away from you rather than stick. Thus, nobody should hike in a thick Christmas sweater. But wool for hiking is thin, so it will dry fast.
Not is cotton only a problem for thru-hikers hitting the trail day after day. Backpackers tend to be experienced and have some survival skills. Day hikers are often new to the activity and thus are the most likely to die. Cottons stays wet, temperatures change, and the body can’t cope.
One of the biggest killers on the trail isn’t wild animals but hypothermia. It isn’t just a problem in states like Oregon and Colorado known for having an abundance of weather. One of the top states for hypothermia deaths is New Mexico. Thus, the hiker mantra: “Cotton kills.”
What To Wear On A Hike Date?
Hiking has many benefits, including being a low-cost date option. We have friends that had their first date on a hike. A year later, while hiking the very same route, they stopped at a scenic picnic spot, and he proposed. Aww.
But dressing cute for a hiking date isn’t always easy, especially if you’re a woman. Men just need to ensure their clothes are not so baggy they fit two. Oh, and it helps if the colors don’t clash, look like you’re auditioning to hunt Bambi, and have been cleaned well enough there is no longer linger odor.
However, hiking manufacturers find it easy to make clothes that flatter a typical male body. But once they are confronted with a curve of the hip and thicker, rounder thighs, they lose any sense of style.
In fact, some hiking clothes seem to go out of their way to be frumpy. For example, finding a pair of zip-offs that flatter humans with hips is near impossible. Do better, manufacturers. That said, at least outdoor gear gives women pockets.
It is important to have some idea of the terrain and time you’ll be out before getting ready. Some hikes can easily be done in adorable gym clothes, so long as they’re short and the terrain is tame and groomed.
But anything lasting longer than 90 minutes and involves the words “scramble,” “bushwhacking,” or the words “but you can slide down on your bum for that section” will go best in genuine outdoor gear. So go practical, but pay attention to cut and fit. Oh, and be careful about odor retention.
(Okay, that last point is easier when you set off rather than come back. But if you wear good hiking underwear, that will help. Go wool, avoid the cotton and lace.)
Hiking Shoes That Have Style
Once upon a time, hiking shoes looked like they were rejects from some impoverished military. Also, they never fit a woman’s foot properly. But now hiking shoes are made for women’s feet, rather than simply going the “pink it and shrink it” route.
Some examples of some cute yet practical hiking shoes for a date include:
- On Cloudrock Waterproof Boot
- Merrell Alverstone Waterproof Mid-Hiking Shoe
- Keen Nxis Evo Waterproof Mid Hiking Boot
- Salomon Women’s XA Pro 3D V8 Trail
- Sorel Out ‘N About III Conquest Waterproof Boot
Hiking Tights With Pockets (Always)
Yoga and leggings for the gym often have pockets these days, but the lack of reinforced knees and bum means they can get thrashed on a hike that has any brambles or scrambles. Thankfully, hiking leggings are a thing, and they’re as comfortable as they are figure-hugging, and not see-through.
Some examples of some great hiking leggings for a date include:
- Fjallraven Abisko Trail Tights
- PrAna Rockland Leggings
- Helly-Hansen Rask Tights
- Eddie Bauer Women’s Trail Tight
- Mountain Hardwear Chockstone Rock Tight
Flattering Hiking Pants
Hiking pants have had a long history of not understanding what to do about hips. Thus, this practical wear was not only unflattering but didn’t fit. You could fit a sack of flour in the belly if you got them big enough to fit over the hips. If they were secure in the waist, there was no room for the thighs.
But the worst was all those hiking pants made for women that cut into the “delicate region.” This would be despite the waistband going up to the rib cage. Well, thankfully, manufacturers are starting to understand that part of what makes clothes look “fashionable” is that they are designed to fit.
Some examples of some flattering hiking pants for a date:
- Mountain Hardwear Chockstone Pull On
- The North Face Aphrodite 2.0 Capris
- Prana Summit Pant
- Eddie Bauer Guide Pro Capris
- Mountain Hardwear Dynama High Rise Ankle
Hiking Tops For A Date
Outdoor manufacturers do much better flattering a woman’s top half than they do the lower half. over bagging clothes isn’t easy. Thus, tops follow the lines of the curves up the upper body so the pieces can slip over each other.
- Kari Traa Smekker Half Zip is a thermal win
- Columbia Glacial Crop is fun yet warm
- Under Armour, HeatGear Racer Tank looks cute on hot days
- Mountain Hardwear’s Tanklette is perfect for showing off the midriff
- Arc’teryx Windshell keeps the wind out while still being flattering