What to Wear Hiking: Basic Guidelines

What to Wear Hiking: Basic Guidelines

Different brands work for different people. Picking the right clothes for hiking is more about following a simple set of guidelines.

1. Cotton is not your friend

I really can’t stress this enough; do not wear cotton hiking. Cotton absorbs moisture and dries very slowly so if your clothes get damp through rain, sweat or snow, they’ll stay damp. In warm weather, this means you’ll be extremely uncomfortable and your body isn’t able to regulate temperature effectively. On cold days, damp material covering your skin can cause hypothermia. So one more time...do not wear cotton hiking.

Instead of cotton, pick materials which can dry quickly and remove moisture from your skin. Polyester or merino wool are brilliant, especially for base layers. Most gym tops and hiking t-shirts, like North Face tees, are 100% polyester.

2. Seamless Socks/Flat Seams

If your walking boots are fitted correctly but you're still getting blisters, socks made from the wrong material and thick seams are going to be the culprit.

Before buying any socks, always check around the toes; there shouldn’t be any lumps where the seams join as this will cause rubbing and blisters.

I generally wear two pairs of socks; a thin base layer to keep cool and remove moisture (IsoCool walking socks are great for this) and a second layer of wool socks, which are padded for comfort and stability.

3. Layers

The temperature at the base of a mountain or hill will be dramatically different to the summit, even if you’re only climbing a few 100 metres.

For most walks, you’ll need a base layer top, long sleeve t-shirt, down or synthetic jacket and a waterproof. The only specific brand I’ll mention here is Icebreaker; the lightweight, quick-dry, long sleeve tops are brilliant.

For the lower body, shorts or trousers – again, no cotton! I always prefer hiking in shorts and when it’s absolutely too cold for shorts, I switch to polyester gym leggings or synthetic hiking trousers.

4. Waterproof Trousers

I once spent 12 hours declaring my love for waterproof trousers while walking through torrential rain in Scotland.

So, yes, we all know that waterproof trousers will never look great and can take up quite a bit of space in your backpack, but they’re a game changer when you get caught in a storm.

If you’re buying your first pair of waterproof trousers, slowly lunge in the changing room when you’re trying on the trousers. You need to be able to scramble and climb steep ascents in your clothes and the trousers need to be roomy enough for this.

Hiking clothes walking gear guidelines

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