What to Wear Hiking

Learn how to dress for hiking in any weather – plus four important DOs and DON’Ts for any hiking outfit.

5 Min. Watch | Hiking

4 Basic DO's and DON'Ts

1. DO pack for changing conditions

Whatever the weather is when you start your hike, it might be different later – or when you get to higher elevations. Regardless of the forecast, always bring a backpack with extra layers for changing conditions; a lighter layer for if things heat up, a heavier layer for if things cool off, and a wind- or weather-proof layer for a sudden storm. We have a whole video about what to pack for hiking – check it out!

2. DON'T wear cotton

Cotton holds moisture like sweat and takes a long time to dry, so it can make you feel a lot cooler than the temperature outside – a recipe for hypothermia. So, try to avoid wearing cotton, especially in cooler weather where it can be dangerous, and in your socks, where the moisture can cause blisters. Look for alternatives like polyester, nylon and wool blends that wick moisture away from your body, breathe easily and dry quickly.

3. DO repel bugs and block sun

When you’re picking out hiking clothing, do look for clothes that can help you deal with bugs and harsh sun. Sun-blocking hats and layers rated UPF 50+ offer about 10 times more protection than a white cotton tee; and insect-repellent clothing can help keep bugs away. Complete your protection with sunscreen and bug repellent on any exposed skin.

4. DON’T wear something you want to keep pristine

Here are a few of the things you might encounter while hiking: mud, dirt, water, sharp rocks, pointy branches, and sweat. It can get messy out there. and your outfit isn’t going to feel like yours until it’s broken in with a few miles, stains and snags. The best hiking outfit lasts for a long, long time – and it carries the memories that show it.

Mild Weather Hiking Outfit (The Essential Outfit)

If it’s not too hot, not too cold, and the weather is clear, you should wear an outfit like this.

Mild Weather Checklist:

  • • Hat
  • • Lightweight Fleece
  • • Synthetic Hiking Tee
  • • Synthetic Hiking Pants
  • • Wool Hiking Socks
  • • Hiking Boots


Synthetic Hiking Pants
Long synthetic hiking pants provide some protection from bugs and brush, but they still breathe and won’t be overly warm.

Hiking Boots and Wool-Blend Socks
Breathable and quick-drying wool-blend hiking socks under hiking boots will help your feet stay dry and avoid blisters.


Synthetic Hiking Tee
On top, a synthetic hiking tee wicks sweat and breathes to keep you cool and comfortable.

Lightweight Fleece
If you like to start hiking early, when it’s still cold, a layer like a fleece jacket will keep body warmth close. And since it’s lightweight, it’s easy to tie around your waist or stuff in your pack when the day warms up.

Other good light layers to wear or bring along are a vest or a windbreaker – depending on how cold you run, or where your hike will take you.

Up top, a brimmed hat keeps the sun off your head and out of your eyes.

For hikes in good weather, this outfit has everything you need: light fabrics that move moisture away from the skin, breathe well, and block the sun. You can wear an outfit like this all day and be totally comfortable.

Hot Weather Hiking Outfit

An even lighter outfit that has just the essentials.

Hot Weather Checklist:

  • • Hat
  • • Sunglasses
  • • Synthetic Hiking Tee
  • • Synthetic Hiking Shorts
  • • Lightweight Wool Hiking Socks
  • • Hiking Boots


Synthetic Hiking Shorts
On hot days, swap the long pants for synthetic shorts. These breathe and wick moisture well, and weight barely anything.

Hiking Boots and Lightweight Hiking Socks
Wear the same hiking boots you’d wear in mild weather, but with tall socks made of lighter, thinner wool. You could also wear ankle socks, but tall socks will keep bugs and twigs away from your ankles.


Synthetic Hiking Tee
A lightweight synthetic tee with short sleeves will breathe and wick moisture without weighing you down.

A sun-blocking tee like those in our Sunsmart line has UPF 50+ rated protection built right in to protect you from bright rays on hot days.

Sunglasses and Hat
In addition to sun blocking clothing and sunscreen, always wear sunglasses and a brimmed hat.

You’ll be dealing with sun and sweat on a hot day, but a good outfit keeps things light, breezy and breathable while still offering you some protection from the sun’s rays and heat.

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Quick tip:

A bandana is a multifunctional accessory you might want to add to your outfit; you can use it to wipe sweat from your eyes, keep sun off your neck, or dip it in a stream and put it under your hat or around your neck to keep you cool.

Cold Weather Hiking Outfit

When hiking in cold weather, your outfit is all about the layers.

Cold Weather Checklist:

  • • Wool Hat
  • • Buff or Scarf
  • • Shell Jacket
  • • Down Jacket
  • • Fleece Jacket
  • • Synthetic Hiking Shirt
  • • Synthetic Hiking Pants
  • • Base Layer
  • • Heavyweight Wool Socks
  • • Hiking Boots


Base Layer and Synthetic Hiking Pants
Long synthetic hiking pants are perfectly warm when you’re in motion on chilly days. If it’s really cold, you can layer with a wool-blend or synthetic base layer under your hiking pants.

Hiking Boots and Heavyweight Hiking Socks
Tall, heavyweight wool-blend hiking socks can help your toes stay warm without overheating or getting itchy.

And your usual all-weather hiking boots will probably treat you well for most winter hikes – make extra sure they’re waterproof if you’re hiking in snow - but if it’s super-cold, you can trade them for insulated hikers.


Around your core, you want to focus on a few layers: a base, insulating layers, and an outer shell.

Synthetic Tee
First, next to your skin, something like a long-sleeved hiking shirt or base layer.

Fleece Jacket
Then, a lightweight fleece to keep some heat in and block out wind.

Down Jacket
Over that, an insulating layer for more warmth – a down jacket.

Shell Jacket
And finally, a wind- and water-blocking shell over it all as a final layer of protection.

Buff/Scarf and Hat
Around your face and head, a synthetic buff adds just a little bit of warmth and blocks out some of the elements. If it’s really cold you might wear a wool buff or a scarf. And a wool hat to top it all off.

This outfit has everything you need to keep you warm. You might run hot or cold, and your temperature can fluctuate throughout the day, but with a system like this you can add or shed layers as you go.

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Quick tip:

A good rule of thumb is to start out dressed as if the temperature is 10 degrees warmer than it is – so once you start generating body heat, you won’t get overly hot.

Rainy Weather Hiking Outfit

Weatherproof layers to block the rain and keep it out.

Rainy Weather Checklist:

  • • Hat
  • • Waterproof Rain Jacket
  • • Fleece Jacket
  • • Synthetic Hiking Shirt
  • • Waterproof Rain Pants
  • • Synthetic Hiking Pants
  • • Wool Socks
  • • Hiking Boots


Synthetic Hiking Pants and Rain Pants
First, rain pants over lightweight hiking pants. These are totally waterproof and pull on easily over your hiking pants, with zippers and an adjustable waist and cuffs that seal rain out – and they’re easy to take off and pack away if the sun comes out.

Hiking Boots and Hiking Socks
And on your feet, the usual quick-drying socks under boots. Most important consideration for your boots when it’s rainy is that they’ll keep water out.


Synthetic Hiking Tee
Fleece Jacket
Waterproof Rain Jacket
A synthetic tee will keep your skin dry and comfortable, and a fleece jacket will protect you from the cold that often comes with rain.

Over it all, a waterproof rain jacket. A jacket with an adjustable hood is useful to keep rain off your face, and an adjustable hem and cuffs will help seal water out (just like on your rain pants).

On your head, you can keep things pretty simple: you don’t need anything if the temperatures are warm, and if the rain brings some cold with it, you can wear a wool or synthetic hat that fits underneath your rain jacket hood.

When you’re hiking in the rain, these extra waterproof layers are what’s going to keep you warm and dry. You should also bring a backpack cover to keep your pack, and your extra layers, dry as well. Rainwear has gotten more breathable and comfortable over the years, so you can have a great time out there, even when the weather turns wet.

Now that you know what to wear, you can head outside with confidence and feel great out there – whether you’re exploring a local land trust or facing the elements on a mountain peak.

Get ready for your next camping trip with gear designed to make it even easier for you to get outside:

Hiking Boots Hiking Clothing

Outerwear Hiking Backpacks

All Camping & Hiking Gear

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