comfortable hiking trip

A Guide to Planning a Comfortable Hiking Outfit

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Hiking is a killer workout that doesn’t feel like one — you’re too busy taking in the splendor of nature. However, the right comfortable outfit can make your favorite pastime even more enjoyable.

What factors should you consider when selecting what to wear? What gear should you look for when spare cash burns a hole in your pocket? How can clothing protect your safety on the trail?

We’ve got the answer to these questions and more to increase your enjoyment on the trail. Here’s how to plan a comfortable hiking outfit.

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Know the Weather and Its Quirks at Your Destination

The weather can make or break a hiking trip, but not if you have the right outfit and gear. You aren’t only protecting your comfort but your safety — hypothermia can pose real risks, depending on the time of year and climate zone. For example, Yellowstone National Park has seen snow as late as June 23 — so don’t think you’re safe after April.

However, comfort does matter, and it applies to every article of clothing. Even a single itchy sweater can have you picking at it all day, detracting from your enjoyment of the natural world. If purchasing online, ensure you buy from somewhere with convenient shipping options, trusted customer care and a hassle-free return policy.

Here are quick tips for the worst types of weather you might encounter.

1. Rain

Staying dry is the name of the game, so you’ll need a waterproof outer layer. Furthermore, keeping your feet dry is a must, which might necessitate taking extra socks if you go for a lengthy outing in a downpour.

2. Cold

Hypothermia is a legitimate concern, but you don’t want to overheat. Focus on layering so you can add or remove items to remain comfortable. An outer layer that breaks the wind is also crucial.

3. Snow

Snow combines elements of rain and cold. You’ll want to layer and complete your ensemble with a well-waterproofed outer layer.

4. Heat

It’s logical to think less is more in hot weather. However, look to people who live in hot, desert climates — the right fabrics and covering can keep you cooler. One of the best investments you can make is a wide-brimmed hat with extra length in the back to keep the sun from turning your neck and shoulders into a lobster bake. Of course, you should also stay hydrated.

two men hiking in the desert

Learn to Layer

Layering is the key to a comfortable hiking outfit. You can shed items as you get warm and put them back on as you cool. Here’s how to do it.

1. Layer One

This layer’s job is to wick sweat away from your body before it can dry, dropping your core temperature. Therefore, look for synthetic fabrics such as nylon and merino wool. Forget the cotton long johns — they keep the moisture next to your skin where it can chill you.

2. Layer Two

This layer is all about insulation. Here’s where you pile on thick flannel or insulating materials like fleece. Waterproofing comes later — think warmth, adding as much thickness as you need.

3. Layer Three

Your outer layer is your weather break. It can be quite thin, but it should prevent the rain and wind from soaking your other layers and skin.

There’s room to play with these rules. For example, a thick puffer coat can add insulation and waterproofing, meaning you’ll need a thinner middle layer. Many hikers instead opt for puffy vests, as it gives just enough added warmth and waterproofing to your vital organs without unnecessarily weighing you down on temperate days when the weather could go either way.

winter mountain hiker

Evaluate Your Likes and Dislikes

Everyone has preferences, and there’s nothing wrong with indulging yours. For example, most people find merino wool itch-free, but some have a higher sensitivity or a mental block against wool. That’s OK. Although it is one of the most recommended fabrics for hiking socks, you can find equally comfortable blends.

That said, there are a few rules you should heed:

  • Bright colors: You aren’t the only one in the woods. While you won’t run into trouble in parks designated for hiking only, you might sometimes share the forest with hunters. Differentiate yourself from a deer.
  • Safety first: Maybe you — or your stubborn 5-year-old — hate close-toed shoes. They’re still a must on the trail. Likewise, you must dress appropriately for the weather, even if you’d prefer shorts and a tank top.
couple hiking baby

Good Shoes Are Crucial

The right boots are the most crucial component of your comfortable hiking outfit. Please do not skimp on these — go to a traditional store for a proper fitting. Ill-fitting shoes can make you miserable, leaving you with blisters and crippling you from going the distance.

What should you look for in hiking boots? Ensure the pair you select has the following characteristics:

  • Strength: You want a pair that will go the distance without shredding or wearing out the sole.
  • Durability: A good pair should last for 400 to 500 miles.
  • Stability: Your boots should ideally offer support to protect you from snakes and twisted ankles from negotiating rocky, uneven surfaces.
  • Flexibility: Your shoes should have some bend, letting you move with the terrain.
  • Breathability: Look for good ventilation to deter excess sweat and odor.
  • Lightweight: You lift your feet a lot when you hike. The lighter the boot, the longer you can go without fatigue.
hiking shoes

Accessorize for Hiking

A few accessories polish off the look — but it’s not about strutting the catwalk out on the trail. Accessorizing for hiking is all about safety and comfort. The following gear will greatly enhance your enjoyment by eliminating what bugs you and increasing your peace of mind.

1. Hat

The glare can get intense, depending on your hiking destination. A hat is a must in desert regions, where the sun blinds and there is no shade for miles. However, head covering also comes in handy in the redwood forests of northern California and Oregon — it keeps all kinds of nasty stuff out of your hair when it falls from above. Bird poo on the brim is better than in your ‘do.

2. Sunglasses

The sun’s glare can impede your sight, especially if you hike in the early morning hours to escape the worst of the heat. Furthermore, UVA and UVB rays can damage your vision, so look for a good pair with SPF protection against both.

3. Paracord Bracelet

A paracord bracelet might be the cheapest survival gear you carry on the trail. You can pick them up for $25 or less — some models run as little as $5 or $10, although you often get what you pay for. Why are these so fabulous? In addition to sturdy rope you can unwind and use in a pinch, many such bracelets include attached compasses, knives, and fire-starters consisting of waterproof flint and steel.

4. Tactical Belt or Hydration Pack

You don’t want to lug a lot of gear with you. A tactical belt or hydration pack keeps essentials like a first-aid kit close to your body. There are advantages and disadvantages to each:

  • Tactical belt: You can attach multiple Molle bags for stashing gear and other attachments, such as a knife sheath or bear spray holster. You can clip on a canteen and it won’t tug on your lower back.
  • Hydration pack: The big advantage is the water you carry on your back. However, most packs also allow you to attach one or two Molle bags for stashing extra gear, like a small first-aid kit and trail snacks. The only disadvantage is it can weigh on you after a while if you don’t sip up often enough.

5. Trekking Poles

Trekking poles are a sore knee’s best friend. They also make it easier to navigate around rocky, uneven terrain. Plus, you can find telescoping versions that clip onto your belt, so there’s no need to carry them when you don’t need them.

trekking poles

Planning a Comfortable Hiking Outfit

Hiking is one of the ultimate sports. It’s a great workout that doesn’t feel like one — but the right gear makes it more enjoyable.

Plan a comfortable hiking outfit to enhance your enjoyment on the trail. When you feel good, you can hike all day, soaking up the sunshine and reveling in the great outdoors.

Author Bio

Jack Shaw has been writing about exploring the outdoors for over five years and currently serves as the senior writer and editor for Modded. He enjoys hiking, backpacking and camping in any weather. Jack is an avid survivalist has shared his advice with publications such as Crow Survival, Duluth Pack, and Undiscovered Mountains.

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Baptiste is an adventurer with a passion for urban and wilderness exploration and adventure, and a lover of vintage objects with timeless charm. As a Founding member of the Eiken team, he tries to share his passion and expertise for travel and vintage fashion through his articles.

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