What to Wear When Hiking – Guide for Any and Every Season

It is always a struggle to figure out just what to wear when going out for a hike. You never want to be too hot or too cold, and your body temperature will vary from the beginning of your trek to the end. With that in mind, you should consider a few things when choosing what to wear for your next outdoor adventure 

You will want to stick to some general clothing rules when you hike, regardless of the temperature. These rules are not carved in stone, but they are good to remember. 

Nike Dri-fit shirt
  1. Wear stuff that is quick-dry and easy to move in. You will be working up a sweat during your hike, and a cotton t-shirt will soak all that moisture up and make moving very uncomfortable. So opt for a quick-dry shirt to make sure you stay dry and comfortable. In general, it is a good idea to stay away from cotton when hiking.
  2. Your climate will dictate what to wear. Summer weather in Georgia is going to be different from summer weather in Maine, so remember that seasons are different all over. Be sure to test the temperature by going outside before heading out for your hike. 
  3. Layering is essential. This is the most important thing you can take away from anything in this article. Your body temperature will change while you hike, so it may be uncomfortably cold at the start of your hike, and you might be overheating by the end. Layering your clothing will help you be prepared no matter the temperature, but more on that later.  
  4. Bring a backpack. If you do not already, you should really be bringing a backpack with you when you go for a hike. They are perfect for carrying extra bits of clothing you may need and, of course, the water and snacks that are critical for all long hikes. Having a backpack will ensure you have the right clothing for any season.   
  5. Boots and socks should not change. Regardless of what season you are hiking in, it would be best if you always had a nice pair of hiking boots and synthetic wool socks. Synthetic wool socks are breathable enough to handle any temperature, hot or cold, and a good pair of hiking boots should give you the insulation and support any the of the year. You can also refer to this guide I wrote for hiking boots which will be gentle on your knees.
Woman on a nature walk around a Lake

What Layers to Bring When Hiking 

Unless it is scorching hot out, you will want to bring three layers no matter the hiking adventure. These layers should be light and comfortable so that they do not impede your hiking. Be sure to stay away from bulky jackets and uncomfortable pants. 

Base Layer

Your base layer should be a quick-dry shirt of some sort to protect you from sweat and allow the most freedom of movement. Feel free to swap between long and short sleeves, depending on how cold it is outside. Since this layer is directly on your body, making sure it is comfortable is vital to ensuring you have a pleasurable trek in the woods. 

Mid Layer

A light fleece or puffer are the perfect options for your mid-layer. You do not want something heavy or anything that can not be stuffed into a pack if you start to overheat. A fleece is better for warmer temperatures, while a puffer should be reserved for when it is freezing out. 

Outer Layer

Your outer layer should be at least wind-resistant, if not waterproof as well. Nothing makes you colder than having your sweat freeze to your body because of the wind cutting into your base layer. Hence, windbreakers and rain jackets are the top choices for most hikers. Also, be sure to stay away from anything too bulky or heavy. You want a jacket to make your hike easier, not harder. 

Other Essentials 

Once you have conquered the three layers system, here are a few other things you should be aware of when choosing the perfect outfit for your wilderness expeditions. 

Shorts or Pants 

In most cases, you will want to wear a rugged pair of hiking pants when you go out so that you do not have to worry about thorns and brambles tearing up your legs. That said, if it is the dead of summer, wearing a pair of shorts will not be the end of the world. While they may look a bit goofy, a quality pair of zip-off pants are perfect for any occasion.

Hats

Always bring along a hat. You will want something to keep the sun off your face in the warmer months and keep the heat in during the colder ones. Plus, if you do not end up needing them, they are small enough to stuff into your pack.  

Backpacker with a view of Grand Canyon at Horse Shoe Canyon

What to Wear For Hiking in Summer 

A t-shirt and a windbreaker should be all you really need for a beautiful summer day of hiking, along with a pair of shorts to round it out. Along with those, I would also suggest bringing along a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. A nasty sunburn is a great way to ruin a day of hiking, so be sure to cover up. 

What to Wear For Hiking in Winter

Your base layer is going to be very important when hiking during the winter. A synthetic long sleeve with some insulation is going to be essential for keeping your body’s warmth when trekking through the ice and snow. Along with that, a good puffer or fleece will make for a nice mid-layer. Do not forget a waterproof jacket as well, especially if it is snowing. A lot of warmth escapes your body through your head and hands, so a warm hat and gloves are never a bad idea either. 

What to Wear For Hiking in Fall 

Fall can be the best time to go hiking because it is not too hot or cold. A long sleeve and a windbreaker are often all I bring on a fall day. A pair of sip-off pants are excellent for these days when you do not know if it is warm enough for shorts. Just be sure to pack a fleece just in case the weather turns. 

What to Wear For Hiking in Spring

Spring is pretty similar to fall when it comes to hiking clothing. The only thing I would change is to pack a rain jacket instead of a windbreaker because it tends to rain more in the spring than in the fall. 

What to Wear in Specific Temperatures

Since weather is not consistent all over the world, here is a more precise breakdown of what to wear in all temperatures. 

What to wear for hiking in 60-70 degree weather?

This temperature is very comfortable weather to be out on a hike in just a t-shirt and shorts. Bring a windbreaker along for a little extra sun protection, along with a wide-brimmed hat and a good pair of sunglasses. 

What to wear for hiking in 50-60 degree weather?

This kind of weather can be tricky since it is so in between. It may feel perfectly warm out at one moment, and the next, it may be a little chilly. So be sure to bring all three layers and have a backpack so you can interchange them as you please to make sure you are not getting too hot or cold. 

What to wear for hiking in 40-50 degree weather

Things get a little colder around these temperatures. A base, mid, and outer layers are all suggested. Keep in mind that you will most likely be shedding one of these layers by the end of the hike.  

What to wear for hiking in 30 degrees and under weather?

As mentioned before, a tightfitting base layer with some amount of insulation is going to be key in lower temperatures. While a fleece will work, a puffer jacket would be better since it adds another layer of wind protection and is exceptionally lightweight to boot. A waterproof jacket should also be a part of your kit, especially if it is raining. Gloves and a warm hat will also be a must, but do not forget a pair of sunglasses as well. Since the snow reflects sunlight so well, sunglasses will make sure that you are not squinting all day long. And once you are ready find a favourite hike here.

Emily Winters

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