Exactly What to Wear Hiking All Year Long (for Everyone)

To stay safe and comfortable while hiking, there are a few key things to consider when choosing hiking clothing. Depending on the time of year, climate, and the elevation, hikers need to adjust clothing choices accordingly. Pablo and I live for hiking and want to share our best advice on hiking gear and what to wear. Continue reading to find out exactly what to wear hiking all year long with recommendations to suit everyone.

Be sure to read all the way to the end for hiking outfit inspiration for men and women!

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What to Wear Hiking

In general, layers are the best way to go hiking.

Layers will allow you to adjust your clothing as needed depending on the weather conditions. Below, we’ll talk about the best hiking clothes to have for your adventure.

 We’ll also share what we wear while hiking towards the end and our favorite hiking outfits!

What Pants to Wear Hiking

Wearing KÜHL hiking pants

Comfortable, lightweight hiking pants are key. Look for pants that are sweat-wicking and durable. Also, think about pants and functionality. How do you plan to wear them?

Lately, we have been obsessed with KÜHL’s hiking pants. Not only can you wear KÜHL pants for hiking (men’s), but you can also wear them for a road trip or running errands.

Interested in KÜHL hiking pants? Check out our in-depth gear review on two of our favorite pairs for guys and gals!

Sometimes, I also hike in leggings from brands like The North Face or Athleta. Hiking leggings can also act as the perfect yoga pants!

If you like hiking in shorts (more on shorts below), check out convertible pants. Start the morning off with the pants, and unzip for shorts in the afternoon when it gets warmer.

If you’re hiking when it might be rainy, consider investing in rain pants or pants that are water-resistant. REI has a good selection of rain pants. We honestly try NOT to hike in the rain!

Hiking Shorts

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Hiking in shorts

Depending on where you live, you might enjoy wearing shorts. If you’re not worried about bugs or foliage scraping your legs while you hike, shorts are a great way to stay cool during warmer months.

Make sure they are quick drying to keep sweat chap away.

I’m a huge fan of Lululemon when it comes to women’s shorts for hiking.

Hiking Shirts

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Women’s hiking outfit for fall

Look for lightweight and quick-drying hiking shirts made from light cotton or synthetic fabrics (such as polyester nylon).

If you are hiking where the climate is dry, you can easily hike in light cotton because sweat evaporates quickly. Or, if you are doing a short hike, it is not a big deal to wear a light cotton shirt.

If you’re hiking where the climate is humid, you will enjoy having a synthetic fabric that dries quickly. Patagonia makes excellent sun shirts that dry quickly.

Long Sleeve Shirt – Mid Layer

A long sleeve is a great piece to have on hand for hiking attire during most of the year. Same concept as above except think long-sleeved shirt. You can wear long sleeves as a base layer or outer layer.

Pablo and I have long sleeves made from synthetic materials that will wick away sweat and offer sun protection (like these Denali long sleeve sun shirts pictured below).

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Pablo wearing his favorite sun shirt

If hiking during the winter, consider merino wool long sleeves from brands such as Icebreaker (I have this shirt) or Smartwool. Wool will also keep you warm and is a great base layer. It is also moisture-wicking.

Wool or synthetic is the way to go here in the winter. 

Fleece Jacket or Sweater

Hiking with a fleece layer is also a great mid-layer or outer layer option. Pablo and I usually wear fleece in the spring, fall and winter.

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Hiking in December – Fleece layer + gaiter

Windbreaker

A super light windbreaker will go a long way in keeping you warm. Get one you can layer over or under another jacket.

I love The North Face Futurelight Jacket, and Pablo likes his Patagonia Torrentshell.

Depending on the type of windbreaker you buy, it may also act as a rain jacket.

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Wearing our favorite windbreakers hiking

Insulated Jacket

Consider ethically sourced down jackets. Check out The North Face and Patagonia. It is crucial to protect and keep your body heat when hiking in the cold. There is nothing worse than being cold.

Jackets can be expensive, but they are really important to have as part of your hiking outfit.

Rain Jacket

If you plan to hike in the rain, be sure to get a good rain jacket. Patagonia, The North Face, and Helly Hanson make awesome rain jackets (in our opinion).

Also, consider the size you purchase for layering. You’ll want this to be your outermost layer to protect you from wind and rain. Make sure the jacket is not too tight.

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Hiking with rain jacket outer layer to stay warm during a later winter hike.

Wool Hiking Socks

Wool socks help provide cushion and wick sweat from your feet.

We think the best brands for wool hiking socks are Smartwool and FITS.

Wool socks are naturally moisture-wicking, so they keep your feet dry.

Hiking Shoes + Hiking Boots

It is so important to have a supportive and good hiking shoe. In general, having sturdy hiking footwear is really important to protect your feet.

Also, consider the type of hiking you will be doing to get the right ankle support throughout your hike.

You can wear hiking boots, trail runners, or hiking sandals.

Try the shoes on before buying them to ensure you get the correct size. Make sure your toes aren’t too close to the front because you can bruise your toes if you get shoes too small. You don’t want your shoes too big either because it can cause blisters while hiking (yikes). Also, consider how thick of a wool sock you’ll be wearing with your pair of hiking boots. Your feet might also swell a little when hiking.

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Oboz hiking boots

Pablo and I have been loving the Oboz brand of hiking boots. Oboz boots are durable, comfortable, and at a reasonable price point. In addition, Oboz is headquartered in Bozeman, Montana, so you know they “get” hiking boots.

Depending on where you plan on hiking, you might enjoy a good pair of hiking sandals on a summer hike. For example, when we lived in Colorado, I hiked in Chacos quite a bit. If you’ll be hiking through water, Chacos are great.

Hiking in the south, we don’t hike in sandals anymore, mainly to protect our feet from the brush, bugs, and in case we ever came across a snake. It just feels safer to hike with shoes as we have gotten older! Also, no one wants a sprained ankle in the backcountry!

Sports Bra

Comfort is key, and so are quick-drying wicking materials when it comes to sports bras. Consider where the seams may rub your body. Look for synthetic fabrics such as nylon and spandex.

Patagonia has comfortable hiking sports bras for women.

Underwear

Look for soft, synthetic, sweat-wicking, and quick-drying fabrics to keep you dry and comfortable.

Hiking Backpack

The backpack you use will depend on how far you want to hike.

You can use a smaller day pack for shorter hikes, and for longer hikes, consider a larger day pack that will store more food, gear, and water.

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Kavu Rope Bag + The North Face Thermoball Jacket with Futurelight Jacket underneath

We use Osprey Sirrus 24 for longer hikes. It can fit a decent size water bladder along with a few clothing layers and food.

I have recently been using this Kavu Rope Bag for shorter hikes.

Pablo likes using his snowboarding bags from Burton. Yes, they are heavy and I don’t really recommend them but that is what you’ll see in lots of our photos (in case you were wondering). He likes using what he has before he buys new – and he really loves Burton. I don’t complain because all of our camera gear actually fits in the Burton bags really well.

Hiking Poles

Hiking poles are a personal preference. Some people use them, and some don’t.

I like to hike with poles for balance and safety. When you hike and get a little tired, it is easy to get clumsy. Also, as a woman, it makes me feel safe to have a stick in case I need one.

Check out Leki hiking poles.

Water Bottle(s)

Hydroflask makes good, insulated water bottles that work great for short hikes; however, they weigh more.

Consider packing a bladder or plastic Nalgene for longer hikes since the bottles weigh less. When hiking long distances, extra weight is something to consider.

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Hydroflask water break

Sunglasses

Always protect your eyes! Don’t forget sunglasses!

Some people love polarized glasses, and some don’t (I actually do not care for them). Try on sunglasses to make sure they fit your face well. Also, make sure they don’t slide off your face when you get sweaty.

Sunhat

Protect your head and face from the sun with a brimmed hat. The sun can drain you while hiking if you’re not careful. Look for synthetic and lightweight fabrics that will dry fast. Your forehead can actually sweat a lot!

Neck Gaiter

Invest in a face and neck gaiter if you’re hiking at high elevations or in places with harsh sunlight or cold temperatures.

If using as a sun protection neck gaiter – get a lightweight gaiter made from synthetic fabric.

If using to keep your neck warmfleece is the way to go!

Gloves

We both always carry gloves in the winter. Lately, Pablo has been wearing Give’r gloves. They are authentic leather with cozy material inside. These gloves do take a while to break in but you can use them all year long (even for doing work around the house). They are a US company. Check Give’r out!

Hiking with Give’r gloves

I prefer down or synthetic gloves depending on the temperatures.

My hands get cold easily! In the winter I hike with these Hestra mittens. These are a little pricey but TOTALLY worth the investment. My hands never get cold.

Kula Cloth (Pee Cloth)

The hiking essential you didn’t know you needed for all the ladies. Say whaaat?!

Kula Cloth makes an antimicrobial pee cloth to take on hiking adventures. Ditch the toilet paper and keep this trusty rag on your bag.

You can buy it at REI (I love mine)!

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Fabrics to Avoid When Hiking

Denim – You don’t want to wear denim. No jeans!

Itchy Wool – try your wool on before a long hike. There is nothing worse that an itchy wool shirt that was cheap and poorly made on a long hike!

Pablo wearing his favorite cotton tee

Cotton – you also want to consider how you will be wearing cotton if you decide to wear cotton.

For example, cotton holds moisture and doesn’t dry fast, which can chap your skin (ouch!).

However, I know plenty of people that hike in cotton (Pablo and I included). So just consider how and when you use it. If you are doing a short hike and not getting too sweaty – cotton is totally fine to wear. Plus, it is cheap if you don’t have a bunch of cash to spend on technical fabrics.

What to Wear Hiking in Every Season

Now, onto a detailed guide for what to wear hiking in every season!

We’ll share exactly what we are wearing in our photos!

What to Wear Hiking in Summer

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Hiking early summer in southeast Oklahoma

It is important to stay cool and comfortable in the summertime while hiking.

  • Wear lightweight clothing that will absorb sweat and keep you cool.
  • You can wear shorts and a tank top or t-shirt, which sound perfect for warm weather hikes.
  • Also consider longer lightweight layers to keep the sun off your skin because the sun can drain your energy (and burn your skin).
  • Consider light colored fabric as well (although this is a personal preference).

Thoughts on Hiking During the Summer

Sometimes we wear shorts during shorter hikes or if we know that the trail is clear and well maintained.

Where we live (now) in Oklahoma, during the summer, there are a lot of bugs, and we always want to protect our skin from bugs (mosquitos and ticks) while hiking in the south. The foliage along the trails tends to be thick hiking in the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains, too, so we also enjoy the lightweight and quick-drying long sleeve shirts and pants in the summer. We also tend to hike with long pants and boots if we ever encounter a snake.

We always bring lots of bug spray (another reason to wear lightweight, long pants and shirts during the summer).

When we lived in Colorado, hiking in shorts and sandals was easier because of the climate. So, just consider foliage, bugs, and temperatures when planning your summer outfits.

Be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen too.

Below, we’ll share ideas for what to wear hiking in hot weather!

Men’s Clothes to Wear Hiking in Summer

  • Brimmed Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Daypack

Women’s Summer Hiking Ideas

  • Lululemon Shorts
  • Lululemon Swiftly Long Sleeve Shirt
  • Brimmed Hat
  • Sunglasses

What to Wear Hiking in Fall

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Fall hiking in northeast Oklahoma
  • The temperatures in the fall can vary greatly, so it is important to dress in layers.
  • The temperatures may be cool in the morning and evening, but they may be warm during the day.
  • Layer by wearing a short-sleeve shirt, light jacket, and pants for the morning and evening. Wear light gloves and a stocking cap too.
  • During the day, when it is warm, remove the jacket, hat, and gloves and store them in your hiking bag. The key to layering is to be able to adjust what you’re wearing to stay comfortable and safe.

Below we’ll share outfit ideas for hiking in the fall!

Men’s Fall Clothes to Wear Hiking

  • Sunglasses
  • Daypack

Women’s Fall Clothes to Wear Hiking

  • Light Cotton Tee Shirt
  • Brimmed Hat
  • Sunglasses

What to Wear Hiking in Winter

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December hiking in northwest Arkansas

It is important to stay warm and dry in the wintertime while hiking.

  • Dress in layers of fleece or wool clothing.
  • Be sure to bring a hat, gloves, and a heavy coat.
  • If there is snow or ice, you might also like having crampons.
  • Pablo always says when it comes to winter activities, it is better to have too many layers and be hot than be cold!

It is also essential to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration in cold weather.

Check out the winter hiking outfit ideas below!

Men’s Winter Hiking Clothes

  • Long Underwear – Thermals Underneath
  • Thin Cotton Shirt
  • Sunglasses
  • Daypack

Women’s Winter Hiking Clothes

  • Brimmed Hat or Beanie
  • Sunglasses

What to Wear Hiking in Spring

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Late spring hiking in the Ouachita Mountains

In the springtime, temperatures can vary greatly depending on the elevation and location.

  • In lower elevations, it may be warm enough to hike in shorts and a t-shirt, but in higher elevations, it may still be cold, and you need winter gear.
  • A good rule of thumb is to dress in layers that can be easily removed or added as needed.

Check out outfit ideas for spring hiking below!

Men’s Hiking Gear for Spring

  • Thin Tee Shirt
  • Brimmed Hat
  • Sunglasses

Women’s Hiking Gear for Spring

  • Light Cotton Tee
  • Lululemon Swiftly Long Sleeve Shirt
  • Sunglasses
  • Brimmed Hat

Closing Thoughts on What to Wear Hiking

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Later winter hiking outfit

No matter what time of year it is, it is important to have lots of layers and bring plenty of water and sunscreen with you on your hike.

Check the weather before your trek.

Always be sure to hike with another person or let someone know where you are going if you plan to hike solo so that someone knows where you are and can come looking for you if needed.

Hiking is one of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors, but it is important to stay safe and comfortable while doing so.

With the right clothing, anyone can enjoy a hike all year long. The key is to dress in layers and adjust your clothing as needed depending on the conditions.

Happy hiking!

Ashlee + Pablo


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Ashlee Fechino

Ashlee Fechino is an outdoor recreation writer and founder of The Happiness Function based in Oklahoma. Her goal is to help inspire people to build a life they love by sharing how simple and fun it is to travel locally, connect with nature, and explore off-the-beaten-path. You don't have to spend a lot of money or use a ton of vacation time to explore close to home. Ashlee holds a BS degree in Biology and MS in Environmental Policy & Sustainability and has a passion for the outdoors. She is married to an expat Argentine, Pablo! They camp in their Aliner often and love road trips and hiking.

20 Comments

  1. Laura on March 30, 2022 at 10:55 am

    This is a great thorough guide. I’m currently planning a hiking trip to Peru so I’m definitely adding a kula cloth and smartwool socks to my kit.

    • Ashlee Fechino on March 30, 2022 at 11:19 am

      Hi Laura! You totally need a Kula cloth! Have a great trip. Thanks for sharing your Peru plans.

  2. Kate on March 30, 2022 at 11:05 am

    Great guide! I don’t really have any hiking specific clothes, so I can definitely use these recommendations. I especially need a good rain jacket for hikes!

    • Ashlee Fechino on March 30, 2022 at 11:20 am

      Hi Kate – thanks for reading. Check out some of the rain jackets above. I really like my Helly Hanson and The North Face rain jackets/windbreakers.

  3. Chelsea on March 30, 2022 at 11:20 am

    These are such good reminders of what to wear and bring when you go hiking! The North Face and Smartwool socks are some of my personal favorites too. I have a North Face jacket that can be worn three different ways depending on what layer or layers you need. I always find the staff at REI to be helpful as well.

    • Ashlee Fechino on March 30, 2022 at 12:36 pm

      Hi Chelsea! So cool on your TNF jacket – they make such great gear. I have stuff from 2005 I still wear. We love REI!!

  4. Laura on March 30, 2022 at 11:31 am

    This is such a handy and insightful guide! People have no excuse to wear the wrong outfits when hiking! I don’t know how many people I’ve seen hiking in denim (or even flowy dresses) and I don’t know how they don’t inform themselves. Thanks for such a good guide!

    • Ashlee Fechino on March 30, 2022 at 12:37 pm

      Hi Laura – haha, sometimes we just don’t “know.” That is why we are here to help 🙂 Thanks for reading. Happy hiking!

  5. Brittany on March 30, 2022 at 11:31 am

    Wow, this is such a helpful list of hiking gear! Since I live in Phoenix, my hiking gear is pretty simplistic (needing jackets and warm clothes is pretty rare) but I’d love to bulk up my hiking gear so I could go on longer hikes or hike in cooler temperatures. Thanks for sharing!

    • Ashlee Fechino on March 30, 2022 at 12:38 pm

      Hi Brittany – thanks for reading! You probably wear a lot of light weight clothes for hiking. When we lived in the desert we wore more light weight long layered sun clothes. Happy hiking. Phoenix sounds nice right about now 🙂

  6. Lasma on April 2, 2022 at 9:52 am

    I really needed to read this! I’m not an experienced hiker and I convince myself I can hike in anything & don’t need special equipment! Of course, I end up regretting it haha, so I should really follow these tips. Great work!

    • Ashlee Fechino on April 6, 2022 at 12:12 pm

      Hi Lasma! Thanks for reading. I was so happy to hear the article helped you. Happy hiking!

  7. Linda (LD Holland) on April 2, 2022 at 10:11 am

    For many years I had trouble finding larger sizes for great hiking clothes. So glad that many of the major brands expanded their sizes! My hubby lives in his convertible pants and is often seen moving into shorts. I tend to pick long sleeves to protect my arms. And I may never give up the perfect hiking boots I found until they fall apart on my feet. A good guide for people looking for full gear.

    • Ashlee Fechino on April 6, 2022 at 12:13 pm

      Hi Linda – I agree, it has been really great to see brands being more inclusive with sizing. I think it helps people feel more welcome and like they can do the things they want to do – with the right clothing! Thanks for sharing this personal thought. We see you.

  8. Megan on April 2, 2022 at 12:11 pm

    I love these suggestions. I usually hike in workout clothes (leggings and tank) and bring a sweatshirt. But a sweatshirt is tough when it rains! I need to look into these options a little more!

    • Ashlee Fechino on April 6, 2022 at 12:15 pm

      Hi Megan! Yes, you can wear whatever feels best – but a lot of these items are made to perform a certain way. I alway think about synthetic fabrics versus cotton. There really is a huge difference.

  9. Hannah on April 2, 2022 at 12:14 pm

    This is such a great guide to what to wear when hiking! I feel really silly for not thinking about wearing a sports bra while hiking! That would be so much more comfortable! I’ve never used hiking poles before either but I’m keen to try them out. Thanks for the great tips!

    • Ashlee Fechino on April 6, 2022 at 12:16 pm

      Hannah – I loved reading such a personal comment from you. I think it is OK to wear what we have – and invest in items of clothing that make the journey a little easier along the way. I bet you’ll love a good sports bra hiking! Thank you for sharing.

  10. Leah on April 3, 2022 at 3:06 am

    This is such a great list of hiking gear! I hate to say that I am always that unprepared person on a hike and I have regretted it every time haha, will definitely be purchasing some of these 🙂

    • Ashlee Fechino on April 6, 2022 at 12:17 pm

      Hi Leah – so great to read your comment. We hope you find it super helpful. Happy hiking!

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