"There's no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing."
Clothing and gear are everything when you're spending time in the outdoors. Grab the wrong jacket or forget a key item and it could put a serious damper on your trip. Whether you're going out for a short hike, backpacking the PCT, or headed to a backcountry campsite, we've got the lowdown on your attire.
What to Consider
While “explore more” or "take a hike" cotton tees might be the first thing you intend to grab so you can get that perfect Instagram shot on your hike (I mean you NEED to show everyone you're having a blast outside with an awesome picture, right?), newsflash: they’re actually not practical. Cotton absorbs water without wicking it away. This makes you feel even sweatier on hot days, and chilly and wet on colder days - yuck!
When you’re hiking, backpacking, or camping you need to focus on functionality, not fashion.
Polyester, nylon, Merino wool and other synthetic fibers are quick drying and wick sweat away from your skin, keeping you dry and comfortable, which is something you want if you're spending the day outside (trust us).
It’s important to anticipate any weather conditions, and not just what’s in the forecast (since we all know that can change). Be prepared for conditions to get hotter, colder, wetter, and even snowier than you predicted--and make sure you have the proper gear and clothes to protect you!
Pro Tip: Think about comfort, durability, weight, and of course, price. With any gear, you’re going to have to make some sacrifices, so make sure you decide on your preferences, as well as your budget. Are you willing to sacrifice your budget for lightweight gear? Are you willing to sacrifice weight for durability? Etc.
What to Wear
Jackets are a must no matter what time of year or what kind of weather conditions you’re in. There are many different types of winter jackets, so do some research and take your pick. You also can’t go wrong with a hard shell or waterproof rain jacket. They block the rain and wind, but also allow you to sweat without getting too hot. If it’s really wet and muggy out, it wouldn’t hurt to pack a pair of rain pants too.
While shorts may seem like the right choice on hot days, it’s a good idea to wear pants to protect your legs from dirt, stones, bugs, and branches on the trails. If you invest in a pair of zip-off pants (preferred by most hikers), you don’t have to choose between shorts and pants. You’ll also want to make sure the pants are durable to prevent tears, allow you to move freely (not too tight), are water-resistant, and have pockets for storage, if you’re into that sort of thing (who isn’t?).
Boots and Shoes
The shoes or boots you wear will depend on when, where, and the distance you will be hiking. For shorter hikes on well-defined trails, you can go with a pair of lightweight hiking shoes or even a pair of running shoes. For longer hikes on more rugged terrain, you’re going to want to invest in some hiking boots. No matter what, you’re going to want your shoes to be durable. Check out the Best Backpacking Boots and Hiking Shoes to learn all about them so you can choose the right ones that fit your outdoor lifestyle.
Socks and Gloves
Your socks should be thicker or thinner based on the weather, and should always be taller than the shoes or boots you are wearing. A good pair of durable, breathable, quick-drying and moisture-wicking socks made of Merino wool should do the trick. Gloves should be based on your preference. Of course, mittens are always warmer than gloves. Insulated and waterproof gloves are best for winter or very cold conditions.
Sun protection is an absolute MUST when you’re hiking in the hot sun. You’ll want a brimmed hat to protect your head and neck. If brimmed hats aren’t your thing, a regular baseball cap should do, but you might want to bring along a neck gaiter or bandana to protect your neck if need be. Sunscreen is also a must (obviously). Check out our Tips for Hiking in Hot Weather to see what you’ll really need and what you should do to keep cool.
Have fun, adventurers! Make sure you don’t forget anything!