How do I Choose the Best Hiking Clothes?

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  • Written By: Jessica Kolifrath
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 10 March 2020
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Hiking exposes you to the weather, creatures and plant life of the great outdoors. The best hiking clothes help protect you from all the elements. The area of the country a person plans to hike in will have a big effect on the best clothing material, but you should look for high-quality hiking gear that will withstand the demands of physical activity. Also look for clothing appropriate for layering to get the most use out of your hiking clothes.

No matter what hiking routes you plan to travel, wearing at least three layers of clothing will keep your skin protected from both sun and cold temperatures. The first layer should be comfortable on your skin and must wick moisture away as you sweat. Specially designed synthetic materials are available that draw moisture away, and these materials make the best hiking shirts. The first layer of hiking clothes should fit tightly to the skin to prevent moisture from pooling and causing irritation.


If you plan to hike during cool weather, your second layer should be composed of a durable fleece or thick outer shirt and tough pants. Brambles, tree branches and low growth can cut your skin and cause irritation, so the second layer of hiking clothing is generally designed for protection. Choose shirts and pants made from tightly woven materials to prevent sunburn and for better insulation. Wool is a good choice if warmth is a major concern, because it won't absorb moisture, but synthetic fleece may be better if you are worried about clothing weight slowing you down. A medium-thickness cotton shirt will be your best choice in warm weather.

Hiking pants, whether they are shorts or full-length trousers, must also wick moisture, unless you plan to wear long underwear beneath them. Loose pants will be more likely to get snagged in underbrush. Instead, choose a well fitting pair that sits at your natural waist.

Socks also must be considered when picking the best hiking clothes. They should fit well — a bit on the snug side but not tight — and work well with the boots you intend to wear while hiking. Their weight, whether light, heavy or somewhere in between, should be determined by the type of hike. A moisture-wicking sock can be beneficial in helping to prevent blisters, especially on longer hikes over more rugged terrain.

The third layer of most hiking outfits is a jacket designed for rain protection, though some also consider warmth. The best hiking jackets are completely waterproof and fall just over your waistband. This length prevents water from running off into your clothing without being so long as to interrupt your natural hiking stride. An appropriate hat with a wide brim also can help with rain protection, along with adding warmth in cold weather and providing sun protection in hot weather.

No matter which article of hiking clothes you are shopping for, look for materials designed to keep moisture off your skin. Avoid flimsy materials that can rip if caught on a branch, and test the seams of each piece by pulling gently. Hiking clothes take a lot of wear from trail walking or backpacking and must be durable and well made to be worth the money.



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