When choosing what to wear hiking, look for lightweight, versatile layers to help you deal with changes in weather. Well-fitting walking boots or shoes will improve traction and stability on uneven terrain. Clothing made from breathable fabrics helps keep you cool and dry and be sure to pack a waterproof outer layer in case of rain.
Planning ahead, before heading outdoors, will help you be the most prepared, allowing you to focus on enjoyment and performance. This guide will explore the key items of clothing you need for hiking, helping you choose the right equipment for your needs.
What clothes to wear for hiking
Selecting clothes to wear for hiking starts with thinking through the activities you have planned and the conditions you are likely to encounter. Footwear should fit well and provide grip on uneven ground. Clothing should be lightweight and flexible. Plan to wear layers so that you can adapt to changes in temperature
It is essential to choose hiking boots or shoes that fit well, so take time to try some on. Walk around in the footwear to see how the boot feels and check for tight areas. The aim is to minimise the movement of your foot inside the boot to avoid blisters. When you purchase a new pair of boots, wear them for a shorter walk before using them on a longer hike.
The sole should provide traction on loose ground. The height of the boot at the ankle will depend on your planned activities. High cut boots provide more ankle support for scrambling and challenging surfaces. Low cut walking shoes offer more flexibility and lower weight.
Boots made from waterproof fabrics will keep your feet dry in wet conditions. Breathable upper materials will allow sweat to evaporate easily. Socks should be durable, comfortable and made from quick-drying fabrics.
Related: What to look for in walking boots
Hiking trousers should be lightweight, flexible and breathable. Performance fabrics are designed to move moisture away from the body when you start to sweat, maintaining a comfortable microclimate near the skin.
Choose a pair of trousers that do not restrict your movement, allowing your legs to move freely. In warm conditions, shorts will help you stay cool and flexible, but be careful if your planned route includes thorny plants or sharp rocks.
Is it OK to hike in Jeans?
Jeans can be worn for very short walks but are not recommended for longer hikes. Wearing jeans can cause chaffing and they absorb water. Rain, puddles and even your own sweat will be held by the denim, increasing weight. Look for a pair of trousers made from breathable quick-drying fabrics for a more comfortable experience.
Related: Choosing the right trousers for your outdoor adventure
An effective method of selecting hiking clothes is to choose garments that can work together as layers. Layering clothing creates versatility as layers can be added or removed when the weather conditions change. On a winter hike, using layers is an efficient method of insulation, maintaining a comfortable body temperature and allowing sweat to evaporate.
Layers can be broken down into three sections:
The layer closest to your skin is the base layer. Select a base layer that is thin, light and allows you to move easily. Short sleeves are ideal on a summer hike but avoid cotton T-shirts that will absorb sweat. Choose fabrics that will wick moisture away from the skin.
Related: How to choose a base layer
The mid-layer is worn on top of the base layer, providing additional insulation by trapping a layer of air. Fleece and merino wool are popular materials that add warmth without sacrificing breathability. A lightweight mid-layer can be easily stored in your bag, ready to be used in cold weather.
The North Face Men’s 100 Glacier Fleece Jacket is a classic, effective mid-layer. The microfleece construction traps heat without sacrificing ventilation. Compatible with other TriClimate garments from The North Face, the glacier fleece is a layering essential.
Your outer layer or shell acts as a barrier to wind and rain. A light, waterproof rain jacket is ideal when combined with your other layers. The goal is to provide protection against the elements without being bulky and difficult to carry.
In some cases with more extreme weather conditions, more than three layers are needed to ensure warmth and comfort. It’s a good idea to always pack an additional layer or two if you are in colder climates.
What is the best jacket for hiking?
The best jacket for hiking will help you manage variable weather conditions. Look for a jacket that is waterproof and windproof. Breathable fabrics allow sweat to evaporate, increasing comfort in warm weather. Insulated, lightweight jackets can be packed easily, so they’re close at hand when the temperature starts to drop.
Synthetic fabrics are engineered to provide warmth while remaining lightweight. A quality hiking jacket will regulate body temperature and maintain high levels of comfort and performance.
Your jacket should be chosen in conjunction with your other layers to create an effective, versatile combination of clothing.
Down jackets use soft, warm feathers from ducks or geese as insulation. The feathers create air pockets, trapping body heat and keeping you warm. These jackets are lightweight and compress extremely well, making them a versatile choice to pack for your hike.
Although down jackets are designed to keep you warm, they are not waterproof and so if you are in wet conditions, a waterproof jacket like the Men’s Summit Series FUTURELIGHT™ would be more suitable.
The North Face THERMOBALL™ technology has been developed to maintain the insulating properties of down in damp conditions. Thermoball insulation uses small clusters of synthetic fibres to recreate the properties of down feathers. The shape of the clusters is not compromised if they become damp, continuing to provide warmth in all conditions.
The North Face has engineered WindWall fabrics to combat wind chill and maintain breathability with windproof technology. By reducing the flow of air past the body, thermal energy transfer is reduced, keeping you warm in cold winds.
The North Face Women’s Dryzzle FUTURELIGHT™ Jacket is made from lightweight, breathable fabric with a durable water repellent finish. Designed for hiking, the sealed seams, fully adjustable hood, and storm flap combine for ultimate wet-weather protection.
Our jacket finder can help you select the ideal jacket for your needs by answering five simple questions.
What should I wear for a day hike?
Plan ahead to choose the best clothes to wear for a day hike. Look at your intended route and check the weather forecast. Wear durable footwear and a stretchy, breathable base layer. Take a fleece mid-layer, as temperatures may drop, and pack a waterproof outer shell to deal with rain.
When heading out for a day hike, the aim is to eliminate unnecessary items while remaining prepared for changeable conditions. Choosing versatile clothing will help you stay comfortable throughout the day without carrying excess weight.
Start with boots, socks and lightweight trousers or shorts. Check our layering guide to select items that work well together to keep you cool, dry and comfortable in variable weather.
Take a backpack that can carry outer layers when you are not wearing them, along with other accessories and essentials, such as water and a first aid kit. Consult The North Face guide to help you select the appropriate size backpack and pick up some packing tips.
The North Face has been committed to innovation for over 50 years, providing the best gear for explorers and adventurers. For hiking, camping and other adventures, careful planning of your clothing will ensure maximum levels of enjoyment and performance.