What to Wear When Hiking

Photo of two people hiking up a mountain

Hiking, trekking, or just walking; There are many ways to call it, but they all serve to improve our health and breathe the fresh air of nature. Anyone can go hiking without spending money, simply by wearing the clothes they feel most comfortable with and going for a walk. However, in this article, we are going to give several tips on how we should dress and what accessories we should bring if we want our experience to be 100% comfortable and enjoyable.

Three Layer Principle

There is a fairly widespread hiking principle that easily summarises what is needed for hiking. This is known as “The Three Layer Principle“.

Layer 1: Base Layer – Transportation

It is the layer that is in contact with the skin. Its main function is to move our sweat away from the skin, preventing the sensation of humidity and our body from cooling down.

For this, non-absorbent materials composed of synthetic fibers (such as polyester and polypropylene) or new generation wool are used. This allows your body to breathe; preventing excessive sweating. 

Note there is a difference between non-absorbent and breathable, being only breathable won’t be able to deal with the sweat produced by your body. 

The new generation wool presents a better feeling while dealing with moisture inside your clothing a lot more efficiently than synthetic fabrics. However, synthetic fibers are cheaper, dry much faster, and more commonly found in inner garments.

Some garments use silver thread to prevent the accumulation of bacteria and bad odors, while working as a good thermal regulator.

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In this layer we must avoid cotton shirts that are easily soaked (they can absorb four times their weight in water) and take a long time to dry.

Find garments of different thicknesses that allow you to keep the body warm; change the thickness of garment depending on the temperature and activity. Try and pick thicker undergarments for the upper body as the legs can withstand colder temperatures.

Garments that are as tight as possible to the body are recommended, but not overly tight. This is the first layer of defense against the wind (it prevents us from cooling by convection), and allow you to carry out movements without burdening yourself

Undergarments with zippers are always good to have. They allow you to cool yourself easily when needed on a hot hike.

It can be good to find undergarments that give you protection from the sun on hot days when you only need to wear one layer.

Within this layer we find the following clothes :

  • Inner shirts.
  • Tights.
  • Thermal gloves.

A good example of these are the Capilene Cool Tech Tees by Patagonia. Check it out:

Price: Around £35

Layer 2: Mid Layer – Insulation

The function of the second layer is to insulate us thermally. These garments do not heat us directly, their mission is to retain the heat generated by the body and prevent it from cooling. This layer should also be highly breathable.

The idea is to use insulating materials that, even when wet, manage to keep their insulating and breathable properties intact. For this you can find a wide variety of synthetic (e.g. polyester) and natural (e.g. wool) fibers that perform this function.

As with the previous layer, what synthetic fibers have in their favor is that they are less absorbent, facilitating better breathability, as well as drying more quickly. 

Natural fibers only have the advantage that they retain more heat, so they are usually mixed with synthetic fibers to improve their properties.

Again, keep in mind the heat and activity you are doing. Change the thickness of layer two accordingly.

Inside the second layer we can find the following clothes :

  • Fleece linings.
  • Trekking pants.
  • Caps.
  • Polar gloves, mittens and mittens.
  • Socks.

A great product for this layer could be North Face’s Denali Fleece. This can be a great option to keep warm but not overly thick.

Price: Around £150

Layer 3: Outer Layer – Protection

The function of this third layer is to protect us from three important factors:

  1. From external humidity: keep dry from rain and snow.
  2. From the outside wind: avoid the feeling of cold caused by the wind and low temperatures.
  3. From our sweat: allowing some level of breathability to increase comfort.

We reiterate the importance of this last layer being as breathable as possible since as we have commented at the beginning, our own sweat can soak our clothes causing great discomfort and even hypothermia.

Furthermore, this layer must be resistant to chafing, abrasion, and tears, since being the most external it will be in contact with our own materials such as backpack, ropes, and other gear you might need. As well as, of course, the external environment.

In this layer we can find the following garments :

  • Jackets with a waterproof membrane.
  • Windbreakers.
  • Waterproof trousers.
  • Gloves with a waterproof membrane.
  • Softshells.

We have found great waterproof jackets by Marmot. Here is a post from their Instagram:

Price: £75+

Final Thoughts

Don’t forget sunglasses, cap, compass, map, mobile phone, suncream, and hiking sticks! Clothing shouldn’t be the only thing to think about when hiking.

We hope this helps to give you an idea of what to wear when hiking in the summer, winter, or any season!