What to Wear for a Day Hike

What to wear for hiking

Day hiking is a great way to get some fresh air, exercise every muscle in your body, and spend quality time with friends or family. Wearing the right clothing for a hike will help keep you comfortable and safe, so you can focus on your surroundings and your hiking partners.

Best Hiking Clothes

  • Shoes and socks: Comfortable shoes or hiking boots, depending on the terrain. For easy day hikes on well-established trails, you can usually get by with running shoes or low hikers that have a grippy sole. Many people als0 like wearing lightweight hiking boots if they want additional ankle support. Whatever shoes you bring, make sure that they’re well broken-in so you can avoid getting blisters. It’s also best to wear wool or synthetic socks when hiking, not cotton, because they absorb less perspiration which can lead to blisters. Hiker favorites include Merrill Moab hiking shoes, Keen Targhee III mids, and Altra Lone Peak trail running shoes, all available for men and women, including wides sizes. Be sure to check out our 10 Best Hiking Shoes and Boots Gear Guide for a wider selection.
Zip-off convertible pants can be used as shorts or long pants.
Zip-off convertible pants can be used as shorts or long pants.
  • Pants or shorts: Lightweight, roomy hiking pants that provide freedom of movement and will dry quickly if they get wet. Long pants, capris, shorts, skirts are all good choices depending on weather conditions. Most hikers prefer convertible hiking pants with zip-off legs like Columbia’s Silver Ridge Pants, Prana Stretch Zion, or REI Sahara Pants (all available for men and women) because you can quickly turn them into shorts if you get too hot or wear them as long pants for insect protection. See our 10 Best Hiking Pants Gear Guide for a wider selection.
  • Underwear: When hiking, it’s best to avoid wearing cotton underwear because it absorbs perspiration and can lead to painful chafing when it gets damp. Your best bet is to wear synthetic boxers or panties that will wick moisture away from your skin and won’t bunch up if you start to perspire heavily. It also helps to wear boxer-style underwear, which can help prevent rubbing between your thighs. The most popular hiking underwear by far are Ex Officio Give N’ Go Boxer Briefs (men) and Give N’ Go Hipsters (women), although synthetic compression shorts also work quite well.
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It's best to bring several layers on hikes with variable weather. A short sleeve for hot weather, a long sleeve shirt that can be worn over it for sun and insect protection and a lightweight fleece sweater for cooler temperatures
It’s best to bring several layers on hikes with variable weather. A short sleeve for hot weather, a long sleeve shirt that can be worn over it for sun and insect protection and a lightweight fleece sweater for cooler temperatures
  • Shirts: There are a wide range of shirts that will work for hiking ranging from running and athletic short sleeve shirts to vented long sleeve fishing shirts. You going to perspire when you hike, so try to wear a shirt that will keep you cool and can dry when it’s being worn. Thin wool shirts like a Smartwool Merino 150 Base T-shirt are also very comfortable in warm weather and don’t stink as much when you perspire. Also consider wearing a long sleeve shirt that has lots of pockets and can provide sun or insect protection if conditions warrant, like the Ex Officio Bugs Away Halo Check Shirt. When choosing hiking shirts, consider bringing a few different layers on your hike, like a lightweight shirt that can be worn along with a quarter-zip fleece sweater, in case you get chilled and want to wear something warmer.
  • Hat and Sunglasses: Don’t forget a hat and sunglasses if your eyes are sensitive to light. It’s surprisingly easy to get sunburn when hiking all day outdoors, so cover up with a baseball hat or a wide-brimmed hat to protect your skin and eyes. If you’re in the mountains, you might also consider wearing a UV Buff to protect your neck from sun or sunlight reflected off snow.

What to Pack

Those are the basic clothes you need to go hiking. In addition, you’ll want to carry a 20-35 liter backpack containing enough water for the day (usually 2-3 liters), a small first aid kit, a headlamp, rain gear, bug dope, suntan lotion, a map, snacks or lunch, and other personal items. What you bring will vary on the length of your hike, so check out our Day Hiker’s List of the 10 Essentials to make sure you’re properly prepared.

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