Pro tip: Don’t go pantless through the wilderness. I cannot stress this enough.
The real advice when it comes to pants/shorts is heavily dependent upon your environment. If it’s going to be cold, shorts might keep you shivering. If it’s going to be hot, pants might get too uncomfortable.
Jeans? Ehhhhh. Sure. ONLY if its going to be a comfortable temperature and you have no other option. Being sweaty and hot while wearing jeans isn’t very fun.
what to wear on a hike and still look cute
I’m a big fan of my nerd pants – the Columbia Silver Ridge pants. Although they look kind of goofy, they’re incredibly light weight, dry quickly, and can transform from pants to shorts in mere seconds!
Traveling through woods, not sure what you’ll encounter? Wear lightweight pants. I am horribly allergic to poison ivy and who knows what else, so I like to keep as much of my body covered while hiking to make sure I don’t make contact with anything I’m allergic to.
WHAT TYPE OF SHIRT SHOULD I WEAR?
My favorite options are merino wool long shirts and t-shirts: they’re light, wick away moisture, hide odors, and breathe well – though you will be paying top dollar for them.
sandwiches for hiking
If you’re just starting out, pick an old t-shirt and rock that – you can work on optimizing performance once you’ve got a few hikes under your belt.
Shameless plug: the Nerd Fitness t-shirt does hold up quite well to wear and tear over long periods of time – I’ve been rocking my shirt in heavy rotation on lots of hikes for years. It can also withstand gamma rays and makes you invisible.
if you’re on a multi-day hike in various conditions then having lightweight merino wool shirts you can layer and not need to wash would be great. But just going for a hike in the woods in your back yard? Whatever you would wear while running, training, etc. Aka whatever won’t chafe!
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SHOULD I BRING A JACKET?
I’ve been wearing this Mountain Hardware jacket on most of my hikes and it has been awesome (10 years and counting) – very lightweight so packing it isn’t a hassle, waterproof so it keeps me dry when it rains, and heavy enough to block the wind to keep me warm when it’s chilly.
Don’t go out of your way to buy a new jacket if you have a decent wind breaker, but if you’re going to be doing a lot of hiking or you’re in the market for a new coat, here’s my advice: go to a local store and try out all of the jackets until you find one you like.
Once you find the perfect jacket, go home and check online (you can sometimes find the same jacket for up to 60% less) – then, ask the local store if they’ll price match or just buy it online.
SHOULD I WEAR A HAT?
You should definitely bring a hat. I’m usually rocking my Nerd Fitness hat or my Red Sox hat (booo Yankees), but while hiking in Australia I wore a hat with a giant floppy brim to keep my ears and face protected from the sun.
The tops of your ears and back of your neck are highly susceptible to getting burned while on the trail, so either get some sunscreen or wear a hat that keeps them covered.
The same is true for keeping pesky things out of your hair, the sun from burning your ears and face, and keep you a bit cooler.
WHAT KIND OF BACKPACK SHOULD I BRING?
Digging into the ins and outs of backpacks is far beyond the scope of this article. I’d recommend you check out my friend Chase’s Bag Review Youtube channel – guaranteed to be the most fun you’ll ever have learning about bags.
So what would I recommend for a beginner on a hike? The bag you currently have! If you’re going on a short hike, you can start with simply whatever bag you have. The lighter and more comfy it is, the better.
Multi-day hikes where you’re living out of your bag, packing up and building a tent each day – this is beyond the scope of this article. I have rocked a Kelty Coyote bag that I’ve lived out of for months at a time, and have also used on multi-day hikes.
If you have the means and the time, and you’re planning to go on certain hikes, go to a outdoor speciality store, speak with a professional, and get fitted for your body type and type of hike you’re doing!
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: VERSATILITY
If your weather forecast is “75 and sunny,” and you’re hiking for the afternoon through a gradually sloping wooded forest, you can severely limit what you’re bringing with you.
If it’s questionable or looks like things might change during the day, versatility is your best bet – a jacket, pants that can become shorts, a long sleeve shirt that you can take off or roll the sleeves up, etc.
Don’t go out and buy all new stuff until you’re sure hiking is an activity you want to invest in. Borrow from friends, make do with what you have Just get started.
BY NOW YOU SHOULD HAVE A ROUGH IDEA OF WHAT YOU WILL BE WEARING!
In your head you should be saying, “Steve how can you read my mind?!
I just decided:
- I’d hike in my current gym sneakers.
- I have a pair of gardening pants and tall socks I can wear.
- I have a floppy hat.
- My new Nerd Fitness t-shirt.
I feel like I’m good to go!