What To Wear Hiking – Best Hiking Clothes Beginners Guide By A Pro (2021)

33 Best Hiking Clothes For All Seasons

A bit unsure of what to wear hiking? Here are the best hiking clothes for you to choose from, so don’t be! 😉

In this article, I’ll introduce you to the best hiking clothes to wear (and what NOT to wear hiking) in every season.

First, we look into DOs and DON’Ts when it comes to choosing the right hiking clothes (without compromising on quality) according to the season.

We’ll then look at the ideal hiking clothes according to weather conditions, seasons, temperature, and tips to ensure that your hiking is fun.

We’ll also look at the top 33 must-have hiking base layers, mid-layers, and outer layers as well as hiking essential gears: the best hiking undies, shirts, pants, jackets, shoes, backpacks, sunglasses, GPS trackers, and even smartwatches for hiking.

What To Wear Hiking (The Short Version!)

Good hiking base layers (including hiking undies, leggings, tops, shirts, long-sleeves, bras, socks) move sweat off the skin, dry fast, and are super comfortable next-to-skin.
For hiking pants durability and flexibility are critical; choose quick-drying and waterproof fabrics.
Hiking jackets must be waterproof and windproof but lightweight.
Your hiking shoes must be able to protect you from rocks, roots, and all sorts of natural hazards.
Hiking hats are essential to keep your head warm in the winter, the sun off your face and neck in the summer, and your head dry in the heaviest rain.
Choose hiking sunglasses that are specialized, high-quality polarized with UVA and UVB protection.
Having two pairs of hiking gloves, light hiking gloves and winter hiking gloves, prepares you for any type of weather.
Best hiking backpacks are waterproof, durable, and versatile.
Hiking gadgets and smart accessories like GPS trackers and smartwatches will help you to navigate a hike easier and safer.




How To Choose The Right Hiking Clothes?

Choosing the right hiking clothes depends on two things.

The weather conditions, and the AM – PM suitability, given the temperature changes.

There are also some key precautions you must take on a hiking day and in this article, I will detail the dos and don’ts for your hiking attire.

1. Hiking Clothes Comes in Layers

In hiking, clothes and gear come in layers.

Each clothing layer fulfills a particular function, and the aim is to add or subtract clothing layers to match the weather conditions.

2. Hiking Clothes Should be Cost-effective, Durable, and Comfortable

Buying hiking clothes could be an expensive exercise.

For that, try to match your stylistic preferences with your budget, before you shop.

Also, ultralight hiking gear is a great choice, but it will also lighten your wallet.

so, purchasing and wearing the last season’s discounted hiking clothes, from the winter base layers to repurposed, upcycled, or clearance hiking apparel will do just fine

However, regardless of your hiking clothing choice (brand, color, style) never compromise on comfort!

3. Consider the Weather Condition

In hiking, your health and safety depend on your hiking plan, what you wear, and what you have packed.

Always choose hiking clothes depending on the weather conditions to avoid any unwanted surprises.

Moreover, as forecasts can be off, make sure you also pack hiking clothes for unexpected weather conditions, be it colder, wetter, snowier, or hotter than predicted.

In my experience, there’s no climbing day without at least a bit of bad weather.

Thus, I always have with me an extra set of hiking clothes and a fully charged smartphone just in case I get stuck somewhere.

4. The Material Choice is Important

Most adventure sports have certain materials you should avoid at all costs.

Equally, there are materials you should and should not wear hiking.

Merino Wool – Soft, breathable, and moisture-wicking merino wool is a material that dries quite fast.

Polyester/Nylon – More affordable versions of merino wool but with similar properties.

Fleece – Polyester fleece jackets have a soft feel thanks to thick fibers that generate warmth, and have water-repellent properties.

Silk – With a poor wicking ability, silk is not an ideal material for a strenuous hike.

Cotton – Cotton is inefficient at wicking and drying but it ‘excels’ at soaking up sweat and staying wet.

5. Function over fashion, ALWAYS

There’s a study showing that wearing fashionable clothes while doing sports boosts one’s confidence; the same applies to hiking.

However, in the case of hiking, looking good while feeling miserable – because you’ve twisted an ankle or your clothes are soaked – is not something you want.

When it comes to hiking clothes, the functionality, safety, and comfort of your garments and accessories must ALWAYS come first.

If after ensuring safety, functionality, and comfort, you find hiking apparel that matches your fashion taste and budget, go for it.




What To Wear Hiking (33 Must-Have Hiking Clothes & Gears)

As a recap, when it comes to hiking, each clothing layer has a unique function.

Ideally, you add or subtract clothing layers to adapt to the changing weather conditions.

Below is an easy-to-use point checklist comprising the best hiking clothes (from ideal materials) and brief explanations on why you must have them.


Hiking Base Layers

Undies, Leggings, Tops, Shirts, Long-sleeves, Bras, Socks

Hiking Clothes Base Layers
Hiking base layers (thevou.com)




When it comes to choosing hiking base layers, the most suitable materials are Polyester, Nylon, and Merino Wool.

The materials’ moisture management ability allows the base layers to work well with all the rest of your hiking clothes.

Good hiking base layers also regulate your body’s temperature, keeping you warm and cool, as needed.

Good hiking base layers move sweat off the skin, dry fast, and are super comfortable next-to-skin.

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Best Hiking Undies

Tommy John Hiking briefs

Hiking Second Skin Briefs

TOMMY JOHN
$18-$24

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Hiking undies and leggings play a fundamental role in ensuring your overall comfort when climbing for long periods of time.

A must-avoid material is cotton – when it comes to hiking boxers, briefs, boy shorts, bikini briefs, even if it is organic cotton underwear!

Wear hiking base layers made from materials that include polyester, nylon, and merino wool.

In my experience, EBY is a great online site for proper underwear, regardless of the occasion.

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Best Hiking Leggings

Hiking long thermal underwear

Merino Thermal Hiking Leggings

ICEBREAKER
$85-$180

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Remember that all of these hiking clothes fall under the general category of outdoor clothes.

With that in mind, you also need long underwear for hiking that must be packed, according to the expected weather.

I always recommend wearing long underwear or hiking leggings under your hiking shorts.

These base hiking layers confer extra protection from the sun – on hot summer days – and deliver that extra warmth you need on cold winter days.

You can wear them under hiking pants or rain pants when weather conditions get stormy.




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Best Hiking Tops

Hiking Tank tops and tees by patagonia

Hiking Tanks Tops & Tees

PATAGONIA
$25-$65

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Whether it is a cold winter hike, a spring hike, or a hot summer hike, the hiking top is a must-have base layer.

However, an ideal hiking top must be able to wick away sweat and keep you comfortable all day.

Merino wool and synthetic materials are the best choices in this case.

Wicking tank tops and short-sleeve T-shirts are fine in warm weather.

But, if you’re hiking on a sun-drenched day, wear a long-sleeve UPF-rated shirt or hiking top with a flip-up collar, for neck protection.

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Best Hiking Shirts & Long-Sleeves

Hiking shirts, long-sleeve shirts, t-shirts, and tops

Hiking Shirts & Long-sleeves

COLUMBIA
$10-$70

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Hiking shirts and long sleeves are very versatile base layers, ideal for days with fast-changing weather.

Important here is to pay attention to the material type, to ensure an optimal level of comfort on your backpacking trip.

If it helps, see your long-sleeve shirt as an extra layer that creates warmth on cool days, and as an alternative to a T-shirt, to prevent sunburns, on sunny days.




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Best Hiking Sports Bras

Best hiking sports bras

Women’s Merino Sprite Racerback Bra

ICEBREAKER
$30-$60

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Similar to the base underwear layer, you must only wear hiking bras made from sweat-free materials.

Also, choose your hiking bras according to the intensity of activity and the level of support required.

Ideal hiking bras have a four-way-stretch fabric base blended with moisture-wicking materials that works wonders in hot or colder weather alike.

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Best Hiking Socks

Hiking Socks men & women

Hiking Socks

DARN TOUGH
$15-$78

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When it comes to hiking, stay away from cotton socks.

Since cotton absorbs sweat, your feet will stay wet for the whole hike, leading to painful blisters.

Merino wool socks – taller than your hiking footwear – are ideal for anyone; trail runners, people enjoying backcountry storms, or heavy rain walks.

Also, always have a spare pair of hiking socks just in case you wade too deeply in a creek or your feet start to blister.

As a general rule, having a pair thicker and one thinner will get you covered for all types of weather.


Hiking Pants

Cargo Pants, Rain pants, & Hiking Shorts

Hiking Pants and shorts
Hiking pants (thevou.com)




When it comes to hiking pants, durability and flexibility are critical.

Trails have twists, turns, unexpected terrain conditions, so you need to move freely but also safely.

Imagine hiking in stretchy tights or yoga pants; branches and boulders will shred them to pieces.

For that, your hiking pants must be durable but comfortable enough to let you climb and move with ease.

Natural hazards such as ticks, poison ivy, sharp rocks also play a significant role in deciding the ideal length and thickness that hiking bottoms should have.

Quick-drying and waterproof fabrics are also important here.

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Best Hiking Cargo Pants

Hiking Cargo Pants

Hiking Cargo Pants

EDDIE BAUER
$12-$75

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Cargo pants are a popular choice among hikers.

That’s thanks to the sturdy but functional construct, that allows safe hiking while carrying a lot of things.

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Best Hiking Rain Pants

Hiking rain pants waterproof

Hiking Rain Pants

AMAZON
$17-$164

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Hiking rain pants have a similar construct (and look) to cargo hiking pants.

However, hiking rain trousers are made of waterproof materials that make them ideal for rainy hiking days.

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Best Convertible Hiking Pants

Convertible Hiking Pants

Convertible Hiking Pants

AMAZON
$19-$166

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Most hikers I know, have at least a pair of zip-off pants for hiking, from ‘fabric for comfort.’

That’s because you can adjust them on the go, in seconds, according to the weather.

It saves time, money, and space, as you no longer have to stuff your bag with hiking pants and hiking shorts.




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Best Hiking Fleece Pants

Hiking Fleece Pants

Fleece Pants

MOUNTAIN HARDWEAR
$150

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Another type of must-have pants for hiking is the fleece pant, as severe cold is always a possibility.

With an insulating layer, fleece pants are an excellent choice for cooler hikes.

Also, the warmer layer or mid-layer addition helps with cold temperatures on extended hikes and rainy conditions.

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Best Hiking Shorts

EDDIE BAUER Hiking Short

Hiking Short

EDDIE BAUER
$28-$55

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Even the simplest hiking gear guides advise the packing of a pair of hiking shorts.

Taht’s because hiking shorts have an exceptional combination of comfort and versatility.

Lightweight, breathable, and quick-drying, hiking shorts are a great choice for hiking in nice weather days.

Moreover, shorts made of stretch-woven fabric with an external stash pocket and pocket zips are great for hiking.


Hiking Jackets

Hiking Raincoats, Insulated Jackets, Fleece Jackets, & Vests

Best hiking jackets for men and women
Hiking jackets (thevou.com)




Designed to provide further insulation for warmth, the best hiking jacket depends a lot on the season and the weather you’re hiking in.

ldeally, you’ll have a waterproof and windproof but lightweight and easy to pack jacket – in case you need to remove it along the way.

This way, you’re covered for any weather conditions and temperature changes during your hike.

Polyester fill or water-resistant down inside jackets are also a great choice, no matter the weather conditions.

Since jackets are the most important components of hiking clothes, make sure you get them from the top outdoor clothing brands.

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Best Hiking Rain Jackets

Hiking Rain Trail Jackets L.L.BEAN

Hiking Rain Trail Jackets

L.L.BEAN
$60-$180

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The best rain jacket must have a waterproof outer layer but be breathable at the same time.

Can’t stress enough, breathable fabrics – from synthetic or recycled fabrics – are a must.

The jacket must be able to block rain and keep you dry, but without feeling like you’re wearing a plastic bag.

Best hiking jackets have cover, secure-zip hand pockets, a large pocket for storage, an additional secure-zip pocket, and ideally, all of it packs into a chest pocket.

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Best Insulated Hiking Jackets

Insulated Hiking Jackets

Insulated Jackets

COLUMBIA
$80-$240

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From all clothing items here, a well-insulated hiking jacket, with an adjustable hood, is critical if you want to avoid hypothermia.

That’s why, many pro hikers bring two jackets with them: a lightweight fleece as a top jacket and a lightweight puffy jacket that fits in a daypack.

Regardless of your choice, make sure your hiking jacket is insulated, from windproof fabric, and suitable for harsh weather conditions.




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Best Hiking Fleece Jackets

BERGHAUS Hiking Fleece Jackets

Hiking Fleece Jackets

BERGHAUS
$60-$110

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Great for colder days, hiking fleeces come in lightweight, midweight and heavyweight.

Choose quick-drying materials and stretch fleece with a pocket on liner.

Make sure you choose the weight based on the forecasted whether and if your metabolism runs hot or cold.

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Best Hiking Vest

Hiking Vests

Hiking Vests

PATAGONIA
$60-$180

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If you’re going to hike in mild weather conditions, a fleece jacket is sufficient.

However, if the weather might get cold fast, you better have a puffy vest with you as well.

There are two main types of hiking vests.

  1. Puffy vests – which lose their warmth-retaining abilities if you get them wet, so not that suitable for wet conditions.
  2. Hiking vests with synthetic insulations – which, in my opinion, are a far better bet, as if the weather is cold you put it on, and if you’re in hot weather, you take it off.

Hiking Footwear

Hiking Shoes, Boots, & Sandals

What to wear hiking footwear, hiking shoes, hiking boots, hiking sandals
Hiking footwear (thevou.com)




Shoes are one of the most important parts of a complete (and safe) hiking suite.

The hiking footwear you choose should be able to protect you from rocks, roots, and all sorts of natural hazards.

Modern hiking shoes have Surface Control™ technology, that combines rubber outsole with geometry midsole.

Also, the best hiking shoes are built to confer extra ankle support and enhanced traction on wet and dry surfaces.

However, choosing the best hiking shoes for you depends on three main factors:

1. Weather Conditions

Hiking on snow or rainy weather requires waterproof footwear.

Similarly, you need dedicated hiking sneakers or hiking sandals on hot summer days.

2. Type of Terrain

If you are hiking on a flat track, a pair of comfortable sneakers may be all you need.

However, once you build elevation and the terrain turns rocky, a sturdy pair of hiking boots with ankle protection is a much better choice.

3. Personal Preference

Personally, I wear clunky hiking boots most of the year.

That’s because I appreciate the ankle support and extra traction provided.

However, I have friends who wear hiking sandals all year long, up to the point snow makes them impractical.

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Best Hiking Shoes

Best hiking shoes by Salomon

Low Gore-Tex Hiking Shoes

SALOMON
$65-$180

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Regardless of your preferences, always make sure you have a dedicated pair of hiking shoes in your bag.

Sturdy on the surface and with robust soles, these shoes will protect your feet and ankle during unexpected portions of difficult terrain.

As a side note, make sure the hiking shoes you buy will keep your feet not only safe but also very comfortable.

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Best Hiking Boots

Best hiking boots by Timberland

Hiking Boots

TIMBERLAND
$80-$340

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Wearing the right pair of hiking boots will make a big difference to the success of your trip and the health of your feet, at the end of the day.

A good pair of hikers will stand up to the rugged terrain, soaking up the lumps and bumps of the roughest trails and keeping your feet dry in the wettest and muddiest of bogs.

The most important factor is fit, so it’s best to try and ensure you have a chosen a comfortable and breathable hiking boot, before you buy.

Get it wrong and you’ll suffer with blister-inducing sore spots; on the other hand, choose wisely, and your boots will feel as comfy as your favourite trainers.




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Best Hiking Sandals

Hiking Sandals by Keen

Hiking Sandals

KEEN
$30-$150

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There was a time when sandals were reserved for the beach or the public shower.

Nowadays, outdoor apparel companies have taken the core DNA of the standard flip-flops and leveled it up.

The best hiking sandals you can buy right now are packed with features like a beefier sole, secure webbing, greater arch support.

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Best Hiking Shoe Gaiters

Hiking shoe gaiters

Hiking Shoe Gaiters

MONTANE
$25-$60

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On the trail, you might see what looks like legwarmers atop hikers’ boots.

Called ‘hiking gaiters’, these accessories keep trail debris, rain, and even pests like ticks from invading your boots.


Best Hiking Hats

Hiking Hats for Sun, Rain, & Cold Weather

Hiking Hats, Caps and Beanies
Hiking hats (thevou.com)




Hiking hats are as essential as your hiking shoes, and here’s why:

A good hiking hat will keep your head warm in the winter, the sun off your face and neck in the summer, and your head dry in the heaviest rain.

There’s a hat for every season and weather condition, as you’ll see below.

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Best Hiking Sun Hats

Hiking Booney hats by Columbia

Hiking Boonie Hats

COLUMBIA
$34.99

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If you’re hiking in the desert or other relentlessly sunbaked environments, wearing a Boonie hat is a must.

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Best Hiking Caps

Hiking Caps by Fjallraven 

Hiking Caps

FJALLRAVEN
$35

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Hiking caps are also great for keeping the sun away from your eyes.

Moreoer, the open back allows for further ventilation if needed.

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Best Hiking Rain Hats

Hiking brim hats by outdoor research

Hiking Brimmed Hats

OUTDOOR RESEARCH
$30-$150

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Waterproof hats with wide brims are ideal to keep the rain out of your eyes.




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Best Hiking Winter Hats

Hiking winter hats by Oakley

Hiking Beanie

OAKLEY
$20-$45

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If you’re going hiking in cold weather conditions, you MUST pack a hiking hat made of wool or synthetic material to insulate your head.

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Best Hiking Neck Gaiters

ICEBREAKER Neck Gaiters

Unisex Merino Chute Neck Gaiters

ICEBREAKER
$30

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Experienced hikers also use neck gaiter, in particular in freezing weather.

Check out this article for the best neck gaiters you can buy right now.


Sunglasses for Hiking

Polarized Hiking Sunglasses

Hiking Sunglasses
Hiking sunglasses (thevou.com)




When talking about packing hiking essentials for a long summer hiking day, very few people mention sunglasses.

However, if you’re hiking without sunglasses the glare of the sun could be damaging to your eyes.

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Best Hiking Sunglasses

Hiking sunglasses

Sports Performance Sunglasses

OAKLEY
$80-$290

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Right now, most hiking sunglasses you can buy from high street retailers won’t protect your eyes from the sun unless you add special filters.

Therefore, always wear specialized, high-quality polarized hiking sunglasses, with UVA and UVB protection.


Gloves for Hiking

Light, Insulated, & Waterproof Hiking Gloves

Hiking Gloves
Hiking gloves (thevou.com)




Insulated and waterproof gloves are best for wintry conditions.

Having not just one pair of the best hiking gloves, but a spare pair too is essential.

There are light and winter hiking gloves to choose from.

However, some of the best gloves for hiking are heated – see this article for an excellent selection of heated gloves right now.

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Best Light Hiking Gloves

Light hiking gloves

Hiking Etip Gloves

THE NORTH FACE
$40-$90

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Freezing temperatures descend often in the mountains when the wind takes the chill factor way into the negatives.

Having a light pair of hiking gloves in your bag – just in case –  will protect your fingers from a potential onslaught.

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Best Winter Hiking Gloves

Winter Hiking Gloves

Insulated Hiking Gloves

EDDIE BAUER
$25-$150

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If you’re going hiking snowy mountains, you definitely need a pair of insulating gloves, knitted mitts, or even better, thermal gloves.


Hiking Packs

Hiking Backpacks, Waist packs, Hydration packs & Child Carriers

Hiking Backpacks
Hiking packs (thevou.com)




Coming in various sizes, types, materials, and colors, hiking bags are a must.

Yet, avoid the temptation of taking an oversized backpack while hiking, and pack only the things you need.

Be super selective with everything you put in the pack so you can keep to a smaller bag, around 25L or so.

Best hiking backpacks are waterproof and very durable.

Also, a good hiking pack should also help with your posture like the bags below.

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Best Hiking Backpacks

Hiking Backpacks

Hiking Backpacks

MOUNTAIN HARDWEAR
$60-$210

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Some of the best hiking backpacks are very versatile.

These bags can be used anywhere, from superlight backcountry trips to rock climbing, had heavy hiking.

As a note, if your backpack is over 25L make sure it allows uniform packing for increased stability.

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Best Hiking Waist Packs

Hiking waist packs

Waist Pack

FILSON
$175-$235

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Even if you’re going for a shorter hike with stable weather, you’ll still want a hiking waist pack.

Rather than carrying water bottles and accessories, a hiking waist pack is great at holding your stuff and setting your hands free.




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Best Hiking Hydration Packs

Hiking hydration packs

Hydration Packs & Accessories

CAMELBAK
$50-$150

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It is hard to have enough water to drink when you’re hiking or climbing.

But, any outdoor enthusiast knows how important it is to stay hydrated.

And while there’s no one size fits all hydration pack, that diversity alone is great as you can choose your hiking hydration pack according to desired activities.

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Best Hiking Child Carriers

Hiking Child Carrier

Child Carriers For Hiking

DEUTER
$32-$300

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Back carriers are suitable for babies who can sit up and support themselves.

Generally, you’ll see them labeled as being okay for use from 6 months up.

Also, a good hiking child carrier should last until your child’s 4 or 5 – if your back can withstand it!


Hiking Gadgets

Hiking GPS Trackers & Smartwatches

Hiking Gadgets
Hiking gadgets (thevou.com)




Modern hiking requires a lot of smart accessories like GPS trackers and smartwatches.

But, know you’re going to get your hiking accessories scratched (and wet) a lot.

Thus, make sure you also include the following thoughts when choosing a hiking smartwatch or GPS tracker:

  • Is it waterproof?
  • How long does the battery last?
  • How durable is it?
  • Is it affordable?

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Best GPS Trackers For Hiking

Hiking GPS Trackers

Hiking Handhelds GPS Trackers

GARMIN
from $299

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If you’re serious about hiking, you need a dedicated GPS tracker.

A stand-alone hiking GPS can help you with navigation, planning, and weather prediction.




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Best Smartwatches For Hiking

Hiking Outdoor Smartwatches

Outdoor Smartwatches

GARMIN
from $165

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A good hiking watch does not only show time and date.

It provides you with crucial information for your outdoor adventures such as altitude, location, air pressure, sunrise/sunset times, etc.

Watches, in particular smartwatches, with hiking-specific features are very popular these days.

The companies behind them are making great progress when it comes to fitness tracking and combining design with useful technology.





Conclusion

Now you’ve got the basics of hiking clothes, what to wear hiking and what to avoid, what to do to ensure a good hiking day, and must-have hiking clothes for an ideal hiking outfit.

A non-debatable for any solid hiking outfit is the use of layers at all times.

Regardless of the weather conditions, be that a summer hike or a winter hiking session, hiking layers are a must.

There are layers after layers of clothing (for any quality hiking gear or hiking apparel), so get used to the idea of having extra clothing layers on you.

Finally don’t forget to avoid cotton-based jeans for hiking, or any apparel not suitable for rain, or unable to provide sun protection.

Materials-wise you should choose Merino wool and synthetics, even recycled materials, over cotton.

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Now it’s your turn…

What do you recommend wearing on a hike?

In your opinion, what is the best hiking outfit?

Recommend three hiking outfits/brands you think I should promote in this article.

Do you have any hiking clothing tips you would like me to add to this list?

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