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How To Get Ready For Your First Hiking Trip
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How To Get Ready For Your First Hiking Trip

How To Get Ready For Your First Hiking Trip

When you’re planning a hiking trip, what you wear can make a big difference in how enjoyable it is. From base layers that keep you dry to bug repellent that keeps you comfortable, each piece of clothing serves an important purpose. 

According to experienced hiker Amanda, selecting the right clothing for a hike is essential. She advises against cotton and recommends materials like polyester, nylon, and merino wool for their moisture-wicking properties. Layering with proper base, mid, and outer layers is key for comfort and adapting to changing conditions.

This guide covers all the essentials, from hats and gloves to rain gear and backpacks. Whether you’re dealing with rough terrain or unexpected weather, having the right gear can make your hike much more pleasant and safe.

In This Hiking Guide

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Key Takeaways

Choose the Right Gear: Prioritize clothing and equipment suitable for the hiking environment. Opt for gear that offers comfort, protection, and mobility on the trail.

Ensure Comfort and Safety: Select well-fitting attire and gear to prevent discomfort and injuries. Pay attention to factors like moisture-wicking properties, sun protection, and insect repellent for a safe and enjoyable hike.

Be Prepared for the Unexpected: Pack essential items such as water, snacks, navigation tools, and emergency supplies. Stay aware of trail conditions, follow proper etiquette, and practice Leave No Trace principles for a responsible and rewarding outdoor experience.

What to Wear When Hiking?

Courtesy of Amanda Outside

When you’re heading out for a hike, it’s essential to dress appropriately for the terrain, weather conditions, and duration of your hike.

Here’s a general guide on what to wear:

Moisture-Wicking Base Layers

Start with moisture-wicking fabrics like polyester or merino wool for your base layer. These materials will keep sweat away from your skin, helping you stay dry and comfortable.

When selecting moisture-wicking base layers, consider the fabric’s breathability, durability, and odor-resistance in addition to its moisture-wicking properties. 

Polyester is a popular choice for its affordability and quick-drying abilities, while merino wool offers natural temperature regulation and odor control, making it ideal for longer hikes or varying weather conditions. 

Look for base layers with flatlock seams to minimize chafing, and consider trying on different brands or styles to find the best fit for your body type and personal preferences. 

Keep in mind that layering is key for regulating body temperature, so choose base layers that fit snugly but allow for comfortable movement and easy layering with additional clothing items.

Weather-Appropriate Clothing

Check the weather forecast before you go and dress accordingly. If it’s sunny, wear lightweight, breathable clothing that provides sun protection. If it’s cold, layer up with insulating clothing like a fleece jacket or a down vest.

When selecting weather-appropriate clothing, consider the specific conditions you’ll encounter on your hike, such as temperature, wind, and precipitation. In addition to checking the forecast, research the climate and elevation of the hiking area to anticipate any potential weather changes. 

For sunny conditions, opt for clothing with a high Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) rating to shield your skin from harmful UV rays. Look for garments with built-in sun protection features like long sleeves, high collars, and wide-brimmed hats. 

In colder weather, prioritize insulating layers that trap heat close to your body while still allowing moisture to escape to prevent overheating and discomfort. Choose synthetic or natural insulating materials like fleece or down that offer warmth without adding excess bulk to your outfit. 

Consider wearing a waterproof and windproof outer layer to protect against rain, snow, and wind chill, especially if the forecast predicts inclement weather.

Durable Pants or Shorts

Opt for durable pants or shorts made from quick-drying and abrasion-resistant materials. Consider convertible pants that can zip off into shorts for versatility.

When choosing durable pants or shorts for hiking, prioritize materials that are not only quick-drying and abrasion-resistant but also lightweight and breathable. 

Look for pants or shorts made from synthetic fabrics like nylon or polyester blends, which offer excellent durability and moisture-wicking properties. Consider the terrain and length of your hike when deciding between pants or shorts, opting for pants with reinforced knees and seat areas for added durability on rocky or rough trails. 

Convertible pants with zip-off legs provide versatility for changing weather conditions and varying trail terrain, allowing you to adapt your clothing to your comfort level throughout the hike. 

Pay attention to features like articulated knees and gusseted crotches for enhanced mobility and comfort, especially on steep or technical terrain. 

Additionally, choose pants or shorts with multiple pockets for convenient storage of small essentials like snacks, a map, or a multi-tool.

Hiking Boots or Shoes

Choose sturdy hiking boots or shoes with good traction to provide support and prevent slips and falls. Make sure they’re broken in before your hike to avoid blisters.

When selecting hiking boots or shoes, consider the type of terrain you’ll encounter on your hike and the level of ankle support and protection you need. 

For rugged trails with uneven terrain and rocky surfaces, opt for sturdy hiking boots with high ankle collars and rigid soles to provide stability and prevent ankle injuries. 

Look for boots with aggressive tread patterns and multidirectional lugs for superior traction on various surfaces, including mud, gravel, and slick rocks. 

Choose waterproof boots or shoes with breathable membranes like Gore-Tex to keep your feet dry and comfortable in wet conditions without sacrificing breathability. Ensure a proper fit by trying on boots or shoes with the socks you’ll wear while hiking, allowing enough room in the toe box for wiggle space without excessive heel slippage. 

Break in your hiking footwear gradually by wearing them on shorter walks or around the house to soften the materials and minimize the risk of blisters on longer hikes. 

Consider investing in custom insoles or orthotics for added comfort and support, especially if you have specific foot concerns or conditions like flat feet or high arches.

Moisture-Wicking Socks

Wear moisture-wicking socks to keep your feet dry and prevent blisters. Consider wearing liner socks under your hiking socks for extra protection.

When selecting moisture-wicking socks for hiking, prioritize materials like merino wool or synthetic blends that effectively wick moisture away from your skin to keep your feet dry and comfortable throughout your hike. 

Look for socks with seamless toe closures to minimize friction and reduce the risk of blisters, particularly on longer treks or in rugged terrain. 

Consider the thickness and cushioning of the socks based on your personal preference and the type of hiking footwear you’ll be wearing. Thin socks offer a closer fit and better breathability, while thicker socks provide additional padding and insulation for added comfort and warmth in colder conditions. 

To prevent blisters and hot spots, consider wearing liner socks underneath your hiking socks for an extra layer of protection and moisture management. Choose liner socks made from moisture-wicking materials like nylon or polyester that fit snugly against your skin without bunching or causing friction. 

Experiment with different sock combinations and brands to find the best combination for your feet and hiking preferences, and consider bringing spare socks on longer hikes to change into if your feet become damp or uncomfortable.

Hat and Sunglasses

Protect your face and eyes from the sun with a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.

When choosing a hat for hiking, opt for a wide-brimmed style to provide maximum sun protection for your face, ears, and neck. Look for hats made from lightweight and breathable materials like nylon or polyester with built-in UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) for added sun protection. 

Consider features like adjustable chin straps or drawcords to secure the hat in windy conditions, and choose a hat with a moisture-wicking sweatband to keep sweat out of your eyes and off your face. 

For sunglasses, prioritize pairs that offer 100% UV protection to shield your eyes from harmful ultraviolet rays. Look for sunglasses with polarized lenses to reduce glare and improve visibility, especially when hiking near water or snow. 

Choose sunglasses with durable frames and impact-resistant lenses that can withstand outdoor activities and potential drops or impacts. Consider the fit and coverage of the sunglasses, ensuring they provide sufficient coverage for your eyes and peripheral vision without slipping or causing discomfort during your hike. 

Experiment with different styles and lens colors to find sunglasses that suit your face shape and outdoor activities, and consider investing in a retainer strap or case to keep your sunglasses secure when not in use.

Rain Gear

Pack a waterproof jacket and pants if there’s a chance of rain. Even if the forecast is clear, it’s always a good idea to be prepared for unexpected weather changes.

When selecting rain gear for hiking, prioritize waterproof and breathable materials that will keep you dry and comfortable in wet conditions. Look for jackets and pants made from technical fabrics like Gore-Tex or eVent, which offer superior waterproofing and breathability to keep you protected from rain while allowing sweat and moisture to escape. 

Consider features like sealed seams, adjustable hoods, and storm flaps to prevent water from seeping in through gaps or openings in the jacket. 

Choose rain gear with pit zips or ventilation panels to enhance airflow and regulate body temperature during periods of high exertion or changing weather conditions. 

Pay attention to the fit and length of the rain jacket and pants, ensuring they provide ample coverage without restricting movement or interfering with your hiking gear. 

Consider the weight and packability of the rain gear, opting for lightweight and compressible options that won’t add unnecessary bulk to your backpack but can be easily accessed and deployed when needed. 

Evaluate additional features like waterproof zippers, zippered pockets, and adjustable cuffs or hems for added convenience and functionality. 

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Lastly, remember to periodically reapply durable water repellent (DWR) treatment to maintain the waterproofing performance of your rain gear over time.


Carry a backpack to hold essential items like water, snacks, a map, a compass or GPS, a first aid kit, and any additional clothing layers.

When selecting a backpack for hiking, consider the capacity, features, and fit to ensure it meets your needs and preferences on the trail. Opt for a backpack with a capacity appropriate for the length and intensity of your hike, balancing the need for sufficient storage space with the desire to keep your load light and manageable. 

Look for backpacks made from durable and water-resistant materials like nylon or ripstop polyester, with reinforced seams and stress points for long-lasting performance on the trail. Consider features like multiple compartments, pockets, and attachment points to organize and secure your gear effectively. 

Choose a backpack with padded shoulder straps, a breathable back panel, and an adjustable hip belt for optimal comfort and weight distribution during extended hikes. 

Evaluate additional features like hydration reservoir compatibility, trekking pole attachments, and removable rain covers for added versatility and functionality. 

Try on different backpacks with varying suspension systems and torso lengths to find the best fit for your body type and hiking style. 

Consider factors like load stability, weight distribution, and adjustability to ensure a comfortable and ergonomic fit that minimizes fatigue and discomfort on the trail. Finally, pack your backpack thoughtfully, distributing weight evenly and placing frequently accessed items in easily accessible compartments for convenience and efficiency while hiking.

Gloves and Headwear

In colder weather or at higher elevations, bring gloves and a beanie or buff to keep your hands and head warm.

When selecting gloves for hiking, consider the temperature, weather conditions, and activities you’ll be engaging in to choose the most appropriate style and insulation level. 

Opt for gloves made from insulated materials like fleece or synthetic fibers for warmth and moisture management, especially in colder weather or at higher elevations. Look for gloves with grippy palms or silicone accents for added dexterity and grip when handling trekking poles or navigating rocky terrain. 

Consider features like touchscreen compatibility on the fingertips for convenient use of smartphones or GPS devices without removing your gloves. Choose gloves with adjustable cuffs or wrist closures to seal out cold air and snow, and evaluate options with waterproof or water-resistant coatings for added protection in wet conditions. 

When selecting headwear for hiking, prioritize lightweight and breathable materials like merino wool or synthetic blends that provide warmth without causing overheating or discomfort. 

Opt for a beanie or skullcap-style hat that covers your ears for added insulation in cold weather, and consider options with reflective accents for increased visibility in low-light conditions. 

Alternatively, choose a multifunctional garment like a buff or neck gaiter that can be worn as a beanie, headband, face mask, or neck warmer for versatile protection against the elements. 

Experiment with different styles and thicknesses of gloves and headwear to find the best combination for your comfort and performance on the trail, and consider layering options for added warmth and versatility in changing conditions.

Bug Repellent

If you’re hiking in an area with mosquitoes or other insects, apply bug repellent to exposed skin or wear clothing treated with insect repellent.

When selecting bug repellent for hiking, consider the active ingredients, application method, and duration of protection to choose the most effective option for your needs. 

Look for bug repellents containing DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus as active ingredients, as these have been proven to effectively repel mosquitoes, ticks, and other biting insects. 

Choose a bug repellent with a concentration of 20-30% DEET or 10-20% picaridin for long-lasting protection against a wide range of insects. Consider options with a pump spray or aerosol applicator for easy and even coverage of exposed skin, and opt for travel-sized bottles or wipes for convenient portability on the trail. 

When applying bug repellent, follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully, focusing on exposed skin areas like arms, legs, and neck, and avoid applying repellent to open wounds or irritated skin. 

Consider wearing lightweight and breathable clothing treated with permethrin insect repellent for added protection against ticks and other biting insects. Look for permethrin-treated clothing or DIY treatment kits that allow you to treat your own clothing for long-lasting and odorless insect protection. 

Experiment with different bug repellent formulations and application methods to find the most comfortable and effective option for your hiking adventures, and remember to reapply repellent as needed, especially after swimming or sweating profusely.

Day Hike – Hiking Kit & Essentials

Courtesy of Zanna van Dijk


Ensuring you have the right clothing for your hiking trip can greatly enhance your outdoor experience. Whether you’re facing hot sun, cold winds, or pesky bugs, proper attire can keep you comfortable and safe along the trail.

Following this guide and choosing the appropriate gear, you’ll be better prepared to tackle whatever nature throws your way and make the most of your hiking adventure.

Remember to consider the length and difficulty of your hike when choosing what to wear. Always prioritize comfort, safety, and protection from the elements.

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