Heading to go hiking? One of the first things to think about is how to equip yourself! It can be frustrating and a bit long to have to consider every option, but whether it’s winter or summer, on the alpine peaks in Italy, in the Spanish Pyrenees or in the Lake District in England, this is the key to success.
Best Hiking shoes
Shoes are probably the main element of your equipment. They protect your feet and support your ankles, especially when carrying a heavy bag. You have several options to consider when it comes to hiking shoes. Low-cut, mid-cut and high-cut hiking shoes, sandals… The most important thing is to wear a sturdy shoe that provides support, protection from stones and traction on dry, wet terrain.
Best High-cut shoes
They are ideal for multi-day hikes where you will have to carry a heavy bag and face difficult conditions or when it comes to rocky terrain and cold weather. High-cut shoes are also ideal for places known to have lots of snakes.
In all cases, choose a leather rod, a polyurethane midsole and rubber outsole. It can be interesting to have your shoes waterproof to cross rivers or for bad weather, as long as they are breathable at the same time.
Best Mid-cut or low-cut shoes
They offer more comfort with less weight and volume. These shoes are excellent for a day hike. If you’re an ultralight hiker, you can even choose trail running shoes for long-distance hikes.
A Vibram rubber sole will be the best you can get in terms of grip.
Hiking sandals can be a great choice for a hot weather hike. This is especially true in tropical climates. Some hikers choose to wear sandals if the trail has to cross a few rivers.
Also, if you are planning a multi-day hiking trip, a pair of hiking sandals are a great alternative when your feet need to breathe.
In winter, most hikers prefer to wear thick wool socks that keep their feet warm and also offer excellent cushioning. Merino wool is then probably the best choice. Also consider the option of «double-skin» socks that significantly reduce the risk of blisters
Gaiters are often overlooked, they will not be expensive but will provide excellent protection against stones, mud, water and other debris that enters the shoe and makes your feet wet.
In summer you will have to face the added risk of snakes, for this, a pair of gaiters will give you the assurance of knowing that your legs are completely protected.
In winter, you’ll be protected from the snow
Best Hiking pants and Shorts
Some hikers like to wear shorts while others like to protect their legs by wearing trousers.
Shorts are a great option for summer hikes especially if you want to cross a river. Trousers are perfect for hiking in cool weather. Many hikers love specific hiking models because there feature many pockets to store the equipment. Jeans are to avoid above all of course: If they get wet, they get really heavy and aren’t stretchable.
Winter trousers must be waterproof and breathable, and Softshell is the ideal fabric for it. In summer, lighter trousers, made from a quick-drying fabric, are the solution. In both cases it is necessary that they are stretchable and that they feature reinforcements on the most exposed areas (buttocks, knees …)
Many hiking pants are now available in a 2-in-1 style, where leg sections can be removed, turning your pants into shorts in seconds.
The upper body
When it comes to the top body, there are plenty of options such as lightweight t-shirts, long-sleeved thermal t-shirts, fleeces, jackets… You will need to consider the weather and the type of hike you are facing.
You can choose between t-shirts or a long-sleeved shirt. Like any equipment option, it’s really a matter of personal preference. Some shirts are designed for specific conditions.
A simple t-shirt will be fine for a day on the trail. As with everything you plan to wear outdoors, cotton should be avoided. For multi-day hikes, t-shirts made from merino or synthetic materials are the best ones. They will dry quickly and stay cooler longer than your cotton t-shirt. They can also incorporate useful anti-mosquito or anti-UV treatments.
A tank top can be a great way to stay cool on hot days, but be sure to wear plenty of sunscreen if the trail provides no shade.
Choosing hiking underwear is simple. The key is to choose baselayers made in wool, silk or synthetic fibres. Cotton is not a good idea because it traps moisture and dries slowly. Moisture management is essential to be comfortable during the hike. The layers closest to your skin should be dry so that the rest of your clothes can keep you warm.
If you are facing cool temperatures, consider wearing thermal underwear under your hiking pants. This baselayer for the legs, whose objective is to keep you warm, must also properly remove moisture. If you’re going to walk for a few hours, you’ll sweat, even on a cold day. Having your clothes wet is not only uncomfortable, it can cause irritation. Having a good pair of thermal underwear will draw sweat away from the body, keeping you warm and dry.
Only think about synthetic fabrics, merino wool or silk. Thermal underwear is available in light, medium or heavy weights. If you plan to hike in an area where the temperature can change quickly, you may want to consider layering baselayers. For example, you can wear a light top, with a second one if you are cold.
If you plan to hike in very cold and dry conditions, consider bringing a down hoodie. The down jackets offer an unbeatable heat/weight ratio and are highly compressible. The major drawback of down is that it must be kept dry to maintain insulation.
A fleece is an excellent middle layer to wear when hiking in cold weather. The middle layers are all on insulation, they are what keeps you warm. They are light, breathable and insulating even when wet. In addition, they dry quickly and have a higher heat/weight ratio than wool.
Fleeces are available in light, medium and heavy versions. For difficult hikes in mild climates, we recommend a light polar. Medium-weight versions are ideal for colder temperatures. Heavy fleece tops are designed for very cold climates.
A rain jacket is designed to block rain, snow and wind. A good quality jacket will have a waterproof, breathable membrane that will allow you to sweat without feeling like you’re carrying a plastic bag.
Hiking accessories such as hats and sunglasses protect us from the sun and keep us cool on the trails. On cold days, you might want to pack a beanie and a pair of gloves to stay warm.
A simple hiking hat is probably all you’ll need in the summer. A wide edge that surrounds your entire head will provide the best protection from the sun. Materials vary, but try to find one in a quick-drying synthetic material if possible.
A beanie takes up little space, and yet the heat it provides is significant. Coupled with a scarf, you may even find yourself too hot, but you may find it necessary in some cases of cold.
The decision to buy a pair of hiking gloves depends heavily on the temperatures you are likely to encounter. In most winter conditions, a pair of gloves is not necessary, but if there is a risk of frostbite, or extremely rough terrain requiring physical protection for your hands, then you may need to reconsider.
Sunglasses are a must on any hike, whether hot, cold, or in between. Your eyes are so delicate that you should not take any risks, either by UV exposure or by sand particles and other foreign objects blowing in the wind.