How to dress properly for a hike

In the outdoors, function should always take pre­cedence over fashion. The key to being comfortable is to wear several layers of clothing so that you can adapt to changing circumstances. Clothes for a hike must be comfortable, practical, hard-wearing and provide protection from the elements. If you are comfortably clad and therefore not distracted by your clothing, you are free to enjoy the natural landscapes that you are exploring.

How to dress properly for a hike

Gear you might need

  • You may find it useful to have a naturalist's jacket. These have pockets designed to carry odds and ends such as binoculars, a field guide, a notepad and sunblock lotion.
  • If you choose clothing in neutral colours, such as tan, olive green or camouflage designs, you will blend into your surroundings and will be less likely to frighten away wildlife.
  • In cold climates, you need to wear three layers of clothing to stay warm and dry.
  • Unlike cotton garments, which tend to stay damp, polypropylene or polyester thermal underwear is designed to draw moisture away from the skin, thus preventing the chilling effects of clammy clothing.
  • Despite popular opinion, shirts or pullovers made of wool are not necessarily the best garments for keeping warm because wool is heavy and dries out slowly.
  • A more versatile option for the middle layer of clothing is pullovers and pants made from polyester pile.
  • Soft and very fast-drying, garments of this sort are very warm for their weight.
  • The most practical outer layer is a waterproof jacket, which should be roomy, generous in length and have a snug hood and ample pockets.
  • The ideal jacket is one made from fabric that stops wind and water getting in but allows perspiration to get out.

Extreme cold

  • For particularly cold conditions, choose a jacket filled with down or micro-fibre insulation.
  • Wear a warm hat or a balaclava (more than a third of your body heat can be lost through the head and neck), as well as good-quality woollen socks and gloves to protect your extremities.

Extreme heat

  • In warm climates, a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses that have ultraviolet protection are essential.
  • Clothing should be lightweight and loose-fitting.
  • Long-sleeved shirts and trousers are recommended to give protection against sunburn.
  • Look for light-coloured cotton, cotton blend or hemp fabrics as they let the air flow through.
  • A lightweight poncho can be rolled up and stored in your pocket in case of showers, and a large bandanna can be useful as a headband or handkerchief.

A love of nature, the desire for adventure, the challenge of a difficult trek, the sheer enjoyment of walking — all good reasons for leaving home and hearth behind. Always make sure to plan thoroughly and bring a good map

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