Finally getting around to posting this one. Possibly late since in 2020 EVERYONE has decided that the outdoors are great! Which many of us knew for a long, long time. But no worries if you’re late to the fun on in the outdoors game. This post is all about what to wear. Focused on Women, but Men can take the same concepts and even some of the same product and adapt for themselves.
The number one key in apparel while hiking is layers! Same with trail running which I’ll touch on a bit. Now anytime you research “what to wear while hiking” everything will tell you no cotton! Well I agree, unless it’s hot. Cotton isn’t always horrible. If it’s a short, warm hike wear the cute cotton shirt! But in any sort of changing weather, possibility to camp or if it’s cold, avoid!
Otherwise it is about the layers. I’ll outline which layers I like to wear for different temperatures and climates. Also keep in mind it’s always smart to keep some sort of outer layer or waterproof layer in your bag no matter where you hike…desert, mountain, lake.
This also doesn’t mean you need to go out and buy everything right away or brand new. Thrift shops, Patagonia WornWear and less expensive brands work too! The below recommendations and favorites I have been purchasing over years and years (plus I worked for one of the retailers below making this a bit easier). I also literally purchase nothing at full price. End-of-season sales are your friend.
Bottoms – I’ve recently become obsessed with Rabbit Freespeed 2.5″ short. I wear them for running (down to 40-ish F degrees) and hot hikes. For warm-ish and cool weather I wear either the Lululemon Dance Pant or The North Face Aphrodite crops. I’ve had my crop Lululemon pants for 6-ish years and they’re holding up great! They are hybrid woven and knit, dry quickly and move really well. Only problem, the pockets aren’t very big. TNF crops do hold my phone well without restricting hip movement.
For cold running I wear the Athleta Ranier Tight (fun fact, I also worked on launching this tight with Athleta). For hiking I do like the Kuhls hiking pant (I think it’s this Freeflex Move). For extremely cold weather hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing I wear the Athleta X4J Polartec tights (which they no longer seem to sell). They move great, but sadly aren’t waterproof. I find wearing a regular snow pant is just too hot for these activities. The only time I layered up was in Abisko NP in Northern Sweden and Banff Canada in November/December where temps were 10F and below.
Tops and Bras – Smartwool is my number one go-to for long and difficult hikes. The wool dries quickly, breathes well and you can wear it over and over. I also do like Lululemon Swiftly Tech long sleeves and any breathable tank with soft seams (all of mine seem to now be discontinued from Athleta).
Outerwear – I have a lot of outerwear. Sometimes I’ll layer an Old Navy (Men’s) flannel for casual hikes or a Patagonia fleece (my two favorites here and here). I do like the Nano Puff & R1 from Patagonia as well (do you sense a trend here?) As far as a truly waterproof jacket, I recently purchased the Marmot PreCip Jacket. I’ve only worn it once, in rain, sleet and snow in Yosemite and it was great! It moved well, has pit zips (so crucial!) and packed down small in my bag.
Footwear – As a caveat, I have high arches and lose toenails easily (yes, I know ew) so I’m now strictly a Salomon girl. After many, many trials of other boots, I love the Salomon OUTline Mid Gore-Tex. They’re waterproof yet breathable and kinda cute. For light hiking and trail running, I wear Salomon Sense Max 2 (which apparently have been discontinued and now I’m heartbroken) and I don’t even need to put additional arch support (SuperFeet) in these.
Accessories – Smartwool again! For neck wraps and head wraps I love Smartwool but have also used all sorts of Buffs from multiple companies. But my Coal beanie is the best for really cold nights and windy hikes.
Daypack – I’ve used the REI Flash 22 pack for 7 years and recently just replaced my initial pack. These are great, lightweight and inexpensive.
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