“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.”
Alfred Wainwright, A Coast to Coast Walk.
Never has a truer statement been made when hiking in the hills! What you wear can make the difference between a great day and an awful day or worse, life and death if there is an incident!
Things to take into consideration when planning your ‘outfit’
- Time of year: In summer you will need lighter clothing than in winter BUT remember that the higher you go, the colder and windier it potentially gets. Also, as you walk, you get warm, when you stop for a brew, you can get cold really quickly.
- The length of time you expect to be out: If you know the route and it takes you a couple of hours, you maybe don’t need as much as if you were going out for the day.
- What the weather forecast says: Always worth checking!
Where to start?
Good ‘broken in’ walking boots or walking shoes are a must.
- Consider how much support you like for your ankle. Have a look online or in your local walking shops, see what’s on offer and try some on. I think, ‘Do they feel as comfortable as my slippers!’
- Are they waterproof? Even in the summer, there are likely to be wet patches like streams to cross or marsh land on your hike. Breathable, synthetic walking boots aren’t necessarily waterproof, but will reduce the sweat build up and if they do get very wet, will dry more quickly.
- Have a look at the tread! To start with, choose something with a good mix of tread to give you grip in the mud but also appropriate for clambering over rocks.
- Socks – a good pair of socks can make all the difference to the comfort of your walk. Wool is the main material for hiking socks as it cushions your feet. Quick drying synthetic socks are also available. Choose socks that go above the cuff of your hiking footwear to avoid chaffing your legs. Sometimes, liner socks under the hiking socks add comfort and help prevent blisters. The decision is down to personal choice. It might be worth putting an extra pair of socks in your backpack, especially if it’s really hot, wet or cold.
Hiking pants or shorts made from breathable, durable material are recommended. Shorts are great in the summer for keeping you cool but bear in mind, thorn bushes, mosquitoes and potential low temperatures the higher you go.
Things to bear in mind with underwear are seams and buckles. Wear what is comfortable for you as you move, just be aware of seams that may rub, and bra strap buckles positioned just where backpack sits!!
The ideal is a top against your skin that helps to keep you dry and comfortable. This can be a t-shirt style or long or short sleeve shirt. Avoid vest tops as these could cause chaffing with your backpack straps. Layers are essential, so you could add a light top over your t-shirt or short sleeved shirt. It is worth taking a fleece or wool jumper with you in your backpack as a mid-layer. Flex your options to fit the time of year and forecasted weather conditions, remembering that if it is really hot, a long-sleeved lightweight shirt maybe just what is needed to protect your arms from sun burn. It is much better to be over prepared than under.
What Coat to Wear?
There are a plethora of options available. You can start with a lightweight rain jacket that is shower proof and wind proof to a heavy weight waterproof jacket that is lined and guaranteed to keep you warm and dry. Take some time at your local walking shop to try on some of the options and see what works for you.
- Gloves: some experts suggest two pairs, a lighter pair for while you’re walking and a heavier pair for when you stop if you are walking in really cold conditions.
- Hat: You loose so much heat through your head, so a hat is a must in cold weather and some sort of hat with a peak/neck cover for hot walking days. Both of which would fit nicely into your backpack for when you need them.
- Sun protection: For sunny and windy walks, packing the sunscreen is essential – remember wind can burn too and take some sunglasses.
- Raincoats and over trousers: These tend to be lightweight and fit easily into your backpack. They are not always needed, but remember, they can be added to your layering if needed, to keep you warm and dry. Also, a good standby as the weather can change very quickly!
- Gaiters. These work well over the bottom of your trousers, just giving a bit of additional protection against muddy or snowy ground and bugs and low-level thorns bushes.
Hopefully, this gives you a good start to being equipped to get out into the hills and enjoy your hiking, safely, warmly and comfortably.