With the summer well and truly here, exploring the great outdoors is high on many people’s list, especially with overseas restrictions still in place currently. Whether you hike alone, with a partner, a group of friends or the whole family, it’s important to dress the part, mostly because you need to be practical but still want to look good.
Outdoor fashion has long been seen as untrendy but with some simple touches, it can be fashionable. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or you’re going for your very first adventure, you might still pick up some tips without spending tonnes of money (just in case you never go again). However, the key here is to keep as cool or as warm as possible, depending on the time of year!
In this article, we’ll look at the key essentials that any hiker needs to wear or take with them on any trip. This is designed for day hikers, rather than campers, so keep that in mind.
The 8 key items to wear on a hike
Whilst every person is different, the essential items for hikers remain the same. Of course, you can add in personality with colours and patterns but the items are still similar. We’ve tried to take into account budget too; we wouldn’t expect first-time hikers to fork out lots of money on hiking gear only to find they hated the experience and vow to never hike again! On the other hand, we’re all about quality here at Rydale and do believe that buying a couple of quality items will see you through years of hiking trips.
You need to embrace layering, whether it’s cold or warm, because that is the key to it all. Obviously you’ll need less layers during warmer climates but we all know that hiking in the UK during summer does not mean a dry, sunny day all the time. Your rucksack then becomes vital to holding those extra layers! That’s why it’s always best to triple check the weather before setting off but still take waterproof layers just in case the weather has its own mind.
A base layer - Your base layer is arguably your most important layer because it’s sitting directly on your skin. You’ll probably remove and add layers at some point but this is the one that will stay on at all times. A quick drying base layer is the best option here. These can be inexpensive from general sports shops as they’re used for all kinds of activities, including running and gym work. Basic cotton T-shirts will soak up any sweat and stick to you for the entire hike, making you uncomfortable. However, consider thermals during colder months.
An insulated layer - The colder it is, the more you will need an insulated layer. Whether it’s a fleece zip up, a cotton hoodie, a softshell jacket or a quilted gilet, you will need an extra layer to keep in the heat. Obviously, during the summer, you can skip this item but never during winter. You can also double up on insulated layers if it’s extra cold. Wearing a gilet over a jacket is a great way to keep any heat from escaping.
A waterproof jacket - Depending on the time of year, it will differ on how thick your waterproof jacket needs to be. Warm and muggy? A thin jacket in a packet will be enough as you might not even need it (but it’s a great idea to keep it in your backpack). If it’s colder, a thicker version is best; just make sure it has lots of pockets! Try moving around in it first because it needs to be fitted but not tight with some room to move around in it.
Shorts/hiking trousers/leggings - This is where you can invest in specialist walking trousers that zip off or you can go for comfort with stretchy leggings or trousers. Being able to move freely is the main aim here so you can get away with shorts if it’s warm. However, look at where you’ll be walking. If you’re prone to bites or irritation, you might be best sticking with trousers or leggings. Pack a pair of waterproof overtrousers if you know the weather will take a turn for the worse.
Thick socks - The type of socks you need to wear will depend on the weather. If it’s a summertime hike and the weather is warm and sticky, thin cotton or sports socks will be best for keeping your feet cool. If it’s cold and you need to keep the heat in, wool boot socks are a better option. Again, try different styles to find something for you.
Walking boots/trainers - If you’re going to invest in one quality piece for hiking, it has to be footwear. Most of us have tried cheaper alternatives and they either don’t last or they’re not practical or comfortable. Walking boots and trainers do take a while to wear in properly so walk around the house in them plenty of times before going on longer walks. Gradually build up how long you wear them for! You must purchase a pair that have sufficient tread for a mixture of terrains as well as padding around the ankle for extra support. Try different styles on, including boots and trainers, to see which you think will be the most comfortable and supportive for you.
A rucksack - Shopping for the perfect rucksack can be a challenge. You need to get the capacity right, it can’t weigh too much and it must have enough pockets to carry everything. You’ll need to have room for extra layers, snacks/food, plenty of water, a map/compass, first aid kit, suncream, insect repellant, sunglasses, your phone, keys and any other essentials you think you might need.
A hat, scarf and gloves - Of course, this depends on the weather again but you’ll only need all three if it’s cold! A hat and gloves are especially key in winter because you’ll lose so much heat if you don’t wear them both. If it’s warm, you’ll need a cap to protect your head from the sun. You might think you can forgo it but your head and hair can burn from UV rays so it’s better to keep fully protected!
Whether you’re hiking for the first time or you’re a seasoned regular, getting the gear right every time is key to having a fun hike. If you have the wrong clothing on from the get go, you will not enjoy it! Get the basics right before you set off and you’ll at least look the part, even if you never hike again!