Quite simply, the right clothing for hiking ensures you enjoy hiking in both comfort and safety.

Your clothing for hiking is important as it is your first line of protection from the cold, the wind, rain, sun, insects, snakes and the scrub. A number of light, adjustable layers is preferable to a few layers of thick fabric. Adjust zippers and layers to minimize sweating during exercise and be sure to add layers before you feel cold at rest stops.


  • My personal opinion (and that of many others) is to leave all your cotton clothes at home. Cotton is not a good wicking fabric, does not breathe well and will make you cold when wet. I experienced this on many hikes where I have been forced to remove my cotton clothing due to over saturation. It’s just not worth the bother.
  • Advantage: Cool sun protection, non irritant
  • Disadvantage: Cold when wet, slow drying (read more)


  • Warm when wet, low flammable
  • Disadvantage: Skin irritant, slow drying, heavy when wet (unless superfine merino)


  • High warmth/weight ratio, absorbs little moisture, quick drying
  • Disadvantage: Warm in hot weather, often expensive, non fire resistant

When choosing your clothing for a specific trip make allowances for dealing with the expected terrain and the worst weather conditions that may be encountered in the walk area. In alpine regions be prepared for rapid change to blizzard conditions in all seasons. Neither should the danger from the sun be underestimated. Despite the deceptively cooler air temperatures generally encountered at altitude, ultraviolet levels are significantly higher, and reflection from snow can reach parts of the body not usually exposed to the sun’s rays. Resist the temptation to reduce pack weight by leaving spare clothing behind.

Consider the following elements when determining what you will wear or pack for your hike.

Always wear comfortable, well treaded footwear. Many hikers prefer boots with ankle support when pack carrying or hiking on rough ground. Thick well fitting woolen socks are invaluable. Gaiters give protection from grass seeds, stones, scrub, snow, snakes and leeches.

The weather, particularly in Victoria, can be unpredictable. Sunny one minute, bucketing down with rain the next. Always carry a good water and windproof jacket, preferably thigh length with integral hood, NOT padded and NOT a light nylon “spray jacket”. Waterproof over-pants. Not jeans.

Beanie/balaclava, mittens/gloves, jumper/polar fleece, windproof shirt, thermal underwear, woolen socks. Not jeans.

Hat, light weight long-sleeved shirt.

Additional Items

  • Keep a pair of spare socks with you. I always take a spare change of socks on a day hike in case my feet get wet or sweaty. A change of socks can be improve your mood dramatically when hiking as well as prevent blisters.
  • You might want to carry warm clothing in case you get caught out after dark.



The North Face

5 thoughts on “Clothing for Hiking

  1. Good article but I would say give higher visibility to merino. It is superior in pretty well every way. Granted, it is expensive but worth every penny (plus a keen eye for sales can grab bargains) Well, I think so….I’ve used merino in pretty well every condition and not yet disappointed.

  2. I’ve tried cotton, wool and synthetic’s and have found that Bamboo is by far the best for wicking away the moisture; followed by Merino wool. I’m still to find a pair of boots I like and have often wondered whether moccasins would be better. lol

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