Some advice from an expert!
Are you looking for tips about the right clothing to wear for your day hikes or multi-day treks? Do you need any advice on which pants to buy or what type of clothing is best to use for nature walks?
Here you will find some general advice on what to wear for your hiking trails in the mountains and in nature or to do a multi-day trek.
There are so many topics about clothing for hiking and walking in the mountains and nature. We should have to write a whole book about these topics. With this tutorial I will offer you a wide vision about it, but if you visit the trekupitaly site, you will find more specific topics for each clothing such as: hiking pants, fleece jacket, t-shirts, windbreaker, hiking boots and shoes and many other equipment for your trekking in the mountains.
Many years ago, as old mountaineers tell, they used the old-fashioned flannel trousers, flannel shirts and their old wool sweater with some holes. Sometimes I see around mountain trails some people nostalgic of the past, dressed in this way but apart from the vintage look, which might appeal to the fairer sex, there are some disadvantages to dressing like that. Wool is an exceptional natural fabric for its characteristics, but unfortunately it cannot match synthetic because wool is bulkier and heavier than any garment in synthetic fabric. Having lightness and more comfortable materials allow us to move more easily and to have garments that transpire sweat and dry quickly. It is not just a question of materials, but also of fit! the good old flannel shirt keeps you warm, but it can never match the slightly tight capilene shirt.
Do you want to know why? I will explain it!
Tight garments or not loose clothing avoids heat dispersion and is like wearing a second skin that will give you greater freedom of movement. I will give you the example of cross-country skiing: cross-country leggings are made of thermal and breathable material, when you are in motion it retains the temperature between the garment and the skin preventing the cold and at the same time not to sweat excessively. The same goes for knitwear, if we use tight-fitting or loose-fitting sweaters, we will have greater thermoregulation capacity. This is as true in winter as in summer with high temperatures. In summer it is easy to get sweaty, having a fabric that dries quickly allowing our sweat to transpire towards the outside is essential. Another advantage of synthetic clothing is its low weight.
I strongly recommend not to use cotton t-shirts, jeans or another garment like those because they get wet very fast, and they don’t dry at all! What do we wear for every occasion: rain, wind, heat, cold, snow, etc… ??
An important element to take into consideration is that the part of the body that we must protect as a priority is the torso. If our chest is at its comfort temperature, blood circulation will be more efficient even in the peripheral parts. Lungs, heart and stomach need the proper temperature and protection from wind and cold, they are vital parts of our body.
The second important parts are our feet, they must always be dry and warm at the same time. This is especially important in winter. Having socks that keep your feet too much warm, they can make your feet sweat. That is not a good job! If you have wet feet, in winter, they will stay wet for all day long! Choose medium-weight and breathable socks. In winter we usually wear waterproof shoes, they are perfect to keep you dry from external wet, but at the same time they do not allow good breathability.
The other parts to keep covered and protected are: head and hands. Our head should always be protected even in the summer because of the sun. For that reason, wear a "Buff" or bandana helps us not to overheat our limbs! In winter, a medium-warm hat should be the good solution for hiking. Concerning gloves, well that depends on how cold-sensitive you are. Medium-warm gloves are usually the right solution.
Here is a list of clothes that I recommend you keep in your mountain "closet":
- Undershirts in synthetic fabric: light for summer, in capilene for winter. There are various prices and type! My advice is to buy sufficiently breathable sweaters for summer while, for winter, I recommend a thermal shirt.
- Microfleece sweatshirt: This is essential in every season; I recommend that you buy one with medium weight so that it can be used in all seasons. You should always buy models with a fit cut, to have a good thermal output. For winter you can buy something warmer, but you risk having something that will get you sweat. I always recommend using capilene or thermal shirt as above mentioned.
- Sleeveless windstopper jacket: Another essential and useful piece of clothing in all seasons. In mid-seasons it is useful as a layer to wear over the microfleece to prevent the still cold air from penetrating the central part of our body.
- Softshell Jacket: This is a “hybrid garment” between the windbreaker and the fleece, extremely useful and versatile in all seasons. It can also be a good replacement for the goretex jacket but it does not offer the same protection.
- Goretex Windbreaker: An expensive must have! It is a light jacket that in the jargon is called a "shell" in fact it is a protective shield against wind and rain. This garment is mostly used when the weather conditions are bad. It is usually thin and it is not warm, it is only a powerful shield!
- Technical fabric socks: they are expensive but I guarantee they will save your feet on the most demanding hikes. They have good thermal power and are thin, increasing the comfort of your feet. To be effective they must be paired with a good boot.
- Gloves and hat: I recommend taking them comfortable and also in synthetic fabric.
The good practice of dress says that we should dress like an "onion", not in the literal sense of the word, but to wear various layers of clothing: We start from the lightest garment in contact with the skin, to the heaviest and most insulating on the outside. This will allow us to remove a layer of clothing depending on the varying temperatures and climatic conditions. This is valid both in summer and in winter, with the appropriate adaptations that I will explain in detail. It is essential during our activities not to sweat excessively.
Winter: To tackle a winter hike, we need to be well equipped and covered. Temperatures, especially at high altitudes, can be very cold so we need to cover ourself with the right garment. But we do not forget that as soon as we start walking we will also start sweating. The "onion" rule is therefore useful! If we wear a tight-fitting capilene undershirt, a fleece, a sleeveless jacket and a windbreaker (or softshell), we are suitably dressed to face a classic snowshoe hike. In our backpack we have to take a warmer fleece jacket or a down jacket. They are useful when we stop to eat, for example, or during the descent if the temperature gets down. My advice in winter is to always keep the shell or anorak and remove only the inner layers like the heavy fleece as we start sweating. I suggest to start hiking wearing not too much clothes due to sweating fast. The thermal shirt in contact with the skin is very performing and sometimes it is sufficient if the temperatures are not particularly cold.
Summer: In summer, the “clothing problem” is different, but in general some clothes we use in winter can also be useful in the hot season. My advice is to wear a pair of long synthetic pants. Pants must be light. I recommend long socks to have even more protection when climbing in altitude and to keep away parasites risks. Normally you wear a t-shirt but in your backpack, you need to have the fleece ready to use and above all the softshell and the windproof vest. These two garments in the summer always come in handy especially when you go up in altitude. Even the fleece sweatshirt must be inside our backpack ready to use, a light fleece is sufficient. That’s why in the mountains it often happens that the weather and temperatures change quickly and it is necessary to cover up.
One piece of advice I can give it is better, just before starting to walk, to take off the heavier layer and start hiking with lighter clothes. Just leave the windbreaker or softshell as the outermost layer. After few minutes we start walking, we will warm up immediately and, at the same time, we will not sweat fast.
One last important tip is to always have a spare t-shirt or thermal shirt in your backpack. When you sweat excessively, it is a good practice not to leave your clothes wet. As a rule, we change when the effort is over, when the climb is over or when we stop to eat.