Introduction to Day Hiking – Clothing and Footwear

Editor’s Note: This is part three of a introduction to day hiking series.

So you know where you are going, have your pack and equipment, but what should you wear?


Your clothing and footwear can make or break a hike.  Hiking puts far more stress on your body and feet than a normal day, so your clothes need to accommodate the extra movement (and sweat), and footwear that is supportive and comfortable.

Clothes is the easy part.  Since you should be starting with a summer day hike in good weather, often wearing a simple shirt and shorts are sufficient.  Athletic materials are a plus for stretch, breathability and sweat wicking.

  • Upper-Body – Expect to put on and take off layers throughout the day.  Hiking up a mountain will make you sweat.  Hiking down a mountain in a washed out ravine will leave you cold, since you need to go very slow and watch your foot placements.  You base layer should be what you would exercise in, like a tank top or short sleeve shirt.  If it is cooler, add a short/long sleeve shirt depending on the temperatures.
  • Lower-Body – Shorts work if you know the weather will be nice all day.  Zip off pants are a plus, since bringing the lower pants takes virtually no space and taking them on and off is easy.
  • Wind, Rain and Cold Protection – On all hikes, pack a light jacket.  You will be hot while hiking, then potentially cold while stopped.  Even in the heat of summer, summits are typically cooler, windy and you’ll be sweaty (rapid cooling from evaporation).  If in doubt wear/bring additional layers.  Afternoon thunderstorms are common during the summer too.

The big thing with clothes is to be prepared.  There is an old adage – “If you don’t like the weather in the Adirondacks, just wait 10 minutes.”  The mountains can create their own micro weather patterns too.


Footwear is personalized.  You need to get the boot that fits you, given your ability and terrain of your day hike.  Generally people who are in shape and without ankle issues should select a trail shoe for day hiking.  If you are not in shape, have ankle issues or reaching your wiser years, consider a light hiking boot.

There is too much to talk about here, so read our Complete Guide to Hiking Boots.

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