Backpacking Garments: Find out how to Select


backpacker in the backcountry

Whether or not you’re going backpacking for 2 nights over the weekend or two months on the Appalachian Path, you’ll want mainly the identical basic items of clothes for layering, with variations to deal with the particular climate or environmental situations you’re prone to encounter.

Layers are key. You’ll be able to cease and take away a layer once you begin to sweat, and add a layer once you begin to really feel chilled. As for the latter, heed the mantra of outside consultants: It’s simpler to remain heat than to get heat. (For extra info, see our article on Layering Fundamentals).

Inside this framework, the person clothes selections you make will doubtless be based mostly on a mixture of the next elements, which can require tradeoffs:

  • Performance: Options to think about embody materials which are moisture-wicking and quick-drying, sun-protective, antimicrobial to keep away from odors, and in a position to rebuff bugs the place ticks, mosquitoes and different pests are a nuisance. Additionally think about how pockets, zippers, hoods, vents and lots of different particulars have an effect on the efficiency of the items you select.
  • Weight vs. consolation: Some will forgo the comfort of added options in an effort to save ounces whereas others will go for consolation regardless of the added weight.

Video: What to Put on Backpacking

Cloth Fundamentals

hiker zipping up his layers

Right here’s a fast primer on typical cloth selections for key layering items:

Wool: As soon as maligned for being itchy, wool is now getting its day within the solar. Extremely-fine merino wool is itch-free, naturally breathable and moisture-wicking, pretty fast-drying and never susceptible to odors. Wool makes preferrred socks, hats, tees and base layers. Regardless of all these advantages, some folks keep away from wool as a result of they really feel their pores and skin is delicate to it, and it may be costly.

Polyester/nylon: These synthetics are typically very quick-drying and fairly sturdy. They make wonderful pants and shirts. Some folks discover that synthetics can really feel a bit clammy and so they begin to stink extra rapidly than pure materials.

Silk: As a result of silk strikes moisture off your pores and skin extra slowly than synthetics, it’s thought-about greatest just for average cool-weather actions. “Handled” silk has been chemically modified to boost wicking. Silk makes a comfortable, luxurious layer and provides no bulk, however it may be susceptible to odor and is doubtlessly weak to abrasion and daylight.

Cotton: There’s a cause skilled hikers and backpackers warn their pals, “cotton kills.” Although it’s a snug possibility for lounging round, cotton ought to be prevented for lively pursuits. Cotton would not effectively wick moisture away out of your pores and skin, takes a really very long time to dry, and is a poor insulator. It’s particularly essential to decide on a wool or artificial possibility for base layers and socks.

Store Girls’s Mountaineering Garments

Store Males’s Mountaineering Garments

Base Layers

hiker in baselayers

Your base layers are essential as a result of they handle moisture and hold a layer of heat air close to your physique. Select a wicking cloth akin to polyester or ultra-fine merino wool to maintain your pores and skin dry so that you keep heat and comfy. Wool can have a cozier really feel than a slick artificial cloth, a pleasant contact in colder temps.

Underwear: For backpacking journeys, underwear is a matter of choice: Some males desire boxer size, some girls desire the boy-short reduce. Some girls swear by wool lingerie, others solely put on nylon-spandex mesh lingerie. Some backpackers desire to not trouble with underwear in any respect. In the event you do put on underwear, be sure that they’re ethereal and breathable, (which suggests not tremendous tight) and aren’t cotton—as soon as damp, cotton takes a very long time to dry, which is uncomfortable and might trigger chafing and yeast infections.

A common rule of thumb: Convey two to a few pairs of underwear. Rinse out a pair as typically as you are feeling it’s warranted.

Bras: Select a pullover sports activities bra with none clasps. These steel or plastic elements can dig into your pores and skin in the event that they find yourself underneath your pack straps. Take into account bringing an additional bra, or deliver a super-lightweight camisole to put on whereas your bra is drying.

Tank high/camisole: A flexible piece, this light-weight high has many features: provides to core heat, makes a lighter various to a T-shirt and makes sleep high on heat nights. They might be made from silk, positive wool or artificial materials.

Base layer high and bottoms: Additionally known as lengthy underwear, and out there in numerous weights, these are a should for cool- or cold-weather backpacking. Select from crew necks or zip-necks, that are a pleasant possibility for his or her ease of venting. Bottoms are multifunctional: You’ll be able to hike in them underneath rain pants on wet, chilly or windy days; they really feel good to placed on once you arrive in camp; and you may reserve a clear pair to sleep in.

Shirts, Pants and Shorts

detail of convertible hiking pants

Basically, deliver one to 2 T-shirts, one long-sleeve shirt and one pair of light-weight but sturdy artificial pants. A pair of ultralight working shorts with a built-in transient could be a boon for warm climate: You may as well swim in them and put on them whilst you wash and dry your pants.

T-shirt: Once more, go together with wool or artificial. One tip is to deliver two tees: one for mountain climbing, and one to maintain clear for sleeping in.

Lengthy-sleeve shirt: Right here’s the place locale is available in and the place particular cloth advantages come into play. In the event you’ll be mountain climbing within the sun-drenched Southwest, for instance, it’s sensible to deliver a long-sleeve shirt rated UPF 50+ (many have an extendable collar for added neck safety). In the event you’ll be trekking Northeastern forests, think about a long-sleeve shirt in addition to lengthy pants that comprise an insect repellent to discourage ticks, mosquitoes, no-see-ums, black flies and extra.

Convertible pants: Creek crossings and sizzling climate make convertible pants a good selection. Zip-off pants provide you with an actual pair of shorts with good gear pockets, however could be fussy to reattach; additionally, some discover that the zipper can dig into their legs. Roll-up pants are a well-liked possibility, with button tabs above the ankle or close to the knee. Cinch-pants additionally allow you to alter the size.

Yoga pants/tights: These are a snug selection for placing on at camp. Whereas stretchy and straightforward to hike in, in case your path entails any rock scrambling or dense brush, suppose twice: They gained’t be as sturdy as nylon pants. (Tight clothes additionally does a poor job of defending you from mosquitoes.)

Mountaineering skirt, costume or skort: Most are stretchy and skorts have a built-in liner. An insulated mountain climbing skirt over yoga tights could be an effective way so as to add heat in cooler climate.

Mid Layers

hiker wearing a puffy midlayer jacket

Right here’s the place heat is available in. A normal advice is to deliver two of those layers, often a easy light-weight zip-neck fleece high and a puffy jacket, however alter as wanted to your particular journey.

Fleece high: That is one in all your most versatile items. On colder days, you may put on it whereas mountain climbing and/or sleeping. On hotter nights once you don’t have to put on it sleeping, it serves as a comfortable pillow. Even if you happen to’ve been mountain climbing in a tee all day, a fleece feels good to drag on because the solar goes down. To avoid wasting ounces, select one with 1 / 4 zip and no pockets.

Puffy insulated jacket or vest: Once more, relying on the climate forecast, it’s your decision a reasonably substantial down jacket if it’s going to be chilly or snowy. If milder temps are on faucet, deliver a down vest, lighter-weight down jacket or artificial insulated puffy. It’s good to be ready for any sudden downturn in temperature. Any of those ought to compress compactly. For extra in-depth info, see our article on Find out how to Select Insulated Outerwear.

Gentle shell: A 3rd possibility is a soft-shell jacket. Typically these are waterproof (not waterproof), might block wind, and will have a lightweight fleecy lining for a bit of heat. You continue to have to deliver a stable rain jacket, although, for preserving dry in a storm, and comfortable shells aren’t very compressible.

Rain Jackets and Pants

hiker wearing a rain jacket in the rain

See these darkish clouds gathering? You’ll be glad you may have your hard-shell outerwear. Select a rain jacket and pants which are waterproof and breathable, which makes them pretty comfy to backpack in. Bear in mind: Preserving dry is essential to avoiding hypothermia.

Additionally select a jacket that’s bought pack-compatible pockets and an adjustable hood so you keep visibility as you hike. Pants with full-length facet zippers could be the best to get on and off whereas leaving your boots on. Search for pants with an elastic or adjustable waist, and pockets, that are good to have.

Tip: Even on dry days, some backpackers put on hard-shell outerwear as safety from wind and chilly. And a few hikers imagine rainwear is the one layer that retains mosquitoes from biting.


hiker putting on a beanie

Preserving your toes, head and arms comfy is essential to a profitable backpacking journey.

Socks: Socks are one of the vital essential gadgets you may deliver backpacking. If doable, check out every kind of socks and sock combos properly upfront of a protracted backpacking journey so you realize what feels good with the boots or sneakers you’ll be sporting. A wool/artificial mix with loads of cushioning works greatest for an incredible many individuals, particularly these sporting boots. Many individuals wish to put on a pair of skinny liner socks beneath a heavier pair. In the event you’ll be mountain climbing in path runners, it’s your decision a lighter-weight pair of socks.

Sock tip: Once you cease for a lunch break throughout the day, take off your boots and socks and let your socks dry within the solar. Dip your toes in a stream or lake if there’s one, and allow them to dry out too. Do the identical on the finish of the day in camp, so that you go to mattress with clear, pleased toes in a clear pair of socks devoted to sleep.

Hats: Convey two varieties: one for solar safety, one for heat. In the event you’re combating solar within the desert, think about a wide-brimmed hat or a billed cap with a solar cape connected. Your heat hat could be a easy wool or artificial cap, one it’s also possible to sleep in.

Gloves for heat: So long as the climate stays pretty gentle, you will get by with a pair of stretch three-season gloves with a easy exterior that resists gentle moisture and a fleecy inside that gives somewhat heat.

Gloves for solar: Even our arms want UV safety, so put on sun-blocking gloves on desert hikes. These could be full-fingered or half-fingered and could be present in mountain climbing or paddling departments. Search for a pair rated UPF 50+, or not less than UPF 30.

Different equipment: A cotton bandana (lastly, cotton will get its day) or a polyester neck gaiter are nice to have for every kind of causes. Both could be worn in your head to maintain hair out of your eyes, or across the neck for solar safety (or heat, within the case of the neck gaiter).


socks on a backpackers feet looking out from inside a tent

Regardless of how lengthy your backpacking journey is, you’re certain to finish up with soiled, smelly garments that you simply gained’t wish to sleep in. One solution to take care of that is to maintain a clear tee and bottoms reserved just for sleeping. A light-weight pair of socks provides the ultimate contact.

Tip: Hold the clear sleep socks inside your sleeping bag so that you don’t lose them; hold the opposite gadgets in a stow bag separate out of your smelly mountain climbing garments.

Find out how to Clear Your Garments Whereas Backpacking

hanging clothes and towels to dry in a backcountry camp

Probably the most environmentally pleasant solution to wash your garments is solely to rinse them. Dunk them in a speeding river or scrub them on lake stones and also you’ll be shocked how a lot grime comes off.

In the event you should wash an merchandise, and have a transportable folding sink or bucket (or perhaps a cooking pot), you may carry some water 100 yards away from the supply and scrub that merchandise with somewhat little bit of cleaning soap. Dangle or lay your moist clothes within the sunshine to dry.


Tip: Convey a multipurpose camp towel. After you wash or rinse a clothes merchandise, roll it up within the towel to blot it and squeeze it totally. This can assist the clothes merchandise dry extra rapidly. If an merchandise isn’t fairly dry by bedtime and will get dewy if left outdoors, deliver it into your sleeping bag with you. Your physique warmth will assist dry it.


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