Figuring out what to wear hiking can be pretty tricky sometimes, especially during spring in the mountains. One minute it could be sunny and 70 degrees, then within a couple of hours, black clouds could roll in a thundersnowstorm and drop the temperature down to 30 degrees – so what are we supposed to wear hiking and how the heck do we prepare those spring time storms?
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Pants to Wear Hiking
If you live in a cooler, more mild climate, I definitely recommend wearing pants for hiking in the spring. Wearing long pants to begin with will make you more comfortable when cold winds or a storm blow in.
Does that mean you need to go out and buy the best hiking pants Patagonia has to offer? No way! I mean you can if you want to, but if you’re just starting out or hiking on a budget, most any synthetic, non-cotton pants will do. Think active wear, athleisure wear, running pants or leggings. Some people love hiking in leggings, some people hate it – it really is a personal preference!
If you want to go all in and buy hiking-specific pants, a couple benefits are that they usually have decent pockets, and they are usually a little more water resistant than other synthetic ‘workout’ clothes. That means that, even if they’re not waterproof, if it starts to drizzle out, the water will likely bead up and roll right off them rather than sinking in, which can be nice.
The keys here are that they are synthetic (like polyester, nylon, and spandex are some of the most common materials, or some combination of those) and that they fit well, so you don’t have to be constantly pulling them up at the waist, hoisting them up at the thighs/crotch or rolling them up at the bottom.
Obviously if you live somewhere hot, like Florida maybe? Then you’ll probably be able to switch over to shorts and tank tops and tank tops much sooner 😉
Shirts and Jackets to Wear Hiking
Again, you don’t need to buy some high tech hiking shirt, but you can if you want to! But any comfortable, synthetic, non-cotton shirt will do. These can be found in the athletic wear section of most stores – like Walmart, Target, TJ Maxx, etc. along with synthetic pants.
Layers are key here! I live in a fairly cold, high elevation, climate so I wear or pack all the layers. I’ll start off with a synthetic, short-sleeved t-shirt, then either also wear or at least pack a lightweight, synthetic, long-sleeved t-shirt in addition to always packing a warmer, fuzzy fleece jacket in my pack.
If I think it will be real cold, I’ll also pack either a synthetic or down puffy coat – that’s to go on top of the fuzzy fleece, long sleeved, and short sleeved t-shirts – just to give you an idea of the layers.
A side note about hiking shirts: I’ve always been on a tight budget and have always stood by cheap synthetic clothes, you really can get a decent synthetic shirts or pants for less than $15 either at discount stores or buy brand name stuff while it’s on sale, but that being said, after a decade of “serious” hiking I finally splurged on the more expensive Patagonia hiking t-shirts (with a birthday REI gift card.)
Let me tell you – there is a difference!
They have all the benefits of synthetic shirts, because they are synthetic, but they look, feel and wear just like a comfy, cotton t-shirt! That was an eye opener for me. Just saying, if you can splurge on the nicer stuff, it may be worth it. Sometimes, more technical features might be worth splurging on as well, like buying hiking clothes that have built in sun protection or are pretreated for bug protection.
Ultimately, when it comes to hiking clothes though, you can totally get by on the cheap stuff if you’d rather 🙂
Extras to Wear and Pack While Hiking in Spring
- Always bring rain gear! I like to wear a rain coat and rain pants, some hikers like to use a big, durable poncho that goes over themselves and their pack – either works, as long as keeps you dry. I like the rain coat and pants though because they double as yet another layer to keep me warm if it’s extra windy or cold out.
- A good pack and pack cover: You’re going to need a backpack big enough, and comfortable enough, to fit all these layers in, plus water for the day, a first aid kit, and all your other essentials.
- Warm hiking socks: This is actually one clothing item I would not skimp on, invest in some good hiking socks to keep your feet warm, comfortable and blister free. I personally use and love FITS and pretty much refuse to wear anything else now, even just for day to day life.
- Trail conditions in the spring can be particularly nasty and gross, ranging from deep mud, to snow to wet rocks and logs. Be sure to wear good hiking boots or trail runners that have decent traction on the soles.
- As a gift to yourself, leave a pair of clean, dry shoes and socks in your car to change into as soon as you’re done hiking.
Hopefully this helps you pack and dress your best for your next spring time hike!
Let us know in the comments below what your favorite piece of hiking clothing is, and where you got it, especially if you scored an awesome deal.
For more tips on what to wear hiking and how to find backpacking clothes, check out:
- Find the best clothes for hiking
- Your guide to finding the perfect hiking shoes
- Choosing the best hiking pants
- What to wear hiking in summer