Nobody can deny that the weather in spring and summer is perfect for hiking. But fall hiking is also a charm to many hikers who like bathing under random showers of golden leaves on mountains.
Fall hiking is an arduous walk in the wild. Short daytime, bitter wind, sudden rain, heavy frost, and more… Hiking equipment is great assistance, but it’s not enough. You also need to protect your body from the harness of nature with the right set of fall hiking outfits.
Fall hiking clothes aren’t just fashion items. They’re your shield. This article will show you in detail what to wear hiking in fall. With this, you can make our own shield for your upcoming fall hiking adventures.
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What To Wear Hiking In Fall
Fall is fickle. The weather can change like a switch from warm and sunny to cold and cloudy. For this reason, your fall hiking outfit needs to be good at quick-drying and moisture-wicking.
First, let’s find out what type of fabrics suitable for fall hiking before picking individual hiking cloth.
Fall hiking fabrics
The two most popular fabrics for fall hiking clothes are merino wool and synthetic materials such as nylon and polyester.
Merino wool is a wonderful choice for the base layer. It wicks away sweat nicely so your body temperature can remain unaffected by outer coldness. It also provides extra warmth. And wool’s soft so you can enjoy utmost comfort while wearing one.
Nylon and polyester are more suitable for outer layer clothes. The two materials are versatile and provide adequate protection against wind and moisture. And, at a low price, you can already own some extremely durable hiking clothes.
Another choice is fleece. It’s a good insulating material and much cheaper than merino wool. You should wear fleece at the mid-layer to keep you warm. Wind can cut through fleece easily, so don’t wear it as the top layer.
Say no to denim and cotton. They’re prevalent in everyday clothes but not hiking outfits. These two materials retain moisture, absorbing coldness from the air and reducing your body temperature—a death flag in hiking.
Fall hiking layers
The right fall hiking outfit means moisture-wicking, warm, and breathable. And you only need to follow one single rule to successfully pick out the correct set of fall hiking clothes before hitting the trails: perfect fall hiking outfit = layer, layer, layer.
Three layers is the key. The base layer regulates your body temperature by keeping you dry from sweat. The mid layer offers warmth and breathability. And the outer layer protects against wind, rain, and coldness.
Now, let’s start layering from inside out
Hiking tee – base layer
You can start with either a hiking tee or a simple t-shirt. Choose between short and long sleeves depending on the temperature expected on the hiking trails. A short hiking tee from polyester is good for beginning of fall, when the weather’s still quite warm and sunny. And you only need something that wipes away sweat quickly.
But if you hike in October or November, you’ll want to feel extra warmth on your skin. A t-shirt from merino wool is the best choice. It’s moisture-wicking, light, and comfortable. And, of course, it comes at a price.
Merino wool clothes are quite pricey and not so durable. But if you really want to challenge yourself with hiking adventures in harsh conditions, they’re a smart investment.
Hiking pants – base layer
Chill in fall can turn bitter, so you’ll need to switch to thicker hiking leggings or hiking pants. You might see some people wearing shorts walking unflinty on the snowy winter street, but don’t do it during your hike.
You’re in the middle of nature, facing up with wet and slippery hiking trails in the freezing fall rain. Thousands of kilometers away from home and a few hours away from medical help. You have to protect your legs at all costs.
Thicker pants and leggings will add a bit more weight. But they block away bitter wind to keep you warm. Try out the pants during shopping, and make sure they won’t hinder any of your movements while ascending and descending.
Long sleeve jacket – mid-layer
On top of your base shirt, put on a long sleeve top or a fleece jacket. This type of jacket’s not too thick for mid-layer clothing but can keep you warm and cozy.
Jackets from good materials should allow ventilation, leaving some air for your skin to breathe and feel refreshing. If you want better breathability for your coat, you can find one with pit zips.
Insulated vest – mid-layer
An insulated vest is a wonderful piece of fall hiking clothes. It can perfectly lock the body heat in while keeping the cold out. Instead of a heavy fluffy insulated jacket, the light vest’s a better choice.
A sleeveless insulated vest also gives more room for better air ventilation and prevents your upper body from being stuffy and smelly after a long hike. And when the weather’s nice, the insulated vest can be your top layer.
Insulating hoodie – outer layer
When the sun’s down, the temperature in fall usually drops sharply. If you plan to reach the summit in the late afternoon or camp along the trails overnight, prepare an insulating hoodie.
It’s thick but not heavy, and you’ll feel really warm wearing one. Usually, you’ll wear it under the insulated vest. You probably won’t need an insulating hoodie at the beginning of fall because the weather’s still warm.
Check the weather forecast carefully before the journey and then decide if you want an extra hoodie or not. Or, to be safe, just pack it as it’s lightweight. Fall weather’s fickle, so you can never be sure.
Rain jacket – outer layer
A rain jacket is a must while hiking in wet seasons because nothing’s as unpleasant as wet hiking clothes. A nylon rain jacket shields you from the rain and also dries up quickly. So, you won’t suffer from freezing.
If you expect a lot of rain during the hike, equip yourself with a hardshell jacket. It’s perfect protection in wet weather while still ensuring breathability.
A pair of rain pants will also come into handy if the weather forecast expects rain. As your hiking pants are thick, they won’t get dry before the cold eats its way into your naked skin.
Footwear’s not a part of fall hiking layers, but it’s an integral part of your fall hiking outfit. You depend on your feet every single second on the road, so you have to take good care of them.
Hiking socks – footwear
In fall, a pair of wool socks will keep your feet dry and warm. Stay away from cotton stocks as they retain moisture, making your feet turn cold. Cold feet mean your body temperature drops, walking becomes more difficult and painful. And you’ll undoubtedly catch a cold.
For this reason, wear hiking socks. And bring extra pairs of wool socks. They take little space, weigh nothing, but they’re life-savers.
Hiking shoes – footwear
In summer, you might settle with trail running shoes or hiking sandals. But weather conditions in fall are rougher and more challenging with strong wind and heavy rain. And after rains, the hiking trails are completely wet, muddy, and slippery.
You will need to find a pair of waterproof hiking boots to protect your feet and yourself. Hiking boots from a water-repelling membrane are heavier and stuffier than boots without a waterproof function. However, a bit of drawback is nothing compared to the protection they provide you during wet weather.
Check out this informative clip to on what to wear hiking in fall:
Fall Hiking Accessories
Besides the main fall hiking outfit with 8 core items, you can also pack a few other accessories to provide extra protection and comfort for your body during the hike. And indeed, you should. They’re called accessories, but they’re pretty vital necessities, especially in cold weather.
The temperature is low in the early morning and late afternoon in fall, but a pair of gloves will keep your hands warm all the time. They’re incredibly light so just toss them in your backpack or your jacket pocket.
If you usually sweat from your hands during intense activities, you need gloves in fall hiking. You can easily find gloves compatible with touch-screen so you can freely use your phone for photos or navigation while hiking.
When the weather gets chillier or windier, you might want to put on a beanie. It keeps your head and ears warm. And thus, you won’t get a headache or catch a cold easily.
Another small but helpful item to protect you from the fall chill is a buff. When it’s still warm, you can wear it around your neck as a decoration. And just pull it up to cover your neck, mouth, and nose when the weather turns mean.
Why not just use a standard scarf? A buff is lighter with the same function as a scarf. And in case you forget your beanie, you can also wear the buff as a headband to protect your sensitive ears.
You might think only the elderly use trekking poles. That’s not true. Trekking poles help with hikers’ balance. In fall, hiking trails might be wet and slippery. You’ll find it difficult to keep balance while walking on damped downed foliage and mud. A pair of trekking poles will help.
Gaiters and winter traction
By the end of fall, you might encounter snow while hiking. And if you hike on a high mountain, there’re big chances you’ll see snow in mid-fall. Prepare winter traction to walk safely on snow.
And also pack a pair of gaiters to protect your hiking shoes from snow. Your shoes might be already waterproof. But an extra layer of protection will only bring more benefits than harms.
Fall Hiking Tips
Now you’ve geared up and are ready to hit the trails. Just a moment! There’re a few things you need to know so you can enjoy your adventure to the fullest in safety. Ask yourself these questions before heading out in the wild.
What’s inside your backpack?
You’ll need more food because cold weather makes you hungry faster. You can use your phone for navigation. But just in case your phone’s out of battery, bring a paper map, a compass, and a lamp. And never forget rain gear and extra socks.
If you plan on camping overnight, make sure to pack a warm sleeping bag and an extra blanket. Some instant coffee or cacao will be a perfect start for the following morning.
Here is a very helpful video on what to pack for fall hiking:
Where and when will you hike?
Choose your hiking trails carefully and wisely by checking the trail conditions in fall. Stay away from unfamiliar and challenging trails for your own safety. And make sure you’re not hiking inside or near open hunting areas.
And time your whole journey so that you can enjoy the warm sun and have enough time to reach the summit and return to the base before the night falls.
How’s the weather forecast?
Check the weather forecast before deciding on what to wear and pack for your journey. And then recheck the weather forecast right before you depart. Fall’s fickle, so you need to be extra mindful.
If you hike inside a park, there’s always enough information about trail conditions and trail maintenance on the park’s website. Check it out if you don’t want to head to a trail and then figure out it’s blocked for maintenance.
How do you feel?
It’s good to feel excited and enthusiastic before your adventure. But you also need to prepare yourself for unexpected situations. The trail’s slippery after rain, you might fall and sprain your ankle in the middle of nowhere, alone.
What should you do? If you have a weak ankle, wear an ankle support bandage to avoid this situation. If you cannot prevent bad luck, deal with it with a smile. Always keep your head and your positivity up in the wild.
Contact help with your phone. Try to go to the nearest camp. Or if you see someone hiking afar, don’t be shy. Call out loud for help.
Here are some useful tips to keep yourself safe while traveling alone:
Be resourceful and be brave. Trust yourself. You’ve prepared so long for this adventure, so nothing can stop you.
What should you not wear while hiking in fall?
When summer’s over, and fall comes, say bye to your shorts and your running shoes or even hiking sandals. They’re not suitable for the cold and wet weather in fall. Switch to fall hiking outfits.
Is wearing a jean suitable for fall hiking?
Absolutely not. Jean is durable, but it’s terrible at moisture-wicking, quick-drying, and warm-retaining. And it’s really heavy compared to other hiking-friendly materials.
What type of fabric is suitable for hiking in fall?
Merino wool and synthetic materials, such as nylon or polyester, are wonderful fabrics for fall. Fleece’s also a good choice.