Fall is one of the most beautiful seasons. Temperatures can soar during the day and make you feel like it’s still summer, but the falling multicolor leaves will remind you that winter is on its way.
The varying temperatures can make it tough to know how to dress for a fall hike. It can be tempting to continue wearing your summer gear when the daytime temperatures are balmy and the sun is beating down on you.
You want to enjoy yourself during your hike, not struggle to stay comfortable.
The best way to do that is to wear light layers, flexible clothes, and comfortable shoes when you’re hiking in the fall.
There’s more to it than that, of course, so read on to learn everything you need to know about fall hiking outfit in this complete guide.
fall hiking outfit: What To Consider
You want to have fun, stay comfortable, and stay warm during your fall hike and this guide can help you do that.
There’s a lot to consider when planning your outfit for a fall hike and this advice will help you choose an outfit that’s comfortable and practical.
Time of Day
Depending on where you’re going hiking, the temperatures can make it feel like summer during the daytime.
But in the early morning and evening temperatures are likely to drop and you’ll find yourself shivering on the way back down the trail if you haven’t dressed appropriately.
That’s why it’s so important to have a plan when you go hiking. Are you only going to be out for a couple of hours during the warmest part of the day?
Or is this an all-day adventure that’s going to see low and high temperatures?
Having a plan will help you determine the type of clothing that will keep you cool or warm for your entire hike.
The weather can fluctuate a lot during an average fall day, so make sure you check the weather for your trek’s location before you head out. If it’s going to be cooler than usual, then you’ll want to wear thicker layers and maybe bring along your winter sweatshirt.
Likewise, if the temperatures are going to be warm during your hike, then it’s best to ditch the sweatshirt and bring a light jacket instead. You can tie it around your waist and pop it on quickly whenever the breeze picks up and you start to feel a slight chill.
Wearing layers can be a lifesaver in every season, but especially when you’re hiking in the fall. Say that you’re planning on being out for the entire day, about 10 or 12 hours.
When you start your hike in the morning, it’s likely to be pretty chilly. As the day goes on, temperatures will climb and then drop again as you head home.
Wearing layers will allow you to stay comfortable even as the temperatures shift because you can easily add and remove layers as needed.
You should have three layers; a base layer, an insulating layer, and a wind/rain layer.
A simple t-shirt or long-sleeved shirt will be your base layer.
Your insulating layer can be a light jacket or sweatshirt.
The last layer should be a heavier jacket or sweatshirt that is designed to be a windbreak and protect you against rain.
Choose Flexible Clothes
You’re likely to come across more obstacles than usual during a fall hike. Summer storms may have downed trees across your trail and the fall winds likely blew twigs and other debris across the trail.
You can navigate any obstacle when hiking in a pair of leggings. They’ll keep you warm and comfortable without restricting your movement. Make sure the layers you choose for your upper body allow you to move easily as well.
Choosing flexible clothes that don’t restrict your movement will help you stay comfortable during your hike and you won’t feel as though you’ve exerted as much energy.
Wear Comfortable Shoes
Hiking can put a lot of strain on your feet and wearing the right shoes is the best way to combat that.
If you’re going for a short hike, then you might want to wear the same running or trail shoes that you’ve been using all summer long.
However, if you’re planning a longer or more intensive hike, then it’d be in your best interest to update your footwear.
Look for shoes or boots that have good cushioning in the sole, proper ankle support, and are made of durable material.
Buying a new pair of shoes or boots is a great way to get excited about your adventure and feel prepared, but make sure you wear them around for a few days before your trip.
The last thing you want is to discover your feet are sore and developing blisters when you’re only halfway through the trail!
How To Dress For A Fall Hike
You want clothes that are comfortable, easy to layer, and will protect you against the elements. Here’s some advice that will help you pick the perfect fall hiking outfit.
Your base layer is what you wear over your undergarments. A simple t-shirt or long-sleeved shirt and pair of pants will work well to keep you warm and comfortable.
MERIWOOL Men’s Base Layer Bottoms are a pair of leggings that are designed to fit the male form.
They’re made to keep you warm even in extremely cold temperatures, and they’re effective at wicking moisture away from the body.
These are great for the fall because they’ll keep you warm when it’s cold, and you won’t overheat in them when the temperatures rise because they’ll wick the sweat away from your body.
These BALEAF Women’s Leggings are a great choice for female hikers. They’re designed to fit your body comfortably and keep you warm regardless of the temperature.
Much like the men’s leggings, these have moisture-wicking material that will keep you dry even when you begin to sweat.
For a base layer hiking shirt, you can’t go wrong with Duofold. They have options for men and women that come in a variety of styles and colors.
"They’re inexpensive and designed to keep you warm in cold weather."
Duofold base layer hiking shirts also have moisture-wicking capabilities so you won’t have to worry about being drenched in sweat during your hike.
BALEAF has women covered once again for their fall hike’s mid-layer. This BALEAF Women’s Fleece Pullover has everything you need to stay comfortable and warm.
It’s made of a polyester blend that prevents any chaffing or irritation to your skin while providing plenty of insulation for cool weather. There’s also a deep v-zipper that will give you some ventilation if the temperatures start to climb.
For men in need of an insulating layer, this Columbian Men’s Ascender Softshell Front Zip Jacket is a great choice. It’s made out of 100% polyester that’s designed to be long-lasting and comfortable.
It’ll also provide you with some wind and rain protection, so you won’t need to throw on your final layer if you experience a very light rain.
Some hikers prefer their final layer as the protective layer or outer shell. Whatever you call it, you want this layer to keep you dry, warm, and still be comfortable.
"You also want something that won’t add too much weight to your pack or your body."
You probably won't need to wear this layer for your entire hike in the fall, but when the sun starts to set, you’ll be glad you have it!
This Columbia Women’s Switchback Jacket has everything you’d need for your outer layer. It comes in a variety of colors so you can match it with any outfit.
The nylon exterior will keep you dry during rainstorms and the polyester interior will help you feel warm and cozy even when the temperatures start to cool.
For men, this Lightweight Puffer Jacket makes for a reliable, waterproof, and inexpensive outer layer. It also comes in a variety of colors and is made of durable, waterproof material that’s guaranteed to get you through any cool-weather hike.
The combination of nylon and polyester will work well to keep you cozy and won’t add a ton of extra weight to your body.
You’re not likely to run into snow or ice during a fall hike, which makes it the perfect season to wear your favorite pair of running or trail shoes.
Pick a pair that’s well broken-in, durable, and comfortable for your journey. As always, make sure the shoes you choose have plenty of support for your feet and ankles.
What Not To Wear Hiking in The Fall
There are certain things you want to avoid during a fall hike. Improper footwear and clothing could make for an uncomfortable and chilly experience. Here’s some advice so you can get the most enjoyment out of your hike possible.
You don’t want to wear heavy clothing for your layers when hiking in the fall. Heavy clothes will weigh you down and cause you to overheat more quickly. This means frequently taking off your outer layers to cool down.
Then, once the chill sets in again, you’ll find yourself putting your layers back on until you begin to overheat again! It’ll become an endless cycle that you don’t want to get stuck in.
You can avoid that cycle by sticking to light, breathable clothing. Avoid clothes that are made out of heavy fabrics like 100% cotton or wool. Stick to polyester and nylon blends that allow for some airflow while still keeping you warm.
Fall temperatures can still be pretty warm during the daytime and if you got used to hiking in crocs during the summer, then it's hard to break that habit once the seasons change.
There are a couple of reasons you should avoid wearing any open-toed shoes during a fall hike.
The first is that, while it may still feel like summer when the sun is beating down on you, temperatures can drop quickly during the fall.
You don’t want to risk having to cut your trip short because your feet are freezing in that pair of flip-flops you wore all summer!
There are also more dangers to consider when hiking in the fall. Fallen leaves could obscure obstacles like rocks and sharp sticks that can cause injury to any exposed skin on your feet.
Piles of fallen leaves are also an excellent place for snakes and other critters to hide. You don’t want to kick a snake by accident with your toes exposed!
Wearing a solid pair of running or trail shoes will offer your feet the protection, support, and comfort they need to complete a hike in the fall.
Maybe you got used to hiking in a pair of form-fitting jeans over the summer, but it’s time to ditch that habit once fall rolls around.
Tight jeans or shirts can constrict your movement and make it harder to climb over fallen tree limbs or quickly sidestep hidden rocks.
You should stick to light layers that fit you comfortably and provide maximum comfort during fall hikes.
Opt for clothes that are warmer than your summer outfits like long-sleeves instead of t-shirts and a good pair of insulated leggings instead of jeans.
Some women love hiking in dresses or skirts during the summer. It allows you to move so much more freely and can help keep you cool as well.
But as temperatures drop during the fall, it’s time to pack those away and pull out a good pair of leggings instead.
The same goes for your shirts. Ditch the trendy, loose-fitting over-the-shoulder tops and stick to something long-sleeved that’ll hug your body a little closer.
You want clothing that will help you keep your body heat and won’t get blown around by strong winds.
Essentials For A Fall Hike
Whether you’re going out for a couple of hours in the day or planning a multi-day hike, you want to bring along some gear that’s going to help make your experience enjoyable and safe. Here’s a list of gear that you never want to be without while hiking in the fall.
1. Rain Jacket
Spring and fall are the rainiest seasons, so bringing something that can shield you from the rain is a must.
A good rain jacket can count as your outer or protective layer, but if you decide not to layer up as suggested in this guide, then make sure to at least bring along a good rain jacket.
Storms can pop up unexpectedly and the last thing you want is to be stuck on the trail getting drenched! A solid, casual rain jacket is light and easy to roll up and store in your daypack.
Even if the weather says there’s a 0% chance for rain- bring one along anyway! You never know and it could mean the difference between finishing your hike or turning back early.
Hydration is key to having a successful hike in every season, including the fall. Dehydration is a nasty feeling and you can avoid it by bringing along enough water, or a water purifying device you can use to drink out of streams and natural water sources.
A good rule of thumb for hikers to remember is that you should drink 1 liter of water every hour to stay properly hydrated. So fill up your Camelbak, bring along a life straw, and remind yourself to drink frequently.
It’s time to pull out your favorite hiking snacks again. Nuts, fruits, jerky, protein bars, and just add water meals are staples for most hikers' diets. You want to bring along plenty of snacks that you can pull out and nibble on as you’re hiking.
If you’re planning on being out for a full day, or longer, then it’d be beneficial to bring along some ready meals as well.
You can order some online or go to a local camping store to pick some up. They’re usually packed with proteins, carbs, and fats to help give you the energy and staying power you need to complete your hike with enthusiasm.
Just because the Earth is rotating farther away from the sun doesn’t mean that you should skimp on the sunscreen. Being exposed to the sun’s UV rays all day long can still cause a slight sunburn.
Protect your skin by applying a light layer of sunscreen every two hours that you’re outside.
5. First Aid Kit
You should never go hiking without a good first aid kit in tow. Most first aid kits will come with a variety of medications and supplies that will help you treat minor illnesses and injuries.
Make sure your kit is stocked up on fever reducers, allergy medication, anti-nausea tablets, anti-acids, anti-bacterial cream, burn cream, gauze, and band-aids.
If you have any prescribed medications you need to take, then your first aid kit is the perfect place to store them during your hike.
Every season brings its own unique set of challenges for hikers. Hiking in the fall can be a beautiful experience as you watch nature do away with its summer foliage and start to become winterized.
Having the right clothing while you’re hiking in the fall will help you complete your hike with confidence! So gather your gear, layer up, and enjoy the journey.
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About the Author
Hussain is a passionate hiker and traveler that love the outdoor and enjoys what nature has to give, whenever he can he love to write and give tips & honest reviews to help others get out there and just seek more unforgettable experiences.