What To Wear Hiking in Fall

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Fall is one of the best times of year for hiking! That means it’s time to think about what to wear hiking in Fall!

There’s nothing better than refreshing cooler weather after the Summer season. After the Summer crowds have thinned out, the temperatures have cooled off, and the leaves are starting to change, the trails are such a beautiful and serene place to be.

Since the temperatures can change drastically from day to day and even from morning to mid-day it can be tough to figure out what the best hiking clothes are. In the Fall season, if not prepared, you can end up uncomfortable.

Clothing choice for outdoor activities isn’t just about personal preference, it’s also about functionality. This especially applies with cooler temperatures because you need to make sure your body will be protected in cold temperatures.

An experienced hiker knows that even on the shortest hikes, anything can happen. It’s better to be over-prepared than underprepared.

These options below will help you prepare for a short hike, or a long hike, with no worries. Then, you can enjoy the Fall season and all it has to offer.

Important Things to Consider for Fall Hikes

The key to dressing for fall hiking is mastering the art of layering.

Depending on where you live or where you’re hiking, the degree of variation in the weather may be different. There can be major ups and downs with temperatures and weather conditions during Fall.

Those transitional seasons tend to be much less reliable in their weather patterns. No matter where you are if you dress in layers, you will always be able to adjust to the temperature.

Here are a few things to consider to get your layers just right.

Climate

Your Fall hiking attire will vary based on your climate.

How cold are your mornings? What about the afternoons? How widely do these temperatures differ?

That will help you decide how cool your base layer should be and how warm your outer layer should be. It will also help you decide how many layers you need, and if your base layers will be long sleeves or short sleeves.

Elevation

Elevation seems like a strange thing to consider before you get dressed, but it’s actually really important.

The higher you go in elevation, the more intense the environment becomes.

The closer you get to the top of a mountain, the less tree covering there tends to be. This means more exposure to direct sunlight and higher winds you’ll be subjected to. The wind, moisture, and sun you experience will be more extreme. The breeze will be colder and colder the higher you go, especially on already cold days.

Weather Conditions

Fall is a season of unpredictable weather. You could leave on a sunny morning and end up with rain, wind, and even possibly snow.

Checking the weather forecast, of course, will give you some indication of what you might run into. Being prepared with the right gear is very important.

Once you get wet in cold weather, your body is no longer able to hold in heat. Being prepared to stay dry is a fundamental safety measure for hikers, even if you’re just day hiking. You never know what may happen on the trail.

Your Body Heat

You may already know you run a little on the warmer side or you may be someone who is always cold. These are good things to consider when deciding on what your layers will be.

But a word of caution, I would suggest leaving behind an outer later entirely just because you know you’re normally hot. When you’re hiking, you never know what could happen.

Not only could you experience unexpected weather, but you could also get lost or injured and be out there longer than expected. It’s better to be over-prepared than underprepared when you’re out in nature. 

Hiking Footwear for Fall

Hiking shoes are important in any season. They’re made specifically to protect your feet against bruising from rough terrain. They also provide good traction on a rough, steep, slippery, wet, and muddy terrain.

Boots may be a little too much for some people in the Fall with temperatures still getting warm.

Hiking shoes like these Columbia hiking sneakers can be a safe and still lightweight and comfortable option for Fall.

In case you run into to some unexpected snow in the Fall, these Bearpaw hiking boots are waterproof boots for those wet, rainy days. 

Don’t forget a good pair of socks for hiking in the Fall like these merino wool socks for hiking if the temperatures are cold enough or these DEARMY athletic hiking socks if you don’t want wool.

Hiking Pants for Fall

Pants can be the trickiest piece of clothing for Fall hiking.

Since this season’s temperatures can vary so much and it’s harder and less comfortable to layer pants, this one is more of a challenge.

If you check the weather and it’s looking like it’s going to warm up to a decent, comfortable temperature, go for some breathable, wind-breaking pants like these Little Donkey Annie’s lightweight, quick-dry cargo pants.

If it’s a little too chilly for pants like that alone, add a layer underneath like these Carhartt thermal base layer pants. For really cool temperatures you could opt for long underwear, if it’s cold enough to not remove any layers.

If it’s still early in the Fall and it may warm up to the point that you get hot, convertible pants are a great option for hikers.

Base Layer Options

The good base layer is the most important layer because it’s your next-to-skin layer. This layer should wick away moisture to keep you dry and warm.

For the base layer, you want to choose synthetic fabrics or wool (if it’s cold enough). For Fall, when it’s still getting pretty warm mid-day, you’ll want to go with a short-sleeved base layer.

Synthetic materials or moisture-wicking materials are easy to find.

Shirts like this Under Amour Tech short sleeve shirt or this Mossy Oak Elements short sleeve shirt are perfect as a base layer. 

In some climates, your Fall days may warm up enough that you want a tank top base layer like this Under Amour moisture-wicking tank.

If it’s later in fall and stays consistently chilly throughout the day, a good long sleeve top as a base layer might be necessary.

Another important base layer for women is your sports bra. It’s important to wear a bra that wicks moisture and is made of ventilating fabric like this Champion sports bra.

Mid Layer Options

The mid layer of your hiking outfit is a lightweight warm layer. This should be on the thinner side, not bulky, and able to fit comfortably between your base layer and your insulating layer.

A lightweight fleece pullover or zip-up jacket like this Amazon Essentials soft fleece jacket is a great option.

A lightweight hoodie is also a good idea in case of rain or high winds so you can protect your head. 

Insulating Layer Options

The insulating layer is what keeps your body heat in. Retaining body heat is an important way to stay safe in colder temperatures.

The insulating layer in the early Fall probably won’t last very long, depending on your climate. Still, you shouldn’t skip it. Wear it to your hiking destination and until you get warmed up.

When you stop to take breaks, slip it back on so your core temperature is maintained. It’s also important to have this layer with you in case of an emergency. 

A good insulating layer is a very important layer because it holds in your body heat.

Look for good quality insulation like RDS-certified down or a synthetic insulting material like Primaloft. This REI vest is a good option. A full, lightweight down jacket like this one is a great insulation layer.

Outer Layer Options

This extra layer is a just-in-case layer and in the Fall months. This layer will keep you dry in case of rain, and typically consists of a rain jacket and a pair of rain pants.

It’s best to be prepared in case of an emergency. When you are hiking in the Fall, and temperatures drop in the evenings, this optional layer helps.

Since you’ll probably be carrying this layer in your backpack, look for something really lightweight like this raincoat and pants set.

A good rain jacket and pants will add some extra warmth if you are dealing with high winds. They can act as a windbreaker as well as give you an additional layer of protection.

Backpacks for hiking

If you’re just heading out for a day hike, then you need what is called a daypack. This is especially the case if your layering plans are going to work well.

If you’ll be removing layers, you need somewhere to put them as you take them off. Daypacks don’t need to be big and you may already carry one to take your hiking essentials along with you. 

Daypacks can vary in size but they are typically pretty lightweight and close to the size of an average backpack.

This Venture Pal ultra lightweight daypack is a great option with lots of room and it doesn’t take up much space when it’s not in use because it packs away into a little pouch for storage. 

Another cool option for a day pack is to get one that includes a water bladder like this Teton Sport Oasis Hydration pack. There’s still room for all your essentials and you don’t have to worry about lugging around a water bottle unless you’re going on a longer day hike and need additional water. 

If you prefer a different style, you can get a great crossbody daypack like this one, but many of them do tend to have less space.

Fall Hiking Clothing Accessories

Considering the potential weather elements of Fall, there are accessories you might want to make sure you have with you. 

Sunglasses

Having a good pair of polarized sunglasses when hiking on a sunny day is important for safety. Especially when you’re hiking in higher elevations where there is less tree coverage and more direct sunlight.

Polarized sunglasses will help reduce glair and eyestrain. This makes it easier for you to keep an eye on where you’re walking on the trail. 

Hat

A full coverage hat like this UPF 50 and waterproof hiking hat will protect you from the sun and rain.

When you’re hiking in cooler temperatures it’s easy to forget that you can still get sunburnt. We understand; the sun feels good on your skin. Using a hat is an easy way to protect against too much sun exposure. 

Hats are especially important for higher elevations.

If it’s cold enough, you may want to consider a beanie like this wool beanie. You could also opt for something like this Trailheads fleece ponytail hat that has a drop-down ear warmer attached. 

Gloves/Scarf

Depending on your climate and the time of the season, you may need gloves or a scarf.

When you’re considering gloves for hiking it’s important to keep in mind that you need warm, form-fitting gloves.

Skip the fluffy gloves and go for something sleeker like these Achio hiking gloves that are both comfortable and warm. 

A neck gaiter like this Thindust winter neck warmer is the best option for hiking. They stay in place and you don’t have to fuss with keeping them wrapped around your neck. They can also be pulled up over your nose and mouth if there’s a chilly wind. 

Before you go, here are more posts you’ll enjoy:

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What to Wear Hiking in Fall