When it comes to deciding what to wear for a long-distance hike like MammothMarch, there is only one important rule: The right clothing can quickly be adapted to any possible weather condition and shouldn’t be a compromise between freezing and sweating. Today’s blog post deals with the ever-important question of what to wear while on a long-distance hike!
Comfortable hiking shoes with the right grip
Instead of analyzing the hiking clothing from "head to toe", this description starts directly with the feet and then slowly works its way up. Without a doubt, hiking shoes are the decisive “piece of clothing” that distinguishes hikers from walkers and people in everyday/leisure clothing. Hiking shoes are available in numerous variants and designs that have one important thing in common: a non-slip outdoor sole that guarantees a safe step and perfect grip on hiking trails and in the terrain.
Hiking soles are heavily profiled and made of rubber compounds that ensure good grip on muddy forest trails, as well as on loose scree and slippery roots. In addition to many different in-house designs and rubber compounds, many manufacturers fall back on proven sole technology. Some hiking boots can also be soled again and thus have an even longer service life.
There are big differences in the structure and design of hiking and outdoor shoes. Whether they be light multisport shoes with air-permeable mesh fabric, low-cut approach shoes with pronounced rubble protection, or hiking and trekking boots with high shafts and multi-zone lacing. The light hiking boots are ideal for quick hikes in easy terrain. On demanding tours with a heavy hiking backpack, high hiking boots give the ankles the necessary stability and protect against injuries.
Light hiking shoes and hard-wearing trekking boots are usually available with or without a waterproof membrane. Hiking boots without a membrane are usually very well ventilated. Even with the first wet meadow, however, they are quickly soaked. In the case of hiking boots with a waterproof Gore-Tex membrane or other comparable laminates, the feet remain reliably dry even with persistent rain showers and snow fields in the mountains. Nevertheless, the water vapor also escapes through the microporous membrane, making it comfortable to wear. Since the breathable membranes need a certain temperature gradient to optimally transport the moisture to the outside, the breathability in hot and tropical areas can be restricted. The impermeability to water is however not affected. The cushioning and footbed are also optimized for their respective main area of use. The shoes can therefore either feel very well-fitting and firm, or they are particularly soft and comfortable. When choosing hiking shoes, it is therefore important to consider the terrain in which the shoes will primarily be used. When trying on hiking shoes, hikers should put the shoes on for a while in the afternoon or evening, as the feet are often a little swollen. After about one to two hours you can tell rather quickly whether the hiking shoe is sitting well and comfortably. When entering the terrain, you should cover the first few kilometers in easy terrain before you start your first big hike. During the first few hikes, the shoes adapt better and better to the shape of the foot and usually become a little softer.
Any good hiking shoe is only half as good without the right hiking socks. Only through the interplay of shoe and sock does a high level of comfort and a pleasant microclimate for the feet result. The choice of hiking socks depends on the choice of hiking boots. With a low shaft and sporty shoes, the socks are also lower and sportier. For high hiking boots, on the other hand, taller socks with cushioning reinforcements on the shaft, heel and toe area are suitable. In any case, the hiking sock must reach over the edge of the boot to avoid pressure points.
Hiking socks are either made of synthetic materials that allow a particularly good fit, merino wool, or mixed fabrics with merino wool and synthetic fibers. Merino wool ensures a particularly pleasant foot climate and warms even when it is damp or wet. Merino wool is also naturally odor-inhibiting compared to synthetic fiber socks. Socks made of synthetic material have the advantage that they dry faster than hiking socks made of merino wool. However, hikers decide on the question of material - the fit of the hiking sock must be perfect, otherwise pressure points and blisters can form. A good hiking sock does not slip, does not wrinkle, does not pinch, and feels great even after a strenuous tour in the mountains.
Functional underwear serves various purposes when hiking. In cool weather it warms pleasantly, and on hot days it dries quickly and quickly releases the moisture from the body to the outside. It sits comfortably, does not rub, and does not leave any pressure marks. Depending on the weather conditions, functional underwear for hikers is available in long-sleeved and long-legged versions, as boxer shorts, functional underpants, t-shirts or tank tops.
In addition to the good fit with comfortable elastic bands and elastic materials, high-quality workmanship with flat seams is highly recommended. Merino wool, polyester and mixed fabrics with other hard-wearing and elastic synthetic fibers are primarily used to produce functional shirts and functional underpants. Merino wool as the bottom layer of clothing offers a great feeling on the skin and provides pleasant warmth when it's cold, but also cools when the outside temperature is warm. Even when merino wool is wet it keeps the body warm, and thanks to its natural odor-inhibiting properties, functional underwear made of merino wool is still relatively fresh even after a several-day hike.
The lighter synthetic functional shirts and functional underpants can wick moisture outwards even faster. Some shirts and pants are equipped with odor-inhibiting technology that imitates the natural effect of merino wool. Both materials and various mixed forms are widespread among hikers and is chosen based on personal preference.
All about your pants…
Good freedom of movement, a comfortable fit and hard-wearing materials that dry quickly and quickly wick away moisture from the body make for good, functional hiking pants. A wide variety of material combinations are used, from cotton and various synthetic fibers to Tencel, hemp and elastane. This means that some hiking pants are particularly elastic, and others are extra stable. Sometimes hiking pants are specially reinforced on the knees and buttocks so that the stressed areas are well protected from abrasion and damage, while the pants remain very breathable and easy to move. Ergonomically pre-shaped knees, elastic gusset inserts and individually adjustable waist sizes complement the functional hiking pants.
Zip-off pants, i.e. hiking pants with detachable legs, are very popular with hikers because they allow a high degree of flexibility. If it is still cool in the morning at the start of the hiking tour and the temperatures continue to rise towards noon, the practical zip-off pant can be transformed into short or knee-length hiking shorts in no time at all. The flexible trousers are also ideal for multi-day tours with changing temperatures and weather conditions and the luggage is also a little lighter, as there is no need for an additional item of clothing.
On warm summer days, hikers prefer to wear short or knee-length hiking shorts. In terms of material and design, they are in every way similar to hiking pants with long legs. Breathability and freedom of movement are also the most important criteria for shorts. With elastic constructions and practical gusset inserts in the crotch, they support sporty hikers in any terrain.
Weather protection is also an important factor for hikers. Many hiking pants provide good protection against wind and have a water-repellent DWR (durable water repellent) treatment. This means that water droplets simply roll off the surface and are not absorbed by the fabric. In a heavy rain shower, however, the water-repellent surface treatment also reaches its limits. Therefore, hikers prefer waterproof outdoor pants when it rains continuously. Hardshell pants with a breathable GORE-TEX® membrane or other waterproof laminates ensure dry legs even in heavy rain. In changeable weather conditions, lightweight hardshell pants are particularly practical, as they can be worn over normal hiking pants if necessary. Rain trousers with side zips are ideal for easy on and off. The light hardshell pants can be stowed away very compactly and, with their low weight, are hardly a burden in the hiking backpack.
Taking a look at the upper body
Checkered shirts made of quick-drying functional material have long been very popular with hikers in summer. The airy shirts are extremely comfortable to wear on warm days, are easy to take care of and robust at the same time. Functional T-shirts made from synthetic materials or merino wool are also great options. In cool and windy conditions, hikers like to wear softshell jackets or softshell vests. The functional hiking vests are particularly popular because they offer a good mix of wind protection on the neck and upper body but are well ventilated over the arms and ensure pleasant freedom of movement. Many softshell jackets and outdoor vests are additionally protected with a water-repellent treatment and therefore withstand light rain very well.
A weatherproof hardshell jacket with a well-fitting hood provides the best service in persistent and heavy rainfall. The waterproof rain jackets and outdoor jackets are equipped with breathable membranes and ensure that the rain does not penetrate the jacket, but the water vapor can escape at the same time. Many hardshell jackets have extra ventilation openings, for example with zippers under the arms, to provide additional ventilation on strenuous climbs. The rain jackets for hikers vary in lightness and robustness. With heavy touring and trekking backpacks, the hardshell jacket should also be correspondingly robust. On the other hand, light models that can be folded up and stowed away very compactly are often used to supplement day trips.
On particularly cool days, fleece jackets or insulating synthetic fiber jackets are the perfect complement to hiking clothing. They can either be worn "solo" over the base layer or as a practical intermediate layer under the hardshell jacket or softshell vest. Fleece jackets are very popular with hikers as they dry quickly, are soft, warm and easy to take care of.
Hats, sunglasses and gloves
With this basic equipment, hikers are already very well equipped. A few little helpers and accessories make the hiking clothing complete. Choosing the right headgear is very important.
A warm hat or a soft fleece headband are ideal in cold and windy conditions. On clear, sunny days, a cap or sun-hat helps prevent sunburn and sunstroke. Many hikers underestimate the intensity of the sun in the mountains. If the air is a bit cooler or a pleasant fresh wind is blowing, headache and nausea are almost inevitable. A good accessory to have is high-quality sunglasses that protect the eyes from harmful UV radiation. Light fleece gloves or windproof softshell gloves are a great addition on cold days. The thin gloves have a pleasant warmth and at the same time guarantee good sensitivity when using trekking poles. Many outdoor gloves are touchscreen compatible and do not have to be removed to operate a GPS device or smartphone. A scarf/tube scarf or one of our functional MammothMarch bandanas is not necessarily included on an everyday tour in summer, but whenever the weather changes, it provides pleasant warmth and offers good wind protection.
In conclusion, hiking clothing is a team that works hand in hand and is only as good as its weakest link when it comes to functional interaction. This means that the hiking equipment must be coordinated with one another and must not have any weak points.