6 Clothing Items You Shouldn't Wear on a Hike
Here's what to leave at home, fitness and travel experts say.
Hiking can be a uniquely fulfilling experience—and one that comes with benefits to both your mental and physical health. Not only does it lower your stress and anxiety levels by connecting you with your natural surroundings, but it can also push you to new levels of endurance and physical fitness, helping to promote better overall health and longevity. But hitting the trails isn't quite like going for other types of walks—it requires a bit more planning, including the clothing items you should and shouldn't wear.
"When you're out on the trail, your clothing isn't just about fashion; it's about function, safety, and comfort," says Andrew White, a certified personal trainer and the founder of Garage Gym Pro. "Making the right choices can mean the difference between a memorable hike and one you'd rather forget."
Not sure which items to leave at home the next time you gear up for a hike? Read on to learn the six clothing items you should never wear on a hike, according to hiking, fitness, and travel experts.
Being lightweight and made of natural fabric, cotton t-shirts may appear to be an ideal base layer for your hiking apparel. However, Adrian Todd, an outdoor expert, hiking coach, and founder of the hiking website Great Minds Think Hike, says he highly recommends avoiding cotton shirts, instead opting for quick-drying fabrics made of nylon, polyester, or merino wool.
"Cotton tends to retain moisture which can lead to increased weight, chafing, and discomfort. Also, it doesn't provide adequate insulation when wet and takes a long time to dry, which can be dangerous in cooler weather," he tells Best Life.
Robbie Benardout, founder of Nature Roamer, notes that if your t-shirt is loose or ill-fitting, it can cause even bigger problems. "You may find yourself with unpleasant chafing where your backpack straps meet a loose-fitting shirt. You'd think airy equals comfort, but not in this context. When trekking, a more form-fitting top, preferably moisture-wicking, helps reduce friction," he says.
Hiking in jeans is another common mistake people make when hitting the trails. "Jeans are heavy, restrictive, and also retain moisture," Todd tells Best Life. "Due to being made of cotton, they are poor at temperature regulation and can lead to chafing."
Instead, Todd recommends hiking pants, which are most often made of a nylon-spandex blend. "Nylon or polyester pants are by far a better option than jeans due to better breathability, moisture-wicking, and lighter weight," he notes.
Non-breathable rain jackets
It's wise to prepare for rain whenever you hike, but Yulia Saf, a travel blogger and founder of Miss Tourist, warns that the wrong type of rain jacket can be worse than none at all.
"While it's essential to stay dry, some rain jackets don't breathe well, which can cause you to sweat more underneath, leaving you feeling clammy. Look for jackets that are both waterproof and breathable, so you stay dry from both rain and sweat," she suggests.
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When you go for a hike, the single most important wardrobe choice you'll make pertains to your footwear.
"Avoid sandals, flip-flops, or shoes with poor traction," says Todd, noting that this can include sneakers. "Opt for sturdy, supportive hiking boots or trail shoes to protect your feet and offer great comfort out on the trails," he advises.
White adds that ensuring a good fit ahead of time can help prevent injuries on your hike, including blisters, twisted ankles, and falls. He recommends always trying your boots on with the socks you plan to wear during hikes to ensure there's enough room for your toes to move but not so much that your foot slides around.
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Ill-fitting or unsupportive undergarments
Many people pore over reviews for hiking gear, looking for just the right lightweight shell jacket or hiking boots. However, many of those same people neglect the basics and wind up wearing poorly fitting undergarments, says Todd. He suggests opting for underwear and bras that provide an adequate amount of support and breathability.
Wearing jewelry on the trail will almost certainly mean you're overdressed for the occasion, but experts say the bigger concern is your safety.
"Hiking out on the trails is not the best time to wear all your fancy jewelry pieces," says Todd, adding that necklaces and earrings can be especially disastrous when hiking. "Long necklaces can easily get caught in brush, tree limbs, and other plants if the trail is any bit slightly overgrown. Stay safe and tone back the jewelry out on the trail," he adds.