Deciding what to wear hiking in fall can often be a difficult decision. When you are picking your fall hiking outfit you need to consider the ever-changing weather at this time of year. It can be freezing in the morning and warm in the afternoons, rain can come from nowhere and you may even find some snow and ice in the alpine if you venture into the mountains.
As you pick out your hiking outfits for fall, there is one key rule to live by…LAYERS. You’re likely to hear this from anyone you ask about what to wear hiking in the fall, but layers are key to a fun adventure at this time of year. You can layer up in the chilly mornings and discard layers as you work up a sweat or as the sun starts to shine and warm you up.
We’ve spent years hiking in every season and we know a thing or two about choosing the best fall hiking clothes. Good base layers, insulating layers, waterproof jackets and a great pair of hiking boots (plus some other fall hiking attire) will allow you to get out and enjoy the beautiful outdoors even when the weather starts to turn.
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What to Wear Hiking in Fall
One of the best things that you can buy to add to your hiking outfits in fall is a great base layer. Merino wool is an excellent choice for a base layer as it is natural, lightweight, moisture-wicking and regulates your body temperature. When deciding what to wear hiking in cold weather, this should be at the top of your list.
Choosing a base layer that wicks moisture is essential. As you start to sweat, materials like cotton will stay damp for ages and keep you cold, whereas merino wool allows moisture to evaporate quickly so you stay warm and dry. We also love it as it does not just keep you warm but it also helps to keep you cool when the temperatures do rise so you get the best of both worlds.
When it comes to choosing hiking clothes in fall, our favourite base layer comes from MERIWOOL. It does everything we mentioned above, the quality is amazing and it isn’t as expensive as many other merino wool base layers.
Long Sleeve Shirt
Over the top of a base layer, the next piece of our hiking attire in fall is a long sleeve shirt. You can wear a short-sleeve shirt as well but we prefer the extra warmth on colder mornings and once we get higher into the mountains. Shirts to wear hiking should be relatively lightweight so you can still wear them once you start to warm up and you can discard your more insulated layers first.
You should again avoid cotton when it comes to picking a shirt as it just absorbs sweat, but any type of workout or sport shirt will do the trick. Lululemon is one of our go-tos. They are expensive but we appreciate the quality and the fit of their gear. Our favourite Lululemon shirt is the Swiftly Tech Long Sleeve Crew.
As we hike all the time, buying these shirts from Lululemon all the time can get expensive. After trialling several different brands that offer similar styles, we found CRZ YOGA. They offer similar products that are still high quality at a fraction of the price and we do highly recommend them. Their Seamless Athletic Long Sleeve Shirt is a staple of our fall hiking gear.
When choosing hiking clothes for fall the question of what to wear hiking in cold weather often goes hand in hand with this. One of the most important clothes to wear hiking in colder conditions is an awesome, insulated mid-layer. While the layers of merino wool and a long sleeve short will help, the true warmth will come from a great mid-layer.
There is no shortage of excellent mid-layers that you can choose from when considering what to wear when hiking in the cold, but here are a couple of our favourites. Our number 1 choice for adding that extra insulation in the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody. This comes on every single adventure that we go on and we couldn’t speak highly enough about it (you can read our full review of the Patagonia down sweater here).
It is extremely warm, it packs down so you can put it in your backpack if you warm up, it looks great and we love the overall fit and quality of these jackets. So much so that we both own one. Another good option is the Patagonia Nano Puff. You can see a full comparison of the Nano Puff vs the Down Sweater here.
While an insulated down jacket is our top choice, it is followed very closely by a fleece jacket. These are also very warm and comfortable to wear when hiking and on exceptionally cold days (usually in the middle of winter) we will pair a fleece with a down jacket for optimal warmth. You’re unlikely to need both but the Columbia Benton Springs Fleece Jacket is an awesome choice when deciding what to wear for hiking in fall.
While you hope to never need it, a rain jacket is an important part of any autumn hiking outfit. Unfortunately, weather is unpredictable during the fall season and you will often need to take a rain jacket with you or at least have one hanging in the closet ready to go. A rain jacket is the most important piece of gear you can have when deciding what to wear hiking in the rain.
Hiking in the rain is never fun but it is even less fun if you don’t have a rain jacket to keep you at least somewhat dry. Ideally, you will want your rain jacket to be lightweight, breathable and packable so that it is comfortable to wear hiking but easy to store in your backpack when you don’t need it.
There are a lot of great rain jackets out there but our top choice is the Columbia Arcadia II jacket as it ticks all of the boxes. We really like the wide range of colours that they offer so you can make sure your cute fall hiking outfits look the part. If you are wondering what to wear when hiking in the rain then this jacket is a fantastic choice.
This time of year, leggings are an easy go-to choice for clothes to wear for hiking. They are extremely comfortable and offer lots of stretch and movability as you hike and climb, making them the best pants for hiking in fall. As you consider what to wear on a fall hike on your lower half, leggings are always our number one choice.
If you know that it is going to be particularly cold on your adventure, leggings also make a great base layer under a pair of hiking pants. When you are thinking about what to wear when hiking in the cold, we recommend choosing full-length leggings, rather than 3/4 length as they will keep you much warmer.
While I own several pairs of Lululemon leggings, one of my favourite pairs of leggings for hiking is the Occffy Yoga Pants. They are much cheaper than Lululemon, so I am not worried about hiking in them, but the quality is still really good. They are also thick enough to keep me warm and have good compression so they don’t fall down while hiking.
A great pair of hiking boots is one of the best investments that you can make and are definitely the best shoes to wear hiking. You’ll want to ensure you can walk all day in your boots without getting blisters or getting sore feet.
Additionally, at this time of year, you may encounter some snow and ice on the trail and hiking boots tend to have much better tread which will afford you a better grip on the trails. While you can buy hiking shoes, we like a proper pair of boots as the high ankle support will be a massive help if you come close to twisting or rolling your ankle.
We’ve been through quite a few pairs of hiking boots, shoes and trail runners but our absolute favourites are the Columbia Newton Ridge Plus hiking boots. They do everything mentioned above, and we’ve hiked 34 kilometres in one day in them and found them to be very comfortable over long distances. They are also waterproof which is ideal for any wet weather or mud that you are likely to encounter in the fall.
One thing that is often overlooked, but absolutely shouldn’t be, is an amazing pair of hiking socks. Choosing the right shoes to wear hiking is the most important, but these should be paired with hiking socks. Similar to your base layer, we recommend buying merino wool hiking socks.
Merino wool socks will help wick moisture from your feet, give you some insulation on colder days and they have some extra cushioning which all make them more comfortable to wear when you are out hiking. While they are expensive for a pair of socks, they are totally worth the money.
They are often overlooked but they will make a big difference to your feet. Smartwool makes the best merino wool hiking socks and we have several pairs of their Hike Crew Merino Wool socks.
Keep your head, and most importantly, ears warm with a cozy beanie. They obviously keep your head warm but a toque is one of the best accessories for cute hiking outfits in fall and can help keep your hair in check as you hike.
We have a bunch of different beanies that we wear hiking but one of our favourites, as much for fashion as it is for function, is the classic Coal Beanie. They come in a lot of different colours so you can find something to match your style.
Your hands can get pretty chilly out on the trails in the fall and it is so easy to forget to pack a pair of gloves. They take up almost no room in your bag and weigh next to nothing but you’ll be glad you have them when you need them. Cold fingers can make a hike quite miserable.
You don’t need anything too fancy when it comes to gloves. A medium-weight pair of knit gloves will do the trick. We would recommend getting a pair that has fingertips that allow you to use your phone so you can follow trail maps and send messages. Achiou make a basic set of gloves that allow you to text which are perfect for fall.
Scarf or Buff
For most of our fall hiking adventures, we don’t really need this accessory, but it can be useful to have on really cold days. A buff is slightly better as it packs down into next to nothing but adds a lot of warmth when you use it. Plus it can be used in multiple ways and can cover any part of your head.
We have lots of these lying around the house (we mainly use them during the ski season) but they are super handy to take with you. The company BUFF makes the best buffs and their merino wool buff is probably the pick of the bunch when it comes to what to wear hiking in the cold.
A good pair of hiking boots will really help with your fall hikes but sometimes you still need a little bit of extra grip. If there is some snow and ice on your hike then a pair of microspikes are great to have as they give you that extra traction you need to confidently continue on your hike.
There is often a debate about crampons vs microspikes but we think microspikes are ideal for this time of year as you don’t usually need the level of grip crampons provide. Microspikes are often more lightweight which makes them easier to carry in your bag.
Easily the best microspikes on the market are the Kahtoola EXOspikes Microspikes. These are designed for hiking or trail running and can be fitted over shoes or hiking boots. The streamlined design will give you all-day comfort and the 12 spikes give you all the traction you need.
We actually hike year-round with poles but they come are particularly useful in fall due to the snow and ice you can get on some trails. Along with a pair of microspikes, you’ll feel much more confident if you have a pair of hiking poles so you have extra touchpoints as you hike.
Poles also have the benefit of taking a lot of pressure off your knees, especially on long hikes or if you are carrying a heavy backpack. There is a huge range of poles out there, from cheap aluminum poles to high-tech collapsible carbon fibre poles that cost hundreds of dollars.
Our top choice is somewhere in the middle/on the cheaper side of the middle. Carbon fibre poles are super lightweight which makes them easier to hike with and carry on your pack when you aren’t using them. The Foxelli Carbon Fibre Trekking Poles are very good quality and won’t break the bank.
A quality backpack is the last thing we recommend taking on all of your hikes. You’ll need to carry all of your extra gear, snacks, water and your hiking camera. We recommend taking a bag that is at least 20 litres as it will allow you to comfortably store all of your gear.
There are plenty of bags to choose from but Osprey makes the best hiking backpacks around. Whether it’s a day pack or a big backpack for multi-day trips in the backcountry, Osprey is the pick of the bunch.
The Osprey Daylite Plus Daypack is the perfect backpack for all of your hiking needs. It has a comfortable back panel, a sternum strap, a hydration pocket and external pockets for your water bottles and packable jackets. Plus, this bag will last you for life.
What to Wear For Hiking, Men
Most of the products we mentioned above are useful for both men and women but it is more focused on women’s hiking outfits for fall. We wanted to give a brief summary of the best men’s hiking outfits in fall so we can answer the question of what do men wear hiking.
- Base Layer – MERIWOOL Mens Base Layer
- Long Sleeve Shirt – Champion Double Dry Long Sleeve Performance Shirt
- Insulated Mid Layer – Patagonia Down Jacket
- Rain Jacket – Columbia Watertight II Jacket
- Hiking Pants – Columbia Rapid River Pants
- Hiking Boots – Columbia Newton Ridge II Hiking Boots
- Socks – Smartwool Hiking Crew Socks
- Beanie – COAL Beanie
- Gloves – Achious Knit Glove
- Buff – BUFF Merino Wool
- Microspikes – Kahtoola EXOspikes
- Trekking Poles – Foxelli Carbon Fibre Trekking Poles
- Backpack – Osprey Daylite Plus Backpack
After countless years spent out exploring the beautiful outdoors across all seasons, we feel like we have learnt exactly what to wear hiking in fall. All of the gear listed above has kept us warm, dry and comfortable on our hundreds of hikes over the years.
We recommend investing in some decent gear before your next fall adventure. Understanding what to wear hiking when it’s cold at this time of year should make your experience much more pleasant and encourage you to keep getting out to explore.
Did we miss anything on our list? Let us know in the comments.
Interested in picking up some more gear for your adventures? Check out our other guides: