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What to Wear for a Backpacking Trip - Daggerfish Gear Backpacking Gear and Tools

What to Wear for a Backpacking Trip

Backpacking is an amazing experience for anyone interested in taking on the challenge. With stunning views and nothing but the wilderness as far as the eye can see, unforgettable memories await! Even so, it can be difficult to know what to pack, particularly when it comes to clothing. To help you get started, here’s a definitive guide to packing clothes for your next backpacking trip!

General Clothing Tips

Comfort and Functionality Over Style

Generally speaking, you should always prioritize functionality over style when it comes to backpacking clothing. It’s important to remember that you’ll be relying on the wilderness for any possible protection. If you’re in a situation where temperatures drop dramatically or you’re ill prepared for the trip, your safety could be on the line. Always plan ahead and try to pack a piece of clothing for every season. 

Only Pack the Essentials

Many backpackers make the mistake of overpacking clothes to fully prepare themselves for all hiking conditions. Unfortunately, too much clothing can significantly increase pack weight, resulting in an uncomfortable trek. Instead of packing a lot of clothing, invest in lightweight attire and only bring 1-2 complete outfits to reduce your backpack’s weight. When embarking on a backpacking trip, It’s perfectly okay to wear the same clothes over a long period of time

Avoid Cotton at all Costs

Try your best to avoid wearing cotton clothing, even for simple day hikes. Cotton is extremely moisture absorbent, meaning that it takes a very long time to dry if it gets wet. Cotton can make you feel even more sweaty on hot days and extra chilly when the temperature drops. In serious situations, wearing cotton can even lead to hypothermia, rashes, and chafing. This is especially important when selecting base layers, your first line of defense for staying warm. 

Layer Up

As mentioned previously, it’s a good idea to pack a piece of clothing for every season. It should also be reiterated that these clothes can be reworn to reduce pack weight. Nevertheless, it’s important to select at least one full outfit that can be easily adjusted based on temperature, weather conditions, and comfort. A complete backpacking outfit should include the following:

  • Tops
  • Bottoms
  • Jackets
  • Hats
  • Gloves

Endure the Muck

There’s no sugarcoating it: you’ll need to rewear clothing if you want to reduce backpack weight. Bluntly stated, backpacking is not the most clean activity, but it’s absolutely worth it once you make the journey. Depending on your personal preferences, accepting a bit of dirt and grime may be an adjustment. Even so, you’ll thank yourself later when you aren’t required to heave an overly heavy backpack for several miles. 

Clothing Guide


  • Invest in synthetic underwear
  • Try to search for hiking shorts with built-in underwear to increase packing efficiency.
  • Sports bras are great for backpacking since they’re already made with moisture resistant materials and designed with comfort in mind. 
  • Pack ankle-high wool socks, preferably if they’re also paired with water resistant materials. 
  • Pro tip: to reduce pack weight and increase bedtime comfort, only bring two pairs of socks. Devote one pair to hiking and the other for bed. This can allow you to hang up your moist hiking socks to dry while you enjoy the comforts of fresh, dry socks for bed. 

Base Layers

  • Avoid wearing cotton clothing if it’s possible
    • As opposed to cotton, search for clothes made out of nylon, polyester, and merino wool. 
    • Since these clothes will directly come into contact with your skin, anything moisture-resistant is best for base layers.

    Shirts and Pants

    • Select anything that’s lightweight, sunproof, and water-resistant. 
    • If you wear anything that isn’t long-sleeved, make sure you have enough sunscreen to protect your skin from damage. 
    • There are pros and cons when it comes to wearing shorts as opposed to long pants. However, generally speaking, workout shorts, hiking pants, and synthetic leggings are all useful clothing options. 
    • You can certainly wear yoga pants, just keep in mind that they may be more susceptible to damage if you need to do any climbing or trek through intense foliage. 
    • Pockets can really come in handy for easy grabbing. When selecting clothing for your backpacking trip, consider anything with a lot of pockets. 

    Mid Layers

    • Simply put, mid layers are designed to keep you warm.
    • It doesn’t matter where you hike, you always need to pack at least one piece of mid layer clothing for your upper and lower body. 
    • Mid layers are important for staying warm during storms, at night, and during elevation changes. 
    • Consider at least one piece of mid layer clothing with a hood for added comfort. 
    • If you must decide between packing mid-layer clothing and reducing pack weight, always pack more mid layer clothing. 
    • Remember, if all else fails, you can always layer down as opposed to being dangerously exposed to the elements. 

    Outer Layers

    • Outer layers are made to protect you from rain and wind (i.e. rain jackets). Avoiding as much moisture as possible prevents you from experiencing hypothermia. 
    • When selecting outer layers, pay attention to the differences between water-resistant and waterproof clothing. You’ll want to specifically look for completely waterproof rain jackets. 
    • Always bring a rain jacket and try to pair it with waterproof hiking pants for increased packing efficiency. 


    • If it’s possible, try to pack one extra pair of clothes for sleeping. This can allow you to change into cleaner bedtime clothes for increased comfort. 
    • Utilize your wool clothing for bedtime to stay as warm as possible at night. 
    • Pro tip: don’t cook or eat with your bedtime clothes on to keep them as clean as possible.  

    Miscellaneous Clothing

    • If it’s possible, consider packing extra accessories like gloves and hats for every season. 
    If you’re backpacking in an area that’s prone to a lot of insects, consider wearing bug-net clothing to reduce bites and prevent insect borne illnesses like Lymes Disease.
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