Best hiking clothes for a multi day hike - ideas, tips and suggestions

What clothes do I need for a multi day hike?
Will I be warm enough?
What is a good hiking outfit?

Several readers have asked what is the best hiking clothes to buy for multiday hiking or bushwalking. In this post we use pictures to explain of the type of clothes we have found successful.

Many of these items are relatively expensive, and we have taken several years to accumulate what we believe, is a great, basic hiking "wardrobe". The beauty of many of these items is they can be used for general wear, especially in winter.

A bad look, taken from Dixon Kingdom Hut

The main principals we follow in selecting our hiking clothing are:

Wait for the sales: At the end of each season, may stores have great sales, often up to 25% off the retails price. This is when we part with our cash. We are also regular visitors to Outdoor stores and always check out the sale racks for end of line items or unpopular colours.

Durability - we want this clothing to last, be tough and strong. It gets knocked around a lot. Often quality = cost = durability

Light weight - we are NOT ultra light hikers but very aware of weight. Most of this gear is synthetic and relatively light weight

Quick dry - The only natural fibre item we own is a merino wool baselayer. The are wonderful tops, warm, quick dry, soft and don't retain as much odour as polypropylene.

Natural fibres such as cotton jeans or woollen jumpers are a problem. Once wet, they can take days to dry, become incredibly inefficient in maintaining your body temperature and heavy to carry. A recipe for hypothermia or at least an uncomfortable and cold few days.

Layering - there is strong evidence that this is the best method of controlling your temperature while treking. There is a great article on the website ABC of Hiking on Outdoor Clothing - Three layer system

The picture below demonstrates Frank's basic hiking clothing for cooler weather.

Warm hat, merino baselayer, quick dry long sleeved shirt, shorts and (if really cold) polypropylene leggings. Gaiters are worn on each hike to protect from scratching and stop mud and water getting into your boots.

This next picture is the additional clothing taken (but not always worn) for a multi day hike in cooler weather. It allows for a base, mid and upper layer and waterproof shell.

  • The vest may be worn at the start of the day before warming up or on cold days.

  • The combination of polarfleece inner gloves, and waterproof mittens as an outer shell is an excellent way to keep your hands either warm, dry or both.

  • The mid layer is generally added once at camp and we cool down.

  • The windstopper jacket and long pants may be added at night if it is particularly cold or windy.

  • In extremely cold weather, with snow or sleet, the waterproof overpants may get used.

Extra gear would usually include another polypropylene inner top, a sun hat, a spare pair of socks and underwear. That is it.

This basic collection of outdoors clothing allows both of us to use different combinations of clothing depending on the weather conditions and has proved successful for both of us over several years.

What do you think of this system?

Do you have different ideas about a hiking "wardrobe"?

Send us a comment so others can read your ideas.

Related topics:
Hiking Gear - the basics
Starting off Hiking? John Chapman's advice for beginners
Hiking gear - what are the basics to get started?
Couple Hiking - getting the right gear
Gear ideas for a wilderness hiking trip into Southern Tasmania


Unknown said...

Hello Frank and Sue,

I prefer wearing runners rather than specialised hiking boots. As I see it ,the advantages of athletic shoes over boots are light weight, good ventilation, comfort and cost. I also look for good grip and a sole that will protect my feet from bruising when walking over rocky terrain with a heavy pack. I don't believe that wearing boots provides better ankle support. If this were true, then why then don't we see it in sports shoes? Surely soccer, tennis, rugby and other sports people experience considerable strain on their ankles? (In fact, I remember having a choice of low or high-cut boots in soccer and rugby boots as a kid many years ago. That theory seems to have been dispelled.) There are some disadvantages to athletic shoes though, such as water penetrating easily and small stones getting into the shoe.

It seems to me that hiking stores continue to push the expensive specialist footwear so that it is difficult to find anything that meets my ideal criteria - comfort, light weight, grippy, fairly waterproof but without being hot and sweaty and a sole that's torsionally strong for those sharp rocks. For my current hiking shoes I alternate between New Balance runners when on day walks and Rockports for multi-day walks.

My question is then, where do I find footwear that meets my criteria? Have a look at They seem to be on the right track but don't seem to have any Australian representation.

Anonymous said...

i think hiking is the same whether it be in the United states, australia or on an African safari. I agree with you des that when it comes to shoes you want something comfortable. but it is often tricky finding shoes that won't sweat your feet while at the same time are waterproof.

Frank and Sue said...

Hi Des and African Safari,
Thanks for the great comments.
Will post soon comparing boots to lighter weight footwear.
Currently stuck on boots but always willing to learn!

Anonymous said...

Hi Des,
I think that you forgetting something when you asking why don't we see hiking boots in sports. Remember that when you hike you have a heavy backpack, which requires much more support for your ankles. And I am surprised that you didn't find good lightweight hiking boots. Currently I use Merrel hiking boots and I like them a lot.

Anonymous said...

What weight were the Merrels Greg?

A heavy pack does add to the downforce...or sideways force when you twist an ankle. However, a rugby player or Aussie rules player coming down from a flying leap can still easily have more force applied to the ankle then what we would get from normal hiking. yet theystill have no ankle support and do fine.

Idealy, if going ankle free support shoes, one will also have a light pack. However it comes down to the individual. I have strong ankles and have walked with a 20kg+ pack with Brooks Beasts with no negative impact.

Anonymous said...

I think the idea of layering is very good for hiking. Instead of taking several changes of clothes, taking different layers allows you to add/remove to suit the temperatures. I think I'll pay more attention to this concept for my next hike.
Thanks for the great tips too!

Anonymous said...

All the footballers have their ankles strapped all the time, eve nfor training. It is cheap, much cheaper then loser game pay by being injured. The most important thing in a boot shoe for walking is a strong last through the shoe and a heel support area that does flex, running/sports shoes have the opposite. They are very good for tracks, particularly maintained ones, but for off track walking proper strong walking shoes are the best. They do not necassirly have to be high ankle type boots.

Anonymous said...

Just want to put my two bobs worth in. I have done both Frenchmans Cap and the South Coast walk in Tassie in my Vasque shoes. After spending upwards of $1000 on boots over 30 years of hiking, the $80 Vasque are the best I have ever had and I will never miss the lack of ankle support as high cut shoes are as stable as boots in that respect. They are also lightweight with Goretex lining and haven't so much as broken a stitch in five years. What more can you ask of your footwear?