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Spring Cleaning: Restock Your Trail Wardrobe with 10 Apparel Essentials

Posted by HikerCass at Mar 09, 2015 10:20 AM |
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Spring is the perfect time to update your outdoor wardrobe with these ten apparel essentials. They reflect all of the layers you need on trail to be ready for everything from dayhikes to long-distance backpacks, and all trail and weather conditions.

There are many things to love about spring: warmer temperatures, longer days and the sweet promise of another hiking season just around the corner. But before you hit the trail, it’s time for some good old-fashioned spring cleaning.

First, reorganize your wardrobe and refresh your gear. Then if you need to fill a gap, restock. Bonus points if you shop for these essentials at your local secondhand gear store!

Spring is the perfect time to take inventory of your trail wardrobe. Toss out items that have been loved through, and get rid of anything that’s not comfortable. Then update your outdoor wardrobe with these ten apparel essentials—including suggestions from our hiking apparel experts—and you’ll be ready for everything from dayhikes to long-distance backpacks, and all trail and weather conditions.

WTA gear tester Cassandra Overby demonstrates our women's selections for restocking your trail wardrobe.


1. Hat

Starting at the top, be sure to include a hat in your trail wardrobe to protect your head and face from sun and rain. It will also help keep you warm. There are several styles to choose from, including caps, sun hats and our old favorite: the beanie.

Women: prAna Pixie Flower Beanie, $30

  • Favorite features: soft and warm acrylic yarn to keep your head cozy; super cute

Men: Outdoor Research Sol Sun Hat, $37

  • Favorite features: lightweight, breathable UPF 30; drawcord cinch for custom fit; chin cinch

2. Underwear

Comfort begins with quality undergarments. Look for a good fit (no bunching or chafing), good breathability and quick-drying fabrics. Wool and specialty synthetics excel at wicking moisture and resisting odors.

Women: Smartwool NTS Micro 150 Bikini, $28; Smartwool PhD Seamless Racerback Bra, $60

  • Favorite features: wool washes and dries easily on trail; low seam profile reduces chafing

Men: ExOfficio Give-N-Go Boxer Briefs, $26

  • Favorite features: lightweight, breathable and quick-drying; anti-microbial material minimizes odor

3. Baselayers

This is the layer that you’ll wear longest during the day. Select shirts and leggings that are soft and breathable. Look for garments with flat seams that won't rub under pack straps. Avoid cotton.

Women: Columbia Shadow Time T-Shirt, $30

  • Favorite features: skims without being tight; comes in a nice feminine color selection

Men: Mountain Hardwear Wicked Lite Tee, $35

  • Favorite features: merino wool is breathable and wicks moisture well; flatlock seams eliminate chafing

4. Midlayers

When you’re starting a hike in the cold of the morning or the temperature plummets as you near a summit, your midlayer will come in handy. Opt for thin wool sweaters or fleece zip-ups.

Women: Helly Hansen Warm Run LS, $85

  • Favorite features: stretch panel on back excels at wicking sweat; merino wool stays warm even when wet

Men: Bergans Fjellrapp Half-Zip, $70

  • Favorite features: breathable, moisture-wicking merino wool yields high-performance fit and style

5. Insulating Jacket

For cold days or evenings in camp have a cozy jacket to wear over your midlayer. Packable puffy jackets typically come in down (warmer and lighter) or synthetic (more water-resistant) fill options. A must-have in the Northwest.

Women: Arc’teryx Cerium SL Jacket, $319

  • Favorite features: down is incredibly light and equally warm; includes pocket stuff sack; comes in a pretty color selection

Men: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Jacket, $320

  • Favorite features: hyperlight 850-fill Q.Shield DOWN resists moisture; includes pocket stuff sack

6. Shell Jacket

Be prepared for wind and rain by always carrying a shell jacket (and pants)—regardless of what the weather forecast looks like. Keep them on the outside of your pack for easy access.

Women: Columbia Sleeker Rain Jacket, $80

  • Favorite features: rip-stop nylon is super lightweight and packable; includes hood; comes in a pretty color selection

Men: Outdoor Research Helium HD Jacket, $199

Favorite features: rip-stop nylon is lightweight (9.1-ounce); jacket doubles as a wind layer; breathable Pertex Shield+ repels moisture 

7. Gloves

Hand protection isn’t only for snowy days. Gloves can come in handy any time the temperature dips, such as during a break on trail or in the evenings at camp. They even protect your hands from the effects of UV light.

Women: Smartwool NTS Mid 250 Gloves, $35

  • Favorite features: can be worn by themselves in the spring/fall or under heavier gloves as a liner in the winter; merino wool hand-washes easily; has touch-sensitive fingertips for mobile device operation

Men: The North Face eTip Gloves, $45

  • Favorite features: features form-fitting 4-way stretch fleece for perfect fit and warmth; has touch-sensitive fingertips and silicone pattern palms for mobile device operation

8. Pants

Good pants or shorts can mean the difference between a great hike and the agony of chafing. Buy bottoms with enough flexibility and extra room to move comfortably down the trail, lunge over small streams and climb big rocks.

Women: Mountain Hardwear Dynama Pant, $70

  • Favorite features: low-profile stretch waistband is very comfortable; nylon-spandex fabric makes these pants ideal for activities that require a lot of flexibility

Men: prAna Stretch Zion Convertible Pant, $85

Favorite features: nylon-spandex material sheds moisture and dries quickly; performance style allows unrestricted motion 

9. Socks

Good socks are worth their weight in gold. They cushion your feet and protect them from blisters. Some have anti-microbial properties to resist odors. We recommend good wool or synthetics.

Women: Darn Tough Light Hiker Quarter Socks, $17

  • Favorite features: wool resists odors; this sock has the perfect amount of cushion—not too much, not too little

Men: Thorlo Trail Hiking Socks, $17

  • Favorite features: synthetic material increases comfort and reduces foot stresses; material is also ultra-breathable to keep feet dry and prevent blisters


10. Boots

Good footwear provides stability for your ankles and protects your feet from rocks, branches and moisture. Look for breathability, water repellency and comfort. And always break in your boots before a long hike.

Women: The North Face Ultra Fastpack GTX, $140

  • Favorite features: Cradle heel-stabilization technology encourages proper stride alignment; Gore-Tex guarantees your feet always stay dry

Men: Lowa Renegade GTX, $230

  • Favorite features: rugged Vibram soles; Gore-tex lining to keep feet dry in the wettest conditions

This article originally appeared in the March+April 2015 issue of Washington Trails magazine. Join WTA to get your one-year subscription.