7 cozy pieces you need for hiking in the fall

·8 min read
Keep warm this fall with stylish and functional hiking apparel.
Keep warm this fall with stylish and functional hiking apparel.

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Planning on going on a hike this fall? We don’t blame you—it’s hard to turn down the crisp cool air and natural shades of orange the season brings in. Hikes, urban or otherwise, are a great way to benefit your body and mind while embracing nature. But it can also be worrisome if you’re new to hiking or simply unsure of what to wear in the current season.

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Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of essential pieces to reach for when hiking in the fall. From socks to jackets, these garments will help you keep warm while protecting against the elements of Mother Nature. Take a hike with these digs for a cozy natural stroll.

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1. Temp-regulating hiking socks

Merino wool socks will help regulate moisture on your feet.
Merino wool socks will help regulate moisture on your feet.

When it comes to sock shopping for any hike, merino wool reigns supreme. The fabric is highly breathable and is able to regulate temperature by wicking away sweat and moisture. It’s also antimicrobial and odor-resistant, due to an oil called lanolin that’s found naturally in sheep wool, making it great for lengthy or multi-day hikes.

These socks from Alvada are built to keep your feet dry and warm on those cooler days. They’re made from a high percentage of merino wool with added durability from polyester and nylon. These socks come in multi-packs of unisex sizes S/M, which fits women’s shoe sizes 6 to 10.5 and men’s 5 to 9.5, and M/L which fits women’s shoes 11 to 13 and men’s 9.5 to 12.

This pack of merino hiking socks currently has a 4.7-star average rating based on over 11,000 reviews. “These socks aren't like the cheap cotton socks you get at the big-box stores,” one reviewer explains. “I wear them on hot and cold days, and with boots and sneakers. But these anti-bacterial socks are so great, I can wear them two days in a row without a problem—unimaginable if these weren’t merino wool.”

Get the Alvada Three-Pack of 80% Merino Wool Hiking Socks in Unisex Sizes from Amazon for $26.99

2. Sturdy hiking boots

Durable hiking shoes are essential to any gravel or muddy hike.
Durable hiking shoes are essential to any gravel or muddy hike.

Durable hiking shoes are essential to any fall hike, and doubly so when dealing with the elements. The National Park Service recommends sturdy, rubber-soled boots with ankle support for dirt and gravel trails and tennis shoes for paved urban trails. If you plan on hiking across gravel, rocks and mud, REI recommends checking lug patterns: Deep, thick lugs are built to improve grip, wider-spaced lugs can shed mud easily and offer good traction.

For a tough boot that can guard against debris while cushioning your feet, Merrell’s Moab 2 Mid is a solid candidate for hiking footwear. It’s mid-high, which offers better ankle support for walking long distances and up inclines, and it’s waterproof making it suitable for crossing creeks and bearing rainy weather. It’s made from suede leather and is available in multiple colors that give it a casual from a trail-to-the-city vibe. It comes in women’s sizes 5 to 12 and men’s sizes 7 to 15 in wide and medium.

These boots are one of Merrell’s bestselling products and have accumulated hundreds of rave reviews from satisfied customers. “I’ve had my boots for a few years now and they’ve been great,” one reviewer writes. “My husband and I just hiked The Narrows at Zion while wearing our kids in hike backpacks and did six miles. My feet feel totally fine—no sores, no blisters—and they were wet for five hours climbing through rivers covered in rocks. I never slipped or fell in water once.”

Get the Men’s Moab 2 Mid Waterproof Boot from Merrell for $135

Get the Women’s Moab 2 Mid Waterproof Boot from Merrell for $135

3. A cozy base layer

A good base layer keeps you warm without overheating.
A good base layer keeps you warm without overheating.

A base layer is the clothing that’s closest to your skin. Think of it as underwear for your torso (also known as thermal underwear)—it’s meant to keep you warm in cool weather without overheating and wick away moisture and sweat. It’s a good idea to find a base layer that’s made with moisture-wicking fabrics, such as merino wool or a synthetic like polyester or nylon—bonus points if it’s recycled. Layers come in three weights: lightweight, midweight and heavyweight, protecting the body from the mildest temperatures to coldest. In the fall, it’s a good idea to reach for midweight fabrics that can cover your arms and provide warmth.

Popular outdoor company Patagonia makes a midweight, long-sleeve, crew-neck layer with recycled polyester that claims to provide odor control and moisture-wicking properties. It features raglan sleeves, which provide a wider range of movement and thumb loops for secure hand coverage. It comes in a slim-fit for women’s sizes XXS to XXL and men’s sizes XS to 3XL and in various colors.

This Patagonia piece has plenty of rave reviews from fans who love its design and its hike-ready features. “Already love this shirt,” one reviewer writes. “Amazing technology. It runs a little tight, as it should. Keeps you dry and warm, but it doesn’t make you sweat when you heat up. Highly recommend.”

Get the Men's Capilene Midweight Crew from Patagonia for $69

Get the Women's Capilene Midweight Crew from Patagonia for $69

4. A comfortable, warm mid-layer

Fleece is a great lightweight option for a mid layer.
Fleece is a great lightweight option for a mid layer.

A mid-layer should fit comfortably over your base layer with a goal to retain heat and provide insulation in the cold. Contrary to their name, they can be worn on their own over your base, as long as conditions aren’t too chilly or windy, as mid-layers typically aren’t wind-resistant. Mid-layers come in all sorts of fabrics, materials and builds, with features sometimes specific to mountaineers and multi-day hikes. But for casual hikes in the cold, look for a one that allows for comfort without bulking up that can easily be taken off if too warm. Think lightweight fleece, wool or, if you can afford it, down feathers made from duck or geese that can retain heat and compress in size if needed. Synthetic down is commonly sold in the form of puffer jackets.

Outdoor company Columbia has polyester fleece pieces that serve well as a mid-layer. Its full zip fleece jacket offers comfort with a classic fit, featuring a high collar that covers the neck, two hand pockets and an adjustable cinch located on the hem to better hold in your body heat. It’s a full zip, which makes it easy to leave open if you get too warm. It’s available in women’s sizes XS to XXL and men’s sizes S to XXL.

Columbia’s full-zip fleece jackets are some of the company’s bestselling items, garnering thousands of reviews from customers. “Well made, true to size and the perfect weight for cool weather or rooms that have the air conditioning turned on too low,” one reviewer writes. “It has big inside pockets that can hold a large iPad, which are really handy. Perfect in every way!”

5. A lightweight outer layer

A water-resistant jacket is useful for sudden weather changes.
A water-resistant jacket is useful for sudden weather changes.

An outer layer is usually a jacket to throw over your base and mid on colder, windier, or wet days. If you usually run hot, you may not think you need an outer layer, but it’s still a good idea to bring a light jacket to cover up just in case of weather changes during your hike. So you’re prepared for anything, grab a jacket that can warm you up while blocking against wind and rain. The North Face’s Resolve 2 does all three. It’s made of 100% recycled polyester fabric that claims to be windproof, and it’s lined with ripstop nylon that prevents cosmetic scuffs and tears. It has elastic-bound cuffs, zippered hand pockets, a hood and a cinch cord at the hem to block out wind and precipitation. It comes in women’s sizes XS to 3XL and men’s sizes XS to 4XL in multiple colors.

The North Face Resolve 2 jacket has thousands of reviews that give it a 97% customer satisfaction rating. “This is without a doubt the best-fitting and most rugged rain gear I have ever purchased,” one rave reviewer writes. “This Resolve 2 Jacket is a super purchase for my hiking needs, and the price is very reasonable."

6. Flexible bottoms

Pants with a wide range of stretch ensure a comfortable hike.
Pants with a wide range of stretch ensure a comfortable hike.

A pair of pants that provide ample room for movement is best for cooler hikes, and anything with the added bonus of quick-drying fabrics and water resistance is most helpful.

Outdoor Research’s Ferrosi pants are made of tough ripstop nylon, which will prevent any snags or tears while hiking, with the addition of spandex for extra flexibility and mobility. It’ll wick away any moisture that lingers on your body and also guard against water and wind from the outside. The multiple zippered cargo pockets safely stash valuables, and a cinch closure at the cuff lets you easily roll up the pant legs if you get too warm. These pants come in men’s sizes 28 to 38 and women’s sizes 0 to 14 in four colors.

The bestselling Ferrosis impressed fans with both their functionality and stylish silhouette. “I took these pants out for a few days and covered 80 miles,” one reviewer explains. “Not one issue. Amazing fit. Flexible, lightweight and the side pocket fits your phone perfectly.”

7. Thin but protective gloves

Warm your hands with a lightweight pair of gloves.
Warm your hands with a lightweight pair of gloves.

Nothing is more annoying while hiking than numb fingers. Warm them with a pair of lightweight fleece gloves. They take up little space, so it’s a great idea to pack some just in case the temperatures drop.

This pair from Eddie Bauer is made of polyester and spandex, lending them the ability to wick moisture and give stretch. The fingertips are also touchscreen-friendly, which allows smartphone usage without taking them off. When they’re not in use, the duo clips together with a quick-release buckle. They come in both women’s and men’s sizes S/M and L/XL in black.

“They are very flexible and have awesome grip dots,” one reviewer writes. “I desperately needed gloves when it got cold in Chicago and could not find any of my things in storage. These were relatively inexpensive, but not super-warm. These are fit for athletic wear.”

This article originally appeared on Reviewed: Hiking clothing for fall from Columbia, Patagonia, Eddie Bauer and more

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