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The pumpkin spice latte is back and that means it’s almost time for the weather to change. In most places, fall means cooler temperatures and more precipitation, whether it is rain or snow. To stay comfortable and safe, fall hiking outfits need to be ready for anything.
That means layers to shed for warmer weather or to add when the temperature drops. Fall also requires heavier hiking bottoms, gloves, beanies, and warm footwear.
Of course, spring weather is very similar to autumn so these hiking outfits work for both shoulder seasons.
Here’s how to build a fall hiking outfit for all the weather you might encounter. As always, these recommendations combine function and style.
Table of Contents
- Fall Hiking Outfits
- Base Layers
- Midweight Layers
- Outer Layers
- Hiking Bottoms For Fall
- Hats + Gloves
- Hiking Footwear For Fall Weather
- Colder weather hiking
Fall Hiking Outfits
There are three layers that make up a fall hiking outfit. On top anyway. There is the base layer to wick away moisture, a mid-layer to keep in the heat, and an outer layer to block out wind, rain, and snow.
On the bottom half, pants or leggings need to block the wind. And stay warm from head to toe with a beanie, gloves, and wool socks.
The key to hiking in every season is layers. The base layer is the first one you put on and the closest to the skin. Comfort is essential as well as moving perspiration away from the body.
Moisture-wicking fabrics aren’t just for summer. They keep you warm in winter and cool in summer. In cooler conditions, wicking layers keep your skin dry. This prevents overheating as well as getting cold, or even worse hypothermic.
If you prefer t-shirts, the same summer hiking shirt works. Or upgrade to a long-sleeved silk, wool, synthetic, or blend base layer. All base layers are lightweight but you can go for a thinner or thicker shirt, depending on your preference and location.
Base Layers For Men
REI Co-op Silk Long Underwear Crew Shirt – Silk is the ultimate breathable fabric and softer than wool or synthetics. This is a thin shirt but fits under every layer. Like most silk, it needs to be hand-washed.
Patagonia Capilene Midweight Zip-Neck Base Layer Top – For a thicker base layer that doesn’t look like long underwear, try this zip-neck. The polyester is designed to wick sweat and keep you warm. It also features thumbholes.
Base Layers For Women
Smartwool Merino 150 Base Layer Long-Sleeve Top – The number refers to 150g of merino wool. For colder weather, there is also Merino 250. Wool can be itchy but not this shirt and it is now available in eight colors and patterns.
REI Co-op Lightweight Base Layer Long-Sleeve Crew Top – With 8% spandex, this top has plenty of stretch for comfort and curves. It also blocks UV and is thin enough to wear in warmer temperatures too.
The goal of midweight layers is warmth, without sacrificing breathability. Mid-layers should be insulated but not bulky so they are still lightweight and easy to layer.
Vests are a great choice that maintains warmth without overheating. Fleeces and lightweight jackets are excellent too. If you run hot, look for pit zips to vent heat. You don’t have to go buy something new though. Wool and cashmere sweaters also get the job done.
Sometimes the mid-layer is all you need and is worn on the outside. Some of these options are treated with durable water repellent, or DWR, a treatment that helps moisture bead up on the surface. This is not the same as waterproofing but helps keep water out. Wool naturally does the same thing.
Vests are ideal for keeping warm without overheating. It’s a jacket without arms and therefore made of all the same materials as jackets – fleece, wool, synthetic, or down.
Wool Smartwool Smartloft 60 Vest (MEN | WOMEN) – Wool is a popular material for hiking clothes and now it is being used as insulation. This vest uses 60g of recycled wool insulation for a lightweight, breathable, and packable vest. The outer layer is made of wind-resistant nylon has a durable water repellent (DWR) coating. The women’s version comes with a hood.
Synthetic Vuori Insulated Vest (MEN | WOMEN) – Making the most of manmade materials, this vest repels water, includes 60g of PrimaLoft insulation, and uses a 100% recycled lining. This is is also as stylish as vests get.
Down Cotopaxi Fuego Down Vest (MEN | WOMEN) – A lot of outdoor clothing is neutral colors or dark. That is changing, especially with Cotopaxi bringing plenty of color and fun to high-quality and ethical goods. Their Fuego line of down vests and jackets feature a three-tone stripe over the base color.
With 800 fill down from Responsible Down Standard-certified sources and durable ripstop nylon with DWR, this vest can be a mid or outer layer.
Fleece is warm and breathable but doesn’t block the wind. This makes it an ideal mid-layer. Look for light or midweight fleeces that can add a shell over top.
Jack Wolfskin Kiruna Jacket (MEN | WOMEN) – Designed to fit under a shell, this jacket fits tight to the body. It is lightweight and 100% recycled microfleece. I have this layer and it is soft, warm, and protective.
Fjallraven Buck Fleece Vest (MEN | WOMEN) – With knitted fleece on the outside and brushed fleece on the inside, this vest can be a mid or top layer. The reinforced shoulders protect against damage from wearing a backpack or whatever you carry on your shoulders.
Lightweight Insulated Jackets
Like a fleece, this can be a mid or outer layer. Jackets use down or synthetic material for insulation. Down is lighter weight and packs down smaller but costs more and may not come from ethical sources. Synthetic filling is more waterproof, hypoallergenic, and cheaper but heavier, bulkier, and not as durable.
Here are the best hiking jackets to help you choose.
An outer layer needs to keep out wind, rain, and snow. For fall, a windproof, water-resistant jacket should be plenty. If there is any chance of rain or snow, bring a waterproof shell. For wetter regions, here are tips for hiking in the rain.
Hard shells are completely waterproof but also breathable. A softshell jacket is somewhere in between a hardshell and a fleece. They are more breathable than a hardshell, more wind- and water-resistant than a fleece, but not as weather-resistant as a hard shell.
Hard Shells: Waterproof and breathable
REI Co-op REI Co-op Rainier Rain Jacket (MEN | WOMEN/WOMEN’S LONG LINE) – As always, this REI jacket is affordable and functional. Made of recycled ripstop nylon shell, it blocks rain and wind up to 60 mph. The shell is also breathable and has pit zips.
North Face Journey Jacket (MEN) | North Face Resolve 2 Jacket (WOMEN) – Waterproof nylon plus DWR keeps the rain and wind out while remaining breathable. The men’s jacket features pit zips while the hood of the women’s jacket can be stashed inside the collar.
Soft Shells: Water-resistant and breathable
Jack Wolfskin Go Hike Softshell (MEN | WOMEN) – It’s windproof, water-repellant, breathable, and really comfortable. In addition to performance, this jacket is soft and stretchy. Choose between bright and dark/neutral colorways.
Backcountry Tabernash Gore-Tex Infinium Anorak Jacket (MEN | WOMEN) – This outdoor retailer also has its own line of goods. This softshell jacket has covered all the bases. Goretex provides breathable waterproofing with fleece for warmth. It also features plenty of pockets and a built-in gaiter for those windy days. It is available in the trendy half-zip anorak style and a full zip for men.
Arc’teryx Gamma MX Hoodie (MEN | WOMEN) – This flattering and technical jacket is designed to keep out wind and water while maintaining freedom of movement. The updated Fortius™ fabric increased the warmth-to-weight ratio and durability so this may be the last softshell you’ll ever buy.
Hiking Bottoms For Fall
For fall, hiking bottoms need to block the wind but still have the other qualities of summer outdoor gear – stretch, dry quickly. Can wear summer hiking pants with thin long johns underneath or invest in a heavier pair. For even more weather protection, check out these winter hiking pants.
Fall Hiking Pants for Men
Outdoor Research Balebreaker Pants – Winner of Outside Magazine’s Best Hiking Gear of 2021, these nylon/spandex blend pants combine durability, stretch, and style. They are water- and wind-resistant as well as breathable, quick-dry, and UPF 50+.
Kuhl Revolvr Rogue – These straight-leg pants feel like cotton but are lightweight, stretchy, and durable. They look good enough to wear in town, feel good enough to lounge around in, and are durable enough to wear on epic outdoor adventures.
Arc’teryx Gamma LT Pants – For cooler weather, these lightweight pants shed rain and keep you warm. Arc’teryx is known for a longer, slimmer fit.
Fall Hiking Pants and Leggings For Women
For women, alternatives to pants include fleece-lined tights, worn with or without a skirt.
prAna Sky Canyon Jogger Pants – With weather protection plus a trendy jogger shape, you’ll wear these pants everywhere.
Fjallraven Abisko Trekking Tights – This Swedish company knows how to design for tough weather. These tights are no exception. These leggings feature water-resistant fabric, reinforced knees and seat, and side pockets.
REI Co-op Active Pursuits Tights – These running tights are designed to keep you warm on cool days with moisture-wicking fabric and breathable warmth. For extra warmth, wear these with a longer jacket or skirt.
Hats + Gloves
The extremities are the first to get cold. That includes the feet, hands, and head, especially the ears. Wool socks will keep the toes toasty.
For many people, the hands are the first part of the body to get cold. Walking with hands in pockets can increase the risk of falls so always bring gloves. Here are the best hiking gloves for a range of conditions plus a pair that don’t need to be removed to use a phone.
Beanies + Headbands
A fleece headband keeps the ears warm while letting heat out. For more protection, try an itch-free wool beanie. For when it is sunny and cold, a beanie with a brim combines warmth with the coverage of a baseball hat. And of course, you can just pull up your hood.
Hiking Footwear For Fall Weather
Cooler and wetter weather affects the feet too. Put away the hiking sandals and mesh shoes and put on something with full coverage to keep out the wind and water. Here is our hiking footwear guide to getting you started.
Colder weather hiking
Before we know it the snow hiking and winter hiking season will be here too. Check out our complete guides to winter hiking gear, winter hiking pants, winter hiking boots. Be prepared, stay warm, safe, and be comfortable in the colder weather.