Cotton is sturdy, but uncomfortable when it gets wet. I like the
feel of cotton, but what I can't stand is the way it stretches when
I've been sweating heavily or gotten caught in the rain. I don't
like my shirt hanging down to my knees. There are many high tech
fibers that wick (transport your sweat into the air) and are warm
(since not wet they feel warmer) and are incredibly light, but also
expensive. Some of these trademarked fibers are Coolmax, Utralight
Mircrofeece, Microfiber, Capilene, Polartec, Ultrawick, Tactel,
Spandex, Supplex, Gortex, and Lycra. By layering these materials it
is possible to hike with incredibly light clothing, even in freezing
weather. Try it. It works.
You may try hiking in whatever you own to start out with, then add a
few garments at a time, giving the new stuff a good tryout before
investing in a whole new wardrobe. Wear whatever feels comfortable
to you. I like shorts and shirts that are light, fairly tight, and
synthetic. Shorts are typically my first choice unless weather
conditions warrant pants. However, if you are sensitive to poison
ivy/oak, prone to off-trail bushwhacking, or concerned about sun
protection, pants and long-sleeved shirts are a good idea. Either
way, don't forget a hat, and remember that tube of sun block.
The success or failure of any hike is tied to shoe selection. Some
day hikes require nothing more than sturdy running/cross training
type shoes and granted, heavy, stiff hiking boots are at a decided
weight disadvantage compared to a light, flexible, comfortable shoe.
Every pound of shoe is equivalent to carrying 7-9 pounds on your
back. You can minimize shoe weight by selecting a cross-trainer with
ankle support, a trail-running shoe, or one of the lighter hiking
boots that are readily available. Still, my shoe of choice is sturdy
boots. Either way, just make sure the shoes aren't too skimpy in
padding. You'll know if your feet hurt at the end of a hike that you
need more cushion. And make sure that they fit. When buying, try
them on in the afternoon since your feet swell as the day wears on.
You should have 1/4-1/2 inch of room at the end of your toes. If in
doubt opt for a larger size. Buying a larger size means a wider
boot, not a longer boot. Heavy, substantial boots are definitely
preferred for long hikes along rocky trails. Take care to break in
new shoes by wearing them as you go about your daily tasks for a few
days BEFORE you wear them hiking. And take some moleskin on your
first hike with new shoes/boots, just in case!
Don't skimp on socks! Good socks will act as a buffer between your
feet and shoes. You will experience less foot fatigue and fewer
blisters with adequate socks. It's amazing how important sock
selection is when engaged in an long day hike of many hours. The
coarse threads of hiking socks will eventually begin to dig into
your skin causing much discomfort and blisters. Avoid this by
wearing a thin nylon sock, a liner, as a first layer, or just one
pair of light ones. Bring an extra pair for replacement half way.
There is something really refreshing about putting on a pair of
socks half-way through a killer hike. One more thought: before
undertaking that marathon hike consider this - new socks, old shoes.
It's not a good time to see if those new shoes work.
This is easy. Wear the largest, lightest brim hat you can stomach.
Yes, itís dorky looking but do it anyway. It keeps you cooler and
lessens the chance for wrinkles and skin cancer. And speaking of
wrinkles and skin cancer, higher altitudes and summer time are
brutal to the skin. Low altitudes and any sun are brutal to the
skin. Put sunscreen on all days, cloudy or not. Consult your local
dermatologist if necessary.