There's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes.
By Trent Jonas
As the leaves start falling from the trees and the winter chill starts to roll in, the crowds and pesky bugs dissipate from the hiking trails. And if you’re properly equipped, you can spend hours outside trekking. As the old saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes. Before you embark on your late-fall hike, consider gearing up with these essential items to stay safe and comfortable.
In cooler weather, keeping your feet warm and protected is crucial. Fall hiking doesn’t require all the insulation and warmth that winter boots offer, but you need a little more than your Chaco sandals out on the trail. A good, comfortable hiking boot or shoe, like the Targhee from Keen, will do the trick quite nicely. If you live in an area that tends to get a lot of precipitation in the fall, consider getting a waterproof version of the boot you choose.
In many places, late fall temperatures can vary radically, sometimes within a few hours. So, when you head out on the trail, a jacket is a necessity. However, you’ll want an outer layer that breathes well and will keep you comfortable across a wide range of temperatures. A hood is also a nice thing to have in the event of unplanned precipitation. Patagonia’s Nanopuff Hoody is a good example of a jacket that checks all these boxes.
Do you really have to have specialized hiking pants in order to head out on the trail in the fall? No, probably not, but pants designed with the hiker in mind can help keep you comfortable and warm when you’re out there. Hiking pants tend to be tear-resistant and have a little bit of stretch to help you get over rough patches. Well-placed pockets and fast-drying materials, like you’d find in the Kühl Renegade are also features to look for in hiking pants.
Another key clothing item for fall hiking is a pair of warm, comfortable hiking socks. You’ll want a sock that covers your ankles and offers plenty of support and cushioning for your feet, like the Darn Tough Full-Cushion Boot Sock. Also, look for socks that wick away or absorb moisture from your feet, or consider a pair of liners to wear inside your socks.
In colder weather, gloves are an excellent thing to have along on a hike. Not only do they keep your hands warm, the right pair will keep them dry and protect your hands if you’re using trekking poles or are on a trail that requires a lot of hand holds. The Trailsmith Gloves from REI are an example of extra-tough hiking gloves. Look around and find the right gloves for you.
A neck gaiter is a really awesome thing to have along on a cold weather hike. You can use it to keep your neck, ears and face warm if the wind picks up, and you can pull it down if the weather improves. They also make good impromptu face coverings when quickly passing other hikers on the trail. Columbia’s Trail Shaker is a solid gaiter for fall hiking.
A warm head makes for a happy hiker, and a warm hat will do the trick. When you’re out in biting weather, it’s nice to have built-in ear protection in a hat. Outdoor Research’s Peruvian Gore-Tex Infinium Hat is a good example of a hat that offers ear protection when you want it.