Taylor’d with Style - High-Fashion Hiking
By JeanAnn Taylor
As this season of winter comes to an end, I find myself yearning to go outside and wander among budding wildflowers, to hike up mountain trails, and to explore new paths. Hiking is defined as walking in the countryside for pleasure or sport, and it’s one of the healthiest hobbies I can think of.
It’s also one of the world’s most popular past times. One reason is that aside from a good, supportive pair of shoes, there is little gear needed for a day in the woods. At least that’s what I thought until I began research for this article.
Hiking has become big business. Gone are the days of throwing on a t-shirt and pair of jeans; there is now an entire industry dedicated to hiking wear. Since I love clothes and dressing for every occasion, I give serious thought to what to wear: What does a fashion girl wear while stomping through the woods?
Turns out, there is a lot to learn and consider. Is it going to rain? How do I protect myself from the sun, brush, and bugs? Will it be cold? Or hot? Do I have to sacrifice style for function? Fortunately, rugged, woodsy hiking clothes don’t have to be unattractive.
You can integrate your personal style with protective, warm, comfortable clothing and look great on the trail. After all, who wants to spend a day looking at the beauty of nature dressed recklessly or sloppily?
The most important factor to consider when choosing what to purchase—and wear—is the fabric used to create the garment. It is recommended to avoid cotton in tops, pants, and socks. Cotton fibers will absorb moisture—perspiration and raindrops—and hold onto it all day. Hiking in wet clothes can turn a pleasurable day into a miserable day.
It can also be dangerous if you get cold, wet, and are unable to dry out. Look for breathable fibers that wick moisture away. Merino wool is considered to be a “wonder fabric” by many seasoned hikers. It helps to keep you warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot. Quick-drying synthetic fibers include polyester, nylon, spandex, and elastane.
Also look for clothing made with fabrics that don’t rip easily and that have a little stretch for those long strides. Some fabrics have built-in sun-protector and insect-repellent properties. High-quality hiking clothes are designed with specific hiking activities in mind; therefore the cut and fabrics complement the sport. Form follows function. :)
When planning your hiking outfit, the primary consideration is how to be comfortable and stay dry throughout the day. Checking out the weather forecast will help you determine what to wear. So, let’s start at the top. On cold winter days, wearing something on your head is essential.
Wearing a tightly-knit beanie or insulated hat can make your hiking experience much more enjoyable than being exposed to the elements. During the summer, a brimmed-hat will protect your face from sun exposure. Hats also protect your head from low-lying brush and tree limbs. Wrapping a scarf around your neck can make you more comfortable on a chilly day.
You can keep it there or move it up to your face if the chill is especially chilling. Safeguard your eyes with sunglasses—no matter the season.
On hikes where the elevation changes, you may begin at a comfortable 60 degrees and end up with a temperature of 20-something when you reach the mountain peak. The key to comfort is layering. First, put on a long-sleeve t-shirt and add from there.
Depending on the weather, a lightweight jacket or polyester fleece hoodie may be all you need. On cold days, a down jacket will offer warmth and is easily packable if you don’t need it all day. A windbreaker can block the breeze but doesn’t offer much insulation or warmth.
A waterproof shell is designed to carry perspiration away from your body while also keeping precipitation from entering in. I prefer a light-weight, long-sleeve t-shirt even on warm, sunny, summer days. The sleeves help protect my arms from brush, sun, and insects.
Next on the list: pants. Until recently, I have always worn bluejeans for hiking. The rugged and durable denim fabric seemed perfect for a day of climbing rocks and walking through paths of overgrown brush. Now, there are pants made from tough, light-weight, non-cotton materials.
Many pant options have stretchy-spandex integrated into the fabric to make rock climbing and sitting cross-legged on the ground more comfortable. Hiking pants also have pockets strategically placed for hiking essentials. Some pant styles are convertible—they can be unzipped at the thigh to transform into shorts.
Don’t forget the little things: socks and undies can make a big difference in the overall comfort of your day. To avoid blisters, it may help to wear two pairs of socks; a thick pair over a thin pair. Thermal underwear or a pair of tights can keep you warm on cold days, and gloves are handy for keeping your fingers from freezing. Ladies need to wear a supportive bra that doesn’t bind or shift around.
Finally: footwear. Whether you prefer high or low tops, a pair of supportive, waterproof hiking boots is the most essential article of gear you need. If your feet hurt, you will spend the entire day in agony. I prefer high tops as they offer more ankle support and protection from thorns and snakes.
The only way to know which footwear is best for you is to try several pairs on and decide for yourself.
Hiking clothes can be stylish and fun, which makes the whole experience more enjoyable. After all, if you are going to hike, you might as well look cute.
(Thanks to Catherine Love and Linda James for their helpful hiking information)
What to Bring
Being prepared is vital to a successful and delightful day in the woods. What to pack in your backpack: enough to get you through the day, but not so much that your pack becomes too heavy. Here is a list of my hiking essentials:
* Plenty of water—in a non-glass container.
* Food to sustain you: nuts, fruit, chocolate.
* An extra pair of socks in case one pair gets wet.
* Lip balm, hand sanitizer or wipes, and lotion. (See Taylor’d with Style January 2020)
* A bandana.
* First aid supplies.
* A sitting pad.
* A rain jacket or poncho.
* Trash bag—Don’t leave anything behind except your footprints.
* Jingle bells. Don’t laugh. There are times on the trail when everyone is quiet; lost in their own thoughts and mesmerized by the beauty of nature. To avoid sneaking up on mama bear, I wear a jingle bell tied onto my shoelace to alert her of my presence. The soft jingle isn’t annoying, and it keeps mama bear from being startled.
It’s also recommended to bring a change of clothes to keep in the car—just in case you get wet and don’t want to ride home in soaking clothes. If you have hiking tips, I’d love to hear them. Please send an email to me at the address below.