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The Ultimate Guide To Backpacking Clothes – What To Pack?

January 01, 2020

The Ultimate Guide To Backpacking Clothes

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Having trouble picking the right backpacking clothes? In this guide, we’ll go over what clothes to pack for a backpacking trip.

Clothing in most times is often overlooked when preparing for a backpacking trip, with more importance given to other camping gears and tools. What you wear to protect yourself from the elements of nature is just as important as other gears. The wilderness can become unpredictable; hence, only proper weather-resistant clothing will help you protect yourself from all kinds of weather conditions.

But there are a lot of options available when it comes to backpacking clothes. This can make it difficult to figure out what you actually need to pack. So, to help you out, today in this article we will be discussing in detail the clothing essentials specific for backpacking.

Factors to consider when picking the right backpacking clothes:

1) Purpose and functionality

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A few things to consider when choosing backpacking clothing are fabrics. Make sure that they are moisture-wicking and quick-drying, sun-protective, antimicrobial to avoid odors, and able to rebuff insects where ticks, mosquitoes, and other pests are a nuisance. Also added features such as pockets, zippers, hoods, vents and many other details may affect the performance of the pieces you choose.

2) Weight vs. comfort

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Most outdoor clothing manufactured these days are lightweight. And some will sacrifice the convenience of added features to save ounces while others will opt for comfort despite the added weight. In the end, it’s still a personal preference that will ultimately prevail.

Types of Backpacking Clothes

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Clothing will differ with respect to the type of climatic condition you are going to face in the wild. You can find backpacking clothes that are capable of withstanding even all three seasons that nature has in store for us. You got to choose the clothes not only based on the weather conditions, but your pick should also be based on the time you’ll be out in the wild. Whether you’re going backpacking, for a night, weekend or days on end, you’ll need pretty much the same pieces of clothing for layering addressing specific weather conditions along the way.

-Base Wear

You can opt for either a long sleeve or short sleeve shirt or T-shirt that is made of wool, knit polyester that comes with a collar and chest vent. Cotton clothes can be used only during hot and arid conditions. Long sleeves are perfect for cold climatic conditions, whereas short sleeves will be perfect for hot conditions. It is always better if you carry both these types of backpacking clothes with you on your next trip because they are typically lightweight and will be perfect if you will be experiencing a changing weather condition.


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There are many different types of shorts available for campers, but you got to buy them according to your requirements. Hiking shorts are different from running shorts and you can never do both in one particular type of shorts. Running shorts are less constructive and have a quick-drying property. Hiking shorts are not ventilated enough when compared to running shorts. You can use hiking shorts to protect your skin from sun, bugs, insects and other harmful rays during a hot summer day.


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Hiking pants come in different types as well, but all these types of backpacking pants can be basically classified into two – warm weather-specific pants and cold-weather pants. Warm weather pants are made of nylon or polyester and are very airy and light in weight. All the protection that you need against bugs, insects and direct sunlight can be obtained using these warm weather pants. Cold weather-specific pants, on the other hand, are made of nylon and are dense enough to keep you safe and secure even against extreme cold conditions. A pair of shorts that have a more durable stretching capability will be perfect for backpacking.

-Inner Layer Insulation

When you are choosing clothing for your backpacking adventure, make sure to check the weather forecast beforehand, for you to select the kind of inner layer required for the trip. An insulating layer is necessary for tackling cold conditions at night and also for backpacking during winter. A sweater or a fleece jacket would be a perfect inner layer clothing wear for cold climate. Remember to never go backpacking without carrying an effective inner layer.

Insulating layers have been proven essential especially during cold nights and for resting spots. Water-resistant lightweight insulated pants and jackets are available in plenty. Price is the only drawback of all these clothing materials, but if you are looking to enjoy the best backpacking adventure, then cost should not become a hindrance.

-Fleece Top

This particular clothing material will act as an excellent insulating product and usually, it is made of high-quality polyester. Simple and lightweight polyester made fleece top will be the best choice because they do not add any weight to your already heavy backpack. Fleece tops with pockets and other add-on features may look attractive, but they won’t be of any use whatsoever. These tops can be used as a second layer, especially when backpacking on a gusty day. It can also be used as a middle layer during cold climatic conditions.

-Rain Wear

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Even if the weather forecast states to be warm and sunny throughout the whole week, it is important to carry rain specific clothing gear. You never know when the clouds may burst open, so rain pants & jackets are essential. Rain wears that offer enough ventilation should be chosen because the last thing you would want on a long hiking day is to get drenched. Also, garments that prevent perspiration in the inner layer should be selected. You cannot get rainwear that would let you stay dry at all times, so be wise and choose the most suitable one for you.

-Night Tops

It is essential to carry the clothing necessary for sleeping at night. Day clothing should never be used as night tops and pants because you would be facing different climatic conditions during the day and the clothes are bound to get dirty, wet, humid and so on. It is better to let them dry outside and wear a dedicated sleeping dress. This will also allow you to have a good night’s sleep without any fuss. Always keep these clothes in a dry bag separated from the rest of your clothing essentials because they need to stay clean and dry at all times.


This is probably one of the most important clothing accessories and requires extra care and attention. Cotton underwear is not always the best suitable one, so never take your usual underwear for the trip straight away. Woolen or polyester underwear should be perfect for all kinds of weather conditions. The type of pants or shorts you wear will also play a role in determining the kind of underwear material that will be perfect. With certain dress materials, wearing underwear made of wool or polyester would be cumbersome, so make the right choice.

Underwear manufactured using superior performance and quality fabric will help you stay dry even after hours of backpacking a trail. These materials can absorb all the moisture and also let you stay dry for hours. One common rule suggested by most of the backpacking pros is ‘never go for cotton’ and we agree with the same. Certain brands manufacture their underwear using antimicrobial fibers and these do not let the foul smell of your sweat to travel with you. The fabrics that you may find in the market come in different weight range and it is always better to stick with a lightweight design for all seasons.

Final Thoughts

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Always remember that every single outdoor adventure has its own set of challenges and it is imperative to evaluate every aspect of the trip. So before you get dressed, take these factors into consideration for a memorable backpacking trip. Not only will buying the right clothing increase your comfort but it will also protect you from the elements. But don’t try to rush it! Take your time and really think about what you’ll need.

Did we leave anything out that you might consider when picking the right backpacking clothes? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

If you want to learn more about what gear to pack, check out our another blog post titled “A Complete Guide to Ultralight Backpacking“.

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