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by Diane Spicer
Use this fall hiking clothing and gear guide to extend your customary hiking season by a month or two.
The guide lays out how to choose the best hiking clothing and trustworthy hiking gear so you stay warm, dry and comfortable through the changing autumn weather.
And note this small secret:
You need this fall hiking clothing and gear guide because:
Hiking For Her is a proud affiliate of REI Co-op, meaning the images on this page take you to their hiking clothing and gear.
If you'd prefer some fall hiking clothing recommendations which focus on extended sizes, read this:
Now let's get you geared up
for some great fall hiking!
Sure, you can grab a hoodie from your workout gym bag, or dig through the house clothes pile to snag an extra shirt before you head out to the trail head.
But a smart hiker facing cool weather trails (that's you!) makes very deliberate choices about fabric, weight and design in order to maximize the chances of a safe, enjoyable hike.
Let's start with the basics: your best base layer choices.
Don't include your sports bra and underwear in what hikers call your base layer.
Instead, think about what goes against your skin, on top of your undergarments.
You want it to feel good, but work hard for you as you work up a sweat.
A long sleeve top with a relaxed neckline is an ideal choice for your moisture wicking base layer, if it's made of the right material.
This REI Co-op Lightweight Base Layer Crew Top is a great choice:
This shirt is meant to fit your form. If you like a looser base layer as this woman does, order one size up.
And if you like a bit of hand protection on a chilly morning, here's a top base layer which gives you all of the above features AND thumb loops:
Fall hiking weather can be tricky.
A day can start out dry and fairly warm, and then turn on the water spigot.
Or the opposite scenario can play out: you dress appropriately for a cool rainy day but half way through the hike you're cooking from your body heat trapped in your hiking clothes.
Either way, here's the solution:
Choose fall hiking clothing that allows you to uncover and cover as many times as needed during one hike.
A versatile choice for a midlayer to layer over your base layer long sleeve shirt is a zippered hiking vest.
You can go two different ways with vests:
This lightweight hooded vest performs well in
damp conditions, thanks to ripstop nylon and a durable water repellent (DWR) finish.
Full length front zipper for thermoregulation
Hood zips down into the collar so you can get it out of the way when you don't need it.
This vest can double as a warm cushion & moisture barrier on top of a wet backpack when you sit down for a snack.
Your second vest option: do what the birds do and harness the power of down.
This REI Co-op Women's Down Vest weighs just a hair past 6 ounces!!
And it packs into its own pocket, for easy stowing in your backpack.
The tall breeze repelling collar plus soft fabric against your skin treats your chin and neck right
Word of warning: lovely hiking vests like this one may begin to accumulate in your gear locker.
Chances are all of the hiking will work up enough body heat to keep you comfortable, but some women end up shivering despite the rigors of the trail.
If this sounds like you, heed this advice:
A pair of leggings or tights as a base layer beneath your pants will keep your legs cozy - but give you plenty of flexibility and freedom of movement.
You can also sleep in a clean pair of these handy leg coverings if you're on an overnight or longer backpacking trip.
Take a look at some viable options for fall hiking mid layers.
REI Co-op Lightweight Base Layer Tights:
If you tend to feel miserably cold on the trail when others do not, take a look at these thicker tights:
REI Co-op Midweight Base Layer Tights:
Intrigued by the idea of striding down the trail in a skirt?
Some female hikers find tights too thin to do much good in terms of trapping body heat.
And sometimes too see through (revealing) to be suitable for the trail.
In particular, these ROYAL Step Up 7/8 Leggings available at REI Co-op, for lots of reasons!
Or read my review of prAna Pillar 7/8 leggings!
Keep your leggings and tights from wearing out too quickly by line drying them.
The heat of the dryer will encourage them to lose their shape, too.
Never underestimate the value of a warm hat and weatherproof gloves for your safety and well being on fall hikes.
This tip is so important that you might want to add these nearly weightless but priceless items to your hiking ten essentials, and carry them year round.
Here are two good lightweight hiking hats to stash in your backpack:
REI Co-op Insulated Waterproof Hat features a
brim to keep rays or raindrops out of your eyes plus flaps to keep
your ears cozy
REI Co-op Fleece Beanie is a close fitting head cover to keep your body heat locked down. Too cute to use it just for trail days!
Hiking gloves come in an entire universe of choices.
Let's make this easy on you.
Here's the pair just right for this fall hiking clothing and gear guide: REI Co-op Wind Pro Fleece Glove.
Why these gloves?
Wind resistant, so pull these out when you're facing gusts
Built in nose wipe!! You know why you need that ;)
Your jacket and pants are your outer layers.
These items of outdoor clothing have 3 big jobs:
You may feel overwhelmed by all of the choices you face.
That's why this fall hiking clothing and gear guide includes recommendations for you!
You've gotta love fleece for its ability to insulate your body while keeping moisture and wind at bay.
This REI Co-op Women's Fleece Jacket is super affordable, and so handy on (and off) the trail.
Fleece can stand up to moderate amounts of drizzle and still keep you warm, perfect for fall hiking weather.
In a jacket, look for chest vents (diagonal small zippers you can open and close as needed) and pit zips (yup, right where you'd expect from the name).
Inexpensive hiking clothing usually does not have the added feature of venting options, so if you're a beginner hiker doing fall hikes you might have to work with your mid layers to keep yourself temperature regulated.
Or take a look at this REI jacket which delivers a lot of features for full on rain protection without breaking the bank:
REI Co-op Rainier Women's Rain Jacket:
You want moisture repellent pants as an outer layer for fall hikes, for so many reasons:
You get the idea!
Water repellency does not mean that all moisture will be kept away from your skin.
Instead, expect the fabric to dry quickly, and to provide some protection against skin chafing if it gets wet.
Here's a pair to love:
REI Co-op Classic Sahara Convertible Pants for women in sizes XXS - 16, available in petite lengths too
Relaxed fit makes striding down a trail wearing leggings or tights underneath joyful rather than binding
Zippers on lower legs make boot removal and sock adjustments easy
Color coded zippers remove the guesswork when you take off the legs
Convertible pants are great for the weeks in between summer and full on fall, when days may still be quite warm but skies can cloud up quickly.
Having pants that convert to shorts, and back again, give you the versatility you need to stay comfortable and protected when the weather forecasters tell you
big fat lies optimistic stories.
Over the five decades I've been hiking, my answer has evolved to an emphatic YES, you do need rain pants in your backpack if you're on a fall hike and the trail head is more than a mile away from your destination.
Here's what I carry in my backpack, year round:
REI Co-op Talusphere Pants:
Read more in my REI Talusphere rain pants review
The hiking Ten Essentials are really clear on what to bring to keep yourself as comfortable as possible while remaining safe on a hike that goes sideways on you.
But consider them the bare essentials.
For less than ideal hiking conditions, or days when the weather forecast is a bit dodgy (which describes fall hiking, doesn't it!) you need to add some things to your pack.
That's why they're included in your fall hiking clothing and gear guide!
A lightweight tarp can be used to sit on when there are no dry options but someone has to rest.
You can pitch it overhead for a rain shelter or wind block when someone is injured or ill on the trail.
And a thin, almost weightless space blanket (shiny reflective material) can trap precious body heat when you have to spend the night out of doors.
Be the smartest hiker on the trail:
And I'm sure you can see how to use this tarp when car camping, or to provide a protected sitting spot during a picnic at the park.
I carry one in the car, too, because you just never know!
If you hike with a trail buddy, human or canine, it's neighborly to offer them a dry place to sit, too.
Shorter, possibly dim or foggy daylight hours work against you on fall hiking adventures.
Stumbling around on a slippery wet trail in the dark is asking for trouble, in so many ways.
If you have ignored the wisdom of the Ten Essentials, now is the time to add a headlamp to your backpack, and make sure it's got enough battery power (juice).
If you've never gotten really wet and cold on a windy, exposed hiking trail, you might be surprised at how quickly hypothermia can set in.
One way to keep your internal temperature in the ideal range is to consume hot beverages before and during your hike.
A lightweight, fast option to boil water is a JetBoil Flash Java Kit.
Not just for coffee!!
They make it mighty easy to brew up a cup of anything, anywhere along the trail.
If you don't want to fiddle around with fuel, take the easy route to warding off hypothermia:
Fill up a Hydroflask insulated bottle with the hot beverage of your choice before you hit the trail, and enjoy a cuppa before you step away from your vehicle.
Or stash a bottle for when you return hours later, cold and damp and achy!
Available in a galaxy of colors, and three different volumes:
You can do even more to up your enjoyment of fall hiking trails.
And the best part about these recommendations conveniently pulled together into your fall hiking clothing and gear guide?
On a fall hike, you will lose body heat through your uncovered head and bare hands, but we've already got you covered with the recommendations above.
You will also lose body heat when sitting on the cold ground, or while perched on a handy but (wait for it) stone cold rock along the trail.
REI Co-op Flash Sit Pad
Why not carry this little self inflating cushion, and always know that you'll be comfortable when you sit down on a hike?
Off Trail Tip:
Take this gear with you when you travel or car camp, to customize your lumbar support and cushioning.
If you don't have a backpack with a rain cover that can stand up to the elements while providing space for your extra clothing and safety equipment, take a look at this beauty: REI Co-op Women's Trail 25 Pack
If you're a hiker who prefers the least amount of weight possible on your feet, the mud puddles and slick rocks of fall hiking trails might change your mind.
Your lightweight, minimalist trail shoes can't be expected to protect your ankles from rock abrasions or spattering mud.
And low cut boots with sketchy tread aren't going to stand up to full blown rain storms.
Instead, consider these hiking footwear choices which have earned a spot in our fall hiking clothing and gear guide:
Merrell Women's Moab 2 Mid WP Hiking Boots:
Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Hiking Women's Boots:
Which is simply a way to say that the information and trustworthy recommendations in this fall hiking clothing and gear guide hand you a neat and tidy roadmap for safe, happy fall hiking.
If you'll be extending your hiking season into truly cold weather, with increased levels of risk, you'll need these detailed tips as well:
Fall Hiking Clothing And Gear Guide
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