Do I need to buy special hiking clothes for hiking?

Female Hiker Bog

With very few exceptions, clothes that are specifically designed and made for hiking are much more comfortable than clothes for the city or sportswear. You can wear your hiking clothes in the city but your city clothes are usually pretty awful on the trail.

Here are the main reasons to buy hiking clothes for hiking:

More durable, last longer

Hiker Mountains Andalusia

Hiking clothes are more durable than city wear or sportswear. They won’t tear as easily as sportswear. This also means that high-quality hiking clothes last a very long time and age nicely so you don’t need to buy new ones very often. Hiking clothes are a solid investment. 

To make shopping easy, I’ve written a separate post that has a complete list of all the clothes you need to go hiking.

Hiking comfort

Hiker wearing scarf hiking stove barbour wax jacket

Hiking clothes are designed with hiking activities in mind. Being outdoors means a range of movement that isn’t typical for the city life. You’ll be walking a lot more than sitting, you’ll be getting water from streams and sitting on the ground.

I have a separate post about solving common hiking problems which also has some advice about how to avoid feeling hot or cold on trail but also how to deal with mosquitos and ticks and what to do about a heavy backpack.

Better protection against the wind and the rain

Female hiker in the mountains Andalusia

You’ll be more exposed to the elements like the wind, the rain and the sun. Hiking clothes provide a lot more protection that city clothes. Most materials you like to wear in the city (cotton chinos, jeans) can be very uncomfortable in the outdoors. Jeans especially are heavy when wet and take forever to dry.

I’ve written a separate post about how to dry your hiking clothes when they get wet.


Hiking clothes breathe better and will make sure you have proper protection and ventilation at the same time.

That said..


That doesn’t mean you can’t use any of your regular wardrobe. Of course you can.

Some hikers wear running shorts instead of hiking shorts in the summer. They are lightweight and dry quickly if you need to cross rivers or it’s raining. They’re also easy to wash.

If you have a lightweight winter parka, that would also work well when hiking in the winter.

Flannel shirts are great both in the city and in the outdoors. But keep them from getting wet.

Hiking clothes and gear that work in the city

Beach Brittany

Some hiking clothes and gear are perfect for the city – especially if you walk or cycle to work.

For instance, I use the same backpacks for day hiking and cycling to work. They are durable and waterproof and look great.

A lightweight down jacket is a great thing to have in your backpack in the city, in case you stay out late or it gets chilly suddenly. It doesn’t weigh much and can be a lifesaver for you or your friends.

My rain poncho and rain pants for hiking are also great for cycling to work in heavy rain.

In Nordic climates hiking boots work really well in the city as well – they are warmer and provide much more traction on icy roads.

Further reading:

Here are some posts you might also be interested in:
Everything you need for a Day-hike. Clothes and Gear
Everything you need to start hiking

Leave a Reply