Everyone is always talking about what we should wear on the hiking trail from merino wool to sturdy shoes to lightweight shirts.
But no one ever tells you about what not to wear hiking to save you some misery when on the trail.
Whether it’s your new white pants or your fancy gold necklace, there are just a few things that should be left at home.
In this post, I’ll give you a rundown on what you shouldn’t wear when going out on the trail, and a few pointers on what you should.
What Not To Wear Hiking
Below you’ll find 19 of the worst things to wear hiking and why you should just avoid them at all costs.
I promise that staying away from these is going to save you a whole lot of trouble later on!
Note: You’ll see from some of the photos below that I’ve learned from my lessons of wearing white, flip flops, etc…
Number one on every hiker’s list of “pure evil” is of course, none other than… duh duh duhhh… cotton.
Cotton is always first to come up as an awful piece of clothing because of the way that it soaks up water.
When cotton gets wet, it soaks up every drop of moisture.
Try wearing that for a multi-mile hike. (hint- it’s not fun.)
This can cause chafing in your armpits, where people tend to sweat the most, and this can be painful.
Plus, this can be dangerous if you’re outside in the cold, as your shirt could freeze and you’re losing insulation.
Cotton is also just a pretty heavy material, so when it’s hot outside, you’re going to want something much lighter.
Similar to cotton, denim tends to become a sponge when water hits it, which really sucks for hiking.
No matter if it’s sweat, rain, or otherwise, that denim is going to soak it allll up.
When the temperatures are cold outside, this can again, be dangerous because you’re not going to have the insulation that you need.
This category covers all forms of denim from jeans to jean shorts to overalls and jean jackets.
Big, baggy sweatpants are a surefire way to sweat and become far too hot on the trail.
These types of pants are great (the best, even) for lounging around at home, but when exploring outdoors, they aren’t ideal.
They can easily catch on to something and rip if you aren’t careful.
If you are wanting to wear some of your comfy clothes, go for an athletic pair of leggings or joggers, rather than baggy sweats.
4. Tight Clothes
Tight clothing can be uncomfortable because you aren’t able to move around as much as you’d probably like.
It’s important to have free range of your entire body when hiking, and restricting clothes… well… restrict you.
They also tend to not be very breathable, which can be pretty uncomfy as well.
Instead, go for something loose-fitting that won’t restrict you in any way.
Stretchy pants and loose tops are the way to go!
5. No-Show Socks
Have you ever had that feeling when you’re walking around and suddenly you feel a bunch in your shoe?
That’s what will surely happen if you wear no-show socks or other ones that fall below the ankle.
With doing so much walking on the trail, those short socks will typically slide down off of your foot.
This can cause blisters as there will be nothing to protect your ankles from the back of your shoe.
Instead, grab a pair of hiking socks from Darn Tough.
Flip-flops are miserable for hiking because they don’t provide your feet with any support or traction.
If you come across any water, you stand the chance of slipping and falling on your butt.
They also can be really annoying for walking long distances because of that sound- “flip-flop, flip-flop.”
If you want to wear open-toed shoes, get yourself a pair of hiking sandals such as Chacos or Tevas.
7. Regular Bras
When you’re hiking, it’s best to stay in athletic gear, and that included your undergarments.
Wearing a regular bra with wires and clasps can be very uncomfortable and may cause rubbing on your skin.
Plus, doesn’te everyone take every chance they can get to ditch the regular bras and go with something mor e comfortable?
Choose a sports bra that doesn’t have any buckles or clasps, especially on the back, because your bag + movement + clasps = irritation.
8. Drawstring Bags
I know a few people who have hiked with drawstring bags, and I honestly just don’t know how they do it!
I find drawstring bags super uncomfortable just in a normal setting.
So taking them out on the trail for exercise and long distances just gives me the heebie jeebies
I mean I totally get the appeal because they’re so inexpensive.
But when you put anything in it, it’s going to get weighed down and may rub on your shoulders.
Plus, there’s no organization to it at all, so good luck finding something when you need it.
Instead, go for something that has thicker straps and will be supportive of your back.
Backpacks that are made for hiking have plenty of pockets to organize, are comfortable, and have more space anyways.
Now this one might be up for debate because I know of a few people who hike in dresses and honestly, more power to you!
And if you’re heading out on a hiking date, then you may be considering it to dress up a bit.
The problem that I see with dresses is the fact that they have nothing covering up underneath.
So when you go to step over a fallen tree, you’re showing everything off to the world.
Now one way to fix this is to wear spandex underneath, but then doesn’t that defeat the freeing feeling you get from wearing dresses?
If you really want to wear something a bit nicer like a dress, get yourself a skort (skirt and shorts in one)!
There are so many great ones out there, in fact, I own one from Athleta that I really like.
10. Heavy Sweatshirts
Even if you’re cold when you leave the car, I recommend avoiding wearing a big, bulky sweatshirt on a hike.
There’s a super great chance that you’re going to be way too hot for it within 1/2 mile of starting.
Then you’re going to be stuck carrying it for the rest of the distance because they don’t fit well in backpacks.
Many hoodies are also made of cotton, so having a bulky piece of cotton is just a recipe for disaster.
Instead, wear a puffer jacket that can be packed away into itself and easily stored in your bag.
I know that Crocs are all the rage right now and everyone is wanting to wear them, but please don’t on the trail!
Crocs tend to be really slippery when they’re wet, so this can be really dangerous if it rains or if you step in a puddle.
Plus, they have no support for your feet or ankles.
They also tend to give people blisters when walking in them for a while and the only way to prevent it is by wearing socks and Crocs. Ugh.
You can read more about why Crocs are a no-go here.
Next on my list of things not to wear while hiking are Converse sneakers.
While Converse are definitely some of my favorite shoes to wear when I’m in town, you’ll never catch me in them on the trail.
The bottoms of them are just far too flat, leaving you with no support and cold feet in the winter.
Plus, they’re just too cute to be wrecked by all of the dirt and mud that you’ll come across when hiking.
Read more about my resistance to hiking in Converse here.
13. Winter Coats
Similar to bulky sweatshirts, winter coats are super tempting to wear when you’re cold at the trailhead.
They keep you nice and warm and are really easy to just not take off.
But once you do end up getting too warm, you’re really not going to want to carry a huge, puffy jacket around.
Also, many winter coats ar made out of down, which doesn’t do well at insulating once it’s wet.
So if you get rained or snowed on in down, you’re going to lose that insulation that you need to stay warm.
If you don’t know what slides are, they’re basically just another type of sandal that has no straps besides one that slips over the top of your foot.
They’re super cool anf comfortable for putting on after your hike and for wearing around camp.
But during the hike, avoid them at all costs.
I’ve seen far too many people start walking too fast and trip over the front of their slide, faceplanting into the ground.
And when there ar rocks and exposed tree rots on the ground, it’s a total mess.
15. Scented Lotion and Perfume
This tip holds true more so during the summer than the winter.
Mosquitos and other bugs love the smell of flowery and fruity perfumes just as much as us humans do.
Which is not ideal, and unfortunately, I don’t think it’s who you’re trying to attract with it.
So avoid those smelly perfumes and lotions and instead, spritz some bug spray on to get rid of those pesky things.
16. Brand New Shoes
Don’t take any pairs of brand new shoes out onto the trail.
Yes, I’m talking about hiking shoes too!
Don’t pull your hiking shoes or boots straight out of the box and onto the trail.
You have to do a little breaking in first to ensure that you will be comfortable and won’t end with sore feet and blisters.
So wear those boots around the house for a few days and then start them out on a short trail before graduating to the longer ones.
17. White ANYTHING
As great as white looks, it just isn’t the best choice for a hiking trail, unless you want it to be brown instead.
Between all of the dirt, branches, trees, and elements that you’ll be encountering, your clothes will not be white at the end of the day.
I’ll see people with white shoes out hiking and I really just pray that they don’t step in a mud puddle.
Instead, go for darker colors like blues, greens, light grays.
These can still be good in hot weather, but won’t stain quite as easily.
Now jewelry is a tough one to talk about because some people wear their’s everywear.
Personally, I leave earrings in my easr almost all the time and very rarely take them out for a hike.
They’re always studs though and never are dangling or get in my way.
I don’t wear any necklaces or bracelts on a normal dy, but definitely wouldn’t on the trail because they could get lost or broken.
As for wedding rings and bands, that one is totally up to you, but if I were married, I would leave it at home.
The risk of getting lost is just too great to bring something that special hiking.
19. Cheap Socks
One thing that I will never go back on is wearing good quality socks on the hiking trail.
I’ve found that I go through too many socks and too many blisters when I don’t wear my Darn Tough or Smartwool socks.
The socks tend to rub on the back of my shoes, sometimes creating holes in the heel of the sock.
This also can cause blisters which quite honestly, no one has time to deal with.
Darn Tough is the best because they have a lifetime warranty, so if something were to happen to your socks, you can get them replaced.
So spending that extra money is worth it in the long run.
What Kind of Clothes Should I Wear For Hiking?
Now that you have all that you need to know about what clothes to avoid while hiking, let’s go over what you actually should wear.
When looking for a top for each season, there are a few things that you’ll want to keep in mind.
Look for something that is lightweight and breathable. This will limit your sweating nd keep you cool on hot days.
You’ll also want to choose a light color and preferably something that has UPF protection to protect your skin from the sun’s rays.
For cold weather, find a merino wool base layer that will keep you warm and wicks away sweat.
Add a warm mid-layer such as a fleece or puffer jacket.
Then, finish with a weatherproof outer layer to protect you from the elements.
Many of the same tips go for searching for a nice pair of bottoms for hiking as with your tops.
You want lightweight, breathable, and fast-drying materials that will are comfortable and fit you well.
Whether it be shorts or pants for the summer, either works, as long as you’re comfy in them.
In the winter, you may choose a base layer that is made of merino wool and then layer a weatherproof pair of ski pants over them.
Or, opt for a fleece-lined pair of leggings or pants for extra warmth.
Besides the tops and bottoms that you wear, you’ll nee d a few other items to make your hiking gear complete.
A sturdy pair of shoes is a must for hiking, paired with a pair of good quality, merino wool socks.
Your backpack should be supportive and should fit you well, making sure not to let it sag on your lower back.
In the winter, you’ll want some waterproof gloves along with a lined hat or headband to keep your ears warm.
FAQ: Hiking Clothes
Here are a few last FAQs about what not to wear while hiking, to ensure that you’re as comfortable as possible on the trail.
What Colors Should I Avoid Wearing Hiking?
While the colors that you wear in winter don’t matter so much, the colors that you wear in summer do.
In the hotter months, you want to avoid dark colors such as black, brown, and navy blue.
These dark colors absorb the heat from the sun and will make you warmer.
What Fabrics Should I Avoid Wearing Hiking?
When hiking, choose clothes that are made of polyester, nylon, or merino wool.
Avoid denim, cotton, and silk as these are typically not suited for exercising.
Denim and cotton soak up moisture and are really heavy when they’re wet.
Silk just isn’t a great type of material for adventuring as it can tear really easily and provides no insulation when it’s cold.
What is the Dress Code for Hiking?
There is no dress code for hiking!
While there are definitely things to avoid (ahem, this entire list), no ones going to tell you to go home if you break the rules.
Wear whatever you want, whether it be crazy colors, fun patterns, or just plain gray.
Are Leggings Good For Hiking?
Leggings can be good for hiking as long as they aren’t cotton leggings.
Opt for a pair that’s made out of an athletic material such as nylon.
Can I Hike in Sneakers?
Hiking in sneakers is okay if you’re sticking to a short, easy trail, but if you’re going on a longer trail, consider hiking shoes.
Sneakers, such as Vans or Converse, just don’t provide the traction and stability that you’ll need for long hikes.
Wrap-Up: What Not To Wear Hiking
You may have heard of a few things that you should wear while hiking, but have you heard about what not to wear hiking?
Wearing some of these clothes can make for a not-so-fun experience on the trail and avoiding them is best.
From cotton that soaks up moisture to white clothes that get stained, just do yourself a favor on this one.