What Clothing & Shoes Do You Need for Camping?

What Clothing & Shoes Do You Need for Camping?

How to Choose What Clothing and Shoes You Need for Camping?

Today, we’re focusing in on what clothing and shoes do you need for camping! With so much choice out there when purchasing, firstly consider these 3 things:

  • Available Budget
  • Length and Frequency of Trips
  • Expected Weather Conditions

What Clothing Do You Need For Camping?

Once we’ve established the budget and use, here's what you need to consider. First, clothes. We’ll deal with the feet later...

1. Moisture Wicking

Moisture wicking (move sweat off the skin and dry fast) clothes, across the board - important regardless of the climate, e.g. merino, polyester, nylon, NOT cotton or denim!

2. Form Should Follow Function

Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia founder, says that fashion is none of their business. Your clothes should work for you first. If they look nice, it’s a bonus.

3. Layering In The Outdoors

We’ve all heard about layering in the outdoors. And I’ll reiterate it here. This time tested strategy involves using multiple layers of clothing, each with a specific function, to adapt to changing weather conditions. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer next to your skin. As needed, add an insulating mid layer and a waterproof outer shell, like a rain jacket. This way, you'll be ready for any activity! 

Further Consideration & Suggestions:

Cold-Weather Layers:

  • Midweight polyester long underwear top and bottom
  • Jacket with synthetic insulation
  • Midweight fleece pants
  • Waterproof/breathable rain jacket and pants

Rainy-Weather Layers (Cool Temps):

  • Lightweight polyester long underwear top and bottom
  • Lightweight fleece jacket
  • Synthetic hiking pants
  • Lightweight waterproof/breathable rain jacket and pants (with plenty of vents)

Hot-Weather Layers:

  • Polyester briefs
  • Short-sleeve synthetic tee
  • Convertible nylon hiking pants
  • Light wind jacket

4. Know Your Trail Conditions:

Brush, Woodlands, Tall Grasses, or Forested Areas:

  • Wear long sleeves and pants
  • Choose clothes with built-in insect repellent or bug-net clothing. Also clothes that you can seal around the sleeve and legs. These measures help keep ticks, mosquitoes, and other pests at bay. Something you don’t want, believe me.

Desert Hikes:

  • Consider higher or taller hiking boots for added protection against the sand

Urban Hikes:

  • Opt for versatile clothing that allows you to transition seamlessly from town to trail. Dare I say that style may have to be considered here too! Check out Gorpcore.

5. Pack a Sun Hat and Beanie

We lose a lot of our heat through our heads. And a wide brim sun-hat is perfect when in the glare of the sun. It’s better than a baseball hat.

If you have the luxury, bring lots of changes of clothes. Especially underwear and quick drying socks.

Let's dive a little deeper…


Key Fabric Properties

When selecting fabrics for your hiking clothes, keep these properties in mind:

Wicking: As mentioned above, essential for base layers or any clothing in direct contact with your skin. Wicking fabrics draw moisture (sweat) away from your skin to the fabric's outer surface, allowing it to dry quickly. This helps you stay comfortable and prevents feeling clammy or chilled. Good options include merino wool and synthetic fibers like polyester or nylon. Lots of sports clothing is now moisture wicking.

Insulating: While clothing doesn't produce heat, good insulation helps retain the body heat you generate, keeping you warm. This property is crucial for your mid layers. The thickness should depend on weather conditions.

Waterproof and Windproof: Important for outer layers or shells. These fabrics prevent rain from soaking your clothes and protect against wind, which can strip away body heat. Note that water- and wind-resistant jackets offer only moderate protection and aren't fully impermeable. Also, jackets labeled as waterproof are often windproof as well, even if not explicitly stated. Being from Ireland, I’m aware of the importance of this layer, top and bottom!

Breathable: Vital for all layers. Breathable fabrics enhance the effectiveness of your wicking layer by allowing it to dry quickly. Poor breathability can lead to excessive sweating and inefficient drying of perspiration, leaving you feeling damp.

Waterproof/Breathable: Advanced shells combine these features, but even the best technologies focus more on blocking wind and rain. This can reduce breathability in high humidity or during intense activity. Non breathable coated shells are cheaper but can feel very uncomfortable, like wearing a trash bag in a sauna. So look out for extra vents that can be opened/closed.

Sun Protection: Fabrics with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating shield your skin from the sun's harmful UV rays.

By considering these properties, you can build a comfortable, functional layering system for your hiking and camping adventures. Take a little time to research the best options for you.


What Shoes Do You Need For Camping?

I break footwear requirements into 4 categories on a campsite.

  • The traditional hiking boot or shoe
  • The around camp slipper or ‘comfy’ option - to be kept clean
  • The in-betweener - for ‘clean walks’ to the campsite facilities etc.
  • Functional footwear as required

The number one rule when choosing hiking boots is to ensure a good fit.

Remember, a blister-free hike starts with well-fitted boots.

Here are some tips:

Try Them On in the Afternoon: Your feet tend to swell as the day goes on. Trying boots in the afternoon ensures they won't become too tight during a long hike.

Wear Hiking Socks: The thickness of the socks can affect the fit. Always try boots with the same kind of socks you'll wear on the trails.

Leave a Thumb’s Width: There should be space between your longest toe and the end of the boot to prevent toe-crushing on descents.

High or Low: Hiking boot vs hiking shoe depends very much on the terrain. Rock terrain lends itself to higher boots for the extra ankle support. Otherwise I use the shoe or trail-runner.

Materials - 2 Main Considerations:

1. Waterproof or not?

If you hike often, it's worth investing in waterproof boots or, at the very least, socks made with merino wool. These will keep your feet warm even if they get wet. Hiking Boots with Gore-Tex lining can be a valuable investment. Consider this: what’s the price of an enjoyable hike? These boots will keep your feet dry during unexpected showers or when crossing shallow streams.

2. Now, let’s talk about materials.

Different boots offer various advantages depending on the material:

Leather: Durable and water-resistant. While they might take some time to break in, they’re perfect for challenging terrains and longer treks. They will nearly always cost more.
Synthetics: Lighter than leather and easier to break in. They tend to be more breathable but might wear out faster. They do tend to be less expensive.

    PS - some would say they should look nice too, or at least not too bad!

    The camping slipper or bootie has replaced my flip-flops around the tent. Camp Slippers are sturdy and lightweight slippers - perfect for weary feet after a long day in hiking boots. Due to the low weight and small pack size they fit in any backpack. There are lots of brands out there now and you can’t go too far wrong. Again, you’ll generally get what you pay for.

    I also bring an ‘in-betweener’ shoe, for walks around the campsite, facilities etc. If camping in a woodland this is usually a regular runner or sneaker, if a warm and ‘urbanized’ and warm campsite, it’s something like sandals or flip flops.

    One other thing I’ve been adding lately is a ‘water shoe’, especially if I’m planning to swim in non-familiar water, or other water activities. It saves the little toes!

    Again, you can google the term and find lots of options as they’ve gotten very popular recently. Finally, if the weather may turn, you can’t go too far wrong with the wellies, especially for the kids, or old sneakers that can be thrown away…as you’ve probably noticed, I’m one of those ‘pack them just in case’ people!

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