Welcome to the last installment in our series on thru-hiking kits. This week, we’re serving up our favorite clothing options from smaller outdoor brands.
This is a basic thru-hiking setup (three-season) that includes a hiking top and bottom, a mid-layer, rain wear, an insulation layer, shoes, and a few accessories. Despite the desire to bring piles of clothing on a thru-hike, these basic items are pretty much all you need. The specifics are dependent on your trail and the season, but since this is simply an overview and our suggested favorites, we’ll stick with the basics.
We love cottage-industry brands, but we know they aren’t the most inexpensive option out there. So for the applicable categories, we’ve listed where to find a few budget picks as well.
And, if you missed ‘em, be sure to check out the previous articles in our series:
- Thru-Hiking Kits Part 1 — The Big 3: Packs, Shelters & Sleep Systems
- Thru-Hiking Kits Part 2 — Food, Snacks and Coffee
- Thru-Hiking Kits Part 3 — Accessories: Organization, Water Filtration, Cooking & Hygiene
These durable, lightweight shorts were made for multi-day trips. Unlined (praise heaven) these shorts won’t ride up or cause chafing thanks to the smooth 5” inseam, and they are incredibly comfortable during long days on the trail. These are a favorite of GGG team leader Amy.
Purple Rain Adventure Skirts
Hiking skirts are growing in popularity outside of their formerly niche market, and Purple Rain has long been at the forefront of the trend. These skirts have a wide, stretchy waistband, are made with a wicking, breathable fabric, and can offer more freedom of movement than a pair of shorts or pants.
Where to find your budget pick
The classic thrift shop Hawaiian shirt is a PCT fave, and yours truly rocked WalMart XL kids shorts in a hot pink zebra stripe on the Appalachian Trail.
Appalachian Gear Company All-Paca Hoodie
This is one of the most comfortable, versatile mid-layers on the market. The All-Paca Hoodie is made with warm-yet-breathable alpaca fibers, which absorb hardly any moisture, dry quickly, and stay incredibly stink-resistant. Hike in it, sleep in it, wear it around town. This is a do-it-all layer.
Borealis Wool Co. Transit Long Sleeve
Woven with super-fine merino, this lightweight long sleeve packs down small in your bag, is easy to throw on for chilly mornings or evenings at camp, and dries quickly if you sweat it out while hiking.
Where to find your budget pick
Any midweight merino or fleece layer from your closet, used gear sales, or department stores will work as a mid layer.
Enlightened Equipment Visp
Weighing under five ounces, the Visp is one of the lightest fully waterproof rain jackets on the market. It’s cut long enough to stay in place under a hip belt and not drip water down your pants, has a drawcord waist, optional pit zips, and a deep hood. The three-layer construction is breathable for hiking in the rain, and it shakes dry after a downpour.
Gossamer Gear LiteFlex Chrome
Doubling as sun protection and rain protection, the LiteFlex Chrome tucks into the side pocket of your pack and weighs just 8 ounces. Gossamer Gear offers a hands-free attachment as well for hikers who want to keep their hands available for snacking… or using trekking poles.
Where to find your budget pick
You can always go the Frogg Togg route, or even a cheap poncho will keep you semi-protected on trails with less precipitation. Be more careful with these options however, as they aren’t the most durable.
Enlightened Equipment Torrid APEX
Even as a longtime down snob, I take this synthetic-fill jacket on every backpacking trip. It weighs less than eight ounces and is warmer than my Patagonia Down Sweater. Since it’s synthetic, you can wear it while hiking in cooler temperatures without feeling clammy and saturating the down with sweat. As a bonus, this jacket is insanely inexpensive for such a great piece of gear, with an MSRP of $170.
Feathered Friends Eos Down Jacket
Packed with 900-fill down and made in the US, the Feathered Friends Eos is the company’s lightest down jacket. Super warm and packable with a snug, warm hood, this is a pricey jacket that should last you a long time.
Or really, pretty much any Altra shoes. This company started small and blew up in the backpacking world, with out-of-the-box comfort, a trendy zero-drop build, and a wide toe box for thru-hiker feet to spread out. The Timp is Altra’s mid-range shoe—go more plush with the Olympus or lighter with the classic Lone Peak.
HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat
For hikers looking for extra protection from the ground, the Speedgoats are a fan favorite. They have a taller stack and more cushioned midsole than other models, and might take some getting used to. The deep lugs and Vibram Megasole rubber have excellent grip on slippery rocks, and this is one of HOKA’s wider models, ideal for stability over long distances.
Borealis Boxers: Made with merino and enough spandex for a comfortable amount of stretch, these are built for comfort and durability. These are also fast-drying, antimicrobial, and odor-resistant—all good things for your underwear.
Ombraz Sunglasses: These clever sunglasses don’t hook over your ears. Instead, they stay on your face (yes, they actually stay on your face) with a comfortable woven cord. All models are polarized, durable, and don’t have the weak points of regular hinged sunglasses.
Territory Run Co Hats: This is your new favorite technical running hat. Ultralight and breathable, this wide-brimmed hat has a mesh body, a wicking band, and comes in a variety of fun colors.
High Tail Designs Hiking Gaiters: Weighing just over one ounce, this gaiter is insanely versatile as a neck piece, a bandana, or can be tied into a hat. Use this for a light warmth layer or dip it in water for cooling off on a hot day.
Darn Tough Socks: These thru-hiker faves come in a wide variety of styles and heights (many thru-hikers choose a mid-height crew) and have a structured bottom, reinforced toes and heels, and a lifetime guarantee. They don’t slide down or bunch up — good news for blister-prone hikers.