The hiking enthusiast part of me comes as a surprise to those who knew the not-so-outdoorsy, ballet-focused, New York City-obsessed version of myself growing up. Things might have been different had I not moved from California’s central coast to Arizona’s searing desert as a kid. But let’s just say a few bouts of heatstroke and one-too-many rattlesnake encounters made me less than keen on adventure. It took relocating to Manhattan to not only develop an appreciation for Mother Nature but frequently crave al fresco exercise. Tree-lined trails and breezier altitudes, while challenging, were a real game-changer for me — praise be the shade. I’m certainly not a pro (I’d happily consider myself an intermediate) and don’t hit the trails all that often. But when I do, I genuinely enjoy it, in part, because of the stylish hiking essentials I assemble into an outfit with each outdoor excursion.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m plenty practical when it comes to performance-ready gear for a hike. And my sun protection game? Unparalleled. Seriously, the amount of sunscreen I slather on and reapply, even beneath UV-protective layers and a hat (always a hat), is borderline compulsive. Even so, there’s a thrill to coordinating cute workout sets with technical accessories like boots, moisture-wicking socks, and a pack to hold all my extra sunscreen, water, and snacks. After exploring various climates and trails, I’ve also learned the benefits of having waterproof shoes on hand for crossing over streams. Likewise, thanks for layers that come in handy when traversing mixed-weather trails or during unexpected storms. See? My hiking outfits aren’t solely for ‘gram. Though, what’s a good hike without majestic content captures throughout?
Ahead, my shopping list of hiking essentials. Some tend to be more fashion than function, sure. But, ultimately, each item is a tried-and-tested favorite.
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A Cute Workout Set
For me, every good hiking outfit starts with a cute workout set, and fabric plays a huge part. I tend to hike in warmer weather and prefer lightweight materials like these from FP Movement and Tory Sport — both feel supportive yet weightless.
As I said, I don’t venture out on the most arduous hikes, but for longer trails or more rocky terrain, I always lace up a sturdy pair of hiking boots with slip-resistant Vibram soles.
Sweat-wicking socks are, in a word, essential for hikes. I love a crew or quarter sock in a fun color that plays off my workout set to keep things stylish.
A Shielding Hat
Rare is the occasion you’d witness me outdoors without a hat. For hikes, I oscillate between nostalgic baseball caps and wide-brim styles with built-in UPF for added protection.
A Mid-Size Pack
Since most hikes I go on don’t exceed four hours, I can get away with a smaller pack. My favorites are easy-access designs just big enough to hold extra sunscreen, water, and snacks.
No matter how hot, I never, I repeat, never set out on a hike without a sun-protective layer. Yes, I’ll usually shed it at one point or another (usually just for a photo opp), but typically shade my skin in über lightweight or breathable fabrics. Pro tip: Opt for a silhouette that pulls away from your body — you’ll keep much cooler than you would in a clingier fit.
For low-key hikes that border on leisurely trail walks, I’ll forgo my hiking boots in favor of sneakers. I have wobbly ankles and sensitive knees, so I usually wear trainers intended for running to maximize support or a lightweight design with grippy outsoles.
As a novice hiker, I wouldn’t have guessed I’d sojourn through various climates in a single hike. But look at me go; I’ve now done it and now realize the importance of packing lightweight, insulating layers. Even if you’re setting out on a beginner trail, you never know when a bone-chilling breeze or rainstorm could commence. So, best to have a water or wind-proof layer at the ready.
I’ve made it through a few frigid stream crossings in bare feet on a hike, but waterproof shoes make the process so much better. Yes, many hiking boots are waterproof on their own and usually dry pretty fast. But I’m not one for sustained wet feet on the trail — lightweight water shoes in my pack, it is.
Sunglasses are standard for most outdoor activities, but any pair I wear has to be sleek — blame the fashion girl in me! As a result, I tend toward classic silhouettes with a bit of design factor, be it a subtle cat-eye lens or polished yellow-gold frame.