What to wear for trekking

PLUS TALK OF MOUNTAIN GOATS,
BIRKENSTOCKS AND LAYERS

As I’m sure you know by now, I claim to be a really good packer. Or well, is an activity that I enjoy (I know how weird that sounds, pretty please don’t leave me and read on!)

I went to Nepal a few months ago to do several days of trekking in the Annapurna range. I had never trekked for so long before, and there were several luggage limitations like: no more than 10kg per person (that is including trekking boots AND cosmetics bag), mandatory backpacks and at least three different hair frizz-inducing weathers: cold mountains, humid forests and dusty cities (though I’m pretty sure that is not considered weather). So yeah, challenge accepted.

Before I even begin to talk this I have a confession to make: I abhor trekking pants!… #sorrynotsorry. Honestly I find them uncomfortable, they are roomy in places and tight in other places, and they just kind of try too hard. They have just about as much style as a pair of crocs, and I knooow they are not meant to look stylish, but argh, just argh.

Plus I feel morally obliged to write this post because if you try googling “what to wear for trekking” the pictures that come up are girls in denim shorts, high heels and uber-produced curling-iron-created hairstyles. Thanks Instagram. My reality was more like: abandoned bird nest bun, make up free face (way too much sweat and way too close to exceeding my 10 kilo allowance), and mud covered trekking boots.

So I really hope this helps you in planning great but real outfits for a trekking trip. The list would obviously change dramatically depending where in the world you trek, but assuming its a mild-to-cold-ish weather this is a great place to start. If you don’t want to go through the whole list just remember this: always layer and don’t be cheap with what goes on your feet.

1. A GOOD, LIGHT WEATHERPROOF JACKET

I have a goretex North Face nude/beige jacket that has been going strong for a few years now. It is super light and not warm by itself, but keeps everything away, including rain. It has a “hideable” hoodie and can be rolled to fit in a very small space. I’d say if you buy just one thing for a trekking trip, this is it.

Pro tip: get a color that is not too flashy and goes well with everything because this thing will last a while and you can always wear flashy somewhere else in your outfit.

2. A GOOD, LIGHT WEATHERPROOF VEST

This ended up being the single item that I wore everyday while in Nepal. Also neutral coloured (mine is black) this is a great item for layering. You can wear it over sleeveless tops when its hot (and you show less skin, which keeps you a bit more culturally appropriate) or over long sleeves for an extra layer of warmth. It could even fit over or under the jacket for even one more layer.

Pro tip: get a vest that is slightly bigger that it should so you can fit at least a couple of thin garments under it (think tank top + thermal tee + polar sweatshirt)

3. SOCKS, WELL TREKKING SOCKS

I can not say this enough, what goes on your feet has to be great quality. I’m not saying go get designer wool socks (are those a thing?), but maybe google and get socks that are specifically made for trekking and have good reviews. Wool is great (the only downside is that it is not vegan) so if you can find great synthetic trekking socks kudos to you!

4. THIN LONG SLEEVE GARMENTS

I.e. polar, running sweatshirt, thin thermal, etc. Here is where the layering comes in, so the thinner garments you get the better. You can always take off a layer or open up a zipper after a couple hours of walking, so having a couple thin long sleeve items ends up working a lot better than say a sweatshirt would.

Pro tip: Try to pick items that go well together and/or have a similar colour scheme. You are not going to look NYFW ready while trekking, but you can create a cool outfit with any combination of the items you have.

5. A HEADBAND

Since mountain trucks are a thing anyway… wait what? In Nepal everything is moved through the mountains with the help of animals (mostly mules), and they are referred to as mountain trucks. The head of the pack is typically adorned with a very chic embroidered and decorated headband. So there you go. Headbands are cool on the mountain, but really they keep the sweat, dirt and your hair off your face. Good luck staying at the front of the pack.

6. LEGGINGS!

We have finally reached the potential flashy item. This the perfect solution for trekking, and working out, and going to the store, and basically anything that isn’t a chic dress-up party… but I digress. They are easy to roll and use minimum luggage space, almost always flattering, easy to wash and quick to dry, available in all sorts of cool prints (even pink leopard if you are into that) and way more chic than trekking pants. You’re welcome.

7. THIN, SLEEVELESS SHIRTS

This is yet another layering item, that could work as your bottom layer (unless you are in a very cold weather and go with merino wool underwear). Always go with technical fabrics, especially those with wick away technology that keep the sweat off your skin. Try to avoid cotton, it takes longer to dry and can make you feel sticky. It is also cold in the cold and hot in the heat, and nobody likes those people. 

Pro tip: Wear a good sports bra underneath, also not cotton and with wick away technology.

8. BIRKENSTOCKS

These saved my life during the off-trek hours. It doesn’t matter how much you love your trekking boots, its always a relief to take them off after several hours on the trail.

Pro tip: Birkenstocks are way more resistant than thong sandals, plus you can easily wear socks underneath. I knooow… but remember Spring/Summer 2014? Yeah just picture how cool you would’ve looked back then.

9. A COUPLE OF CHIC, NON-REVEALING TOPS

Chic embroidered peasant tops work great for the days in the city. They cover enough to be culturally appropriate, and they also keep the heat away.

Pro tip: Check that the tops go well with most of your leggings to keep the luggage to a minimum.

10. THE OBVIOUS, PERFECTLY-FITTING, BROKEN-IN TREKKING BOOTS

I cannot say this enough, never wear new boots on the trail. Like really never. N.E.V.E.R. Your feet will suffer and you’ll be in a bad mood and full of blisters. Your fellow trekkers will hate you for complaining, and you will end up sad and alone at the end of the pack. So make sure to buy the boots at least a couple of weeks before you travel and wear them a lot to break them in (I know they are not exactly office-appropriate, but aren’t flared jeans a thing again? Just wear them underneath!)

Let me know if you try this list and if it works for you. Have I missed anything? Also let me know if you hate trekking pants too, I’d love to not be alone on this.

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