What to Wear Hiking in Fall

Learn what to wear hiking in fall with our checklist of the best fall hiking clothes for women that are breathable, wick sweat, keep you warm AND look good.

If you’re wondering what to wear hiking in the fall, you’ve come to the right place. Mastering the art of fall hiking layers is all about getting just the right combination of base, midweight, and outer layers. Finding a good balance of warmth and breathability may be a little tricky at first, but there’s a simple method that’ll help you nail it every time.

At Bearfoot Theory, we specialize in breaking down the barriers to the outdoors—and women’s fall hiking outfits most definitely fit into that category. In fact, we’ve even got a ton of our favorite layers to share with you. Read on to learn all about layering and dressing for cooler conditions, plus how to stay prepared for changes in the weather.

Here’s our outdoor women’s guide to what to wear hiking in the fall.

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I worked at REI Co-op when I was first getting Bearfoot Theory off the ground and they’ve been one of the biggest supporters of my work ever since. As always with sponsored content, all words and opinions are my own. We only recommend products we truly love and think you will love too.


The Best Fabrics and Materials for Fall Hiking Clothes

A golden rule for female hiking apparel during any season is to wear quick-drying and moisture-wicking fabrics like wool-blends or synthetics (nylon and polyester). Always avoid cotton and denim because they retain moisture. The best hiking clothes for fall will keep you insulated, but not hot, and have enough breathability so you’re comfortable no matter which way the weather turns.

The key is to layer, layer, layer.

Learn what to wear hiking in fall with our checklist of the best fall hiking clothes for women that are breathable, wick sweat, keep you warm AND look good.
In this photo, I have a long sleeve midweight layer around my waist, ready to deploy as soon as the winds pick up, along with extra layers in my pack.

Fall Hiking Base Layers

A good base layer will do two things: keep you warm and regulate your body temperature. This way, you won’t overheat or become hypothermic while wearing wet clothes that cling to your body. These pieces are the building blocks of a fall hiking outfit (winter, too) because they are closest to your body and are easy to add on to as needed. Start with these core items next time you hit the trail.

Short Sleeve Hiking Tee

Layer a hiking tee beneath your mid layers, like this Capilene Cool Daily Shirt by Patagonia. Made of recycled polyester-jersey, this fabric dries quick and pulls moisture away from the skin, so you stay dry when you start breaking a sweat during the final push to the summit. Not to mention, it’s nice to have the option for short sleeves if you’re out in the sun, the weather warms up, or you get hot hiking uphill.

Warm Yet Breathable Leggings

As the weather changes, you’ll want to upgrade your hiking leggings to something that provides a little more warmth. These REI Active Pursuits Tights are a little thicker than normal leggings providing all-weather versatility, yet the moisture-wicking fabric allows your legs to breathe on the uphills. They are super comfy with a waistband that doesn’t slip while you’re on the move.

Hiking in Patagonia’s Capilene Cool Daily Shirt and REI Leggings

Fall Hiking Midweight Layers

Midweight layers give you the right combination of warmth and breathability. These are essential when it comes to determining what to wear hiking in fall. Wear items that provide insulation and have good coverage to trap heat but are still lightweight and easy to layer. Here are the versatile midweight layers we recommend.

Long Sleeve Top

Add a long sleeve top like the REI Co-op Active Pursuits Quarter-Zip Pullover to your list of fall hiking clothes for warmth and adjustability. The half-zipper gives you coverage or ventilation, depending on the conditions. It’s fitted but not too snug and is easy to layer over a short sleeve t-shirt without feeling too tight (although you should size up if you prefer a looser fit).

Insulated Vest

On cool fall days, wearing an insulated vest is a game-changer, especially for you ladies who run hot and need to let your armpits breathe. A vest reduces the weight or bulk that an insulated puffy jacket would have while providing necessary warmth for your core. This REI Co-op Down Vest has a recycled nylon water-repellent shell, two pockets for your essentials, packs into its own pocket, and when zipped all the way keeps your neck warm in the wind. This vest also contains bluesign® materials and is certified to the Responsible Down Standard.


Fall Hiking Outer Layers

Even if you run hot, packing an outer layer and extra pieces for warmth will help you be prepared for any sudden changes in the weather while hiking in the fall or the fact that the sun goes down earlier. For example, in September, I was hiking a 14er in Colorado on what started out as a beautiful, sunny day at the trailhead. Two hours later, it was extremely windy and cold at the summit and then hailed on the way down. You might not always end up needing your outer layers, but you’ll be glad to have an extra line of defense against the elements when the conditions call for it. It’s worth sizing up your daypack so you can fit all the fall hiking apparel you need.

Insulating Hoodie

The Arc’teryx Atom LT Insulating Hoodie is a durable jacket that provides a ton of warmth without leaving you a hot, sweaty mess. It’s easy to layer under the vest if it gets really cold. While it won’t function as a rain jacket, the synthetic material is water-resistant and will fight off moisture if it starts to drizzle. Plus, this hoodie is so lightweight that you will barely notice when it’s on, and it’s easy to stash in your pack whenever you take it off.

Rain Jacket

While it isn’t as warm as its insulating counterpart, nothing beats the wind and rain like the REI Co-op Rainier Rain Jacket. The fall season can bring unpredictable weather, which makes rain gear an essential clothing item on most fall hikes. This rain jacket is made from recycled ripstop nylon and when you aren’t using it, it won’t take up much space or weight in your pack.

If you’re pretty certain it is going to rain, it’s also worth throwing a pair of rain pants in your pack as well.

Staying warm in my Arc’teryx Atom LT Insulating Hoodie

Fall Hiking Accessories

Gloves

Toss a pair of gloves in your pack, as these are essentials for your fall hiking outfit. On cold mornings or mountaintops, these Outdoor Research gloves provide a lightweight, warm layer. As a bonus, they’re touch-screen compatible so you can still use your phone or GPS device to take photos or navigate while you are hiking.

Beanie

Is your fall hike surprisingly chillier than you thought it would be? Find yourself in windy spot for lunch? Pull on a cozy beanie to keep your ears and head warm. Luckily, some female hiking apparel (this beanie included) is cute, functional, and durable. Triple whammy.

Buff

Made from recycled polyester, I learned just how versatile the Buff is on my Everest Basecamp Trek a few years ago. When the wind started to howl I just pulled the Buff up over my neck, mouth, and nose and I was a lot more comfortable. I also used one in Patagonia when hiking the W Trek in Torres del Paine. Wearing it as a headband over my hat, the Buff served as an ear warmer and prevented my hat from blowing away in the wind. It has a UPF rating of 50, so it even provides sun protection.


Fall Hiking Footwear

Wool Socks

While you should say no to cotton socks all year round, it’s even more important in cooler, wetter months to wear wool on your feet. Wool socks are much better at regulating temperature, wicking away sweat, and keeping your feet dry in rainy conditions. My go-to for hiking socks? Darn Tough all day long.

Waterproof Hiking Boots

In the fall when you are more likely to encounter chilly rain is the time to make sure your hiking boots are waterproof. Wet feet might not be a deal breaker in the summer, but in the fall when temps drop, soggy boots can be a serious problem resulting in numb toes or gnarly blisters. Waterproof hiking boots have a water-repelling membrane (often made by Gore-Tex) that is layered into synthetic or leather materials. They are typically heavier and less breathable, but they are also warmer. I’ve worn the Oboz Sawtooth II Low Bdry Hiking Shoes for years and love them, although my current favorite waterproof hiking boots are the new Oboz Sypes.

Standing on the top of a 14er in Colorado wearing my Oboz Sawtooth II Low Bdry Hiking Shoes

What are your favorite clothes and layers to wear hiking in the fall? Let us know in the comments below!

Written by Kristen Bor

Hey there! My name is Kristen, and this is my outdoor blog. I discovered the power of the outdoors in my 20s, at the time I needed it most. Now 15 years later, prioritizing that critical connection with nature continues to improve my life. My goal at Bearfoot Theory is to empower you with the tools and advice you need to responsibly get outside.

8 comments on “What to Wear Hiking in Fall

  1. Love this. I never realised how important proper socks were until I was given a pair of smart merino wool socks… literally in my bag every time I go camping now!! Affectionately called “sacred socks”!

  2. Fantastic tips! Fall is my favorite time to go hiking, I’ve recently started setting up trail cameras to try to capture some local elk photos. I’ll have to keep these tips in mind for next year, it’s already too cold for me to keep going out there. https://www.critterlick.com/

  3. This was really great information. I’m going for my first hike this weekend. Now I’ll be properly prepared. Many thanks!

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