An Essential Guide to Fall Hiking Gear for Active Seniors

by Fit After Fifty
Young blonde man staring off into the view of mountains and a lake

Fall is here, and there’s no better time to get out and hike. The colors are spectacular, and the heat of summer has given way to a refreshing crispness. Having the right gear can make your hikes more comfortable and enjoyable. Check out our hiking gear list before you hit the trail to make sure you’ve got all you need.

Layer It On

Layering is the key to controlling your core temperature while you’re hiking. Generally, three layers are enough, and if you live in an area with very cold autumn weather, you may want to choose thicker layers or a heavier outer layer.

Base Layers

The base layer shirt can be either thin merino wool or synthetic, but don’t wear cotton. Wet cotton, whether from sweat or rain, traps moisture and will no longer keep you warm. Cotton also takes a long time to dry.

The second shirt layer should be a little thicker than the base layer. Breathable fabric is a must, so the sweat doesn’t get trapped; think fleece or a heavier type of merino. TIP: If one of your base layers has a hood, you won’t need to take a hat — one less item to keep track of!

For your pants, we recommend synthetic hiking pants instead of jeans, sweats, or khakis — no matter how comfortable they are. The reason for this is the same reason that we don’t recommend cotton shirts. Look for hiking pants that are water-resistant and breathable.

Waterproof Outer Layer

Onto every hike, a little rain must fall, especially in the fall. Choose an outer layer that’s water- and wind-resistant. Your outer layer should be breathable because when you hike, you create heat, and an outer layer that doesn’t breathe will quickly make you damp and sweaty, and therefore cold. Nonbreathable, waterproof raincoats are best for when you have to spend a lot of inactive time in the rain.

Hats a Wrap

The sun is generally less intense in the fall, so your hat should serve as a head warmer rather than an eye shade. Take a hat that covers your ears, because they are often the first to get cold. A beanie made of wool or fleece is a great fall hiking hat, and it’s easy to stuff in your pocket or pack when you don’t need it.

These Boots Are Made for Walking

Comfort is king when it comes to footwear. No quicker way to ruin a hike exists than having sore, wet, or cold feet. Having boots that fit is the first step, so when trying on boots, do it in the late afternoon because feet tend to swell throughout the day. If you have orthotics, make sure to include them when trying on boots. Choose boots rather than low-cut shoes to give your ankles more support.

Trekking Poles

A sturdy pair of trekking poles is a hiker’s best friend. Trudging your way up a hill is easier when you have poles to pull up on, and using poles for support going downhill will save your knees from all the pounding. Using trekking poles is also a great way to keep your arms moving, so it’s more of a full-body workout.

Pack It Up in an Old Kit Bag

So the song goes, kind of. Finishing off our hiking gear list is the backpack. You’ll need somewhere to put those layers and maybe a thermos with your favorite hot beverage. Look for a backpack made for hiking that has chest and waist straps. The straps will prevent the pack from moving around and keep it close to your body, which is much more comfortable and less likely to knock you off balance or get caught on branches.

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