From apple orchards to pumpkin patches, corn mazes to haunted houses, there is no shortage of fun outdoor activities to do in the fall. But one of the most underrated autumn activities is going hiking. The colorful leaves make for gorgeous views at every turn, and the crisp air is perfect for keeping you cool while moving. The one downside to fall hiking is that it can be hard to dress for, as the weather is extremely temperamental. It might be warm and sunny one moment, and rainy/windy the next. To help you find the perfect balance between warmth and breathability, we’ve created this guide for what to wear hiking in the fall so you can have a comfortable autumn hike. 

This post is in partnership with Helly Hansen, one of our favorite brands for fall hiking gear. Their men’s and women’s 2022 fall/winter collection has everything you could need to get outside in colder weather! 

What to Wear Hiking in the Fall – Our Top Tips


You may hear this often, but the first key rule for fall hiking is to dress in layers. This is a critical piece of advice, as the weather can change quickly from one moment to the next. Also, if you’re going early in the morning or hiking at higher altitudes, it can get quite a bit colder. Wearing layers gives you the option to add more clothes when you get cold, and shed them if you get hot. You’ll want to have base, mid, and outer layers so you have plenty of choices for protection against the elements. (See below for our recommendations!)


You’ll also want to make sure to choose the right kind of fabric for your hiking clothes. Cotton and denim retain moisture and are less flexible, which is not something you want in the fall time. They’ll soak up your sweat and leave you wet and cold. Instead, opt for quick drying and moisture wicking fabric. Wool blends and synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester are all good options. Also, bringing a waterproof outer shell is important in case it starts to rain or snow. 


Aside from layering and choosing the appropriate fabric, you’ll definitely want to bring the essential accessories along so that you’re well prepared for any drop in temperature or inclement weather. Bringing accessories for warmth, like beanies and gloves, is always a smart call because you can throw them on whenever you get cold. Also, having some functional accessories, like microspikes or trekking poles, can be extremely helpful if you run into slippery ice or snow. 

What to Wear Hiking in the Fall – Clothing



Having a good pair of warm and comfy hiking socks is crucial in the fall, as there’s nothing worse than numb toes. You’ll want to wear wool or synthetic material socks as they regulate temperature better than cotton socks and keep your feet dry. Having wet feet in the fall will also make you more prone to blisters, which is never a good time. 

Waterproof Hiking Boots

Having a quality pair of hiking boots (for both men and women) is essential in the fall, as you never know what you’ll be walking through. You’ll want to choose ones that have good traction, protect your toes, and provide ankle support in case you slip. We recommend that they’re waterproof so you’re well protected from rain, snow, and ice. Wet feet in the summer isn’t that big of a deal, because they’ll dry quickly. But having wet shoes in the fall can leave your feet numb when temperatures drop. Waterproof hiking boots are typically a bit heavier and less breathable, but they are warmer. 

Base Layers

Base layers are meant to keep you warm and regulate your body temperature. They are going to be the closest material to your body, so you want to make sure that they wick moisture away while also not making you too hot. They are a great building block for putting on other layers, so they should be lightweight and easy to add on top of. 

Merino Wool Base Layers

Merino wool base layers are great for morning/night or higher altitude hikes, as they provide a nice bit of warmth. They’re lightweight, moisture-wicking, comfortable, and don’t absorb a lot of odor. However, they are more expensive and can wear out quickly if used in rough conditions. Despite these drawbacks, merino wool is still the best choice for base layers, because it provides good insulation while fitting easily under other layers.

If you want to invest in some high-quality merino base layers, Helly Hansen’s new Men’s and Women’s Lifa Merino Midweight ½ zip is perfect for cold weather activities. They combined breathable, warm merino with a second Lifa fiber layer, which is a proprietary Helly Hansen fabric that provides light insulation and moisture management. The two of these fabrics together create the ultimate base layer for all your fall hikes! 

Hiking Shirt and Pants

Some other layers you’ll want to consider wearing are a hiking shirt, pair of hiking pants, and/or hiking leggings. The biggest things to keep in mind when selecting these items is to choose ones that are moisture-wicking, comfortable, breathable, and allow for a good range of motion. Your hiking pants and shirts should be made of durable and quick-drying fabrics like nylon or spandex. These layers would all work great over merino wool base layers on chillier days, or you can omit the wool layers on sunnier fall hikes. 

Mid Layers

The next type of layer you’ll want to have on autumn hikes are mid-layers. These are meant to insulate and trap heat, but they should still be lightweight and easy to layer on top of. There are several different types of mid-layers you can choose from, based on your personal preference. 

Warm Midlayer Jacket 

A fleece jacket is great for an extra bit of warmth, and it pairs well with an outer layer jacket. However, they can be a bit bulky, so if you think it’ll stay in your backpack for the majority of your hike, it might not be the best choice. For those who want a lighter-weight option, opt for a quarter/half zip pullover. These will fit a big more snug, so make sure to account for layers you’ll wear underneath it when selecting a size. An awesome feature of these is the zipper, which allows for ventilation if you start to get hot during your hike. 

Insulated Vest

Another great lightweight mid-layer is an insulated vest. They will provide warmth for your core, while letting your armpits breath. We recommend a vest for warmer fall days where you won’t need to wear any outer layers on top. You can pair a vest with a long-sleeve baselayer or a fleece for a warm, cozy layering setup on cooler hikes.

Outer Layers

The last clothing layer for what to wear hiking in the fall is an outer shell. These are meant to keep you warm and defend you against the elements, like wind, snow, and rain. We’d recommend wearing a shell or lightly-insulated outer layer in the fall, as winter parkas and coats are typically too much for milder fall hikes.

Down or Synthetic Jacket

A down or synthetic jacket is great for hikes where the temperature will fluctuate drastically, and you need an extra layer of warmth. These are particularly nice to have if you’ll be spending time resting at the summit, as you may get cold due to the higher altitude and not moving. Synthetic jackets are more breathable and provide insulation when wet, but they’re heavier and not very packable. Down jackets (for both men and women) are great if you want a lightweight option that’s easy to fit in your backpack, but keep in mind that they don’t insulate when wet. 

Rain Jacket

A rain jacket is a piece of gear you should always bring on fall hikes, even if you don’t think you’re going to need it. Trust us, there’s nothing worse than hiking while wet without any hope of the sun coming out to dry you. A rain jacket will be put on top of all of your other layers to keep both you and your clothing dry. They are very light and easy to pack, so there’s no downside to bringing one. 

Helly Hansen’s rain jackets are perfect for fall hikes, as their HELLY TECH Protection makes them waterproof, breathable, and windproof. Their Verglas Infinity Shell Jackets are designed for hiking in the mountains, and will provide you with all the protection you need in the changing elements. 

What to Wear Hiking in the Fall – Accessories

Warm Fall Accessories


Heat escapes from your head, so having a hat to throw on can really help ward off the cold. We suggest a lightweight merino wool beanie, as it provides warmth while wicking away sweat. Beanies are great to put on during your water/snack breaks, or at the summit. 


Another great fall hiking accessory is a pair of gloves, as your hands are one of the first parts of your body to get cold. You’ll want a lighter pair in the fall that aren’t too warm/bulky. We love touch screen compatible gloves for hiking, because you can easily navigate on your phone without having to constantly take them on and off. 

Buff or Neck Gaiter

A buff (basically a lightweight neck warmer) is perfect for windier days, as it will help protect your ears, nose, and mouth. Neck gaiters are also very versatile, and you can put them around whatever part of your body is chilly. 

Hand Warmers

When it comes to what to wear hiking in the fall, it never hurts to have an extra bit of warmth in case you need it, especially when it’s something as small and lightweight as hand warmers. You can either choose standard hand warmers or invest in some electronic ones that you can reuse. Better yet, get a pair of heated gloves or mittens to combine hand warmers and gloves all in one! 

Functional Fall Accessories


If you suspect you’ll be hiking in ice or snow, microspikes are great for traction and keeping you from slipping. Bring lightweight ones that you can easily pack when not using, as you probably won’t need them for the entire hike. 

Trekking Poles

Another great tool for keeping you stable are trekking poles. Not only are they good when walking across ice, but they also can keep you from slipping on wet fallen foliage that may be covering the trail. They’re also awesome if you’re going downhill a lot, as they will increase your speed and balance. 

Head Lamp

With the days starting to get shorter, having a headlamp on your fall hikes can be a real lifesaver. For those who like early morning or evening hikes, we recommend bringing one with, as you’ll probably be hiking in the dark. We prefer headlamps over flashlights because they provide a strong source of light without you having to hold anything.

Water Bottle

Water bottles are always a must on any hike, but it’s easy to forget to drink water when it’s colder out. You can get dehydrated even when the temps are down and you aren’t sweating as much, so make sure to pack plenty of water.

Sunglasses & Sunscreen

Even though it might not feel like it, you can still get burnt when it’s cold outside. Make sure to protect yourself from the sun by wearing a quality pair of sunglasses and sunscreen, even if it’s chilly out. Sunglass straps are also a good idea for hiking, as they’ll keep your sunglasses secure on your head while you’re busy scrambling over rocks and ducking under trees. 

Day Pack

While day packs are useful to bring any time you go hiking, they are absolutely essential in the fall. This is because you’ll need to put all of your layers and accessories in here when you’re not wearing them. Your fall day pack should be bigger than your summer one, to account for the extra gear/clothing you’ll be bringing. 

In a Nutshell

Autumn hikes provide some of the most beautiful sights you will ever see, and the crisp air makes for excellent hiking weather. However, it’s important to know what to wear hiking in the fall, so you can be well prepared for temperamental weather and changing elements. To make sure you have a comfortable and warm hike, you’ll need to bring extra clothes and gear. Helly Hansen is one of our favorite brands for fall/winter hiking clothes, as they provide super trustworthy and durable gear that will keep you dry and warm. By wearing layers, bringing the right accessories, and choosing the right kind of fabric/material, you will be well prepared to tackle any fall hike.