What to wear when walking

Wondering what to wear on a ramble? We’ve got you covered with this handy guide

We’ll be the first people to tell you that you do not need fancy gear to start walking. That said, what we wear on a walk can be the difference between a happy hike and an ‘I’m-never-doing-this-again’ slog.  

Our clothing guide will walk you through the things we love to wear on a ramble so you can figure out the best options for you.  

Spoiler alert: We bet you have a lot of these items in your wardrobe already.  


The most important item is a trusty pair of boots  

The number 1 rambling rule is to walk in anything that makes you feel comfortable and supported. Many people choose a trusty pair of trainers for their first Ramblers taster walk. Once you’ve decided you’re going to get into regular rambling though, you may want to get a personalised fitting for a pair of walking boots at your local outdoors store. Check your boots will provide:  

  • ankle support for downhill walking 

  • a good grip for slippery or unstable surfaces 

  • a good fit to prevent blisters.  

For more information about choosing walking boots read our walking boots Buyer’s Guide.  It’s also worth learning  how to care for your walking boots 

It is all in the layering  

Layering is the key ingredient to a happy ramble. It is about adding or removing layers of clothing in response to changes in weather conditions, as well as your own body temperature.  

For a good layering system, you want 4 things: 

  1. a base layer 

  1. a light but warm long-sleeved mid layer 

  1. an insulated jacket as a warm layer 

  1. a waterproof and windproof layer. 


1. The base layer  

Start with a next-to-skin layer that wicks away sweat to help keep you warm when it’s cold, cool when it’s hot, and as dry as possible at all times. Long or short sleeve is a personal preference, as is whether you choose a synthetic fabric or merino wool. Workout or running tops can make great walking base layers.  


Merino Vs synthetic  

Merino wool is warmer and tends to smell less, though synthetic layers are improving all the time. Synthetic layers tend to slide more easily under other layers, which can be more comfortable and make it easier to remove or add clothing.  

Other things to think about: 

  • a higher collar can help to protect the back of the neck from sun or wind 

  • a zipped top gives you the option of cooling down 

  • thumb loops are useful in eliminating gaps between sleeves and gloves. 

  • try to avoid cotton. It holds on to water, making you feel sweaty in the heat and extra cold if the weather turns. 


2. The mid layer 

This layer is all about keeping warm, but not overheating. There are lots of options that can do this, such as: 

  • a traditional soft and light polyester fleece 

  • ‘hard face’ fleeces 

  • softshell jackets with a durable, windproof outer 

  • hybrid garments with a warm core and moisture-wicking underarms 

  • ‘active insulation’ mid layers (lightweight warmth but breathable). 

But if you don’t have any of these, an old lightweight jersey or jumper can be a great place to start.  


3. The warm layer  

On colder hikes you can wear an insulated down or synthetic jacket instead of, or in addition to, a mid layer. This can be a useful spare layer to carry in your pack to put on during rest breaks or on summits. If you are hiking in colder weather, or heading up high, packing a pair of thermal or waterproof gloves and a hat will help you retain your body heat.  


4. The waterproof and windproof layer 

It may be the last thing you put on, but it is the one layer you do not want to forget on a walk in Britain! Have a read of our waterproof jackets Buyer’s Guide  and  our guide on how to look after your waterproof kit.  

If you want to make sure you stay really dry, consider: 

Waterproof trousers 

Buy a pair with ideally at least a quarter-length leg zip to easily fit over walking boots if you are in a downpour.  

A pair of gaiters  

These are a fabric guard that covers the gap between your trousers and your walking boots. They will help you avoid getting water or dirt in the top of your boots and leave your trousers clean.  



Having sorted your top layers, it’s time to think about trousers. What you choose really is a personal preference. You can’t go wrong with a pair of traditional rain-resistant walking trousers, but many ramblers also like to walk in moisture-wicking yoga or running leggings or even running shorts in the summer. Just be sure to do an extra check for tics after a walk wearing shorts. You may like to have a read of our walking trousers Buyer’s Guide


Walking socks

Walking socks come in various thicknesses and materials for different conditions and seasons. Some walkers also like to wear a thin liner sock and a thicker outer pair. It’s always worth keeping a spare pair of socks in the driest part of your backpack in case your feet get wet.   


More information 

If you are looking to buy some walking gear, check out our Best Buys guides 

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