As many of you may know, I do adventure photography for a living and one of the key ingredient in composing a great photo is the subject and how they look in contrast to the landscape.
When I first started looking for hiking gear for my first hiking trip in Nepal, I was overwhelmed by the many options available and the price tags that came with it. Brands like The North Face and Columbia dominate the market and without much knowledge about hiking, many people spend an awful lot of money on these highly technical and unnecessary gear and they don't even look good in them.
In this guide, we will explore all the options for hiking gear that are cheap, functional and one that actually looks good on you.
- Why is it so important to look good when hiking?
- Rules of Thumb
- Further Reading for Resources
Why is it so important to look good when hiking?
Which one looks better? Left or right?
I have had many arguments with many travelers about this, and the conclusion I found all boils down to people's priorities. Some people do not care about how they look in photos and some people do. For me, I do adventure photography for a living and more often then not, I am the subject of my own work so a little time spent seeking color-matching jackets, pants and non-ugly hiking shoes is a good investment in my opinion.
"It's all about the experience" and "It's comfortable" are a few sentences thrown at me when I talked about this.
I completely agree, but your gear can have all the functions and comfort you want but it doesn't have to be ugly and expensive if you know where to look. This guide is all about making this process easy for you to find the best gear that are comfortable to hike in, cheap, and actually looks good on you.
Rules of Thumb
- The Three Layers Rule is all you need to get for most hiking trails.
- The first layer is the base layer which can be a t-shirt or a long underwear sets. The function of this layer is to wick the sweat away from your skin to control your body temperature. Stay away from cotton because as the saying goes "Cotton is rotten", and it can smell bad real fast.
- The second layer is the insulated layer and a fleece jacket is perfect for this. The function of this layer is to maintain the heat your body creates. This layer is what keeps you warm.
- The last layer is the outer shell layer which can be waterproof or water-resistant shells or down jackets. The purpose of this layer is to protect you from bad weather that could penetrate and affect your body temperature.
Pick bright color outer shell jackets for better photos and better visibility in case of emergency. The bright colors stand out against natural backgrounds like forests, skies, snows and rocks and people can spot you easily in both your photos and from afar. Not convince? Outdoor Research has more examples on their blog.
Colors like orange, cyan blue and pink are great for most situation.
- Weather resistant pants are recommended for longer than one day hike or you can use any pants you have with weather-proof light-weight outer shell on top.
- Keep your pants, head gear and gloves in dark shade of colors like black, navy blue or dark gray. You don't want to be overly colorful when hiking and the jacket should be enough.
- Don't buy the 3-in-1 jacket that are overly expensive (400USD) since you can get all of them separately cheaper and you have more flexibility in different types of weather.
- Go with wool for beanie, gloves and sock to keep yourself warm in cold climate.
- Find a backpack with good back support, enough space for at least 2 liters of water, snacks and necessary camera gear you have. I found 25L bag to be the perfect size for a full day hike.
- Shoes are one of the most important part that can make or break your hiking trip. Investing a bit more on shoes are recommended.
- Don't bother with the highly technical shoes equipped with the anti-gravity technology from the 21st century advertised in most magazines. Of course it will depends on the types of trail you are doing, but mostly the low ankle, non-performance shoes with good grip are more than enough for most trails. Plus, it is lighter to carry in your backpack and looks good while walking in cities.
Any wicking shirts will do. These shirts are light and dry fast and so it is perfect for light traveler like you. I usually have 5 of these in different colors and sleeves in my backpack for a 6 months long trip.Buy Wicking Thermal Shirts ($18.04)
The fleece jacket is essential to control your body temperature so the warmer it is the better. I carry only one fleece jacket for a 6 months long trip.Buy FOG Fleece Jacket ($29.99)
The outer shell is the layer that goes through the toughest in bad weather and it the only part of clothing people see the most. I highly recommend investing a bit in a jacket hence why I chose Columbia. I carry only one outer shell for a 6 months long trip.Buy Columbia Evaporation Jacket ($68.80)
The good thing about this rain pants is that you can wear it with whichever pants you have inside and put this over on top to keep your inner pants dry. Easily dry and light as a feather. I usually have 2 - 3 normal pants together with one of this rain pants for a 6 months long trip.Buy Waterproof Rain Pants ($13)
Timberland is the perfect choice for a footwear because it is durable, comfortable and looks good everywhere unlike all the high performance hiking shoes out there. This is the shoe to rule them all, no matter where you are, mountains or cities. Gone is the day when you have to carry both your casual shoes and hiking shoes in your backpack. I only have this one pair the entire time I was in South America for 6 months.
Fun fact: I have hiked the Swiss Alps, the French Alps, Patagonia, and many volcanos in South America fine with Timberland shoes.Buy Timberland Waterproof Boot ($139.95)
Any wool beanie should be able to keep your ears warm under strong wind. I carry one wool beanie for a 6 months long trip.Buy Wool Beanie ($7.99)
A pair of wool gloves should help keep your hands warm in most cold climate hiking enviroment.Buy Wool Gloves ($9.99)
Of course, I can not go by without mentioning my Navy Blue Little America Hershel Supply backpack. Stylish and functional, what more could I ask for!Buy Herschel Supply Little America backpack ($99)
Total Cost: US$ 386.76
What do you think about the guide? Did I miss something from the list? If so, please don't hesitate to let me know in the comment below.
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links and every purchase you make here will help support us through the commission we earn at no extra cost on your side.
Further Reading for Resources
Looking for more articles to help you with your travel may it be camera gears or clothing? Here is a collection of articles you might like:
- Are you looking for the best travel camera for your next trip? Why not the Sony a6500? Here's why Sony a6500 is the best travel camera.
- Picking a camera body is one thing. Picking the lenses is a whole different game. Here is the ultimate guide to best travel lenses for the Sony a6500.
- You can't travel without a backpack and if you are looking for one, check out my guide on the best Herschel Supply backpacks for traveler.
- If you are into making travel videos, here is my ultimate advanced filmmaking gear guide.
- If you are a light-weight traveler and is looking for a powerful gear to go with your setup, check out the extremely light-weight photography gear guide.
- Looking for gift ideas for your traveler friends or family member? Here are 10 great gift ideas for backpackers.
- Or if you are into gadgets, here is a quick guide on 5 tech gadgets you should buy this year.
- For more resources like this, visit my Resources page.
The Solo Traveler’s Resources is a series of posts by Bucketlistly where we will explore the ways of life of nomads including how we work, travel, and what we carry in our backpack.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links.