One of the most challenging parts of preparing for a backpacking trip is packing. It can be confusing to know what to wear backpacking and difficult not to overpack!
Of course, the climates you will encounter on your backpacking trip will determine what you need to take.
Still, there are some fundamental outfits that every backpacker should have in their luggage.
So, to help reduce the overwhelm of your trip prep, we’ve created the ultimate list of what clothes to wear backpacking.
The following backpacking outfits will come in handy no matter where you are backpacking or for how long.
What To Wear Backpacking
You will need a various range of backpacking outfits as you will most likely be doing different activities.
It’s so important to have the right backpacking essentials before setting off on your trip!
Therefore, you will need backpacking clothing suitable for all situations, such as hiking, camping, traveling, and maybe exploring local cities and towns.
Aside from your daywear, you’ll need to ensure you have the correct type of nightwear and plenty of underwear.
Also, as you’ll be unable to wash your clothes regularly, you should ensure you have plenty of underwear, socks, and t-shirts/baselayers.
The Best Backpacking Outfits For Women
What you need to pack for backpacking can depend on what you want to do on your trip! Will you be hiking a lot or are you solely going to stay in urban areas?
I’ve covered all of the best backpacking outfits for women so packing doesn’t have to be stressful!
1. Traveling Outfit
Whether you’re backpacking in Europe, Asia, or Australia, you will be spending a lot of your time traveling from one place to another.
Most backpackers opt to travel by coach or train to save money, but this normally means the journeys are long.
Therefore, comfort is essential when you’re spending hours on the road, so pack your coziest outfit for those long travel days. My go-to travel outfit consists of:
- Leggings – If I’m in a cold country (or I know the coach will blast the air-con), I opt for fleece-lined leggings like these from Bayleaf. These thermal leggings will keep you warm when the temperature drops. Still, the fabric is also breathable and moisture-wicking if you get too hot. The fleece lining is super comfy, and the 4-way stretch and flat seam make them feel extra comforting.
- A loose fit top – Opt for soft material like cotton as it will be against your skin. There are plenty of options out there, such as this loose-fit tank top by CRZ YOGA. It is made from Pima cotton to create a super soft, lightweight, breathable, and stretchy feel.
- Soft Sweater or jumper – Choose a sweater that is soft to the touch and feels comforting. If you are in a reasonably cold country, you can even go for a fleece style like the Yanekop Sherpa Pullover. The fuzzy sherpa fleece material is warm, soft, and so cozy that it feels like you’re snuggling with a fluffy kitty!
2. Hiking Outfit
Most backpacking trips involve a fair amount of hiking and spending time in nature. Therefore, you should pack outfits to protect you from the sun and bugs and keep you cool and dry.
Here’s what your hiking outfit should consist of:
- A breathable tank top – To prevent overheating, pack a sports top for your hikes and walks. Most of these style tops have good ventilation to release excess heat. For example, the Mippo Workout Top has a stylish yet functional mesh style back to keep you cool. Furthermore, there is a slit in the lower back, which you can keep open for extra breathability or tie-up.
- Quick-dry stretchy pants – Yoga pants can work well when hiking, but I prefer to wear cargo hiking pants like the ones from MOCOLY instead. You can choose cropped or full length, and they have UPF 50+ sun protection to prevent sunburn. Another invaluable feature of these pants is the adjustable cord locks around the cuffs to stop your legs from being eaten by mosquitoes!
- A lightweight pullover with sun protection – Even if you’re hiking in the summer, it’s wise to take a lightweight pullover with you. However, make sure you have one with UPF sun protection like this one by Willit. The breathable, lightweight fabric has UPF 50+ protection. It also has a half-zip collar design to stop the back of your neck from getting burnt, plus thumbholes for extra coverage.
3. City/Town Outfit
If you’re going on a mid to long-term backpacking trip, it’s a good idea to pack an outfit for the days you don’t spend in nature.
Whether you’re exploring historical sites, wandering around art galleries, or just taking a leisurely lunch in a cafe, urban outfits are essential backpacking outfits.
- Summer dress – I like to take advantage of these relaxed days by getting out of sportswear and yoga pants. If you’re backpacking in a hot climate, why not pack a lightweight summer dress for your urban activities. I love this ZESICA Ruffle Swing Dress as it’s stylish yet comfortable. It has a loose fit around the bust and hips but a high waistband to show off your figure.
- 2-piece tracksuit – Of course, if you’re in a colder climate, you’ll want to wrap up more. Jeans may be your first thought, but I personally try to avoid packing denim clothes for backpacking as they can be heavy and bulky. Instead, I opt for a comfy 2-piece like this one from PRETTY GARDEN. It consists of a long-sleeve crewneck pullover and long tracksuit pants in your choice of color. This outfit is casual yet stylish, and you can dress it up or down.
The nightclothes to pack for backpacking will depend on a few factors.
For example, if you’re camping, you might want a warmer sleep outfit. Alternatively, if you’re staying in hostel dorms, you won’t need to wrap up so much.
- Thermal base layer set – If I expect to camp or sleep somewhere cold on my trip, I will always pack a pair of thermal base layers! I like the sets from Ekouaer as they have microfleece lining to keep you feeling cozy and warm in your tent. They are also very lightweight backpacking clothes as they weigh almost nothing.
- Comfy loungewear set – When I’m staying in hostels, I tend to sleep in my loungewear as it gives good coverage and means I can go straight from the common room to bed. I like to wear this tie-dye loungewear set from Sidefeel in the summer months as it’s light and breathable. It consists of a loose-fitting v neck short sleeve tee and matching shorts.
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Shoes are an essential part of your backpacking outfits as you will likely be on your feet a lot!
- Durable hiking boots – If you’re hiking, trekking, or hitchhiking, you will need a decent pair of hiking boots that can hold up against constant use. The JABASIC Women’s Hiking Boots have a mid-top design to protect your ankles, a toe guard, and a non-slip TPR with abrasion resistance. They are water-resistant, and there are tiny holes in the mesh fabric to let your feet breathe.
- Long-Lasting flip flops – Flip flops come in useful in many places, such as at the campsite, hostel, and beach. Many cheap flip-flops don’t usually make it to the end of your trip without falling apart. However, Havaianas are highly durable and slip-proof. I like the sling-back style as I find they hold your feet in place better than the traditional ones.
6. Accessories (sunglasses, hat, rain jacket, gloves)
Lastly, when deciding on the clothes to wear backpacking, don’t forget the accessories you may need.
Here are a few things worth bringing with you.
- A packable rain jacket – Rain jackets make one of the most compact and lightweight backpacking clothes. So, even if you’re backpacking in the dry season, it’s still worth taking one. Choose a packable one like this one from JTANIB. You can fold it up into the included pouch and tie it to your daypack for easy access.
- Waterproof gloves – If you’re backpacking in cold weather, you may want to pack some gloves. These gloves by VEBE are lightweight, waterproof, and windproof! They also have an inner layer of insulated fleece cotton to trap warmth inside.
- Infinity scarf – An infinity scarf is another cold-weather backpacking must-have. The Zero Grid Infinity Scarf will not only keep your neck warm but is a multi-functional travel accessory. It has two hidden zip pockets where you can hide your phone, money, or ID. You can also convert it into a blanket, wrap, or shawl, so it will serve you in whichever way you most need.
The Best Backpacking Outfits For Men
If you’re stuck trying to figure out what you need for backpacking as a guy, check out these great backpacking outfits for men!
1. Traveling Outfit
Traveling long-distance on public transport like trains and coaches can be extremely uncomfortable, especially if it is crowded and has minimal leg space.
The clothes you wear also impact your comfort level during your journey, so be sure to pack an outfit that feels soft and comfortable. Here’s what you should look for:
- Comfy tracksuit bottoms – A classic pair of cotton sweatpants like the Nike NSW Club Pants are ideal for long travel journeys as they are so soft and cozy. The smooth feel they give is thanks to the brushed-back fleece fabric.
- A jersey hoodie – A jersey pullover hoodie is great to have should you get cold along the way. You can match your pants with the Nike NSW Club Pullover Hoodie for a trendy yet comfy vibe. This hoodie’s soft cotton jersey fabric also makes it a comfortable piece of backpacking apparel to sleep in on the road.
- A loose-fit t-shirt – If it gets stuffy on the train or coach, you’ll need a breathable tee to prevent you from overheating. The Under Armour Tech 2.0 T-Shirt is a good option as it is made from a quick-drying and ultra-soft UA Tech fabric. It will wick up any sweat super fast and features anti-odor technology, making it perfect for traveling through hot countries like Thailand.
2. Hiking Outfit
It’s essential to have a couple of specific outfits for any hiking, climbing, or sports you might partake in on your trip.
While soft cotton is a good choice for traveling, it’s best to avoid this material for outdoor activities as cotton absorbs moisture and dries slowly.
Instead, look for backpacking outfits that will keep you cool and dry while protecting you from the sun and other elements.
- A lightweight hoodie – A lightweight hoodie is a valuable piece of backpacking apparel for hiking. It can protect your skin from the sun and keep you warm when you reach a high summit and feel a chill. This thin pullover from Willit is fantastic because it has UPF 50+ sun protection, a hood, and thumbholes. It’s also very lightweight so that it won’t weigh you down, and it is breathable and quick-drying.
- Hiking pants with UPF protection – When choosing hiking pants, look for UPF protection and cuffed ankles. These two features will keep you safe from the sun and all the bugs out on the trail. These lightweight hiking pants from BALEAF will serve you well, and you can use them for running and sports too. They feature a leg-opening zipper, and the light fabric is quick-drying and water-repellant.
- Breathable sports tee – Most sports-specific t-shirts are ideal for hiking as they are breathable and moisture-wicking. A t-shirt is preferable as a tank top won’t protect your shoulders from the sun’s harsh rays. Many offer sun protection too, like this one from MOERDENG. As well as rapidly wicking up moisture and dispersing it, it has flatlock seams and printed tags to minimize chafing as you move.
3. City/Town Outfit
If your backpacking trip will extend to towns or cities, it’s best to pack a couple of casual outfits to wear when you’re not in the wilderness.
- T-shirt and shorts – A 2-piece t-shirt and shorts like this one from DOINLINE will make a comfy and stylish urban summer outfit. It’s lightweight and breathable and is perfect for beach visits, riverside strolls, or wandering around a new city.
- Sweater and cargo pants – For colder climates, opt for slim-fit cargo pants over jeans as they are less bulky. These slim-fit pants from Hakjay are stylish, stretchy, and lightweight. Pair them with a simple cotton sweater like this one from Tommy Hilfiger for a trendy Autumn, Winter, and Spring vibe.
If you’re staying in hostels, you can generally wear a comfy tee and cotton joggers to bed.
However, if you’re camping in cold temperatures, you will need to give your sleepwear more consideration.
- Thermal top and long johns – It may not look the sexiest, but a high-quality pair of thermal base layers will keep you warm and comfortable if you’re camping in chilly temperatures. Thermajohn sells both long sleeve thermal tops and long johns made from high-performance fleece fabric. The ultra-fine polyester fibers and closely knitted seams retain the heat even when the outside temperature drops.
It’s essential to look after your feet on the road, and one way to do this is to wear the proper footwear for your activities.
- Solid and sturdy hiking boots – Hiking boots will protect your feet much more than trainers during your trekking and outdoor activities and will last for longer too. Khombu makes high-quality, durable, and lightweight hiking boots that are waterproof too. They have a flexible rubber outsole and no heel, which gives dependable traction and a non-slip grip. They also have a padded collar for ankle support.
- Durable flip flops – If you’re backpacking through tropical countries, you’ll find flip flops at every beach vendor. However, these are often inferior quality and not only last a short time but can potentially damage your feet too. Therefore, buy a high-quality pair like Havaianas before your trip. They are more likely to last the entire trip and are much better value for money. These rubber sandals are lightweight, no-slip, long-lasting, and heat-resistant.
Your backpacking clothing is not complete without accessories. Here are a few things you may need for your upcoming adventure.
- UPF Sunglasses – If you plan to trek or partake in lots of outdoor activities, I’d recommend sports sunglasses instead of the regular style. The Hulislem Sports Sunglasses feature an extremely lightweight polycarbonate frame and have UV 400 mirror flash coating to limit the amount of light entering your eyes.
- Sun hat – Another summer backpacking must-have is a sun hat. This one from Columbia blocks the full spectrum of harmful UV rays and features a mesh vent panel and adjustable chinstrap.
- Beanie hat – If you need protection from the wind rather than the sun, a slouchy beanie hat will come in useful. This winter beanie from OZERO has a thermal knit wool shell and warm polar fleece lining for double the warmth.
Knowing which clothes to pack for backpacking will not only make your trip preparation less stressful. But it will also prevent you from lugging around unsuitable clothes and thus, help you travel light.
What’s more, by having the right clothes for backpacking, you won’t need to hunt down forgotten items in an unfamiliar or remote location!
Need some more inspiration? Check out how to make your backpacking dreams come true!