How to choose hiking t-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets and underwear ​

Published by Elena Feresin on

How to choose hiking t-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets and underwear

Come scegliere giacca, felpe, t-shirt e intimo da trekking​
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Our climb into the world of technical trekking clothing has finally reached its peak.

The good news is that, especially in the summer, you don’t need to take out a mortgage to buy quality technical jerseys.
The bad news is that the t-shirts you have at home almost certainly are not fit for hikes.

What rules should you follow when buying hiking t-shirts?

Quando si tratta di vestire la parte superiore del corpo, ci sono due regole ferree:

  • NO COTTON: You can search as much as you want, the top brands of technical trekking clothing do not use cotton. And even if you can find some cotton t-shirts, they will be in the streetwear line. The truth is that cotton is the number one enemy you don’t want to take with you to the mountains. 
  • YES, ONION: “To dress like an onion” is the Italian way of saying “to dress in layers”. At the mountains places the weather changes within minutes, it is important to be prepared for everything and the only way to do this is to dress in layers.

Why you really shouldn’t use cotton

Because cotton is not a fabric that dries easily. Even if you are a person who does not sweat, there are places where sweating is inevitable.
When you sweat, cotton wets and stays wet. If you stay wet in summer, the wind might blow your neck out. If you stay wet in winter the sweat will freeze on you, you will be cold and you will risk flu. I would say this is not the time to get ANY kind of influence.

Don’t be afraid of synthetic fabric

For everyday clothes, one of my biggest frustrations is not finding natural fibers clothing made. Especially in the women’s department, it seems that nylon and all its inconveniences are everywhere. When I found myself in the trekking department of sports shops, I had a hard time convincing myself that I needed synthetic fabrics. Especially when I saw the prices.

Eventually, I learned that synthetic fabrics are not something to be afraid of. Hiking synthetic fabrics are the product of many engineering tests, are covered by patents, and are specially designed to be breathable, waterproof, and lightweight. Very often the fabrics have a specific name. Here, you can get an idea of the technologies behind the Bozen-based brand Salewa.

What are the main differences between cheap and expensive garments?

In my experience, there are two main differences.

  • Expensive trekking clothes are more breathable. They make you sweat less and when wet they dry faster.
  • Also, they are more compact. For t-shirts, the difference is minimal but when it comes to winter jackets, volume can make the difference. Obviously having little bulky layers helps us to carry all the “onion” layers we need.

Is it worth it to buy expensive hiking clothes?

Especially for this kind of garment, it depends on how often you hike. The frequency of use allows you to amortize the cost. If you hike once a year, I honestly don’t think it’s worth it.
If instead, you hike frequently, or you are starting to hike, it may be worth it to invest in some technical clothes. If you want to take the whim off, I suggest you try to buy a simple trekking t-shirt during sales to assess whether it is worth it or not for you.

My experience with hiking t-shirts

For a very long time, I have used low-cost t-shirts. Stefano didn’t seem particularly eager to have me to buying something more technical (on shoes he had been inflexible).

As I suggested, last year, during summer sales, I bought two Salewa technical shirts and … I immediately could tell the difference. TI bought Salewa’s Puez Melange Dry’Ton and the Pedroc 2 Dry’Ton. Although I suffer a lot from the heat, the breathability of the shirts makes the heat more bearable. In addition, despite the sweat, bad smells are greatly reduced. But again, if you still go to the mountains sporadically, it is an expense that you can postpone.

Hiking underwear, yes or no?

Absolutely yes! This is the upper body garment I really advise you to invest in, regardless of how often you go to the mountains. It’s always wise to have a technical hiking jersey somewhere in the house. Stefano gave me a UYN underwear shirt for Christmas and the comfort I feel makes me regret not having bought one before. I also use my shirt for running and walking around the house.
Believe me, it’s better to buy such a thing right away, rather than buying strange under-jackets of unlikely fabrics, etc.

As for the trekking bras, I’m still in the evaluation phase.

Maglia tecnica UYN
Maglia tecnica UYN

My experience with hiking sweatshirts

For the moment, sweatshirts are all low-cost. I use the Decathlon fleeces BUT, for my birthday, I was given a hiking sweatshirt. The benefits I noticed are the same ones I mentioned before, greater breathability and compactness. Again the expense is justified by how much you hike throughout the year.

My experience with hiking jackets

The most useful purchase I have ever made from Decathlon is for sure my jacket, a super “onion” solution since it is a 3 in 1 model. The down jacket and waterproof shell can also be used separately.
The only two things you will need to pay attention to with this jacket are:

  • If the rainfall is very, very, very intense, the shell will not be enough.
  • The jacket is patented down to -8 degrees and that’s actually the case. So consider bringing a heavy layer to keep under your jacket, especially if there are no mountain huts on your trail.


giacca-decathlon completa

How to choose a hats and trekking gloves

Chel da berete nissun je pete, we say in Friuli (No one does it to those who wear a cap).
If in winter it is almost impossible to go hiking without a hat (preferably with at least one fleece layer), in summer even more so. Choose a waterproof one so it can come in handy in more than one situation. If it’s hot and you sweat, the waterproof one will dry out sooner. At the same time, if you encounter a downpour it could also shelter you from the rain.

As for the gloves, I recommend you get them in Goretex to protect your hands from the wind. In case of extreme cold, Stefano also has a pair of under gloves to warm hands quickly.

I hope my tips have been useful to you!

If you liked these articles, continue reading here my guide to choosing the trekking backpack.

The Writer's Mountain Hut in Val Bartolo, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy


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