While hiking, your lower body is a lot easier to keep warm than your upper body. When your leg muscles get active they produce a lot of heat. If you hike higher miles, you may find that your lower body can get by with thinner layers. People who hike lower miles – and thus spend more time at camp – may want to bring thicker (warmer) layers since they’ll be spending more time at camp where they’re muscles won’t be producing as much heat.
Your base layer, worn under your summer layer, can be a good defense against the cold during your morning hikes. Polyester thermal bottoms are thin and light. For a warmer base layer, consider polypropylene bottoms (such as Under Armour). They should fit snuggly against your skin, but they shouldn’t be uncomfortable.
Lightest option: Weight will vary by how thick you want your base layer. Icebreaker Bodyfit 150 Leggings with Fly ($55) weigh 5.3 oz. To learn more click here. If you want to go thinner you could check out polyester thermals
Cheapest option: Polyester thermals from Wal-Mart or Target are very inexpensive.
This is the layer you’ll be wearing most often. A pair of shorts is by far the most common choice. Running shorts and light weight, synthetic cargo shorts are common choices. Some hikers wear pants with legs that zip off into shorts. You’ll want to be sure your shorts are loose and comfortable. You’ll want to make sure the waist band can adjust to your waist – which will probably shrink along your hike. Choose a color and style you like, then test hike in them to make sure they are comfortable.
Lightest option: Any pair of running shorts.
Cheapest option: Any pair of light weight, comfortable, synthetic shorts that you already own will work. If you don’t own a pair, check Ross or a thrift store. Wal-Mart, Target, etc. will always be cheaper than a sporting goods store.
Your base layer, summer layer, and rain shell – worn together – are usually warm enough for hikers while they are moving down the trail. But when you are at camp, a warmth layer can add a lot of extra comfort. Fleece pants are very common. A lighter, but much more expensive option are down pants (but remember, you cannot let down get wet).
Lightest option: The Montbell Down Inner Pant ($140) weighs just 6.7 oz. To learn more, click here. Many hikers hiking high miles do not bring a warmth layer for the lower body at all. That’s because they don’t need it while hiking, and they usually get tucked into their sleeping bag shortly after making camp.
Cheapest option: A pair of fleece pants at Ross usually costs less than $15. The same goes for thrift stores. If you’ll be doing high miles, you may not need to bring a warmth layer for your lower body. You’ll have to decide that for yourself.
Your wind\rain shell needs to protect you from cold wind, rain, and bugs. A heavy rain jacket is not necessary. All you need is a thin layer of waterproof material cover your lower body. Your warmth layer will provide any warmth you need. Your rain shell doesn’t need to be as durable as a rain jacket for construction workers. It won’t get beaten up as much as you might imagine. And if it does – it is easily repairable with a small piece of Duct tape. Remember, you are going out for a hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. You aren’t going to war. Keep it simple.
Lightest option: The Cuben Fiber Rain Pants weigh 1.2 oz. Not available for purchase. You must make your own. To learn more, click here.
Cheapest option: The Dri Duck Light Weight Hooded Rain Suit costs about $12 at Target (and comes with a light weight rain jacket to boot). Dri Ducks are not durable enough for most hikers. If you want something more durable, you can always buy a pair of $12 waterproof running pants from Ross and remove the cotton lining. The result is an 8 oz pair of rain pants for less than $15.
Gaiters prevent things from falling into your shoes. Imagine how annoying it would be to have to stop every half mile to remove rocks from your shoe. Every half mile for 2,600 miles. Uhg. Gators solve that problem, and most experienced hikers wear them.
Simblissity Leva Gaiters are ultralight gaiters designed for long distance hikers. To learn more about Simblissity Leva Gaiters click here.
Dirty Girl Gaiters offers gaiters for men and women in different colored, awesome prints. It’s a cool way to spice up your trail clothes, and the their prices are very competitive. They are designed to fit over running shoes or trail shoes, and are also very light weight. To learn more about Dirty Girl Gaiters click here.
See our selection of the best backpacks to use on the Pacific Crest Trail and how to choose the one that's right for you.Read More
Everything thing you need to know in order to choose the right shoes for you on the PCT. Plus, we'll give you a list of popular options to get you started.Read More
Choose the right gear for you. Learn about balancing pack weight with comfort on the trail and see what's most popular with the PCT hiking community.Read More
Has the information above changed? Know something other hikers should know? Leave a comment below.
Plan Your Hike is reader supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Are you all set on gear for the Pacific Crest Trail? Check out our Ultimate Gear Guide for the PCT ->