Quick-Dry Base Layer
You need quick-dry base layers that are lightweight and wick away sweat. Never wear cotton when hiking in the alps. We typically pack 3 base layers for a trek: 2 short-sleeve shirts and 1 long-sleeve shirt. Quick-dry shirts are also easier to wash.
Update 2023: We’re increasingly hiking in merino wool. The biggest advantage of merino wool is that it doesn’t smell, even after several consecutive days of use. So, it’s ideal for multi-day hikes. The disadvantage is that it doesn’t dry quickly. If we take a longer break (e.g. lunch), I absolutely have to change my shirt, or else I’m just sitting in cold sweat.
Insulating Mid Layer
A hiking vest is an essential garment for hiking hut to hut in the alps. It keeps your core warm on the trail, whether you’re hiking in windy conditions, or at high elevations. We love the Columbia Women’s Powder Lite Vest.
Merino Wool Jacket
When it’s crisp (especially in the morning), it’s essential to have a mid-layer zip-up jacket to keep you warm on the trail.
We love this merino jacket: Icebreaker Quantum III Long-Sleeve Zip Jacket – Women’s / Icebreaker Quantum III Long-Sleeve Zip Jacket – Men’s. We each own two. I recommend buying a darker color, because the light-color jackets stain more easily. The zipper is initially finicky.
Alternatively, you can pack a full-zip fleece.
There’s always a chance of rain in the Alps. We’ve hiked hours and hours in rain during some of our treks. It’s essential to always carry a proper rain jacket. Kati’s North Face Venture Rain Jacket has proven durable and effective over the last few years.
Hooded Puffer Jacket
Pack a lightweight puffer jacket for insulation and extra warmth both on the trail and in the mountain huts.
Merino Wool Hiking Socks
We recommend wearing Merino wool hiking socks.
Currently, our favorite sock is this Smartwool womens Performance Hike Full Cushion Crew / Smartwool Men Performance Hike Full Cushion Crew.
Make sure your hiking socks are snug. They shouldn’t be too big, or you’ll get blisters.
The Macpac Women’s Hike Tight Pants are the best hiking pants for women. We both own two pairs and have been wearing them continuously for years. We love their flexibility and ability to shed water. Macpac Women’s Hike Tight Pants are also breathable and extremely comfortable in all types of weather.
These pants also feature an elastic waist (no belt necessary) and elastic ankles. That means you can stretch the pants over your hiking boots, thus preventing rocks and debris from getting into your boots.
Unfortunately, Macpac gear isn’t easy to find outside of New Zealand. If you’re based in Europe, we recommend the Dynafit Transalper 2 Light Dynastretch Pants. Here’s the men’s version: Dynafit Men Transalper 2 Light Dynastretch Pants.
These breathable pants are fantastic. They allow for maximum flexibility and have elastic ankles.