From hiking boots to active clothing suitable for autumn walks, here is our expert review guide on the best walking gear for the season.
EDZ men’s Merino Wool Plaid Flannel Shirt
Wool shirts such as this one can be great for hiking in cool autumn weather.
You can turn the collar up against the wind or button it against the cold – or unbutton when you want to cool down. The chest pockets are useful place to carry a compass or snack. If you choose a loose-fitting shirt, you can wear a T-shirt or base layer beneath.
This shirt from British gear maker EDZ also has a discreet bonus: it’s made from merino wool. That’s great for keeping your temperature even. It feels comfortable next to your skin, and naturally absorbs moisture, while feeling dry. It also stays fresh-smelling despite repeated wears.
The eco-conscious will also note the all-natural materials, which – unlike polyester – will eventually biodegrade safely.
The downside of hiking in shirts is mainly in the layering. As your temperature changes through a walk, they can be more fiddly to remove than a pullover or zippered top, and you’ll need to choose a loose midlayer that fits comfortably over the top; once you’ve added a midlayer, the combination can feel a little bulky, partly thanks to the shirt pockets and collar.
But in the right conditions – dry and cool autumn days among them – and with the right layers to compliment, a shirt like this is a pleasure to walk in.
The Singi Trekking Shirt (Fjällraven, £110) is a tough, wind-resistant layer for men, with roomy pockets and a relaxed fit.
Neither EDZ nor Fjällraven currently offer versions of these shirts for women, but Norwegian firm Aclima make a stylish and practical woven wool shirt.
Mountain Equipment men’s Ignis LS Zip Tee
A less traditional approach is a long-sleeved top like this which is the most versatile and practical base layer for autumn, spring and summer. If you overheat, the sleeves can be rolled up or the half-length zip opened.
A small collar protects the next from hot sun or cold drafts.
The polyester fabric fabric could be softer, but feels dry even when damp. It contains Polygiene, an anti-microbial treatment that helps it stay fresh – useful for overnight expeditions.
The top is lightweight and low-profile, so when things get a bit chillier, it’s really easy to add layers without feeling bulky.
Mountain Equipment don’t make a version of this top for women – but Rab’s Pulse LS Zip (£40) has all the same features.
Smartwool Merino Sport 150 Tee
I’ve been a bit sceptical about merino wool base layers, but this highly versatile and adaptable T-shirt changed my mind. I’ve often found merino wool tops faintly itchy – but not this one; the loose fit probably helps.
The lightweight, 56% merino/44% polyester fabric feels remarkably pleasant and breathable in warm weather, or when you are working hard uphill. It soaks up sweat without clinging to your skin, and dries out pretty fast. Then when things turn chilly, it insulates well beneath a shirt or jacket.
There are various colour options and graphic designs to choose from, and men’s and women’s versions too. Finally, the T will stay remarkably fresh over a few days’ walking, even without washing. (Men’s version above, women’s below.) JP
Smartwool light cushion crew hike socks
Humble old socks are sometimes taken for granted – but not by serious hikers. They know that unsuitable socks can be your Achilles’ heel – slowly bringing a hike to a painful conclusion.
To keep your feet warm, dry-feeling and blister-free, look for close-fitting socks like these, which don’t rumple. There are no seams to rub on your skin. They are made from a combination of 54% merino wool to keep feet warm and dry-feeling, with 45% nylon (most of it recycled) to boost durability, while a little Elastane helps them keep their shape and stay close-fitting when damp.
For cool autumn walks, these contain just the right amount of insulation, and some light cushioning helps protect your soles from the pounding of a long day’s trek.
Take care of them – wash cool to stop them shrinking. JP
Yeti Rambler 532 ml bottle with Hotshot cap
It’s 10am, you’ve hiked through the mist and found a sheltered hollow to rest in the autumn sunshine. Time for one of the great pleasures of walking in autumn and winter: stopping for a few moments to appreciate the beauty of your surroundings and reward yourself for getting here – with a hot drink. Luckily you have a flask of hot coffee in your pack. On day hikes, when my pack is light, I like to carry a tough, stainless steel vacuum bottle like this 532ml bottle from Yeti. They are built to last and don’t leak. They are also ruggedly good-looking and you can choose from a huge palette of colours. JP
inov-8 Roclite Pro G400 GTX boots
Comfortable, grippy and responsive, these lightweight boots are great for moderately demanding autumn walks. Gore-Tex lining keeps your feet dry and the soles are hard-wearing, thanks to added graphene.
Check out more walking boot reviews.
Helly Hansen Odin Stretch hooded insulator
Filled with extremely warm synthetic insulation (Primaloft Gold Active+), and with a stretchy fabric. Despite weighing only 580g, the jacket felt impressively cosy and cushioned. It delivers real warmth but you don’t get the build-up of sweat you can experience from some jackets while stomping the hills.
Its stretchy fabric, featuring two breathable panels under the pits, makes the jacket incredibly comfortable, allowing unrestrained movement perfect for all outdoor activities. (Review: Tim Bates)
• Reviews above by Joe Pontin (JP), unless otherwise stated