a group of friends hang out by a lake in the hills

Made To Roam: What To Wear Backpacking

You’ve mapped the route, eager to take that first step and push on into the unknown. But what to wear? We suggest light layers, reliable outerwear, and a solid pair of boots. 

The type of clothes to take backpacking depends on a couple of things: Are you heading to snow-topped peaks, rugged coastline or forest path? What time of year is it? What’s the weather report like? How big’s your bag? Are you happy smelling a little fruity after a few days hiking?

A group of friends stop for coffee on a hike in the mountains

But let’s not get too overwhelmed. It’s really all about packing smart and getting a feel for what works for you. We’re not here to bang on about energy gels, rehydrated meals, and super techy hiking apparel. We like our coffee freshly ground, snacks not to taste like cardboard, space for a few celebratory brewskis, and a more ‘get out there and embrace the journey’ approach to backpacking.

In this guide, we’ll talk all things layering, why some materials are more suited to certain hiking trails, and how to get the most out of your gear. Our advice - breathe it in, loosen your shoulders, and just put one foot in front of the other.

A group of friends point at something on a hike up a mountain

Layer Up

Come rain or shine, a lightweight removable layer can make a real difference. Whether it’s a frosty morning atop a mountain camp spot or sunbleached trail in the heat of the day, you’re likely to want something that you can easily take on or off to control your temperature.

Our Road Trip Essentials and Active Outdoor Range articles should set you straight. Learn how the right layers - base, mid-layer and shell - can keep you dry, regulate temperature, and keep things comfy when out and about on the trail.

A man jumps over a small creek while on a hike in the mountains
A man sits down to tend to a blister while out hiking

A Matter Of Fabrics

We like to bang on about the fabrics we use for a few good reasons. One, they’re responsibly sourced, two, they’re well thought out, and three, they’re all made to work well on the roam. We’ve built in recycled polyester and PFC-Free DWR coatings, and we’ve collaborated with the likes of  Polartec®  to bring you the best gear possible.

A woman wearing a backpack puts the lid on her water bottle

Recycled Polyester

Performs just as well as virgin polyester, but requires 59% less energy to make. That’s a big thumbs up from our product team and just one of the many decisions we make to reduce our impact on the natural world.

For backpackers, recycled polyester is lightweight, quick-drying, and incredibly tough. You’ll find it amongst our fleeces, jackets, and backpacks to encourage a good few seasons of hot footin’ it around mountain passes and coastal trails.

A man sits on the floor of a cabin looking at a map

Organic Cotton

Organic cotton is essentially the same as regular cotton but without all the bad bits. We’re talking pesticides, genetic modifications and other chemicals that don’t do any good for us or the planet.

If you’re more for taking the slow road and not going too techy with your gear, our wide range of classic tees and hoodies should do the trick. Most are made with either 100% organic cotton, or a recycled and organic blend to ensure a soft, comfy fit for all.

Two women make coffee using a Jetboil while on a hike

PFC-Free DWR Coatings

A slightly mind-bending piece of abbreviation, but with a simple enough story behind it. PFC stands for ‘perfluorinated compound’, or more simply ‘fluorocarbons’. These are a whole load of man-made chemicals found in everything from pizza boxes to non-stick pans.

In short, they’re really good at repelling water, dirt and oil, but not so good for the planet. Hence why we give them a wide birth and treat our weather-resistant gear with a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coating that’s PFC-free.

As you’ll see in the coming months, waterproofs with a lessened environmental impact are at the front of our minds. We’ve poked, prodded, and tested a whole bunch of iterations to find the one we’re really proud of. Backpackers take note…

A woman wearing a fleece smiles while out on a hike


Peaking since ‘91, Polartec® are purveyors of top-notch fleeces and thermal-wear within the outdoor space. We’re good buds and hiking partners at this point, collaborating on our Highland, Incline, and Snowdrop Fleeces, as well as the Blaze Gaiter to name a few.

In short, they push the standards of high-quality durable fabrics that meet both performance needs and casual wear. Helping us supply gear that’s made to roam and wander, without letting you down. More from Polartec® in our product picks.

We hope that was helpful and not too techy. Standing you in good stead to make better choices when prepping for a backpacking trip. With that, let’s get moving.

A man and a woman smiling take a drink of water while out on a trail run


These are the layers that sit directly against your skin. Made from breathable materials like recycled polyester, they’re designed to wick moisture away. Nobody likes cold sweat drying on their back. It’s giving us the ‘shivers’.

We’re talking active tees, vests, long-sleeved tops, and leggings. Packing a few to rotate out is well worth the effort, as they’re super quick to dry and take up minimal space in your backpack. If you need more packing tips, our Beginner’s Guide To Backpacking is well worth a read.

A man and a woman prep some food next to their campervan


Made from technical materials like Polartec® fleece, mid-layers keep you warm whilst remaining breathable. They’re versatile, acting as a top layer when the weather suits or as a well-positioned heat holder in colder climes.

Worthy of another shoutout, we’re stoked to have partnered with Polartec®, makers of industry-leading fleece fabric that integrates a grid texture for added toastiness and recycled materials for a lessened environmental impact. The Pinegrove and Crest Recycled Polartec® Fleeces are solid mid-layer options for backpacking trips, think steep ascents up into the hills and exposed trails winding away to the horizon line.

Three friends stop while on a hike in the mountains to take photos

Insulated Layers

Between mid- and outer-layers sit our insulated jackets. You can zip them up on top, or wear them under a weather-resistant smock for added protection against colder temps. They’re made using Thermore Ecodown, the only durable thermal insulation out there to be made from 100% post-consumer plastic bottles, and another partnership we’re pumped about.

If you’re loading up for a few days amongst wild landscapes, we’d recommend packing one of our well-loved Thermore® Insulated Jackets. Some even have PFC-free water-resistant treatments, so can be worn as an outer layer to shield from harsher winds and light rain.

A man wearing hiking layers unzips his jacket and fleece

Weather-Resistant Layers

Your shell or outer jacket layer is the final piece in the layering puzzle. It’s best to keep these in easy reach, so try to not stuff them in under other bits. Built for cold days when the clouds are looking a bit sketchy out, our Weather-Resistant Jackets are all made from recycled polyester and finished with a PFC-free DWR treatment.

Added features like armpit zip vents and peaked hoods make our jackets super versatile for easy layering as and when you need them. Pre- and post-backpacking trip, it’s also good practice to reproof your gear with PFC-free Nikwax after washing to help them maintain water resistance.

A woman sits on a rock while another woman takes a photo of the scenery while in the mountains

Leggings, Trousers & Shorts

Another weather-dependent decision is what to wear on the bottom? With the landscape changing daily, many ups and downs, exposed ridgelines and clifftop trails to contend with, we believe it’s best to be a little over-prepared. That’s not an excuse to over-pack, instead choose a suitable pair of lightweight, moisture-wicking shorts, with a hardier layer, like our Cloudburst Recycled Waterproof Trouser, ready and waiting.

The Drift Trouser, Traveller All Purpose Short, Mantra Recycled Leggings, and Roundtrip Trails are all great options for backpackers looking to pack smart and light, but still with room for a few creature comforts. Check out our Backpacking Essentials Checklist for more info.

A cap rested on a table next to tortillas

Accessories & Add-Ons

The best piece of kit is the one with the most stories. Of past adventures, close scrapes, stunner sunsets, and all with the scars to prove it. Here at Passenger, it’s all about caps, hats and beanies that have been with us through it all.

It’s well worth grabbing your go-to cap, trucker, or bucket hat for a little more protection from the sun, strapping it to the outside of your pack for easy access. A beanie can be great for colder weather, protecting your ears from windchill, or as an add-on when making camp and getting some shuteye.

A pair of our Polar Fleece Gloves are also a great shout, as they’ll keep your digits warm and can be used when using a touchscreen phone or GPS system. If things are looking seriously cold, our Recycled Headband, Polar Fleece Hood, or Blaze Recycled Polartec® Gaiter are well worth the investment.

A closeup of a backpack unzipped and a man sat on a rock eating watermelon


With most long-distance roams, you’ll likely experience quite a harsh drop in temperature when setting up camp, cooking dinner, and slipping into your sleeping bag. We advise keeping a few more comfortable layers for overnight stops separate from your trail gear.

Everyone can appreciate a clean, dry set of sleepwear such as a spare tee, cosy leggings, and maybe even a beanie if things get frosty. Don’t forget an extra pair of socks dedicated to the tent, and maybe strap a pair of lightweight sandals to your pack to give your feet a well-earned rest.

A man stands under a waterfall wearing shorts

Washing Clothes On The Road

When you're out on the trail, keeping your clothes clean can be a challenge. But there are a few planet-friendly methods that might just work for you.

Embrace The Funk

The most cost-effective way to wash your clothes when on a backpacking trip? Simply don’t wash them. Now this isn’t a tried-and-tested science and you might get some weird looks when passing others on the trail, but it’ll save you a bunch of space in your pack. We wouldn’t advise this though if you’re looking to be on your feet for a good few days. Phooey.

River Dunkin’

Make sure to avoid using any detergent or chemical-heavy wash soap when near water sources, but a quick scrub and a dunk can do the world of good. To dry, simply lay out your wet clothes on a rock whilst you stop for a spot of lunch, or hang them to your pack whilst on the move. A few spare carabiners go a long way.

Drying Overnight

Another nifty tip is to roll any damp clothes in a quick-dry towel when packing away for the night. Or bring them in your sleeping bag to benefit from your body heat, but maybe don’t try this if it’s cold out.

A woman puts on a backpack
A woman does up her backpack

Packing Tips & Tricks

Deep amber sunrises, bird calls, and postcard-worthy landscapes are all part of backpacking. Slinging everything you need over one shoulder, strapping up, and taking that first step. It’s an incredibly exciting experience, so let’s make sure you’re ready.

Here are a few helpful footnotes taken from our 9 Top Tips For Beginner Backpackers.

Looking Ahead

Before departure, it’s well worth taking note of the terrain, local wildlife, and any potential dangers that you may encounter along the way. And don’t forget to do a final weather check!

Gear To Get You There

The right gear can be the difference between a backpacking trip to remember, and one that’s best forgotten. Don’t skimp on the essentials! The right backpack, reliable tent, sleeping gear, and lightweight layers are a must.

Pack With Purpose

It’s always worth going for the eco-conscious gear option, whether it be biodegradable soap, recycled cotton tees, or reusable sandwich wraps. This means you’ll have a lessened impact on your surrounding environment when out backpacking on the trail.

A man and a woman stop for a break on their trail run and look over the beach


What do I do if I'm not sure what clothes to pack for my trip?

If you're unsure about what clothes to bring, think first about the weather and terrain. Then ask around, read up online, or watch a few videos on what’s best to pack.

What do I do if the weather changes suddenly during my trip?

It's important to be ready for sudden rainfall or high winds. Pack clothes you can easily layer to stay warm or cool. Also, check the weather forecast before you go and bring a rain jacket and extra layers in case it gets chilly.

What do I do if my clothes get dirty while hiking?

If your clothes get dirty, try rinsing them in a stream or washing them with a little eco soap and water (away from natural water sources). Hang them in the sun, and make sure they're completely dry before wearing them again.

Back to blog