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  1. #1

    Default Having a hard time deciding what to wear thru-hiking for the lower half

    I'm sure there are a ton of other threads on this topic, I haven't been able to find what I'm really looking for. Which is: What is the best combo, or layer for your lower half while thru-hiking?

    I've seen many people mention running shorts, but what do you do when it get cooler out, or cold for your lower legs?

    And chaffing, I've seen people mention compression shorts, kilts, nothing at all.....

    I guess I'm looking for what people wore and how did it work out? Would you change anything different from what you did? I'm currently leaning towards a kilt, but I'm not 100% sure.

  2. #2

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    so many variables

    When are you planning to start? Also, what works in the start of the hike may be very different from the middle and ends of the hike (all dependent on your speed but also that year's weather)
    are you normally "hot" or "cold?" Personally I am pretty warm when hiking but get cold quickly when stationary so I may have an "extra" layer compared to others
    do you figure you will stop, take off the shorts/kilt and then put something else on or do you want to be able to add layers "on the fly" without taking layers already worn, off to accommodate the new layer?

    And so many options-
    shorts
    pants
    leggings
    rain pants (even if it's not raining)
    an insulating base layer like silk or synthetic, etc

    I prefer to be able to put ALL my layers on at once if needed. If I can't wear ALL my clothes at one time in the worst of weather than my clothes are not sized correctly and/or I am carrying too much.
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  3. #3

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    I'm currently planning a SoBo in 2020, leaving in early June. I'm guessing between 4-6 months on the trail. I do run warm while hiking, but as you, cool off fast when stopped. I currently hike in the White often, I normally wear zip offs as the weather and elevation change makes it cooler, and then warmer. I'm not sure I'll need that while thru-hiking.
    I guess, like you are saying, I could start with and end with a couple extras, and during the warmer months just stick with shorts/kilt.

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    Under the early June SOBO scenario it would depend on how rain is approached what I bring on the lower half. I'd want to cover up some days as I'd be catching black fly season. Looks kind of weird but silk wt bottoms/leggings under a kilt/rain skirt/running shorts. The silk wt bottoms would double as part of the sleep system being worn to sleep. If not using a kilt or rain skirt I'd have rain pants for ME. I'd hike in them on some non rainy days as pseudo wind pants.

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    You know options
    You just cant decide


    Many bring 2 sets of long johns in cold wet weather
    One for hiking, one for sleeping only .

    Some bring town clothes, most dont

    You can bounce anything you like you arent using

    Extra stuff adds 1 -1.5 lb. It not a big deal.

    People hike in ventillated long pants too

    Theres options, because people like different things. What someone else likes, may not work for you. Try actually hiking its a good way to learn what YOU like

  6. #6
    Registered User ldsailor's Avatar
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    I can tell you what hasn't really worked for me and I'll be changing for this year's LASH. Shorts in hot weather. Polyester cargo shorts to be exact and the shorts from my zipper convertible pants. I sweat through them completely and they get heavy and clinging and make hiking less comfortable. The inseam is just too long. I tried to buy some running shorts while on the trail last year, but couldn't find any. This year I will definitely have light weight running shorts. Also, I wear compression type underwear. I've never had a chafe problem.
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    Registered User scope's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MuddyWaters View Post
    ...Theres options, because people like different things. What someone else likes, may not work for you. Try actually hiking its a good way to learn what YOU like
    Maybe a bit direct, but he's right.
    "I wonder if anyone else has an ear so tuned and sharpened as I have, to detect the music, not of the spheres, but of earth, subtleties of major and minor chord that the wind strikes upon the tree branches. Have you ever heard the earth breathe... ?"
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    Not thru-hiking, but I usually bring a pair of both long pants and shorts mostly because I've never found a pair of convertibles where the leg zippers don't rub against the top of my thighs, especially when hiking up steeps and rocks and such. Almost all convertible leg pants are cut narrower in the thigh than made for purpose shorts, plus the zipper distorts the way they hang and fall on the leg. Obviously very annoying to me. Others find them okay. As noted above, different people like different things. Often I'll start off in the morning with long pants if it's still cool out and change into to shorts mid morning, then back into long pants late afternoon or once done hiking for the day unless it's really hot out. Depends on the weather, and bugs as well.

  9. #9

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    Thank for all the replies. I'm new here on this forum.

    I do understand that I need to hike and figure this out on my own. Maybe I was not clear in the beginning. I'm looking for ideas, and different things that have worked for other who have thru hiked the AT. I have not yet hiked the AT, or been on a 4+ month hike. I have been on many many multi day hikes, I also volunteer with the USFS in the White Mountain of NH, I'm in the Whites almost every weekend, and some weekdays when I can.

    I have hiked a lot, I have finished the NH 48 4K footers a couple times over.

    I was looking for the opinions similar to 4eyedbuzzard opinion on the zip off pants. I normally wear zip offs, but figured that on a thru hike that might not be the best option. This is why I'm leaning towards a kilt. I do not carry rain pants, I use a rain skirt. I do carry a rain shell that I use for more than just rain; wind shell, a little extra warmth.

    I currently have my base weight around ~11 - 13 lbs.

    On my normal hikes I carry a pair of tall gaiters, and wear them with shorts when raining, or after a good rain. They keep my legs warm, and protected. But they are a bit heavy to carry on a thru hike. Maybe my idea setup is a kilt and knee high lightweight gaiters?

    Again, just looking for idea of what has worked for other, and what has not worked. I'm ultimately going to test out my decision and make it on my own.

    Thanks again.....

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    There are many outdoor stores along the way to help you dial it in.

    If I was really starting I would do a few hikes equipped exactly how I want to do my thru and I would pick the harshest trail and worst weather forecast.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Remy View Post
    Thank for all the replies. I'm new here on this forum.

    I do understand that I need to hike and figure this out on my own. Maybe I was not clear in the beginning. I'm looking for ideas, and different things that have worked for other who have thru hiked the AT. I have not yet hiked the AT, or been on a 4+ month hike. I have been on many many multi day hikes, I also volunteer with the USFS in the White Mountain of NH, I'm in the Whites almost every weekend, and some weekdays when I can.

    I have hiked a lot, I have finished the NH 48 4K footers a couple times over.

    I was looking for the opinions similar to 4eyedbuzzard opinion on the zip off pants. I normally wear zip offs, but figured that on a thru hike that might not be the best option. This is why I'm leaning towards a kilt. I do not carry rain pants, I use a rain skirt. I do carry a rain shell that I use for more than just rain; wind shell, a little extra warmth.

    I currently have my base weight around ~11 - 13 lbs.

    On my normal hikes I carry a pair of tall gaiters, and wear them with shorts when raining, or after a good rain. They keep my legs warm, and protected. But they are a bit heavy to carry on a thru hike. Maybe my idea setup is a kilt and knee high lightweight gaiters?

    Again, just looking for idea of what has worked for other, and what has not worked. I'm ultimately going to test out my decision and make it on my own.

    Thanks again.....
    Most of my hiking has been in the Whites as well. And that's where my personal dislike for zip-offs comes from. But if you have used them there and don't have issues with them, they are more convenient and offer a little weight savings. I've also hiked in shorts over a long base layer. I think it's good to have options. Especially in the first month of a thru-hike though, a little extra clothing during the cold start wouldn't be a bad thing. Once the weather gets more predictably warm after GSMNP and southern VA, you could get rid of any clothing you find that you're not using much, usually around the same time you might trade in your sleeping bag for a lighter one.

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    Ive done a lot of hiking with zipoffs in cooler conditions. I like pockets. My id and cc stay on me, i keep tp in pocket, map and phone in pockets. Zippers never bothered my legs.

    Start in cool morning, unzip a little as warms, take off eventually . Put on in evening in camp when cool.

    But its 6oz of dead wt in warmer, and the pocketed shorts are 9 vs 5 for running shorts. But i like phone and maps /profile in pockets. When its really hot.....i i resort to running shorts, linerless, over compression shorts.



    But rain pants can be used for warmth too in evenings. Biggest thing....i like pockets and certain items on me. What if bear stole pack....with phone , id, cc, all in it? Im never separated from my pack, it goes where i go, but you never know what can happen.

    Also have always used cheap thin walmart starter compression shorts (flyless). No issues. After a week of sweating i start smelling like rotten shrimp down there, but thats another story. Compression shorts reasonably keep things in place, dont chafe, and keep ticks out of that region. One less area to check.
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 05-12-2019 at 20:20.

  13. #13

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    I live in the whites and have so for 30 years. I use Columbia Backcast zip off pants with mesh liners. Never had the reported issues with the leg zippers. It may look odd but I just stuff the pant legs down in the tops of my socks when I zip them down. I carry two pairs of shorts and one set of pant legs. I give then a frequent permetherin spray. They fit the best and seem to hold up the longest but the down side is they do not have a zipper.

  14. #14
    Registered User Christoph's Avatar
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    On my thru hike (and multiple AT sections) I always hike commando to lessen any chaffing (plus less to wash/smell/etc...). It's almost inevitable though, so just wash the "areas affected" daily to get the salt off.
    So there's that.... Lol
    I took a pair of long hiking pants and 2 pairs of zip off shorts (for a total of 3 pairs of long pants if needed). NO rain gear for the bottom end, you'll just get soaked anyway due to sweat or water always seems to find a direct path from your pack to the spots you wanted to keep dry anyway. Remember, you'll probably be hiking in rain sometimes ALL day, for multiple days at a time.
    But everyone's different so do what works for you. You can always send stuff home along the way after it warms up a month in but you can't always purchase warm stuff that fits at a moments notice.
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  15. #15
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    For like 90% of an AT thru hike I think a nice pair of lightweight running shorts with a comfortable liner or linerless with a comfortable pair of underwear, a pair of lightweight merino wool long underwear, and a rain skirt is ideal.

    I'm still looking for my favorite pair of hiking shorts but I'm trying to switch to shorts with a liner.

    If I were to hike the AT again i'd be rocking...

    Patagonia Nine trails Running Shorts
    Minus 33 Lightweight Merino Long Johns
    MLD DCF Rain Skirt

    I would have a pair of rail riders eco mesh pants to start or end with if i felt necessary.



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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    I live in the whites and have so for 30 years. I use Columbia Backcast zip off pants with mesh liners. Never had the reported issues with the leg zippers. It may look odd but I just stuff the pant legs down in the tops of my socks when I zip them down. I carry two pairs of shorts and one set of pant legs. I give then a frequent permetherin spray. They fit the best and seem to hold up the longest but the down side is they do not have a zipper.
    I've been interested in those pants for a while. They look like ideal zip offs. Baggy, stretchy waistband

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  17. #17

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    In cool weather I find long convertible pants and knee high gaiters to be plenty enough for warmth.The rain pants are always in the pack if the weather calls for them.I seldom remove the lower pant legs but do vent them with the zippers.In deep summer I will go with hiking shorts and knee high gaiters to protect the legs;plus they are heavily treated with permethrin for ticks.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Five Tango View Post
    In cool weather I find long convertible pants and knee high gaiters to be plenty enough for warmth.The rain pants are always in the pack if the weather calls for them.I seldom remove the lower pant legs but do vent them with the zippers.In deep summer I will go with hiking shorts and knee high gaiters to protect the legs;plus they are heavily treated with permethrin for ticks.
    I agree with the treatment for ticks. However, in like a decade of hiking in the White Mountains I've never encountered a tick. Other regions of NH, have seen hundreds of them. But on the 48 4k peaks, the AT, the cohos, and alot of the 52WAV mtns, I've never even seen a tick in the whites. Maybe peakbagger can chime in on this one. Maybe they are all on the bushwacks and off trail stuff.

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    Although I'm currently home nursing an ankle sprain, this is what I've worn/brought so far on my NOBO Thru attempt:

    Patagonia Baggies 5" shorts (lined)
    No underwear
    North Face running tights (I almost never wore these while hiking, mainly for camp. I sent these home in Hot Springs, and it absolutely screwed me.)
    Zpacks Rain Kilt

    RE the running tights: these were cozy as hell in camp, but I sent them home early. We had a really warm snap after the Smokies. So of course, we got freaking dealt with on the Roan Highlands in mid-April with an unbelievable storm. Really, really consider where you would send stuff home.

    When I got off the trail a week ago we hadn't seen any ticks (in the Catawba area), but I'm treating all of my clothing while I'm home with Permethrin before I jump back on.

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by fastfoxengineering View Post
    I agree with the treatment for ticks. However, in like a decade of hiking in the White Mountains I've never encountered a tick. Other regions of NH, have seen hundreds of them. But on the 48 4k peaks, the AT, the cohos, and alot of the 52WAV mtns, I've never even seen a tick in the whites. Maybe peakbagger can chime in on this one. Maybe they are all on the bushwacks and off trail stuff.

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    I would have agreed with you 30 years ago but the wood ticks started moving north. They tended to follow the major river corridors. First it was the Saco river and they were quite noticeable when paddling in the Conway area. Then I started seeing them along the Androscoggin river in Shelburne and the trails in that area including the non AT portion of the Mahoosuc Trail and the Centennial trail. They also worked up the Connecticut river. As the years went by they worked up the valleys and utility right of ways. I now have some land in Randolph along Durand road and got covered with wood ticks last year. In the last few years. I have been doing a lot of hikes with redliners and many of those hikes are on the fringes of the WMNF down low and that is where I see them usually in the late spring/early summer. Once I head up higher (over 2K ) I dont see them.

    To date I have not found a deer tick on me. The white tail deer population in the whites is historically low and unlike the surrounding areas the north of the whites are not great habitat for them while central and southern NH have a very high deer population in the ever expanding developed areas. The peak winter conditions north of the whites tends to knock down the population. There are numerous studies that deer tick populations are pretty much directly correlated with high deer populations and high deer populations are usually result of habitat related to development. Luckily the WMNF are managed to grow trees not farm fields and suburban backyards and as woods mature, the preferred deer habitat reduces. Hopefully it will stay that way so Lyme disease stays south. Wood ticks are still very annoying and their bites can get infected but at this point the number of nasty diseases tied to them is lower.

    A general rule is if I am in hardwoods adjacent to open field or river valleys I need to be more careful than in softwoods and if I know there is area gets deer hunting pressure I also need to watch out.

    The winter ticks that are ravaging the moose population may be dense up north but they don't go after people.

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