There is certainly an art to dressing for the great outdoors. As my uncle used to always say, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just a bad choice of clothing.”
So, if you’re planning on heading out on a Nordic walking adventure, it’s important you have the right type of clothing. Although Nordic walking poles are the most obvious piece of equipment you need to bring, good clothing can’t be underestimated!
Once you get moving, you’ll get warm so as a general rule, having layers of unrestrictive, lightweight clothing, that you can remove/add at a time, is often recommended. Breathable fabric that “wicks” sweat and moisture away from your skin will also keep you comfortable and keep you feeling refreshed and energised.
The weather will dictate the exact clothing you’ll need to take on a walk, but there are some general guidelines that will help you choose the best type of clothing. We’ve highlighted some key pieces of clothing you can’t go without if you want to stay comfortable during your walk.
What to Wear for Nordic Walking
Base layers are a good place to kick things off. Investing in a quality base layer will make all the difference. Base layers will be touching your skin, so have the ability to wick moisture away and keep you feeling less sweaty – on a long walk in the middle of summer, this is worth its wait in gold!
It’s arguably even more important in winter as your sweat is designed to cool you down, but in cold conditions, this can make you feel quite cold.
Base layers are likely to be synthetic in material.
They range from basic breathable t-shirts to pricey garments with patented technology, promising all sorts of features. It’s up to you what sort of investment you think you’ll need.
Base layers aren’t necessarily designed to keep you warm (that’s the job on the mid-layer), so lightweight base layers will offer more versatility as you can wear them all year round. Thick base layers may not be suitable for summer.
Base layers come in short-sleeve and long-sleeve options so the choice is yours.
Similarly, in cold months, you’ll probably want to think about a base layer for your legs (similar to skiing). This can range from yoga-style leggings and activewear to more advanced outdoor base layers – again, depending on the requirements and conditions you’re likely to face, this will impact what is more suitable. Base layers designed for running or the gym are likely to be more than suitable for the average Nordic walker.
The key to base layers is their ability to wick moisture away so choosing ones that are highly rated for this purpose is the best way to go.
*Tip – picking base layers with anti-bacterial properties is also a great option, ensuring it lasts much longer and doesn’t get mouldy after some intense walks!
The fleece is synonymous with the great outdoors and no adventure is complete without packing one. Fleeces also make for great mid-layers, creating warmth for your body.
Similarly, gilets and bodywarmers are also great mid-layers.
The job of the mid-layer is to insulate your body. During summer and warmer conditions, you may not need a mid-layer (or may opt to keep it in your rucksack). In colder months, the mid-layer will be vital to ensuring you don’t get too cold (which is particularly important if you are heading out on long walks in the countryside, where conditions can soon change).
The best mid-layers will provide warmth but won’t be too bulky. In recent years, there has been some amazing new products and advances in technology that has meant clothing that looks quite thin can actually keep you warm to conditions such as minus 30 degrees Celsius!
Don’t worry about waterproof options as this is where your top layer comes into play. Instead, focus on warmth. If you know you feel the cold, go for a mid-layer that has high insulating properties.
Mid-layers that can be packed away easily will also make your life easier, if you do get hot and need to store it in your rucksack during the walk.
The top layer is where your walking jackets and coats come into play. This will protect you from the wind and rain, so on those rough winter walks, will be vital in shaping your overall experience.
Wind protection isn’t to be underestimated and many coats and jackets will boast wind protection properties. Similarly, using a jacket that is waterproof is also very important. There are different levels of waterproof so ensure the jacket is really designed for outdoor adventure and will wick away rainwater quickly. This will avoid any build up of water on your jacket.
Choosing a top layer with a hood is also usually a wise move, as this provides extra protection against rain or wind.
The season and weather will likely dictate your choice of clothing for your legs.
As mentioned in the base layer section, you may want a base layer for your legs in cold conditions to go under your trousers/shorts.
Waterproof trousers are recommended if you think there’s a chance of rain. These come in a range of styles and options.
The main thing is to avoid materials like denim – these sort of material is really not suitable for Nordic walking and will really impact your enjoyment.
Lightweight trousers that offer for optimal movement would be the best.
Some better outdoor trousers and bottoms are slightly stretchy, which is perfect for not getting in the way while you walk.
Some fabric can be quick drying too – which may be worth looking into.
Headwear is not to be forgotten.
Thermal headbands, buffs, hats, and caps can help protect your head from the elements. Although wearing a hat may be more obvious in colder conditions, ensuring you wear a cap or some type of head gear in summer will avoid getting overheated.
Gloves are so important we created a whole review on the best Nordic walking gloves to help you decided which ones to buy.
Quality gloves will make a world of difference to your walk. You can’t just put your hands in your pocket if you’re cold (how will you hold your poles?). Therefore, ensuring your hands don’t get cold is really important.
You’ll start to notice a trend here but picking breathable gloves that are lightweight is always recommended. If it’s really cold conditions, then you may need to go for warmer, skiing style gloves, but generally, there are great walking gloves that are suitable for most conditions you’ll face.
For those really wet walks, having waterproof gloves is also a real perk.
Apart from poles, footwear is usually the next biggest dilemma for Nordic walkers. Quality, comfortable footwear is paramount for enjoying long walks, whatever the conditions.
As a general rule, you want walking shoes that have good grip, lightweight, flexible and somewhat waterproof.
They don’t need to be 100% waterproof but some properties to avoid wet feet is always going to be preferred.
Check out our latest review on the best Nordic walking shoes and footwear to help gleam some of the top contenders out there at the moment.
Getting good walking shoes and footwear is only half the battle when it comes to having happy feet on a walk. Good quality, walking socks don’t cost too much but will have a big impact on overall comfort.
Socks that don’t wick away moisture will increase the chance of blisters.
Walking socks help wick moisture away from your feet, keep your feet warm and offer a thicker layer to normal socks to help reduce the chance of blisters.
Due to the Nordic walking technique, having socks with a thicker heel will also add an extra layer of comfort and support.
We’d also recommend taking spare socks if you are going on a walk all day. Being able to change your socks halfway through the day will feel amazing and help keep you going strong to the final step.