Problem Regina Payne, 71, is section-hiking the AT, but her bulky, ill-fitting clothes aren’t suited to the mild hiking conditions she favors, especially not the warmer temps near her Louisiana home. And her boots are heavy, with a sloppy fit.
Solution She needs light, breathable layers with excellent versatility, plus supportive boots for her hard-to-fit, narrow feet. Here, she rates her top picks.
Under Armour Catalyst Hoody
I wore this soft, quick-drying polyester top almost daily on a 70-mile section of the southern AT. It wicks and dries quickly and never got offensively stinky, thanks to the odor-blocking properties of silver and chitosan, an antimicrobial treatment derived from crustaceans. In summer, the relaxed cut allows airflow. In cooler temps, there’s plenty of room for layering underneath, and the hood adds an extra boost of warmth. $45; 6.2 oz.; underarmour.com
The North Face Paramount Peak Convertibles
These are the only hiking pants I’ll ever need for early spring through late fall. The lightweight, breathable nylon sheds mild rain. The gussetted crotch and partially elasticized waist let me move freely. The legs roll up to wear capri-style and zip off easily to convert to shorts (zips are color-coded, so there’s no fumbling when I put them back on). The slightly low waistband is smooth under a hipbelt and cinches snug with an internal drawstring. $65; 15.5 oz.; thenorthface.com
Mountain Hardwear Canyon LS
From the blasting 100°F heat of Mississippi to moderate, 60°F nights in Wisconsin, this quick-drying, nylon/poly button-down shirt protected me from sunburn, bugs, and overheating. The 70-percent-nylon content makes the Canyon abrasion-resistant, and the polyester boosts wicking. In really sizzling temps, I could feel hot air escaping through the mesh panels in the back and sides. Plus, the sleeves button up for added air-conditioning. The contoured fit really upped my style in town, but I wished for a more relaxed cut on the trail for better mobility. $60; 5.5 oz.; mountainhardwear.com
Point 6 Hiking Core Light Crew
These merino/nylon blend socks prevent blisters because they wick fast, breathe well, and have a snug, cushioned fit. Stretchy ribbing in the arch retained its shape, so they never bagged out or caused hot spots. $17; 2.5 oz.; point6.com
Vasque Breeze GTX
From the first step, I loved these midweight waterproof boots. My ultranarrow, low-volume feet are extremely difficult to fit, and this is the rare boot in this category that comes in AAA width. The instep and heel are snug and supportive, yet I had plenty of toe room on the descents and no pressure on my Achilles thanks to the contoured notch in back. The well-padded ankles, combined with the stiff plastic plate underfoot, gave me enough support to easily handle a 30-pound pack (I have bad knees so I need ample stability to prevent injuries and recurring tendonitis). The supple nubuck-and-mesh upper required zero break-in, and the reliable traction gave me confidence to climb and descend all types of terrain. $150; 2 lbs. 8 oz. (w’s 9 AAA); vasque.com