Last Updated on 18/10/2023
In this guide on what to wear hiking in 50F degree weather (10 C / 50 F), I share the system I use to ensure I never get too hot or too cold on the trail. You will learn about layering, whether you need a base layer or not, as well as what makes a good outer shell for wind and rain. If you enjoy hiking all year round and want to make sure you are optimized for the weather, then this guide is for you.
An important piece of advice for hiking at these temperatures is to try and avoid sweating as much as possible. When you sweat and your clothing dampens, as soon as you stop moving, you will start to feel very cold. In a survival situation, this could be very dangerous, so avoid sweating by removing layers when necessary.
What to Wear Hiking in 50F Degree Weather
In warmer weather, it is very easy to overheat and start sweating, but at 50 degrees, it is much easier to maintain a stable body temperature. Hiking in 50ºF weather (10ºC) is actually perfect for strenuous mountain trails with a backpack full of camping gear, so long as you layer appropriately and don’t get too sweaty. That’s because it’s easier to maintain a stable body temperature.
Layering appropriately almost always means wearing as many thin layers as is comfortable so that you can shed them one at a time and add them back on if you start to feel too cold. If it is windy, a softshell or Windstopper makes the perfect outer shell, or if it’s raining, a waterproof jacket with pit zips is the best option.
Here is a breakdown of each layer I wear when hiking in 50-degree temperatures, starting with the most important (baselayers):
If you read this blog often, you will know I am a big fan of Saxx underwear or similar types of boxer briefs. When you are wearing multiple layers, including base layer pants, you want everything to be as frictionless and comfortable as possible down there.
Moisture-wicking synthetic materials or merino wool are the best options to avoid crotch stank and chafing. For more information on the best types of hiking underwear, see this article I wrote.
When hiking in 50ºF weather, I prefer to wear two pairs of socks instead of one extra thick pair. This helps to prevent blisters and wick moisture, as well as keep your feet warmer. A thin pair is best next to the skin, and then a midweight to heavyweight pair of Merino wool socks over the top is what I recommend for most temperatures down to freezing.
For hiking in 50ºF climates, I usually don’t wear a base layer and instead opt for a t-shirt or long-sleeve shirt. I could just as easily wear a base layer instead, but I prefer a looser fit for when it is the only layer I am wearing. I also don’t wear base layer pants at 50ºF as I find I overheat too easily, even if my overpants are lightweight and breathable.
That being said, I don’t get cold easily, so if you are more prone to feeling the cold, then maybe a base layer set would be a good idea. I would recommend merino wool as a good choice or an ultralightweight synthetic that isn’t too warm. Remember that after only 5 minutes of hiking, you will start to warm up, and if the uphill gets steep, it is very easy to overheat.
Hiking pants for cooler temperatures should be breathable, but it’s okay if they are a little thicker than your summer hiking pants. If you don’t walk too fast or take lots of breaks, then I would suggest a slightly warmer pair of pants to help keep your legs warm. Waterproof over pants can also be carried in your pack for extra weather protection when needed.
Avoid cotton-rich pants (especially jeans) in cold weather because they absorb moisture and take forever to dry. Instead, choose some durable, quick-drying, and ideally slightly water-repellent pants, which will be more suitable to weather conditions around 50ºF.
The only mid-layers I wear for hiking in 50ºF weather are on my upper body and can be anything from a long-sleeved t-shirt to a hoodie or fleece jacket. The ideal mid-layer is nice and thin as well as easy to put on and take off. Zipped fleeces are a good option because of how warm, lightweight, breathable, and easy to put on/take off they are.
Over my t-shirt or base layer, I usually wear a heavyweight long-sleeve t-shirt and then a fleece with a 1/4 zip. No, this isn’t the easiest to take off with a backpack, but it’s what works for me. So try out a few different mid-layers to see what works best for you; don’t just listen to the ‘experts’.
This could be a whole article in itself, but the short version is this. You will often end up wearing your base layers and mid-layers as your outermost layer. But when it’s windy, you want something over the top that will block the wind without increasing condensation inside. Likewise, when it’s rainy, you want something lightweight and waterproof with a hood that you can put on over your other layers.
A softshell jacket is my favorite kind of outerlayer in 50ºF temperatures so long as it doesn’t rain too heavily. A good softshell will block most of the wind and also keep you dry in light rain showers. All while remaining breathable and flexible.
I usually carry a waterproof jacket in my bag, and for when it throws it down with rain, I always rely on a Gore-Tex Pro Shell like the Mountain Equipment Lhotse jacket. What I like about these jackets is that they really keep you dry and, in many cases, have high-end features like underarm vents and large pockets for maps and things.
I also carry some Gore-Tex Paclite waterproof pants, which slip on over my boots and hiking pants to keep me dry. The rest of the time, they take up a tiny portion of my backpack and weigh only a couple hundred grams. Hiking gaiters can be a nice accessory to have on boggy trails or when the grass is soaking wet.
The alternatives to carrying waterproof jackets and pants are to use a poncho or an umbrella.
Do You Need Gloves When Hiking in 50F Degree Weather?
You don’t NEED gloves when hiking in 50-degree weather, but you will not be sorry you brought them if the weather changes for the worse. If your hands get cold easily, then you should probably carry some gloves in your backpack, just in case. They don’t need to be thick ski gloves or anything like that; even a very thin pair will make a world of difference.
Some lightweight gloves can feel like a luxury when it starts to get cold, but in 50ºF weather, I usually don’t wear gloves. That changes if I am climbing mountains at altitude, don’t have any pockets, or am holding a dog leash, which leaves my hand exposed. But, if I am not carrying much in my backpack, I will usually chuck a pair in that often ends up getting lent out to a friend.
Do You Need a Hat When Hiking in 10C Degree Weather?
You don’t need a hat when hiking in 50-degree weather, but there are lots of hats out there that could provide some benefits. A cap, for example, is great for keeping the sun out of your eyes as well as rain, which is especially useful if you wear glasses. Another advantage of wearing a hat is that if you do start to sweat, it will absorb some of it from your forehead and stop it from running into your eyes.
A hiking beanie will be especially nice to put on if you take a break or if it’s very windy; it will keep your ears warm. You may find hiking in a beanie is too hot around the 50F degree mark, but the good thing about beanies is that they fit in most jacket pockets, which means you can put it on and take it off as and when needed.
Do You Need Base Layer Pants When Hiking in 50-Degree Weather?
Wearing base layer pants under hiking pants is something I would advise against in 50F degree weather. Based on my experience, your legs will get hot after exactly 5 minutes of hiking and soon after, begin to sweat. You will then have to stop, take your boots off, take your pants off, remove your base layer bottoms, and then put everything back on a gain. Ugh!
Try it for yourself, and you will see what I mean.
The only caveats to that would be if you are wearing base layer pants, like a pair of tights or leggings, under a lightweight pair of shorts – which works. Or if you feel the cold more than most people and need the extra insulation for when you take breaks.
Can You Wear Shorts for Hiking in 50-Degree Temperatures?
The short answer is yes, you can wear shorts at 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but only if you don’t mind the cold on your legs. When you hike, your legs won’t feel too cold unless there is an icy wind blowing through. But when you stop hiking to look at a map or sit down for a water break, it won’t take long before you start questioning your decision to wear shorts.
I think that when temperatures start to drop in autumn to around 10-12 degrees, that is when I usually switch from shorts to a pair of pants for hiking. In places like Northern England and Scotland, people wear shorts for hiking no matter how cold it gets.
The reason why hiking in 50-degree Fahrenheit temperatures is so pleasurable is that if you layer correctly, you will never feel too hot. Always check the weather forecast before your hike and pack/dress accordingly for the worst-case scenario. Finally, I know it is a pain to constantly stop to take off or put on layers, but avoiding overheating and staying warm is more important than a little inconvenience.
I hope this short guide on what to wear hiking in 50F degree weather has answered your questions and you are now fully prepared for your next adventure. Thanks for reading, and safe hiking.