Photo: Jupiterimages, Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
Exploring a deciduous forest can be a cheap, healthy and rewarding adventure. Watching the foliage change from season to season offers a fascinating insight into the beauty of the natural world. Wearing the right type of clothing ensures that you stay looking cool as Mother Nature blows hot and cold.
The Right Fabrics
Spending time in a temperate climate means the weather can, and does, change on a dime. Choosing the right fabrics for your hiking clothes can mean the difference between enjoying nature or being miserable. If your forest is mountainous, what feels mild and sunny at the base of a mountain can turn damp and cold in the brisk air of a summit, especially if you've work up a sweat on the way. Expert hikers avoid cotton: Yes it's light and breathable, but once wet, it stays wet and has no insulating qualities. Look for lightweight, wickable fabrics such as wool, poly-fleece and polypropylene, which dry quickly and insulate even when wet.
On a mild, sunny day, you may be comfortable in a tank top and shorts for most of the day, but that doesn't mean that's all you should bring. Hiking sites like Adirondacks.com and CatskillsNY.com stress that you should always be prepared for wind and rain or snow. A basic outfit may be cargo shorts, a silk or polyester tank, a fleece vest and a waterproof windbreaker with a hood. If it's mosquito or black fly season -- check a website dedicated to your destination -- start with lightweight cargo pants, a polyester tee, a lightweight, long sleeved tee and a bandanna for your neck.
Sturdy hiking boots are the ideal footwear for walking in a temperate deciduous forest. Because you'll encounter fallen logs, slippery, moss-covered rocks and slick leaves, the lug-sole and ankle support of a hiking boot can help to prevent falls and twisted ankles. If you must wear sneakers, make sure you have a sturdy wool sock to prevent blisters and protect your ankles from scratches and scrapes.
A lightweight nylon day pack will keep clothing and safety essentials dry. A baseball cap or sunhat is always a good idea to provide sun protection. If you're exploring in the fall, tuck a fleece or wool cap into your day pack, it won't take up much room and you'll be happy to have it if the weather turns rainy or windy. Sunglasses provide eye protection and insect repellent and sunscreen are a must.
Safety: First, Last and Always
When the weather is beautiful, anyone can be tempted to take an impromptu day trip into the forest. Yet, many a spontaneous hike has turned into a days-long misadventure due to losing a trail, an unexpected injury or freak weather shift. Always bring water, food, waterproof matches and a flashlight with you. Always let someone at home know your destination and estimated time of return and always sign in at trail registers, so rescuers will have a starting point if you don't return as expected.