Your guide to adventure friendly fabrics to sew for hiking and the outdoors!
Thanks to Sonia for putting this fabric guide together for our Below the Kōwhai sewing community! Sonia and her family live and regularly hike around New Zealand with zero waste. Check out their adventures and for lots of tips about hiking with small children click here.
When choosing fabrics to sew for hiking or other outdoor adventures, it’s important to stick to those which are quick drying, and won’t leave you wet and cold.
Wool and merino are the only natural fabrics that are good for hiking (as cotton stays cold when wet, keeping you cold, and is therefore deadly)
My favourite fabric to use is merino, as it stays warm even when wet, is natural and breathable, and compostable at the end of life. I use thinner jersey merino for tops and thicker rib knit for pants. It isn’t wind proof however, which is the main disadvantage to merino.
We like using it for items that are going to be touching our skin, given how warm it stays when wet. Its temperature-regulating properties also make it ideal for both summer and winter conditions.
Boiled wool or re-purposed old school woollen blankets are another natural fibre option. These are slightly more windproof and can be water-repelling if you lanolise them.
It’s a great natural fibre option for your outer layer in light drizzle, or for pants for toddlers who are often on the ground. Some kids do find boiled wool itchy so pop a thin clothing layer underneath if this is the case.
Sew for hiking with activewear fabric / swim fabric as it’s quick drying. It’s usually made out of polyester and lycra – use it for short and long leggings. It also makes great quick-drying cuffs and waistbands for items made from woven fabrics. The cuffs help keep wind out of outfits in colder weather, and keep the bottom of pants cleaner.
Scuba knit is another leggings option – thicker than activewear knits, it’ll last longer for kids who are hard on their pants.
Board Short fabric (sometimes also called polyester microfiber) is great for summer shorts as it’s also quick drying. And obviously being fabric for boardshorts, they double as swim shorts for any impromptu water adventures!
Synthetic fleeces are windproof, and water repelling (though not waterproof) so make a good mid-layer. Use it for jerseys and pants. Microfleece is generally a better option than polar fleece for adventures as it packs down much smaller in the bag for when it gets too hot.
Soft shell is fully waterproof and windproof, making it the ideal outer layer. The fleece inner is soft enough for it to go right up against skin too. It makes great warm, waterproof, and hard-wearing pants for adventurous kids, as well as jackets.
Ripstop nylon / nylon parker fabric is another waterproof and windproof option. It’s unlined so it’s better suited to summer rain. Make waterproof pants, hats, or raincoats from it.
Love and happy sewing,