Ultimate Trail Work Guide: Apparel

June 6, 2021
Struggle making decisions on what to wear before volunteering at a trail work event? We asked some of the SCMTS Trail Crew what they wear on the trails every day and if they have any major do’s or don’ts. Check it out.

Too little? Too Much? Just Right.

Everyone knows the kid who shows up to do trail work in a t-shirt, basketball shorts, and the first pair of sneakers they saw as they walked out the door. And everyone also probably knows the person who shows up looking like they’re ready to hike the John Muir Trail, trekking poles and all.

So—what really is the best apparel to wear to a trail workday? Is there one outfit that is ‘right’? Would you hate us if we told you not really...?

Realistically, comfort is king. But since we know that isn’t an adequate answer for some of you, we polled our SCMTS Trail Crew to get veteran opinions on a good place to start when it comes to what to wear to an SCMTS trail workday. Dive in below, head to toe.


  • Comfiest helmet you own (SCMTS always has extras).

  • Bike/construction/skate/etc.—as long as it protects your head, it works!

  • We love Bell and Giro helmets and our crew is usually in forester hard hats.


  • Clear lens safety glasses are typically your best bet when working in the woods.

  • Sunglasses work as well but might be hazardous in low light conditions.

  • Our crew rocks Type-S and Daze styles from 100 Percent Eyewear.

^100% is a team favorite. They’re functional and stylish, which is tough to beat.


  • Ninety-nine percent of the time we recommend wearing (or at least bringing) a long sleeve shirt to any trail work event. You don’t want to get cuts, scrapes, or poison oak!

  • Cotton works but on a hot day, you’d be happier if you were in Voler DryTech or a similar moisture-wicking material.

  • Do yourself a favor and bring layers. We often work in variable temperatures.


  • We recommend any lightweight pack to carry belongings (bring water, extra layers, etc.).

  • Got a hydration pack? Even better.


  • Realistically, anything you are comfortable working in (think holding shovels/rakes) will work well for trail work.

  • Leather gloves tend to work best for longer days out on the trail, but aren’t a necessity by any means.

  • Gardening gloves also work great (cloth glove with rubber fingers).


  • Any comfortable pants work. Our team tends to sway towards some of the more durable brands and materials (the hemp workwear line from Patagonia is a favorite).


  • Comfy belt. You’ll be moving around quite a bit, and will want to keep your pants around your waist.


  • Wool or athletic socks. You might not think socks make a difference, but they sure do.

  • Merino wool socks are a crew favorite. Opt for thicker styles in winter and thinner in summer.

Footwear: maybe the most important item on the list

  • Our team recommends a good pair of hiking boots for most volunteer trail work events. Closed toes and good tread are extremely important for any trail outing.

  • Our SCMTS Trail Crew usually opts for 8-inch leather work boots for some ankle/leg protection, but boots like these are definitely not necessary for our volunteer trail work events.

  • If you don’t own boots, a comfortable pair of sneakers will make do.

  • Irish Setter Trailblazers are a go-to for some of our crew. They’re lightweight, waterproof, and have an aggressive sole with good grip.

^Bruce in his favorite Irish Setter Trailblazers.

+Pro Tips:

  • Sometimes the group will hang out in the parking lot after the event—some folks choose to bring a change of shirt/clothes for the hang.

  • Steel toe boots provide great protection but may be heavy for a day of hiking on the trails.

  • If you’re sensitive to dry conditions or pollen—a lightweight mask can prove helpful to have with you.

  • Patagonia’s hemp line is durable and comfortable. *More sustainable than most other material options too.

In Conclusion:

Will you be fine in basketball sneakers and shorts? Probably. Is it what we recommend? No. When in doubt, go with comfort. And if this isn’t answering all your questions or you have a specific question about a specific event, you can always email us at [email protected]. We love helping volunteers find their footing (pun intended). See you out there!

Now that you've got your apparel lined up, put it to the true test and try it out yourself! Find a trail work event that is right for you.


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