Hiking Tips

How to Prevent Chafing While Hiking – Hiking a Smooth Hike

tired hiker on trail

Hiking brings us to many wonderful vistas and great outdoor experiences, but one thing that plagues many hikers is chafing. You aren’t alone in the frustrations caused from chafing on your hikes. So what can you do to prevent chafing on your next hike?

To prevent chafing on your next hike you should wear hiking clothes and a hiking backpack that wick moisture away from your body. Keeping the moisture away from your skin will lessen sweat build up and lower the discomfort on all of the friction that occurs while hiking. Well ventilated clothing , ventilated pack straps, and pack backing will severely reduce friction and in turn prevent chafing.

The annoying feeling of chafing can definitely ruin a good hike and having the right hiking clothes and pack can make a huge difference, however there are other things you can do to prevent chafing on your next hikes. After many years of hiking there are a number of things I do that have completely gotten rid of chafing that I always recommend to my friends.

What causes chafing while hiking?

As you are walking along trying to enjoy your hike that annoying feeling of chafing occurs in the most uncomfortable places. What is causing this chafing?

Chafing on your hikes comes from the combination of build up of moisture and constant friction while you move on your hike.

Figuring out what is causing the chafing can help you understand the root cause and eliminate it so you can hike more comfortably.


Hiking is a full body workout. You need your legs to bring you along the trail and your arms to keep you balanced. The motion of your body combined with the terrain will cause you to sweat. The sweat on your body can easily build up.

This sweat will likely build up in three main areas on your body. The three areas of sweat build up and areas where people experience the worst chafing are their thighs, armpits, and chest. Sweat can easily pool up in these areas as you hike. However, sweat alone cannot cause chafing but is the first ingredient for the chafing you experience.


The next thing that causes chafing is friction. During your hike your arms are swinging and your legs are moving back and forth. This constant motion causes friction in your thighs, arms, and chest area. These areas are where most people experience their chafing.

Combine the sweat buildup in these areas with constant motion of your limbs and you have a recipe for chafing. Those areas have the most friction and thus create the most sweat. This becomes a bad feedback loop that creates even more discomfort. Now that you know the main two causes of chafing, let’s go over exactly what you can do to stop it.

How Do you Avoid Chafing on a Hike?

sweaty hiker

The main culprits of chafing are sweating and your body rubbing against itself, your clothes, or your pack so if you limit those two things then you can stop chafing on your hike.

Sweat Stopper

You definitely can’t stop yourself from sweating on your hike, but you can significantly prevent sweat to pool up in certain areas. If you are wearing cotton on your hikes then you should completely stop and change shirts. Cotton is one of the worst materials to wear during physical activities because cotton absorbs and holds onto the moisture. This build up of sweat makes chafing way worst. This is easily fixable.

The first thing you should do is buy moisture wicking clothes from shirts, underwear, and pants. Moisture wicking clothes will help prevent your sweat from pooling in your clothes and moves it along your body so it can evaporate. Limiting the pooling of sweat will drastically reduce chafing. Changing your clothes will have a huge impact on getting rid of chafing.

Increase Airflow

Once you have moisture wicking clothes, that isn’t the cure-all for chafing. The next thing you need to be mindful of is having continued airflow for your arms, legs, and back. Having airflow to those areas will help keep you cool and lower sweat buildup. I used to hike with a JanSport backpack and wondered why my chest and shoulders hurt during a hike.

For non hiking backpacks, the straps are not designed to be worn for hours and hours. Usually at school people will take off the pack between classes, but when you’re hiking the pack is on you the entire time. Those straps also have very poor ventilation. The design of regular packs is also not made for hiking because they hug your back to prevent items from moving around. This design limits airflow and keeps your pack pressed against your back.

To increase airflow for your back and chest, you can buy a hiking bag with ventilated straps and ventilated back. These two areas cause the most sweat buildup and discomfort on regular backpacks. After switching to a hiking backpack with ventilated straps and back I noticed a huge decrease in sweat build up in those areas.

The combination of moisture-wicking clothing and a ventilated pack will prevent you from chafing as the sweat will be moved away from those regions and the air will keep you cool.

Body Armor

If you end up buying moisture wicking clothing and a well ventilated pack and you are still suffering from chafing, then there is one more thing you can do.

The next step you can take is to try to apply body glide. Body glide is like a stick of deodorant mean for areas where you experience the most chafing. It helps your body to reduce friction to prevent irritation and raw skin.

I have had friends use body glide and experienced great success while hiking and even when running.

Why You Chafe on Your Leg When Hiking

person running on trail

Whether you are hiking a relaxing hike or a challenging summit bagging trail, you can experience chafing on your legs. What is the main cause of chafing on your legs as you hike?

The main cause of chafing on your leg when you hike is the sweat that builds up on your thighs and the constant friction of your thigh and groin area rubbing against each other. This area is the main culprit of chafing for many hikers. What can you do about this?

How Do you Avoid Chafing Your Leg on a Hike?

The rubbing of your thigh and groin area as you hike will happen constantly on the trail. There are three things you can do to help with chafing on your leg.

The first thing you can do is buy moisture wicking underwear. This was a complete game changer for me. I was previously wearing cotton underwear and the discomfort I felt on my hikes was painful at the end of my hikes. Once I switched to moisture wicking underwear most of the chafing went away.

The second thing you can do is buy pants that are made for working out or specifically for hiking. The thing you want to pay attention to is the material the pants are made of. You want to get polyester pants with moisture-wicking properties. This will help regulate the amount of sweat build up on your legs.

The third thing you can do to avoid chafing on your legs is to use body glide. Body glide will help your thighs and groin move more smoothly and limit skin irritation and reduce friction.

Why You Chafe on Your Arm When Hiking

As you advance on the trail your arms will be swinging and sweating on the trail. Your arms will be rocking back and forth to help maintain your balance. Hiking depends on your legs, so why do your arms chafe as you hike?

The reason your arms chafe as you hike is because of the build up of sweat on your shoulders and armpits. The sweat builds up in those areas and as your arms swing you experience a lot of friction on the arms and your torso area. The areas that constantly are rubbing are creating a lot of friction from your skin rubbing against your clothing. This results in chafing on your arms.

How Do you Avoid Chafing Your Arm on a Hike?

The first thing you can do to avoid chafing on your arm is to wear moisture wicking shirts. This will help the sweat be pushed away from your armpits and shoulders. Moisture-wicking clothing are typically better ventilated and will help keep you cooler and lower the amount you sweat.

Once you have moisture-wicking shirts, the next thing you can do is apply body glide. The body glide will help with the areas of high friction feel much more smooth and lower any irritation you may experience.

Why You Chafe on Your Foot When Hiking

hikers leg and feet

One of the worst areas to experience chafing on your hike is your feet. The constant rubbing leads to hot spots and potentially blisters. If you have good hiking boots or good trail shoes, then why do you chafe on your foot on your hikes?

The reason you experience chafing on your foot is sweat build up and friction on your feet. Your feet are being put to work on your hike so its naturally they will sweat. Each step you take causes vibration and friction on your feet. This constant motion of your foot combined with the sweat causes your feet to chafe.

How Do you Avoid Chafing Your Foot on a Hike?

I suffered from chafing on my feet for years. It was really annoying, however after I changed these two things the chafing completely went away. There are three things you should consider so you can stop experiencing chafing on your foot.

The first thing you should consider is to get moisture wicking socks. You can buy moisture wicking socks made out of wool. Although they are a lot pricier than normal socks, they are definitely worth the investment. Wool socks will wick away the sweat from your feet to keep them dry and provide good padding to keep your feet comfortable.

The next thing you want to consider is to get the right fit for your hiking shoes. The right fit means that your heel hugs the back of the boot and you have a few centimeters for your toes to wiggle around. Having a shoe that fits snug is important as you don’t want your feet to be sliding around forward and back. That friction will cause many hot spots and lead to blisters. You also want some room for your toes so they don’t get jammed on downhills.

The last thing you should consider is to make sure your boots or hiking shoes are properly broken in. If you are wearing new shoes it will take some time to break them in so that they contour to your feet. This is important and will prevent chafing as the contours will mold to your feet and you will experience less friction in those areas of your feet.

Final Thoughts

Chafing is a common occurence among hikers, so just know that you are not alone. I experienced it when I started hiking as I went off to the trails with whatever shoes and clothes I already owned. Through trial and error and suggestions from other hikers, I have been able to prevent chafing on my hikes. If you follow these tips you too can experience a smoother hike.

I hope with these tips you can start to be able to enjoy the trails without experiencing any chafing. Just try to limit the sweat and friction with your new gear and you will hiking care-free!

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