Here are recommendations, with one absolute essential.
Recommendation #1 Jeans
Clothes are recommended, especially the kind that protects your body. We recommend against hiking in shorts any time of the year in the Badlands – too many thorns and cacti, biting bugs and rocky surfaces. Blue jeans are good. In the winter, you will want an extra layer underneath because the wind will force its way through the jeans.
Recommendation #2a Layers
You’ll want a couple of layers on your torso: t-shirt, long sleeve shirt, sweatshirt and or jacket. Layers keep you warm and also can be removed when it gets too warm
This time of year, layer up, but be prepared to “unlayer.” You’re moving and working up a sweat. Sun-facing rocks and hills absorb and reflect heat, so temperatures can warm up enough you’ll want to take off your sweatshirt and tie it around your waist.
Recommendation #2b Safety or blaze orange vest
In the fall, it is a good idea to not be mistaken for a mountain lion, elk, or deer. Nor do you want to get between a hunter and the hunted without being seen.
You don’t need to get decked out in hunter blaze orange gear (though that’s not a bad idea) when low-cost retro-reflective safety vests will help you stand out.
Recommendation #3 Hat
Wear a hat to protect your head from the sun. Even a baseball cap is better than nothing.
One item that is an essential is a good pair of boots. Don’t try hiking in tennis shoes for several reasons. 1. You need soles that grip the ground to give you good traction. You’ll be going up and down hills, and even small hills require traction from good hiking boots. 2. We recommend you protect your ankles to provide more strength when side-stepping up or down a hill. 3. Boots protect your feet from thorns and cacti.
We have a couple different kinds of hiking boots to wear, depending on the season. In cool-season hiking, these Red Wing Irish Setters are very lightweight, warm, waterproof, and they have an amazing tread that holds you in place so you can get up the sides of hills without slipping. They seemed a bit clunky and oversized at first, but once out on the trail, they earned a place in the list of essentials. While this may be an endorsement, it’s not a paid endorsement, just our recommendation. Any sturdy over-the-ankle lace-up waterproof boot with good tread will do the trick.