Prior to actually getting down to business, some homesteaders have a fanciful idea of what the work will require of them.
Scattering a little seed, driving a few fence posts, plucking a couple of perfect veggies from rich, yielding soil. It is an idyllic notion, alright, but one that is far divorced from reality.
Work on a homestead is not the tastefully sweaty, barely dirty chores seen on bad daytime network movies with beautiful actors in perfect jeans and plaid shirts.
It is real work, complete with long hours, lots of filth, and plenty of hazards…
That means that real homesteaders need clothing that can withstand the work while protecting them from the elements, grime, and from other dangers.
Certain items of clothing are essential for homesteaders. And anything that can help you stay comfortable while getting the job done is mandatory if you are going to adapt to this new lifestyle.
Today we’ll bring you a list of 13 homestead clothing essentials that should make up the majority of your closet.
Table of Contents:
1. Wide-brimmed Hat
Hats are mandatory homestead wear. No matter where you live and what the weather is like on your homestead, you’ll need a good wide-brimmed hat, and preferably more than one. I am not talking about a ball cap or some other piece of fashion headwear.
I am talking about something that can actually protect your head, face and neck from the sun without overheating your head.
The choice of a hat is surprisingly nuanced, and personal preference will always play a part.
But, for the most part, you want something made of a breathable fabric like cotton or linen that will allow your head to breathe.
A brim that is at least three inches wide all the way around is ideal, and a neck flap or drape is also a good idea in steamy, sunny areas.
But there are lots of options out there when it comes to hats, both in style and construction. A good quality straw hat is affordable and perfect for hot weather, though durability is usually lacking.
In cooler weather, wool or felt hat will do a better job of protecting your ears and head from the cold.
And in really cold weather, you might need a heavy-duty winter hat that can protect your ears while resisting high winds.
You may also want to invest in a couple of hats with different brim sizes. A wider brim is better for protection from the sun in the open, while a narrower brim can be more comfortable when working in tight spaces or up next to animals.
You’ll be getting lots of sun day in and day out on your homestead, so don’t skimp!
2. Neck Gaiter
Your hat can only do part of the job when it comes to protecting your neck from the sun and, to a much lesser extent, wind.
Aside from these two constant hazards, you’ll also have to deal with the intermittent attention of biting and bloodsucking bugs in warmer climates and seasons.
Unless you love sunburns and skin that looks like an old boot in your 60s, you must protect your neck. You need a neck gaiter.
A neck gaiter is simply a long strip or tube of cloth that can be wrapped around your neck to protect it and pulled up over your lower face when needed.
They are made of all sorts of materials, but the best ones will be light and breathable, often a blend of natural and synthetic fibers, while still being effective at wicking away moisture and evaporating it quickly.
In a pinch, they can give your face extra sun protection, or keep blowing dirt or grit (or slinging slop) out of your nose and mouth.
Another option is to go with something traditional like a neckerchief, bandana, or shemagh. All of these can work but are not as convenient or comfortable as a purpose-made neck gaiter.
You’ll want at least four, two each for cold and warm seasons, though you may well want more depending on how often you plan on washing them- they can get pretty gross if you sweat a lot!
3. Long Sleeve Shirt
I know, I know: this is as basic as it gets, how is this specialized homestead wear? Hear me out.
A good long sleeve shirt is an essential piece of clothing for homesteaders, and not just for sun protection.
Yes, you definitely want to wear one to avoid getting sunburned.
More importantly, you want to avoid getting contact burns, scratches, scrapes and cuts from working with plants, animals, and all sorts of other hot, sharp, pointy, prongy, rough things around the homestead.
Also, sleeves will give you at least a little protection against bites and stings. You’ll want that since you’ll definitely be encountering more than your fair share of bees, wasps, hornets, mosquitoes, ticks, and chiggers out there in the country.
A good long sleeve shirt will also be made of breathable fabric like cotton or linen to keep you cool while working. In colder weather, you’ll want a heavier-weight material like wool or flannel.
Do try to avoid synthetics here no matter how cool and airy they may feel.
Once they get a run in them they break down quickly, and they also have a nasty tendency to lock in stinky odors (from you or from manure) despite the miraculous promises made on the packaging.
A good homestead shirt will be tough and comfortable, easy to clean, but not too expensive since they lead short and brutal lives.
You’ll go through at least one a day, and sometimes two or more in really hot weather or when dealing with nasty chores.
If you live in a colder region, have cold winters, or might ever have occasion to be working in the snow, or rain, you have to have a jacket. Simple as that.
A good homesteader jacket will be water resistant and it should also have roomy pockets for storing your gloves, eyewear, tools, and the like. In addition to keeping you warm and dry or at least drier, your jacket must be very tough and washable.
It is going to get as filthy as you do, and it must be capable of standing up to repeated washings without giving out. Something that you are forced to baby or dry clean is just going to make your life a pain.
You might be able to use a regular work jacket like a Carhartt- the standard for a good reason- or even a hunting jacket if you prefer.
Hunting apparel, despite the camo pattern, has many of the same features you’d want in a good working jacket.
If you have the money, you can spend on a premium jacket that has excellent insulation, tremendous durability, and plenty of convenience features that will make your life a little easier and nicer as you make your daily rounds.
Oh, and one word of wisdom: pick one with an earth tone or subdued colorway. Darker tans, coyote, olive, brown, sienna, etc.
When your jacket gets stained, and it will, this will better hide the discoloration as well as what caused the stain in the first place!
It could be oil, dirt, clay, vomit, poop, or something else, and though your jacket might take it all in stride it won’t look factory new for long.
It is tough to imagine life on a homestead without good gloves. At least, it is really hard for me to imagine life without them!
There are countless hazards for hardworking hands on a homestead: from barbed wire and rose thorns to hot metal, noxious chemicals, caustic cleaning solutions, cold weather, biting animals, stinging bugs, and more.
Your hands are your livelihood as a homesteader, literally the link to your work, so you need to take care of them!
Forget these notions of being some tough hombre, and just hardening your hands up until you don’t need gloves.
Aside from taking half your life, there are plenty of things that will slice through even the most calloused hands like a hot knife through butter.
A jagger on a braided metal cable or a nasty, creosote-soaked splinter will make your life hell and might put you out of action. Trust me on this, your hands will still toughen up plenty as you use them.
A good pair of gloves will be tough enough to stand up to the rigors of homesteading while also giving you a measure of protection from all that and the blisters that inevitably follow.
Everyone has a favorite here and swears by them to the exclusion of all else. Traditional deer or cowhide ranch gloves are icons with good reason, you won’t go wrong if they are qualified and fit well.
I like the White Ox cotton logging gloves that, despite their flimsier feel, actually give you great protection from stickers and sharp edges. Hell, get both! They both have advantages.
Another pro-am tip from me: don’t spend a fortune on gloves. Yes, quality is important. Yes, you want them to fit right.
But, nonetheless, the fact of the matter is that gloves are absolutely consumable items if you are really putting in the work.
I go through two or three pairs of gloves a season myself, and that is with trying to take care of them.
Once they start to wear out, or if one has a nasty blowout, I just replace them without batting an eyelash.
These should be your constant companions on the homestead unless you are only engaging in light work.
If you are doing any type of work that is going to get you remotely dirty (and let’s face it, everything on a homestead tends to get you dirty) then you’ll be best served and protected by some sort of full coverage overgarment.
Overalls or coveralls provide that and more, and the best part is you can shuck them when you are finished working or just step into the house for a spell and leave most of the muck and the grime behind.
Overalls also have the distinction of having genuinely useful cargo pockets on the front, usually around sternum level.
These are perfect for stashing small tools you need to keep close at hand without setting them down and for anything like a pocket knife, keys, or other items that accompany you on your usual excursions they are a godsend.
When it comes to materials, pick something tough, washable, and appropriate to your climate.
Strangely, you will find your overalls or coveralls getting even dirtier than you would normally; it is almost like they give you permission to really get grubby!
But enough kidding; you should try to strike a fine line between expense and performance here. No matter how good and how hard you try, they will get battered, trashed, and scattered.
Most can be repaired, to a degree, but eventually they will head for the landfill. Replace them when the time comes, and try not to spend a bundle.
I know this might come as a shock to some of our readers, but you will, in fact, still need to wear pants on your homestead.
Your birthday suit is just not up to the task of all these chores, you know? All horseplay aside, your choice of pants is going to make a huge difference in your comfort level and workflow, especially when you aren’t wearing overalls or coveralls.
As always, tough, comfortable, and easy-care are is what you desire. If you are doing a lot of light tool work, deep pockets are a benefit: they can hold what you need with plenty of room and without everything falling out all the time.
Pay attention to fit, too: ill-fitting pants will cause heat rash, blisters, and more unpleasantness. Your choice of fabric is a personal one.
Precious few homesteaders will go without their jeans, but from my experience they aren’t always the most comfortable when you are sweating bullets in the summertime.
Loose-fit jeans actually exacerbate these problems, believe it or not.
Here’s a super secret you can use if you are in love with the idea of wearing jeans despite hot weather: wear a super light pair of athletic leggings under them.
They will cut down on friction massively and help transport moisture away from your skin to dry. They will, though, start to reek over time.
Concerning cold weather, I don’t worry too much about it: if it is very cold I am wearing insulated overalls or else have long johns on. More on those in a minute.
If there is one article of clothing that just speaks to me, it is a good pair of boots. Your boots really will go through everything you do, quite literally, and can make or break you, also quite literally.
A homesteader’s life is spent on their feet, no matter what you happen to be doing that day. Boots that take care of your feet and hold up are the only standard that matters. Crap boots that give you blisters and fall apart in 3 months are definitely not it.
A full article discussing the how, what and why of boots is simply beyond the confines of this section, but I will hit the most important topics. A good snug fit, plenty of arch support, and a thick, tough sole are mandatory.
If you work with large animals I strongly recommend a safety toe to protect you from an errant footfall. Also, always stick with something laced up or slip on, and avoid velcro closures; they will hopelessly clog with muck or mud.
Waterproofing treatments, that’s your choice. Maybe worth it in some climates or on some properties, but cheap ones tend to keep moisture (sweat) in, too.
The style of boot you choose is also important. If you are doing any sort of work on horseback you will want something that works well in the stirrups, i.e. cowboy boots.
For lighter duty, you can get away with hiking boots, but they aren’t as tough as something like a logger’s boot.
Whatever boot you decide on, buy the very, very best you can afford: boots can be resoled and rebuilt many, many times by a skilled cobbler, and will last far in excess of your initial investment. Cheap boots, well, I tend to go through them quicker than underwear. Invest wisely!
Again with these generic items. What kind of list is this? Before you drag me down in the comments, I want to assert definitively that the right socks, like the right boots, can make your rounds on the homestead happy or very, very sad.
That is because your socks work in tandem with your boots to protect your feet from blisters and hot spots.
They transport moisture away, reduce friction, provide a bit of extra padding and help keep your “dogs” comfortable even when you are spending all day on your feet.
The socks I recommend for homesteading are actually not that different than what I would recommend for any sort of outdoor activity: wool or wool blend hiking socks.
They come in lots of weights, which lets you adjust for the climate, and they have just the right amount of padding in all the right places.
Wool is surprisingly good at regulating temperature, hot or cold, and also naturally antimicrobial, meaning they pickup less funky odors.
The downside to wool is that it takes ages to dry when wet, and the fact that they might need handwashing and drip drying, though modern merino wool blends usually avoid this issue.
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If you sweat buckets, other socks I have had excellent results with are the so called tactical socks from 5.11 Tactical.
They combine a mild compression fit with excellent friction reduction and quick-dry capability and are priced right to be your go-to.
Like gloves, socks are consumable no matter how good they are, so spend for decent ones but don’t go nuts. They will be headed for the trash can in relatively short order.
No, I am not talking about an apron for baking a pie in your quaint little country kitchen, though I suppose you could.
I am talking about an apron that can give you on-demand protection from messy shops or animal jobs. A shop apron is just the ticket for farrier work, time at the bench, or anything else where you’ll be performing intricate tasks while standing in one place.
Easy to don, easy to doff, and invariably found with pockets for stashing tools within easy reach, it is hard to go without an apron once you are used to using one.
Depending on the kind of work you do, try to choose the apron accordingly. For chemicals or bodily fluids, a rubberized or polymer coating is going to help goo slide right off, and not get trapped.
For woodshop or workbench tasks, something made of canvas or other heavy cloth will repel splinters, wood chips, sparks, and metal shavings.
You don’t need to go crazy comparing, and you don’t need to spend a bundle on an apron. Buy a decent one in accordance with what you need, and keep it handy near the worksite. You’ll use it plenty.
These are another mandatory item for active homesteaders, and for a host of reasons. Sure, your peepers need protection from the sun to prevent strain and discomfort, but they also need shielding from all sorts of flying hazards.
From power tools to riding mowers, there is always the potential for something to go awry and send a fast-moving object in your direction.
And then there is the problem of dust, grit and other debris kicked up by animals, machines, and wind.
Choosing the right sunglasses will not only keep your eyes safe from sun but also let you see better in typical light conditions while offering impact protection.
The last thing you want to do when chopping wood is put on a pair of fashion shades that actually reduce your ability to see or depend on a chintzy pair of gas station shades when running an angle grinder.
A good pair of impact-rated sunglasses is just what the doctor ordered. Don’t forget the leash or lanyard to keep them from falling off your head!
There are countless good brands out there, and depending on your budget you might try Oakley, Smith Optics, or another brand.
What you want, though, no matter what is to make sure they are ANSI “basic” rated or, even better, U.S. MIL-PRF-31013 rated: look for the impact resistance logo on the lens.
You might also want to consider getting a pair of clear or yellow-tinted safety glasses for indoor work or overcast days. They let in more light and don’t mess with your depth perception like sunglasses can.
You can usually find them at any hardware store for less than $10, so they are worth picking up as well.
12. Thermal Underwear
The work never stops on a homestead, especially if you have livestock. Those animals are counting on you, day in and day out, no matter the weather and no matter the situation.
Whether you are facing a cold snap, working in typically frigid conditions, or just trying to stay comfortable in the oncoming chill, a set of decent long underwear can make all the difference.
And compared to bulky outerwear, you can stay warmer with less material, meaning less to snag and get nasty as you complete your tasks.
You don’t need to go full-on union suit with the butt flap, but getting some two-piece form-fitting base layer long johns will help you stay warm or at least warmer no matter what the thermometer is doing.
Of course, those of you who live in areas with mild winters probably won’t need these at all!
The classic “grid” type long johns are fine here; just take care to buy some that don’t have excessively bulky internal stitching, as these are a fast track to hotspots and blisters.
To clarify, I am not talking about hand warmers, the air-reactive heater packets; I am instead referring to the tube-shaped pouch worn like a fanny pack that you stick your hands in.
These are great for tasks in cold weather where you need maximum dexterity but you also need to protect your hands from the cold. Basically anywhere your hands might get cold but you can’t justify putting on gloves you should use this guy.
In essence, when you aren’t actually working you can stick your hands in to warm up. Most even have a pocket for a Hot Hands packet to keep your hands toasty warm.
It sounds like a small thing, even counterproductive, but when you need your hands constantly you don’t want to be wasting time all day putting gloves on and pulling them off between tasks. This little wonder will keep your hands nimble and warm.
My number one thing to look for with these is durability since they will need machine washing frequently along with your other clothes. There are all sorts of other features you might choose, too, depending on your preferences.
A Homesteader’s Clothes Can Make the Difference
Like any profession, the right apparel can make the work go more smoothly, whereas the wrong apparel can make even simple tasks arduous.
These 13 items of clothing have a place in any homesteader’s wardrobe. Get the right clothes, and you can make your hard work around your property a little more tolerable.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.