I get asked a lot about what you should wear in Morocco and, in terms of respecting the culture, it is really easy. Women should avoid showing their shoulders, cleavages and thighs and also wearing clothes that are totally see through. Men can wear shorts but vests and short shorts are a bit of a no no (but then they are everywhere!). Apart from that, wear whatever you like and feel free to wear the local jellaba because it is perfect for the weather, looks great and will win you universal approval. There is no such thing as cultural appropriation here.
For hiking, in the mountains or in the desert, it depends which season you are coming in. I’m going to look first at autumn/winter/spring for the mountains.
Morocco’s mountains are really worth exploring and whether you can spend just a day or a luxurious couple of weeks, hiking here is definitely something I would put high on your to do list. Think of the mountains in exactly the same way as you would in the UK, Europe or the US and you won’t go far wrong. Mountain weather is changeable and mountains must always be treated with respect. You can start in bright sunshine and half an hour later, it can be snowing.
The answer, of course, is layers and Rohan have written a really good guide on layering that you can read here. They were also kind enough to send me a whole bunch of kit to test out from my home in Imlil in the High Atlas, which I have been happily doing over the last few months as I train for the Everest Trail Race. For each suggestion, I have put the male equivalent next to it.
I would start with the Explorers (men’s) as my base trouser for most months and if you are going up only so high – say 3000 metres. If you are going higher than that, or you are here in the depths of winter, I would look at a fleece-lined technical trouser like the Summits (men’s)
On top, I layer to the max as this is where your core temperature resides and if it starts to get cold this is the one spot you can’t allow to drop too far. However, given that you are likely to be doing some quite strenuous walking (these mountains are high) you definitely need stuff that wicks.
I would start with the Fleet T (men’s)– long sleeved or short sleeved – as it is brilliant at taking sweat away from your body. Over that, I would put one of my favourite items ever, the 150 Merino Jacket (men’s) because you can unzip it to get cool if you start overheating. For the cold sections layer with this microlite (men’s) puffer jacket.
When it gets REALLY cold, either in the evening or on the top of the very high peaks, you are going to need a full down jacket.
Waterproofs are also a must as the rains or snow can come on very quickly. I would bring both a jacket and trousers if you are doing treks of longer than a day. Depending on the season, you might want to bring lighter or heavier.
In summer, you might still face rain or storms but the weather will be much warmer down in the valleys and you should be wearing lighter trousers and short sleeved Ts. However, I would still pack extra layers and remember at night that temperature really goes down and if you are staying in mountain gites/refugees I can guarantee that they will be freezing.
There are some things that I think you should ALWAYS pack for a day in the mountains. Some basic safety equipment: an emergency foil blanket; a compass; a whistle and mirror for attracting attention; a very basic first aid kit; a small knife and a lighter.
In terms of clothes, even on the brightest day, I stick in a merino hat and a buff, an extra fleece as I can use it if needed and also swap it out if I stop for the day and my T shirt is wet with sweat and, finally, ladies, always take an extra bra to put on when the hiking stops, those sports’ ones are nightmares of sweatiness!
For the desert in spring/autumn – if you are visiting in summer you are both hard core and crazy – cool trousers and tops but still take layers for the evening as the temperature drops down. Make sure you have enough things to cover your arms and legs in case of sunburn.
The desert in winter can be really cold, so I would be taking a microlite jacket to put on at the end of the day. Waterproofs may be needed but it is a lot less likely.
The main thing is to pack enough and to make sure it is comfortable and light. Pack enough and you can’t go wrong.