After a recent trip into some thick CA chaparral, I have come to realize just how vital it is to have the proper gear when hiking, particularly when the path is overgrown or there is no path. I find it interesting how there is both a serious need to be particular about what materials you use, and how each of those materials has unique properties that greatly effect your comfort, efficiency, and safety on the hike. Hell, it's almost like suiting yourself up with the best armor and weapons on an rpg :P : trying to max out your durability, speed, aeration, grip, etc. "stats" before doing battle with a mountain. If you're not properly equipped, you'll have a miserable time of it.
So for those of you who go hiking or enjoy the outdoors regularly, what are your favorite types of clothes, materials, shoes, and other equipment that you consider to be essential? Nylon/synthetic socks > cotton? Running shoes > full on hiking boots?