When hiking in hot weather, the most important thing is staying comfortable. Summer looks different depending on where you live so it’s not as simple as recommending some shorts and a tank top that may not keep you protected from the elements.
Summer hiking clothes usually consist of light base layers, good ventilation, and plenty of sun protection. Whatever you do, avoid 100% cotton and go with moisture-wicking synthetic materials that will keep you much cooler.
Before you head out on the trail, make sure you’re dressed for success with this full guide on what to wear for hiking in summer.
You can easily pick out your own hiking clothes by following a few basic rules of thumb that apply to hot weather situations.
- Color – Stick to light-colored clothing that reflects UV rays rather than absorbing them. White or tan will help keep you cool under the summer sun.
- Dress in layers – Light layers provide extra sun protection as well as keep bugs away from your skin. You can always add to or take away from your layers during your hike.
- Choose the right materials – Merino wool, polyester, nylon, and fleece are ideal hiking fabrics as they are breathable and moisture-wicking.
- Look for extra sun protection – Sun exposure is no joke. Clothing with a UPF rating can keep your skin safer from the sun than regular clothes.
Dressing for a summer hike means keeping things light and airy without skimping on protection. You want to avoid getting too hot and making yourself sick as well as preventing sunburn. It’s a balance that can be achieved with the right gear for the heat.
Socks and Underwear
Your base layer is what directly touches your skin and that means it also directly impacts your comfort on a hike. Having the right socks and underwear during the summer can make all the difference in the world while you’re on the trail.
Wool, nylon, or polyester are the best fabrics for undergarments. They wick moisture away from the skin and dry quickly to keep you from feeling soaked in sweat.
When picking out your hiking socks, always consider what shes you’re going to wear. Sneakers work well with low-cut socks but you’ll need something higher for boots to avoid blisters. Crew socks provide excellent tick protection when paired with leggings or long pants.
Underwear follows the same rules as socks. Choose something that fits tightly to your skin and is light enough to keep you cool while you’re under the sun.
For women, a well-made sports bra is a must. Get something with plenty of support that’s still comfortable. The material should already be suitable for summer hiking as most sports bras are made to use in conditions where plenty of sweat is involved.
Pants and Leggings
It may seem like madness to think about wearing pants for hiking in the summer. But the truth is, hiking pants or leggings can provide protection from the heat, sun, and bugs so you can enjoy your hike without worrying.
Keep away from denim and opt for hiking pants that are lightweight, breathable, and durable. It’s already hot outside so you want your pants to keep you cool and comfortable.
Cargo pants and convertible pants that zip into shorts are some of the most popular kinds of pants for hikers. Make sure they fit well over your boots or shoes to keep bugs at bay (and maybe give them a spray of bug protection while you’re at it).
Leggings are a go-to for many women on the trail. A good pair of leggings keep moisture away from your skin, help you stay cool, protect you from the sun, and are extremely comfortable to hike in. Grab a pair made for performance instead of trying to hike in your run-of-the-mill yoga pants.
If you prefer shorts, leggings also look great layered underneath for both men and women.
Sometimes shorts are just the way to go. If you’re not going to be under the sun for long periods of time, if you’re dealing with more humidity than direct sunlight, or if you’re not in an area where mosquitos and ticks are a problem, you can get away with only wearing shorts.
Just make sure you put plenty of sunscreen on your legs!
When picking out your shorts, pretty much any pair will do as long as you’re comfortable in them. Elastic waistbands and stretchy material help with mobility. Pockets make it easier to carry more with you. And, as always, keep to fabrics that soak up sweat and dry fast.
Slim-fitting shorts are so much better for hiking than anything baggy that might get caught on branches or boulders along the way.
There are a few different categories when it comes to hiking shirts. You’ve got your choice of tank tops, t-shirts, and long-sleeved shirts.
Yes, long-sleeved shirts are good for summer hiking.
The most important thing to consider when you pick out your shirts is what they’re made of. Synthetic material or wool is best for shirts to keep you from feeling overly sweaty while you’re out under the sun. It’s also highly recommended to find shirts with a UPF rating for extra UV protection.
Tank tops will undoubtedly keep you cool. However, they provide no protection for your arms and you may experience rubbing from the straps of your daypack that gets uncomfortable the longer you hike.
T-shirts are a happy medium that keeps your shoulders safe without making you too hot. Just make sure you’re not wearing your everyday cotton shirts, as they are prone to staying wet when you sweat.
Long-sleeved shirts are fantastic sun protection and add a layer that sunscreen can’t always provide. Even if you don’t wear a long-sleeved shirt out hiking, it’s always a good idea to bring one with you in case the weather turns or for after the sun goes down and it gets cooler.
If your shirt of choice has a high collar, it will help protect your neck from the sun as well.
Jackets might not be the first thing you think to bring with you when it’s hot outside but they’re just as important as any other hiking gear.
If you’re planning to hike at high altitudes, if there’s a chance you may get rained on, or if you plan to be out after dark, you will encounter cooler temperatures where a light jacket will come in handy.
Even if you’re just going out for a short day hike, it doesn’t hurt to bring a jacket just in case.
The ideal summer jacket is lightweight, waterproof, and windproof to protect you from the elements without heating you up too much. A lightweight fleece jacket is a good idea as well if you think the temperature may drop on you.
Since these jackets fold down small, it shouldn’t be any trouble to stick one in your pack, just in case.
Always consider wearing a hat while you’re hiking in the summer for ultimate sun protection for your scalp, ears, and face. Putting sunscreen all over is essential but it can be difficult to cover your scalp if you have a lot of hair. Even so, your hair isn’t enough to keep your sensitive scalp from burning under the sun.
You can wear pretty much any hat you have lying around on your hike as long as it’s comfortable and fits well enough that it won’t cause issues on the trail.
For especially sunny days, a wide-brimmed sun hat will give you the best chance of protecting your face and ears from sunburn. Baseball caps work as well to cover your face but may not provide much protection to your ears or the back of your neck.
If you do go for a wide-brimmed hat, check to see if it’s waterproof. They make great rain hats if you get caught in an unexpected drizzle.
This is one of those essentials where everyone has an opinion. Hiking shoes are as varied as the people that wear them, so it’s hard to pin down exactly what shoes are perfect for hiking in the summer. Most people will wear whatever they prefer no matter what.
That being said, a dedicated pair of hiking shoes, boots, or sandals are a must. Here’s what you should consider when deciding on a pair.
Different terrain will make a big difference in the kind of shoes you wear. If you’re going to be on a flat, even trail, you can easily get away with shoes or sandals. But if you’re climbing up over rocky terrain, a sturdy pair of boots will get you there in much better shape.
Sturdy materials, thick soles, and ankle support are vital to a good hiking shoe. You don’t want to end up hurting your feet because you don’t have enough protection from the elements. They should also be waterproof and give you plenty of traction to prevent slipping.
If you’re looking for more bug protection, you can also pair your shoes with a pair of gaiters to seal the gap between shoes and pants to keep anything from getting inside.
You’re not going to get very far if your shoes aren’t comfortable. You’re going to be on your feet all day so make sure the boots or shoes you pick out don’t rub your feet the wrong way. Blisters and sores are no fun after a long day of hiking.
Make sure the shoes you pick are your size so they don’t restrict your feet too much. But they also shouldn’t be too loose as this can cause accidents or injury.
No one can tell you what shoes to get or not get. If you want to wear full-fledged hiking boots all year round, go for it. Just make sure they’re breathable enough for the summer heat. As long as the shoes you choose are comfortable, well-fitted, and your style – they’re the right shoes for you.
Hiking during the summer means high amounts of sunlight that can negatively affect your eyes. Even if you’re not looking directly at it, the glare of UV rays can still be damaging after long periods of time.
Not just any sunglasses are suitable for hiking because they don’t truly protect your eyes from the sun unless you use a special filter.
You want high-quality polarized sunglasses that are equipped with UVA and UVB protection to keep your eyes safe. Any pair of glasses you invest in should fit your face well enough that you’re not having to push them up every five minutes.
If you’re worried about losing your sunglasses on particularly difficult trails, get yourself a sunglasses strap so even if they fall off, you won’t have to go searching for them.
No matter how long your planned hike is, you’re going to need some kind of bag with you to carry essentials. Hiking in the summer comes with the very real risk of dehydration, so you need to bring plenty of water along. Not to mention sunscreen, bug spray, extra layers, and a first-aid kit in case of injury.
Your bag should be lightweight and durable as well as smaller in size. You don’t need to bring your entire house with you on a hike, especially when you’re dealing with the heat.
Backpacks are the most common kind of pack in a hiker’s arsenal. A good backpack will be under 25L and be very versatile so you can use it on any kind of hike during any kind of weather. You can pack plenty in a backpack, so it’s best for long hikes.
Waist packs or fanny packs are much smaller and don’t really have room for bottles of water. However, they’re great for carrying personal items and things you want to get to quickly so you can keep your hands free on the trail.
Hydration packs are an amazing way to stay hydrated in the summer months. You can find them in a variety of shapes and sizes but they all exist to make sure you have plenty of water while you’re hiking and still have room to carry your other gear.
Whatever you choose, the most important thing is that you are comfortable and safe. Staying cool, protecting your skin, and staying hydrated are the most important things to keep in mind when choosing what to wear for hiking in the summer.