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what to wear hiking in summer

Trying to decide how to pack and what to wear when hiking in summer? Let me help!

In this guide, I’ll share some easy tips and things to consider when planning your next national park trip or outdoor adventure.

Quick Picks On What To Wear When Hiking

Here’s a quick cheat sheet for building the perfect summer hiking outfit:

  • Hats & Accessories: Columbia Global Adventure hat or a cap with a neck cape.
  • Base Layers: Merino or synthetic material shirts from Natural Feelings, Columbia, Outdoor Research, Under Armour, etc.
  • Lightweight Windbreaker: Marmot makes great packable rain jackets.
  • Hiking Underwear: Stay dry and avoid excess moisture with brands like ExOfficio and Under Armour.
  • Hiking Pants: 90 Degree by Reflex Leggings or Columbia Silver Ridge Convertibles
  • Hiking Shorts: The Mountain Hardwear: Dynama/2 Bermuda Shorts
  • Shoes: Salomon X Ultra GORE-TEX or Merrell MQM Flex GTX mid-hiking shoes
  • Socks: Darn Tough Coolmax Light Cushion socks
  • Hydration: Camelbak Circuit or Osprey Raptor packs with integrated 2L+ reservoirs
  • Snacks & Nutrition: Clif bars, Rx bars, dried fruits and nuts
  • Sun Protection: Neutrogena sweatproof sport sunscreen, zinc sticks, UPF sun shirts
woman smiling while eating an orange dressed in hiking gear for beginners on a budget and posing in front of zion national park

Key Takeaways

  • Wearing lighter colors can help you stay cool by reflecting the sun’s rays, while darker colors tend to absorb heat and make you feel warmer.
  • Don’t wear cotton because it’s useless once it gets wet. Instead, use fabrics that wick away sweat and dry quickly – like polyester, merino wool, or nylon.
  • Lightweight, breathable hiking pants work well for sun protection and versatility.
  • Prioritize hiking shoes with good ventilation, mesh panels, and moisture-wicking linings.
  • Pack accessories like wide-brimmed hats, buffs, and UV protective sunglasses.
  • Hydration reservoirs and insulation help keep fluids cool and accessible.
  • Focus on loose, flowy layers that allow maximum air circulation.
  • UPF-rated clothing helps block harmful ultraviolet radiation.
  • Look for features like vents, airflow zones, and sweat-wicking technology.
  • Bring lightweight, nutrient-dense snacks that provide energy without weighing you down.
  • Sun-protective lip balms, lotions, and skin shields prevent painful burns.
  • Pay attention to early signs of heat exposure, like dizziness or nausea.
  • Plan routes for shade coverage and avoid midday sun during extreme heat.
women doing yoga pose overlooking bryce canyon national park while wearing KEEN Voyageur Mid- Women's hiking boots

Head to Toe Hiking Attire

Let’s start from the top! Below is an outline of outdoor apparel, specifically designed for hikes that will help you survive Death Valley in the summer or the scorching heat of Arches National Park.

Let’s begin with how to protect your head and round up with a plan on how to keep those feet dry and comfortable.

I figured it makes more sense to think about it this way so you have an easy mental checklist guide when packing your hiking essentials or planning your weekend hiking clothes.

women on a hike

1. Shield Your Head & Neck

It’s so important never to neglect sun-protective accessories! Your wide-brim hat should be a hiking pack essential for any warm-weather hikes.

Hats protect your pretty face, ears, and back of the neck from sun exposure. These sensitive areas can quickly get sunburned pretty easily. Nothing’s worse than your ears peeling from a sunburn.

  • Moisture-wicking sweatbands
  • Dark Under Brim to reduce glare
  • Mesh panels or airflow vents

If you prefer caps over wide-brim hats, the Outdoor Research Sun Runner Cap is a nice choice because it comes with a removable cape that protects the back of your neck. It’s also quick-drying and super lightweight.

Some people like to wear UPF neck gaiters for sun protection and to keep from breathing in dust, but personally, I feel like those make me even hotter because they’re clingy around the neck. Or, they don’t quite fit right (being too big and sliding down your face or too small and choking you to death).

No matter what style you prefer, a breathable, moisture-wicking hat is a priority for keeping your head cool while protecting you from sun and heat, like if you’re hiking through Utah.

Pro Tip! Always opt for items with a UPF rating for additional protection other than sunscreen.

Our Pick: WOMEN
Columbia Global Adventure Hat

Columbia: Global Adventure Packable Hat II

  • Packable: Shove it in your pack & go! No need to bother wearing it on the plane.
  • UPF 30: No sunburn on your scalp.
  • 4″ brim: Shade your face while still looking cute.
  • Under $40
Our Pick: Men
Outdoor Research Sombriolet jpg

Outdoor Research: Sunbriolet Sun Hat

  • Maximum Features: Water resistant, lightweight, and quick drying- everything you need in the perfect hiking hat.
  • UPF 50+: Balding or thinning hair? No sunburns on your precious head with this baby!
  • Ventilation: Stay cool with side vents on the crown and breathable mesh panels.
  • Under $50

2. Moisture Wicking Base Layers

The next piece of the warmer weather hiking wardrobe is what you wear closest to your skinhiking underwear, sports bras, and compression tops.

Why? When you sweat heavily in the heat, having clothing that absorbs that sweat and pulls it away from your body goes a long way toward staying dry and avoiding chafing.

  • Avoid cotton and choose fabrics like polyester, nylon, rayon, or a blend.
  • Anti-odor technology
  • Mesh panels for breathability

Patagonia also makes a base layer with moisture-wicking material- the Women’s Ridge Flow Tank Top. A super lightweight tank top option when you want to wear something a little more loose-fitting.

Whatever specific style or brand you choose, it’s hard to go wrong with a lightweight synthetic base layer tee or sports bra crop top as your first layer when hiking in summer.

Our Pick: WOMEN
Natural Feelings Sports Bra Crop Top

Natural Feelings Sports Bra Crop Top

  • Versatile: The perfect base layer to wear underneath your t-shirt or by itself since it’s not a plain sports bra; it’s more like a cropped tank top.
  • Fabric: Buttery-soft, moisture-wicking, and quick drying.
  • Features: Removable padded bra
  • Under $30
Our Pick: Men
Mens HeatGear® Short Sleeve jpg

Under Armour: UA HeatGear Compression Tops

  • Lightweight: The perfect layer to wear underneath your cool morning long-sleeve layer
  • Anti-Odor: Moisture-wicking and fast drying to prevent the post-hike stink!
  • Ventilation: Mesh underarm & back panels
  • Under $30

3. UPF Hiking Shirts for Sun Protection

UPF long-sleeve shirts are the perfect outer layer to protect you from sun exposure, especially for hot summer hiking adventures or trails with little to no shade.

  • UPF 50+ for max protection from the sun
  • Loose fitting and breathable

These lightweight shirts are essential hiking apparel and perfect to throw on over tank tops.

Our Pick: WOMEN
Outdoor Research Womens ActiveIce Spectrum Sun Long Sleeve Tee jpg

Outdoor Research: ActiveIce Spectrum Sun Long Sleeve Tee

  • UPF 50+: Made with a very dense weave of fabric that allows almost no UV light penetration to reach your skin.
  • Design: Thumb holes on the sleeves, quick-drying, breathable.
  • Under $30
Our Pick: Men
Columbia jpg

Columbia: Canyonland Trail Long Sleeve T-Shirt

  • UPF 50+: Guards against skin damage and blocks UVA/UVB rays.
  • Fabric: Great at wicking sweat and odor-resistant.
  • Under $40

4. Light Windbreaker or Rain Jacket

Even with it blistering hot outside, it’s a good idea to bring a windbreaker or rain jacket.

It may be lightweight, but it’ll act like an insulated jacket for mornings in the desert or mountainous areas where it can be pretty chilly, even in the middle of summer. This is especially true when hiking in places like Breckenridge or Ouray, Colorado.

  • Packable/compressible – Allows stowing in pack when not needed.
  • Lightweight & breathable – Prevents overheating while providing wind protection.
  • Adjustable hood, cuffs & hem – Seals out drafts when weather shifts.
  • Durable water repellant (DWR) coating – Sheds light rain/splashes without soaking through.
  • Vented underarm zips – Allows dumping heat quickly when working hard.
  • Elasticized or athletic cut – Allows layering over base layers without billowing.

That’s why I always suggest dressing in layers. This outer shell will protect you when the temperature dips or you get stuck in sudden rain showers.

You don’t necessarily need a big puffy jacket or lots of extra layers, just enough to balance your body temp.

Our Pick: WOMEN
Marmot WOMEN PreCip Eco Rain Jacket

Marmot: Women’s PreCip Eco Rain Jacket

  • Style: Comes in a variety of bright colors.
  • Design: Waterproof, breathable, and even packable!
  • Features: Convenient zipper pockets to store your phone or snacks.
  • Under $70
Our Pick: Men
Marmot MEN PreCip Eco Rain Jacket

Marmot: Men’s PreCip Eco Rain Jacket

  • Fit: Roomy enough for a long sleeve shirt or thin fleece jacket underneath.
  • Breathable: Zippers under the arms to keep you cool.
  • Design: Adjustable hood that folds into collar.
  • Under $130

5. Hiking Underwear

Hiking clothing isn’t just about the outer layers; you gotta think about the most important layer of all- UNDERWEAR!

  • Seamless designs minimize friction & chafing
  • Stretchiness for total range of motion
  • Odor control materials

Nothing beats a good pair of hiking underwear and nothing is worse than wearing an uncomfortable pair!

Our Pick: WOMEN
ExOfficio Womens Give N Go Bikini Underwear jpg

ExOfficio: Give-N-Go Bikini Underwear

  • Design: Breathable mesh fabric provides airflow to keep you cool & dry.
  • Features: SilvadurTM antimicrobial tech prevents odor buildup.
  • Fit: Low-rise fit prevents panty lines under activewear.
  • Under $25
Our Pick: Men
Under Armour BoxerJock

Under Armour: BoxerJock Underwear

  • Design: Ultra-soft fabric with mesh zones for ventilation.
  • Features: Signature moisture transport system dries 4X faster.
  • Fit: Updated boxer brief silhouette for modern athletic cut.
  • Under $30

6. Hiking Shorts Vs. Pants Vs. Leggings

Once you’ve chosen some high-tech, wicking base layers, the next question is, “Should you wear shorts or pants during hot hikes?” Honestly, it depends on your personal preference.

  • Consider the conditions: Lots of brush, areas with poison ivy, stinging plants, etc.
  • For super hot hikes, go for lightweight shorts, but remember to lather sunscreen on your legs.
  • Convertible pants are the best of both worlds.

When hiking in the heat, it’s probably best to wear lightweight convertible pants that allow you to adjust based on your needs and trail conditions.

For me, 90% of the time, I like to wear leggings on my hiking trips. I feel more agile and comfortable in them. Plus, they’re versatile because I also wear them to the gym.

But, for seriously hot or long hikes, I’ll opt to wear durable women’s hiking pants. Lightweight pants protect your legs from getting burned and are a barrier from insects/plants.

Our Pick: WOMEN
90 Degree By Reflex High Waist Tummy Control Interlink Squat Proof Ankle Length Leggings

90 Degree By reflex: High Waist Leggings

  • Design: Smartphone pocket
  • Features: Variety of colors, durable activewear
  • Fit: High Waist Tummy Control, ankle length, stretchy, comfortable
  • Under $25
Our Pick: Men
Columbia Men Silver Ridge Convertible Pants

Columbia: Silver Ridge Convertible Pants

  • Design: Zipper pockets, quick dry, lightweight, not bulky.
  • Features: UPF 50+
  • Fit: Converts to 10″ inseam shorts
  • Under $70
Our Pick: WOMEN
Womens Convertible Hiking Pants jpg

Women’s Convertible Hiking Pants

  • Design: Large capacity pockets, 4-way stretch
  • Features: Zip-off, very quick dry, drawstring ankle closure, durable
  • Fit: Elastic waistband
  • Under $40

For those women who prefer shorts, I’d suggest choosing a longer pair, such as a Bermuda cut. The simple reason is so that they don’t ride up all day.

Personally, I’ve found that when I wear shorter shorts, they tend to ride up in the crotch area and cause chafing or just generally annoy me the entire hike.

But that’s just me, and everyone prefers a different style.

Our Pick: WOMEN
Mountain Hardwear- Women's Dynama Bermuda Short

Mountain Hardwear: Dynama/2 Bermuda Shorts

  • Design: Zip pocket on thigh, two deep hand pockets, stretch materials, and low profile waistband
  • Features: UPF 50 to filter out harsh UV rays, water-repellent
  • Fit: Low profile waistband
  • Under $70

Final Thoughts On The Best Hiking Clothes For Summer

Hiking in the summer is so much fun! However, the summer heat and humidity can also make hiking brutal if you’re not properly prepared.

Figuring out what to wear and how to stay cool requires thoughtful planning. The wrong clothing can leave you soaked in sweat, bothered by insects, and more susceptible to harmful UV rays.

Proper preparation is key! Follow this hot weather clothing guide covering everything from base layers and pants to socks, shoes, and hats. With the right outfit, you’ll stay cool, dry, and comfortable hitting the trail even on sweltering hot and sunny days.

woman resting against a tree while on a hike in hawaii

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How much water should I pack for a backpacking trip in the summer?

A: Plan for at least 3-4 liters of water for a full day of hiking in heat and humidity. Drink before you feel thirsty to stay hydrated at a cellular level. Electrolyte tablets in water help, too.

Q: How many layers of clothing should I wear for summer hikes?

A: 2-3 breathable layers allow adapting coverage and ventilation as temperatures climb. Have a moisture-wicking base, a loose hiking top, and a weatherproof shell if the weather turns.

Q: What extra hiking gear can help me beat the heat?

A: Portable personal mister fans, cooling towels/bandanas, insulated hydration packs, and lightweight umbrellas to block direct sun during exposed breaks provide relief.

Q: What snacks and foods work well in warmer weather conditions?

A: Hydrating fruit slices, fresh, chilled produce, electrolyte chews/drinks, salty chips/pretzels, and nutrient-dense, calorie-rich trail mixes give energy without gastric distress or heaviness.

Q: How can I keep hydration packs and water cool during summer hikes?

A: Insulate your pack against your back sweat with barriers like foam pads or mesh panels. Adding ice to bladder compartments helps keep fluids cooler for hours longer under top lid screws.

Q: What signs of heat illness should I watch out for when hiking in hot weather?

A: Dizziness, headache, muscle cramps, nausea, rapid breathing/heartbeat, and confusion are all red flags. It’s time to rest in the shade and hydrate ASAP before it progresses to dangerous levels.

Q: Can overheating negatively impact hiking performance and safety?

A: Absolutely yes. Heat illness poses serious risks like exhaustion, cramps, or heat stroke. Pay attention to warning signs and adjust the pace to prevent going from discomfort to danger zone.

Q: Should I take extra precautions if hiking midday in extreme heat?

A: Yes. Avoid direct sunlight during peak intensity between 10 am-4 pm in torrid temps. Plan a route to maximize tree coverage, wear sun-protective clothing head to toe, carry more water than seems reasonable, and monitor exertion levels closely.

Pay attention to signs of heat illness and be ready to rest or turn back if they appear. Don’t take chances with extreme heat – it can escalate danger quicker than expected when miles out on remote trails. Better safe than sorry!

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