When summer finally comes and you’re ready to hit the trails to go to your favorite hiking spots, you might be wondering what you should wear. A lot of experienced hikers, already know the answer. But for new hiking enthusiasts, there are a few important things to consider before you pack your bags.
Unlike winter hiking when you have to wear really heavy clothes to stay warm, hiking in the summer requires you to stay as light as possible. Knowing what to wear in the summer is very important as your clothes determine how good your hiking experience will be. The wrong kind can make you feel overwhelmed in the heat which could potentially lead to health issues. So, to avoid that here is a guide on what to wear when hiking in the summer.
Fabrics To Consider When Hiking In Summer
Before we jump into discussing the clothes, we need to first talk about the fabric they are made out of. Here is some of the most commonly used fabric for clothing:
- Cotton: Lots of seasoned hikers stay away from cotton because when they soak up moisture, they stay wet for a long time. This can be good for hiking in the heat but they are terrible in cold weather.
- Wool: Clothes made out of wool are a good choice for hiking as they are soft and breathable. That means they can absorb any excess sweat from your body and quickly become dry. But one downside is, they can be itchy if they are not made from merino wool.
- Silk: Silk is also good at wicking away any excess moisture. But they are not the best for outdoor use as they can tear pretty easily
- Nylon and Polyester: Both these materials are very similar to each other. They are excellent at keeping you dry and providing ventilation. They are also much cheaper to manufacture than silk and merino wool. However, after a long hike, they can retain some of the odor. But after a quick wash and drying, they are good to go.
Summer Hiking Tops
When hiking in the summer, you should always wear light-colored clothes. Dark colors absorb heat whereas light colors reflect it. This can help you stay cool under the sun. Also, make sure whatever top you have on, they are loose and breathable. Loose-fitting clothes help your body regulate temperature whereas tight-fitting clothes can make you feel hot and sweaty. Polyester and Nylon tops are good options to get.
That doesn’t mean that you should avoid cotton tops though. There is a lot of controversy about wearing cotton while hiking. Many believe that wearing cotton traps your sweat and can be dangerous in wet conditions, which is true. However, in hot climates, wearing cotton can actually help as it can cool your body using the moisture stored in it. But if you don’t feel comfortable hiking around in a cotton top, then you can always go for polyester, nylon, silk, merino wool, etc.
Another common myth is that you should avoid wearing long-sleeved tops. That isn’t true. Long-sleeved tops can actually help you by protecting your skin from direct sun rays which contain UV radiation. That is why people with sensitive skin are actually advised to wear full-sleeve tops while hiking. A lightweight, breathable, full-sleeved top can provide excellent protection against the sun.
It is also highly recommended that you wear UPF-rated clothes. These clothes are lab tested to prevent UV radiation from penetrating the fabric. Typically, a top can have a UPF rating between 15 to 50. The higher the number is, the better the protection. For example, a top with UPF 25 rating only permits about 4 percent of the total UV radiation to pass through. Hence, UPF-rated clothes are essential when you go out hiking under the bare sun.
Summer Hiking Bottoms
Let’s start this section by discussing the age-old question: shorts or pants? To be honest, both have its pros and cons depending on the kind of hiking you do. Shorts provide a lot of ventilation and dexterity to your legs. But they keep your legs exposed to direct UV rays and can ride up to your crotch when you go over obstacles.
Wearing pants alleviates those problems as they keep your skin protected from the sun and bugs. But if you tend to sweat a lot, then wearing pants may not be very comfortable as they can store your sweat and make it hard to move. You can also wear pants with vents as you can manually open or close them on hot days for extra airflow. Consider getting a pair of hiking pants or leggings. But do avoid wearing jeans and other materials which can either build up the heat around your legs or tear very easily.
Overall, it really depends on you and what you are comfortable with. If you want a better idea of what sort of bottoms you should wear, then I suggest you do some research on your hiking spot. The environment you will be hiking through is very important when it comes to picking a pair of bottoms. To be on the safe side, you can pack both for your trip. Just make sure to get UPF-rated bottoms.
Summer Hiking Hats
Having your head directly exposed to the hot sun for a long period of time can be detrimental to your health. If you are going to be hiking for more than a few hours in the heat, then make sure to protect your head. You can do so by wearing hats.
A lot of people like wearing baseball caps when hiking. Others like to wrap a bandana around their head. That is fine but you should wear something suitable like a sun hat with a long brim. They keep your head dry and protected from the sun. They also protect your neck, face, and eyes from direct sunlight.
There are many styles of sun hats available in the market. They come with many different features as well like a sunglass holder, neck capes, etc. So, you can find one that suits your taste and preference.
Summer Hiking Shoes and Socks
Getting the right pair of shoes is crucial when you go hiking. If you think you can just wear a pair of sneakers and tackle the great outdoors, then you are sorely mistaken. Hiking requires a lot of leg work and without proper footwear, it can be very difficult. If you are a hiking enthusiast, then we recommend that you invest in a pair of good hiking boots.
There are many pairs of quality hiking boots available in the market, but knowing which one will be the best for you can be quite challenging. You can find specialized hiking boots for trekking, climbing shoes, etc.
Since there are so many options to pick from, it is better to go to a store and try on some hiking boots for yourself. There are a few criteria that you should consider. First of all, make sure they fit properly and are comfortable to wear. Second, if you are hiking through rocky roads and uneven terrain, then you must ensure that your boots have adequate protection. In the case of wet surfaces, you need to have good traction.
Third, you should also keep in mind how durable your boots are. Otherwise, if they tear while you are hiking, it could cause a lot of issues getting back. You can opt for leather boots, but they aren’t necessary if you can find something suitable.
You should also pick up a pair of nice comfy socks. Make sure your socks are made of good-quality materials. Avoid cotton as they can easily get wet and retain the moisture in your feet because wet socks can cause blisters. Additionally, thick socks are not recommended either. Try going for a nice thin pair of socks with good ventilation. When you do get your new boots and hiking socks, test them out. Go for a short hike and see how they feel. Once you are satisfied that they are good quality, you can finally hit your favorite trails.
Other Things to Consider for Summer Hiking
Before going on your adventure, you should also consider what you are going to wear underneath your hiking clothes. Make sure the fabric of your underwear is synthetic and not cotton. Polyester and nylon are good options as they can wick away any built-up sweat from your body, thus keeping you dry. This avoids unnecessary chafing, itching, and discomfort that could ruin your hiking experience.
Another thing that you should definitely wear while hiking in the sun is sunscreen! You should apply sunscreen with at least SPF 30 or higher on any exposed skin. This includes your hands, arms, neck, nose, and legs. Apply sunscreen 15 minutes before you go out. Reapply liberally after every two hours. If you have been sweating a lot, then apply it again 40 to 80 minutes after drying off.
You should also carry a warm polyester fleece jacket if you are going for a nighttime hike. In case of rain, keep a rain jacket and pants with you.
I can understand if you feel overwhelmed by the amount of information needed just to go on a nice summer hike. But these things are very important to keep in mind. Many novice hikers don’t take these things into consideration and end up having a bad experience. That is why this article has been written up so that it can help you avoid those mistakes.
The key takeaway from this is:
- Make sure to stay dry
- Avoid direct exposure to the sun
- Wear light breathable clothes
- And keep your feet protected
If you can follow these guidelines, then you will have no issues when hiking in the hot summer.
Diana Miller, is a dedicated nature enthusiast and an outdoor adventurer. She began leading groups for excursions in her teens and never stopped. Following her passion for nature, she gathers her friends for outdoor trips every now and then. And for the last 10 years, she has executed workshops on backpacking, snow kayaking and traveling that included her main motive of lightweight packing while outdoors. During leisure, she loves planning for her next adventure.