What to Wear Hiking in Summer

Welcome to your go-to guide on what to wear hiking in summer! Did you know that 47% of hikers say that choosing the right attire significantly improves their hiking experience? Well, you’re in the right place to make informed choices for your next summer adventure. Let’s dive in!

For hiking in summer, opt for lightweight, breathable fabrics like polyester or nylon that offer UV protection. Consider loose-fitting, long-sleeved tops and long pants for added protection against the sun and bugs. Footwear choices can range from trail shoes to hiking sandals, depending on the terrain. Don’t forget essential accessories like a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and a hydration bladder to stay cool and hydrated.

Ready to hit the trails but unsure about your outfit? Keep reading to discover how the right attire can make your summer hiking adventure both comfortable and safe!

Why Dressing Right Matters

When it comes to summer hiking, the importance of dressing appropriately cannot be overstated. The right attire serves multiple purposes: it ensures your safety, enhances comfort levels, and provides protection from the elements. For instance, wearing UPF-rated clothing can shield you from harmful UV rays, reducing the risk of sunburn. Similarly, opting for breathable fabric like polyester or nylon can help regulate body temperature, making your hike more enjoyable. Lastly, the right kind of attire can also offer protection against bugs and overgrown vegetation, depending on where you’re hiking. Therefore, investing time in choosing the right hiking gear is crucial for a successful outing.

Material Choices

When it comes to selecting materials for your summer hiking attire, there are several factors to consider. UPF-rated fabrics are a top choice for maximum protection against the sun’s harmful UV rays. These fabrics are specifically designed to block a significant amount of UV radiation, making them ideal for long hikes under the sun.

Polyester and nylon are also excellent choices for disrupting UV light. These synthetic materials are not only lightweight but also wick moisture away from the skin, helping to keep you dry and comfortable. Breathable fabric is key when temperatures soar, as it allows for better air circulation, reducing the likelihood of overheating.

While cotton is generally discouraged for hiking due to its moisture-retaining properties, it has its merits. In very dry, hot climates like deserts, cotton can actually be beneficial. It retains moisture and can provide a cooling effect as the water evaporates. However, it’s crucial to have a change of clothes if you opt for cotton, as it can lead to chills when temperatures drop.

Fit and Comfort

When hiking in the summer, the fit of your clothes plays a pivotal role in your overall comfort and performance. Loose-fitting clothes are generally recommended as they allow for increased airflow, helping your body to better regulate its temperature. Tight clothes can restrict movement and may lead to chafing, especially when you’re sweating.

Another aspect to consider is the length of your sleeves. While tank tops might seem like a good idea for hot weather, opting for full-length sleeves can offer better protection from the sun and potential hazards like overgrown vegetation or rocky terrain.

Additionally, some hiking clothes come with adjustable features like detachable lower legs, allowing you to convert pants into shorts. This versatility can be particularly useful for adapting to changing weather conditions or different parts of a trail.

Features to Look For

When shopping for summer hiking attire, there are several features that can enhance your experience on the trail. Air vents are one such feature, strategically placed to increase airflow and help regulate body temperature. These are particularly useful in high-humidity environments where sweat is more likely to accumulate.

Detachable lower legs on hiking pants offer the flexibility to switch between pants and shorts, depending on the weather and terrain. This feature can be a lifesaver when you’re hiking through areas with varying conditions.

Pockets might seem like a trivial feature, but they can be incredibly useful. Opt for clothes with secure, zippered pockets to safely store essentials like maps, snacks, or a compact first-aid kit.

Color Choices

The color of your hiking attire may seem like a minor detail, but it can have a significant impact on your comfort and safety. Lighter colors are generally better for summer hiking as they reflect sunlight, helping to keep you cooler. Darker colors, on the other hand, tend to absorb heat, which can make you feel warmer.

However, it’s also worth considering safety. Having at least one bright-colored item can make you more visible, which is especially important if you’re hiking in areas where hunting is permitted or in case of an emergency.

Footwear Options

Footwear is a critical component of your hiking gear, and choosing the right type can significantly affect your comfort and safety on the trail. For summer hiking, lighter options are generally more suitable. Trail shoes are a popular choice as they offer excellent grip and traction while being lightweight and breathable.

Hiking sandals are another option to consider, especially for trails that involve water crossings or creek exploration. These sandals are quick to dry and offer a decent level of support, although they may not provide as much protection as traditional hiking boots.

Speaking of traditional hiking boots, they shouldn’t be entirely ruled out. In certain terrains, like rocky or uneven trails, the additional ankle support provided by boots can be beneficial. However, opt for boots made from lightweight materials and those that offer good ventilation.

Sock choice is also crucial. Light wool or synthetic socks are recommended as they wick moisture away, keeping your feet dry. Cotton socks are generally not advised as they retain moisture, which can lead to discomfort and even blisters.

Base Layers

While base layers are often associated with colder weather, they can also serve a purpose during summer hikes. Depending on the temperature fluctuations and the specific conditions of your trip, you may find base layers useful. Lightweight silk or synthetic tops can be particularly beneficial if you’re hiking into the evening or reaching higher altitudes where temperatures can drop.

These base layers can also provide extra UV protection when worn under a loose-fitting, open-weave top. Additionally, an absorbent base layer can help prevent chafing, especially if you tend to sweat a lot.

Summer Hiking Tops

When it comes to tops for summer hiking, there are several factors to consider for optimal comfort and protection. Long-sleeved options are highly recommended as they offer better protection from the sun’s harmful rays, as well as from bugs and overgrown vegetation. Look for tops made from UPF-rated or breathable fabric to ensure you stay cool and protected.

Ventilation features like air vents or mesh panels can also be beneficial, especially in humid conditions. These features allow for better air circulation, helping to keep you cool during strenuous activities.

Some tops come with additional features like zippered pockets or built-in loops for gear attachment. While not essential, these can add a level of convenience to your hiking experience.

Summer Hiking Pants

Selecting the right pants for summer hiking involves a balance between comfort, protection, and functionality. While shorts may seem like the obvious choice for hot weather, they leave your legs exposed to potential hazards like ticks, thorns, and UV rays. Opting for long pants made from lightweight, breathable materials can offer the best of both worlds.

If you prefer the flexibility to switch between shorts and pants, consider options with detachable lower legs. This feature allows you to adapt to different conditions without having to change your entire outfit.

Material-wise, look for pants made from quick-drying, UPF-rated fabrics like nylon or polyester. These materials not only offer UV protection but also wick moisture away, keeping you dry and comfortable.


Accessories may seem like optional add-ons, but they can significantly enhance your summer hiking experience. Starting with headgear, a hat with a wide brim is highly recommended for sun protection. Baseball caps may be more stylish, but they don’t offer the same level of protection for your neck and ears.

Speaking of neck protection, consider using a neck gaiter or a bandana. These can be soaked in water for a cooling effect and also offer additional UV protection.

Gloves may seem counterintuitive for summer hiking, but lightweight, breathable options can protect your hands from sunburn, blisters, and even bug bites. Look for gloves made from quick-drying, UPF-rated materials.

Sunglasses are another must-have accessory. Opt for polarized lenses with UV protection to shield your eyes from harmful rays and reduce glare.

Lastly, don’t forget about a hydration bladder or a water bottle. Staying hydrated is crucial, especially in hot weather. Some hiking backpacks come with built-in hydration systems, making it easier to drink water without having to stop and unpack.

Additional Tips

To further enhance your summer hiking experience, consider these additional tips:

  • Sunscreen and Bug Protection: Always apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30. Insect repellent is also advisable, especially in areas known for ticks or mosquitoes.
  • Hydration Options: Alongside a water bottle or hydration bladder, consider bringing electrolyte tablets or hydration mixes to replenish lost salts and minerals.
  • First Aid Kit: A basic first-aid kit with antiseptics, bandages, and personal medication is a must. Include blister treatment patches for added foot care.
  • Navigation Tools: Even if you’re familiar with the trail, it’s wise to carry a physical map and compass. GPS and phone batteries can fail.
  • Snacks: Energy bars, nuts, or fruit can provide a quick energy boost. Opt for non-perishable items that won’t melt or spoil.
  • Multi-tool: A compact multi-tool can be invaluable for minor repairs or emergencies. Make sure it includes a knife, pliers, and a screwdriver at a minimum.
  • Weather Forecast: Always check the weather forecast before heading out. Sudden weather changes can be dangerous, especially in mountainous regions.
  • Leave No Trace: Carry all your trash with you and follow the Leave No Trace principles to protect the environment.
  • Emergency Whistle: A loud whistle can be a lifesaver in emergency situations, helping you signal for help if needed.

Wrapping Up

The key to a successful summer hiking experience lies in your attire. Choose garments made from breathable, lightweight materials like nylon or polyester for UV protection. Long sleeves and pants are your best bet for comprehensive protection against sun and insects. As for footwear, trail shoes or hiking sandals are ideal, depending on the trail conditions. Round off your outfit with essential accessories like a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. Happy hiking!

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