Stay Cool On The Trail: Clothing and Gear for Hot Weather Hiking

hot weather hiking clothes

As someone who lives and hikes in Arizona, I know firsthand how important it is to have the right clothes and gear for hiking hot weather! From moisture-wicking shirts to breathable backpacks and head-to-toe sun protection, there’s no shortage of gear for hikers looking to beat the heat.

 

In this blog post, I’ll share my top tips and tricks for staying cool during summer hikes, and highlight my favorite summer hiking gear from REI. So whether you’re planning a day hike or a multi-day trek, keep reading for all the info you need to stay comfortable and prepared on the trail.

 

>> Please respect nature by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

summer hiking outfits

Disclaimer: This blog post is in collaboration with REI.com and features some affiliate links. This means I get a small commission if you make a purchase (at no extra cost to you). Thank you for your support!

REI Co-op Anniversary Sale

Psssstttt! The REI Co-op Anniversary Sale is running May 19 – 29, 2023! 

 

Just in time for summer hiking adventures, REI Co-op is celebrating its 85th anniversary with huge discounts on member favorites, including the new Trailmade collection

 

Through May 29, REI Co-op Members can save 30% off all REI Co-op Gear, Clothing, and Footwear (excluding bikes)! Plus, Co-op Members save 20% on one full price item and an extra 20% on REI Outlet items. 

 

So, if you’re not a member yet, now is the time to sign up and take advantage of the benefits of being part of the REI community. And if you’re already a member, don’t miss out on this amazing sale to upgrade your outdoor gear and make the most out of your summer hiking adventures. 

Tips For Choosing Summer Hiking Clothes

choosing hot-weather hiking clothes

When choosing hot-weather hiking clothes, there are a few key factors to consider. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

 

  1. Opt for light-colored clothes: Lighter colors reflect sunlight and help keep you cooler, while darker colors absorb heat and make you feel warmer.
  2. Ditch the cotton. Once cotton is wet, it doesn’t dry! In cold climates, this could lead to hypothermia. It’s best to avoid cotton and opt for moisture-wicking and quick-drying fabrics like polyester, merino wool, and nylon.
  3. Dress in comfortable, loose layers: Wear comfortable, loose layers so that you can modify your outfit according to the weather and your activity level. Pick breathable, loose-fitting layers that are simple to add or remove as necessary.
  4. Protect yourself from the sun: As someone who primarily hikes in the desert, sun shirts are my best friend. I opt to wear long sleeves and pants that are made from lightweight, breathable materials when I hike in the sun. A wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and SPF are also essential!
  5. Keep your hiking environment in mind: Think about the terrain and weather conditions you’ll encounter on your hike. For example, if hiking through areas with tall grass or brush, consider wearing long pants to protect your legs.

 

By keeping these tips in mind, you can choose hiking clothes that will keep you cool, comfortable, and protected on the trail!

What To Wear Hiking In Hot Weather

I have been hiking for 10+ years, including multi-day backpacking treks, day hikes in National Parks, and hundreds of hot weather hikes in my home state of Arizona. I’ve learned a lot about choosing the best hot-weather hiking clothes, and I’m excited to share my knowledge with you! 

 

There is much more to hiking than outfits, so I recommend checking out my post on how to start hiking alone as a woman for tips on safety, essential gear, and more! But if you’re looking for cute and practical summer hiking outfits, keep scrolling!

Hiking Shorts

best hiking shorts for hot weather

One essential piece of summer hiking clothes to consider is hiking shorts. Not only do they provide maximum breathability and ventilation, but they also allow for a better range of motion on the trail.

 

When selecting hiking shorts for hot weather, it’s important to opt for lightweight and durable fabrics. Quick-drying fabrics like polyester and nylon are the way to go because they wick away moisture and sweat, preventing chafing and discomfort.

 

You may already own some athletic shorts that are suitable for hiking, but if you’re searching for suggestions, I love the Trailmade shorts from REI Co-op and the Take A Hike shorts from Alder Apparel.

 

Read next: My Review of the REI Co-op Trailmade Collection

Hiking Pants For Hot Weather

pants for hot-weather hiking

If you want to minimize sun exposure or avoid scratches on your legs from bushes and trees, hiking pants are an excellent choice. Opt for pants made of quick-drying and moisture-wicking fabrics, such as polyester and nylon, that can withstand the rigors of spending time outside. 

 

I often wear the REI Co-op Beyonder Pants or the REI Co-op Sahara Guide Convertible Pants during summer hikes! The former is lightweight and stretchy, providing excellent freedom of movement, while the latter features zip-off legs, making them versatile for unpredictable weather and water crossings. 

Hiking Shirts For Hot Weather

REI Co-op summer hiking shirt

As previously mentioned, cotton is not ideal for hiking as it doesn’t wick moisture well and can cause chafing and skin irritation when wet.

 

Instead, I suggest opting for moisture-wicking and quick-drying fabrics like merino wool or polyester. These materials will keep you dry and comfortable, preventing overheating and reducing the risk of skin irritation.

 

If you prefer a short-sleeve hiking shirt, I can’t say enough good things about the Trailmade Pullover Shirt from REI Co-op! This shirt is incredibly breathable, dries quickly, and can survive the wear and tear of spending time outside thanks to its lightweight and snag-resistant fabric. It also offers UPF 50+ sun protection, making it the ideal shirt for hiking in warm weather. 

 

If you want to maximize sun protection, I love the REI Co-op Sahara Sun Shirt and the REI Co-op Sahara Shade Hoodie. Both are breathable and provide great sun protection! 

Hot Weather Hiking Boots

hot weather hiking boots

When choosing the right hiking shoes for hot weather, it’s crucial to consider factors like breathability, comfort, and weight. As the temperature rises, you’ll want to avoid heavy, insulated boots that make your feet sweat and feel uncomfortable. Instead, opt for lightweight hiking shoes that provide ample ventilation and breathability.

 

One option that I highly recommend is the HOKA Mafate Speed 4 Trail-Running Shoes. Another excellent choice for hot weather hiking is the Moab 3 Mid Waterproof Hiking Boots from Merrell. Even though these are waterproof, they are surprisingly lightweight and breathable! 

Hiking Socks For Summer

Hiking Socks For Summer

Wool is the best choice when choosing socks for hot-weather hikes because of its durability, moisture-wicking properties, extra padding, and odor-resistant features. 

 

My favorite hiking socks for summer are the Darn Tough Micro Crew Socks. Not only do they come in a variety of cute patterns, but they are also made in the USA and come with a lifetime warranty, so you can trust that they’ll last you for many hikes to come. 

Hiking Sun Protection

hiking sun protection from REI

When hitting the trails, sun protection is essential to keep your skin and eyes safe. Here are three ways to protect yourself from the sun while hiking:

 

  1. Wear a sun hat: A wide-brimmed hat can provide much-needed shade for your face, neck, and ears. The best hiking hat I own (and always recommend) is the Islander Hat from Sunday Afternoons
  2. Wear polarized sunglasses: Polarized sunglasses can help reduce glare from the sun, making it easier to see your surroundings on bright and sunny days. Look for sunglasses that block 100% of UVA and UVB rays, like this $25 pair from Goodr.
  3. Wear sunscreen: Choose a sunscreen with at least SPF 30+ and apply it liberally to any exposed skin. Reapply every two hours, or more often if you’re sweating heavily or swimming.

 

Remember that the sun’s intensity can vary depending on the time of day and the altitude you’re at, so it’s essential to be prepared with sun protection no matter where you’re hiking!

Cooling Towel, Buff or Bandana

If you’re hiking in hot weather, consider bringing a cooling towel, buff or bandana along! Often made from moisture-wicking and breathable fabrics, they can be soaked in water to provide instant relief from the heat. 

 

A cooling towel, like this one from REI Co-op, is a popular choice for hikers because it can be easily stored in a backpack or pocket and taken out when needed. Simply soak the towel in water, wring it out, and drape it around your neck or head to stay cool. 

 

No matter which option you choose, a cooling towel, buff, or bandana can be a lifesaver on a hot day. Just make sure to bring plenty of water and re-soak as needed to stay cool and comfortable on your hike.

Breathable Backpack

Breathable Backpack

When hiking in hot weather, it’s important to keep yourself as cool as possible, including your backpack! 

 

One of my favorite hiking backpacks is Gregory’s Juno 30 H20 Hydration Pack. It comes with a hydration bladder to keep you hydrated on the go, and it also has a suspended back panel that allows air to flow between your back and the pack.


If you want something lighter, I love the REI Co-op Flash 18 Pack. It has breathable, stretch-mesh shoulder straps and is hydration compatible!

 

Read Next: Gregory Backpack Comparison

Hot Weather Hiking Tips

Hot-weather hiking can present various challenges, from high temperatures to potential dehydration or sunburn. However, with proper preparation and taking the necessary precautions, you can have a safe and enjoyable hiking experience!

 

Here are some tips to help you stay comfortable and hydrated on the trail:

 

  • Avoid the hottest time: The hottest part of the day is in the afternoon, so start your hike early in the morning. If I’m attempting a summer hike in Arizona, I get to the trailhead before the sun rises and am back at my car within an hour.
  • Carry enough water: You should not only hydrate before your hot-weather hike but also bring plenty of water on your hike. REI recommends drinking about one half-liter of water per hour of moderate activity in moderate temperatures. I like to hike with a 3-Liter hydration bladder to ensure I bring enough water.
  • Recover with electrolytes: When you sweat, you lose essential electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and magnesium. Drinking water alone may not be enough to replace them. Consider adding electrolyte tablets tto your water and snacking on foods high in electrolytes like bananas, nuts, and seeds.

 

Always check the weather forecast before heading out and listen to your body. If you feel overheated or dehydrated, take a break and rest in a shaded area.

Final Thoughts On What To Wear Hiking In Hot Weather

Hiking, especially in hot weather, requires careful planning, preparation, and attention to your body’s needs. Remember to wear sweat-wicking layers, prioritize sun protection, stay hydrated, and take it slow, especially if you’re not accustomed to high heat. 

 

Happy hiking! 

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Meet the author

Jacey West

My mission is simple: Inspire you to get outside. I like camping, hiking, mountain biking, backpacking, and exploring National Parks. I’m passionate about sharing all the details of my adventure so you can plan some of your own!

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