What to Wear Hiking in Summer

by Sigita B | Last Updated: May 31, 2021

Summer days are perfect for lacing up your hiking boots and heading out to hike a mountain summit, an alpine lake, or a dramatic slot canyon. However, while hiking in the sun can be very enticing, it also comes with the issues of intense heat.

Failure to manage the sun’s heat properly can turn a fun hike day into a painful or dangerous one. This means that what you wear will either work for or against you on a summer hike. Appropriately dressing for a hot hike will go a long way in keeping you comfortable.

group of hikers walks on the road

Tips on What to Wear for Summer Hiking

Light Colors

We recommend wearing light colors during summer hikes as they reflect the sun’s rays instead of absorbing them. Black will do the opposite. To remain cool during summer hikes, look for shorts, shirts, and pants in light colors such as white, khaki, or tan.

Loose, Breathable Clothing

During hot hikes, you should make sure that your body temperature is regulated. To ensure this, wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that will breathe well in the heat. Polyester and nylon are good material options.

Loose breathable cotton clothes may be okay for summer, however, it is not something that we recommend, especially not for full day hikes or longer. 

We don’t recommend hiking in cotton clothes during cold and wet days because the issue of moisture absorption can be dangerous and cool you down fast.

Choose Vented Gear

Some hiking shirts, pants, and shorts are designed with vents. When hiking in hot and dry conditions, we recommend opening the vents to help improve the airflow. This will go a long way in making sure you are well-ventilated.

Wear a Hat

Wearing a hat is essential for all-weather hikes. However, during summer hikes, a sun hat with a brim is the best. Wearing a baseball cap during a summer hike will provide okay shade, but a hat with a brim will protect your face and neck from the sun as it goes all the way around.

Wear UPF-rated Clothing

While all clothes can block sun rays to a certain extent, UPF-rated clothing will provide you with all-around sun protection. You can find clothing with ratings like UPF 15, UPF 30, or UPF 50+. We recommend familiarizing yourself with sun protection clothing basics to know what works best for you.

Wear the Right Socks

While you can get away with wearing cotton clothes during shorter summer hikes, never wear cotton socks! We always recommend wearing wool socks. You also need to make sure that you wear fitting socks because wearing socks that are too big for you can result in wrinkles that rub. Wearing small socks also creates sock slippage and pressure points that could result in blisters.

Sun-protective Neck Gear

One of the ways to survive hot hikes is dunking a bandana, neck gaiter, or other lightweight sun-protecting neck clothes in water to keep your neck covered and cool as the water evaporates. You can wear them around your neck or over your head to help maintain moisture for a longer period.

More Hot-Weather Hiking Tips

Know When and Where to Hike

Considering that it can take ten days to a fortnight to acclimatize to high temperatures, you should be careful about when and where you will be hiking. We recommend choosing hikes that will keep you under shades or within canyon walls.

Try to stay in the shade during summer hikes to avoid being directly exposed to the sun. If you cannot find a shaded hike, consider hiking near the water because then you can enjoy the cool lake or sea breeze. You can also dip your hat, bandana, or shirt in a river and drape them on your body frequently to remain cool as the water evaporates.

During summer hikes, avoid the hottest time of the day. We recommend getting an early start on scorching days to end the hike by early afternoon. If you find that scorching temperatures are pretty uncomfortable in certain regions, hiking in the afternoon/evenings is also an option. NB! This comes with its own set of challenges, so just don’t venture out in the wilderness without experience or with the appropriate equipment.

Hydrate

Drink adequate water during summer hikes to prevent dehydration. Dehydration will leave you feeling crummy and could also contribute to heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion, cramps, and heatstroke.

How much you will need to drink on a summer hike will depend on many factors. It is generally recommended to consume at least half a liter per hour of hikes in moderate temperatures. 

However, it is impossible to give an exact amount you need to drink. Drink continuously throughout the day, not only when thirsty!

If hiking with your dog, you must absolutely carry water for it as well. 

For longer hikes and if you know you sweat a lot, you may also want to make sure you keep your salt levels balanced by adding electrolytes to your water.

Sunscreen

The best line of defense against the sun during summer hikes is sunscreen. Never forget to apply sunscreen on exposed body parts to prevent sunburns. Choose SPF 30 or higher sunscreens if the hike will last longer than two hours.

It is always wise to apply sunscreen 15 minutes before sun exposure. You should also reapply after 40-80 minutes of sweating.

In Conclusion

Do your best to anticipate hot conditions during summer hikes and dress appropriately. What you wear during your hike is greatly influenced by the time of year, climate, location, and weather forecast. 

The proper attire contributes to a comfortable summer hike.