Hiking Guide: What To Wear Hiking In Hot Weather

Updated on:

Summertime is one of the best seasons to go hiking, but it can be a difficult experience choosing what clothing will keep you cool in the extreme heat. Luckily, we have you covered here with what to wear hiking in hot weather; important clothing choices, what makes good hot weather gear, and important ways to avoid heat injuries.

Long Sleeve Shirts

Long sleeves are life savers in the hot weather. It sounds backwards, but I prefer to wear a long sleeve shirt when I’m hiking in the sun. A good lightweight long sleeve shirt will give you an added layer of protection while allowing you to stay cool.

Wearing short sleeve shirts during a summer hike is perfectly fine, just make sure you have the right sun protection (i.e. lots of sunscreen). Leave your ego at the car, the sun will always win.

Hiking Pants

When it comes to bottoms, I prefer hiking in a good pair of lightweight hiking pants. They offer sun protection for the legs and save your skin from the annoying scrapes and cuts that will surely happen along the trails.

It’s impossible to avoid every branch, log, or rock. The last thing you want to deal with is open wounds out there.

Shorts: Also a great option to wear on your hikes. I know people who find pants to be annoying on hot days, so wear shorts if you’ll be more comfortable.

Hiking Boots

A good pair of hiking boots is one of the most important pieces of equipment you’ll need for any hike. Hiking starts from the ground up so if you don’t have a solid pair of hiking shoes you’re setting yourself up for problems. Here’s some quick guidelines:

Waterproof hiking boots: Make sure your main boots are waterproof. Even when hiking in hot weather, you want your feet to have protection from the elements.

Ankle support: Shoes with ankle support help with the rougher terrain and limit twisted ankles.

The right fit: Find the brand that fits your feet well. If something doesn’t fit right, it’s going to cause a lot of blisters and sore feet down the road.

Hiking Socks

Avoid wearing cotton socks. Always get yourself a pair of wool or synthetic ones. Also make sure you get socks that fit. If there’s slippage during a long hike, you will most definitely develop blisters. We’ve all been there, so save yourself the trouble and make sure they fit well.

Wear high socks. I find this to be most comfortable for me. Socks that come above the ankles and the top of the boot prevent rubbing on the achilles. Some of the most painful blisters will form here and they are a pain to heal.

Hiking Hat

A hat is a must while hiking in hot weather. It will keep the hot sun off your face and protect your scalp. Even though a baseball cap is great, I prefer to use a bucket hat on my hikes, here’s why:

  • The rim of the bucket hat will give 360 coverage for the face and neck. You’ll also get ear coverage (I hate burnt ears).
  • Most have some kind of chin strap you can tighten down if it’s a windy day.
  • You can find many made of light, breathable fabric.
  • I recommend a vented one as well. Most of our body heat comes through the head so those vents allow for a good escape to stay cool.

Tips For Choosing The Right Hot Weather Hiking Clothes

Choose The Right Fabric

Synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester are usually my go-to’s.

Nylon and polyester are lightweight, breathable materials that are great for all summer hiking outfits. The quick-dry, moisture wicking properties of these fabrics will allow you to feel cool during hot weather hikes even in longer clothing.

It’s also very easy to find hiking clothes that are UPF rated clothing. This will give you that extra protection from the sun’s rays.

Wear Loose, Vented Clothing

Hot weather hiking is much more enjoyable when your body can breath. Wear loose fitting clothing to allow for body temperature regulation.

Get something that has vented armpits and back as well to improved your skin’s breathability.

Avoid Skin Exposure

This is the main reason I like long clothing, even in the summertime. Avoiding skin exposure gives you one less thing to worry about when you’re on the trails. Sunburn can ruin a good hike real fast, so it’s important to do what you can to protect it.

Skin exposure can also lead to cuts and scrapes from the environment. We’ve all misjudged a step or two and ended up whacking our shins, but exposed skin is going to take much more damage than if it were covered.

Summer hikes also expose us to the bugs. Mosquitos and ticks are huge buzzkills on a hike, but covered skin is the first line of defense from these pests.

Wear Light Colors

Light colored clothing is always important in the summer heat. The dark colors will absorb more of the sun’s rays so opt for something light.

Ticks are also common in the summer, so wearing light colored clothing will allow you to spot them right away.

Wear Sunglasses

Sunglasses are a necessity when it comes to summer hiking. You have to protect your eyes. Please don’t spend the day staring into the sun, burning your retinas.

I used to have a bad habit of forgetting sunglasses. I would end every one of these hikes with awful headaches from all the squinting. I’ve since focused on having a designated pair for hiking that never leaves my pack.

Other Considerations For Hiking In Hot Weather

Proper Planning For The Hot Weather

There are several key planning factors to consider when hiking in hot weather.

Where are you hiking: Know the area you’re going hiking. Your approach to Badwater Basin in Death Valley will be different than Grinnell Lake Trail in Glacier National Park.

When are you going: Your hike in July will be different than in August. Temps, humidity, etc. can change, making your hiking conditions much different even month to month.

Also, if forecasted heat for a day is worrisome, plan to take your hike early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the hottest hours of the day.

Check the weather: Stay up to date on the weather. Sometimes it may be better to avoid hiking on a certain day due to extreme heat or other factors.

You should also do this to prepare yourself for any rain or storms that may be forecasted in your area. See our rain guide for proper gear and preparation tips if you expect to be in the rain.

Know the trails: In very hot weather, it may be better to avoid strenuous hiking and opt for an easier route.

Use Sun Screen On Unprotected Skin

Sunscreen should be one of your necessities that never leaves your hiking pack. Shorts and t-shirts (or tank tops) are great for staying cool on hikes, but they leave large areas of skin exposed. Make sure to have the right SPF for you and apply liberally to these areas.

Don’t forget to put some on your face, ears, and neck. These areas will always be exposed and can be some of the most sensitive to sunburn.

Carry Plenty Of Water

Water bottle: Carry a reusable water bottle with you at all times. Fill it every chance you get and drink enough to replenish fluids you lose in the heat.

Hydration pack: I also hike with a hydration pack. These are nice because they allow you to carry much larger quantities than a water bottle. A lot of the packs are insulated so the water stays cool. I like to toss a few snacks in there too to keep them cold.

Health Concerns For Hiking In Hot Weather

Note: We are not medical professionals and this is not medical advise. If you are experiencing a health problem or have health concerns for your hike, please contact a medical professional immediately.

Heat Stroke: This is the most serious of heat related injuries, caused usually by extended exposure to high temperatures during physical exertion.

If one is suffering from heat stroke, it requires immediate attention. Look for these signs to aid in fast action:

  • High body temperature, 104F and higher
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Flushed skin from increases body temperature
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Significantly increased heart rate
  • Confusion and disorientation

If you believe someone in your group may be suffering from it, it’s important to act fast and get emergency services involved. The key is to recognize the signs before it progresses and take some of the following actions to prevent it:

  • Find a shady area or get to ranger post. Continued sun exposure will make it difficult to get their temperature under control.
  • Dampen a towel or shirt with cold water and wrap them in it. You can also use a spray bottle to mist their skin.
  • If you’re near a pond or river get them to soak in it with supervision.
  • Rehydrate with water or some sports drinks, but avoid very sugary ones as this could make it difficult for the body to regulate temperature.

Dehydration: This occurs when your body is using more fluids than you’re taking in which prevents it from performing normal functions.

Any summer hike, vigorous or not requires plenty of water intake. Look out for the following signs to reverse dehydration:

  • Extreme thirst will occur, however you are usually already dehydrated once you experience this.
  • Limited urination
  • Dark yellow or amber urine
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion and dizziness
  • Headaches

If suffering from dehydration while hiking in the hot weather, it’s important to take a few steps to prevent it from worsening:

  • Above all stay hydrated. If you don’t and you start to experience symptoms intake water. In hot weather, cool water is best.
  • Intake electrolytes and carbohydrate solutions in sports drinks.
  • Find a shady spot for a break while you rehydrate.

Sunburn: Sunburn is inflamed skin that was in the sun too long. It’s common to occur on exposed skin during the hot summer months.

You’ll notice sunburn within a few hours of exposure, as inflamed skin will be hot and painful to the touch. Some preventions include:

  • Always wear sunscreen on exposed skin. If you plan to be outdoors for an extended period, make sure to reapply.
  • Wear pants and long sleeves for more sun protection.

If you do get burnt, here are some home remedies to relieve pain:

  • Use a damp towel or cool bath to soothe the hot skin.
  • Apply aloe vera on the affected areas. Try storing it in the fridge beforehand to allow for a cooling effect. Do not use products that contain alcohol.
  • Drink extra water to help keep yourself from dehydrating.
  • Treat blisters and peeling skin gently. Keep blisters intact but clean and apply antibiotics if they break.

Heat Exhaustion: Severity wise, heat exhaustion falls between heat cramps and heat stroke. It will include heavy sweating and an increased pulse.

It’s important to act fast when someone in your group is showing symptoms as it could develop into a more serious situation. Some quick things to try include:

  • Get to an air conditioned room or rest in a shaded area.
  • Drink cool water and sports drinks that contain electrolytes.
  • Get in cool water if able.
  • Remove any tight or heavy clothing.

If none of these seem to help within the hour, get to medical help as soon as you can.

Cramping: Heat cramps are the least serious of heat related injuries, but nothing to take lightly. They can develop into the more serious heat injuries if not dealt with quickly.

You can experience the cramping in any muscle group, but will commonly have them in your legs, abdominal, and back. Hiking in hot weather can quickly bring on cramps, so some ways to deal with them are:

  • Rest until the cramps subside.
  • Take in electrolytes.
  • Gently stretch and massage the cramped muscles.
  • Avoid intense activity after the cramps go away.

Summer hiking can be great fun, but always make sure to take the necessary precautions with your health before embarking on an outdoor adventure. Our goal is to enjoy the outdoors, but maintain health and safety in the process.

Conclusion: What To Wear Hiking In Hot Weather

Hiking in hot weather has led to some of my best hiking experiences. Hiking Utah’s Mighty 5 in July was awesome, but also required planning and preparation. Your prep for every hike starts with the clothing you wear. It’s your first line of defense from the elements and other things that could bring your trip to a halt real quick.

Wearing lightweight, breathable material that gives protection from the sun is the best first step in choosing what to wear. Use common sense, pick the right types of clothing and be vigilant to prevent any heat related injuries so you too can enjoy the best of summer hiking!