summer hiking in shorts

What to Wear When Hiking in Summer: Complete Guide

Hiking in the summer is a fantastic way to enjoy the great outdoors, offering long days filled with sunshine and beautiful scenery. However, to make the most of your summer hiking adventures, it’s crucial to wear the right clothing.

Proper attire not only enhances your comfort but also protects you from the elements, such as the sun’s harsh rays and unexpected weather changes. Wearing appropriate hiking gear can prevent overheating, sunburn, and other discomforts, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the hiking experience. This guide will walk you through the essential clothing items to wear when hiking in summer, ensuring you’re prepared for anything the trail throws your way.

Base Layer

Moisture-Wicking Shirts

A good base layer is essential for staying comfortable on the trail, especially during hot summer hikes. The primary function of a base layer is to wick moisture away from your skin, keeping you dry and cool.

Moisture-wicking fabrics, such as polyester, merino wool, and nylon, are ideal for this purpose. These materials are designed to pull sweat away from your body and allow it to evaporate quickly, preventing that sticky, clammy feeling that cotton shirts often cause.

  • Importance of Moisture Management: Staying dry is crucial to regulate your body temperature and avoid chafing. Moisture-wicking shirts help to keep your skin dry, reducing the risk of skin irritation and allowing your body to cool more efficiently through evaporation.
  • Recommended Materials: Look for shirts made from polyester, merino wool, or nylon. These fabrics are lightweight, breathable, and effective at moisture management.
  • Suggested Products:
    • Columbia Silver Ridge Lite Shirt: This shirt offers excellent moisture-wicking properties and includes UPF 40 sun protection, making it perfect for summer hikes.
    • Icebreaker Merino Tech Lite: Made from merino wool, this shirt is naturally odor-resistant and provides excellent temperature regulation, keeping you cool even on the hottest days​​.

Lightweight Pants or Shorts

Choosing the right bottoms for summer hiking is equally important. Depending on the terrain and your personal preference, you might opt for lightweight pants or shorts. Each has its advantages, and the best choice often depends on the specific conditions of your hike.

  • Pros and Cons of Pants vs. Shorts:
    • Pants: Lightweight pants offer better protection against the sun, insects, and rough vegetation. They are ideal for hiking in areas with dense underbrush or where ticks are prevalent.
    • Shorts: Shorts provide better ventilation and are more comfortable in extremely hot weather. They are suitable for open trails with minimal brush and lower insect activity.
  • Recommended Materials: Look for pants or shorts made from nylon or spandex. These materials are lightweight, quick-drying, and provide a good range of motion.
  • Suggested Products:
    • Prana Stretch Zion Pants: These pants are durable, stretchy, and feature quick-drying fabric, making them versatile for various hiking conditions.
    • Patagonia Baggies Shorts: Made from lightweight, quick-drying nylon, these shorts are perfect for hot weather and have a comfortable fit​.

By selecting moisture-wicking shirts and lightweight, breathable bottoms, you can stay comfortable and focused on enjoying your summer hikes. Proper base layers are the foundation of a good hiking outfit, ensuring you stay dry, cool, and ready for the trail ahead.

Also read: Best Hiking Dogs: 10 Best Breeds and Useful Tips

Female hiker in summer


Proper footwear is essential for a comfortable and safe hiking experience, especially during the summer when trails can vary from dry and dusty to wet and muddy. The right shoes will provide support, traction, and protection for your feet, making your hike more enjoyable and reducing the risk of injury.

Hiking Boots vs. Trail Runners

Choosing between hiking boots and trail runners depends on the type of terrain you’ll be hiking and your personal preference. Both have their advantages and are suitable for different conditions.

  • Hiking Boots: These are ideal for rugged terrain and longer hikes. They offer better ankle support, durability, and protection from rocks and debris. Hiking boots are generally waterproof, making them a good choice for wet conditions.
    • Suggested Product: Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX: These boots are known for their excellent grip, waterproof capabilities, and comfortable fit, making them perfect for various hiking conditions.
  • Trail Runners: Lighter and more flexible than hiking boots, trail runners are great for shorter hikes or well-maintained trails. They offer good traction and breathability but provide less ankle support.
    • Suggested Product: Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator: These trail runners are highly breathable and comfortable, with a good balance of cushioning and support for summer hikes​.


Choosing the right socks is just as important as choosing the right shoes. Proper hiking socks can prevent blisters, wick moisture away, and provide additional cushioning.

  • Importance of Moisture-Wicking and Breathable Socks: Moisture-wicking socks help keep your feet dry, reducing the risk of blisters and discomfort. Look for socks made from materials like merino wool or synthetic blends.
    • Suggested Products:
      • Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew: These socks are made from a merino wool blend, offering excellent moisture-wicking properties and durability​.
      • Smartwool PhD Outdoor Light Crew: Known for their comfort and breathability, these socks are a great choice for summer hikes​.

Also read: Best Hiking Hairstyles – For Comfort, Convenience, and Style

hiking boots in the sun

Outer Layer

Even in summer, it’s important to be prepared for unexpected weather changes. A lightweight outer layer can protect you from the sun, wind, and occasional rain showers, ensuring you stay comfortable throughout your hike.

Sun Protection

Protecting yourself from the sun is crucial during summer hikes. UV rays can be harmful, and prolonged exposure can lead to sunburn and other skin issues. Wearing clothing with built-in sun protection can help mitigate these risks.

  • Importance of UV Protection in Clothing: Look for clothing with a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating to block harmful UV rays. Long sleeves and wide-brim hats provide additional protection.
    • Suggested Products:
      • Columbia PFG Tamiami II Shirt: This shirt offers UPF 40 sun protection and is designed to be lightweight and breathable, making it ideal for hot weather​.
      • Outdoor Research Sun Runner Cap: This cap provides excellent sun protection for your face and neck, with a removable sun cape for added versatility​.

Lightweight Jackets

While it may seem counterintuitive to bring a jacket on a summer hike, a lightweight jacket can protect you from wind, rain, and cooler temperatures at higher elevations. Opt for a jacket that is breathable and easily packable.

  • When to Bring a Lightweight Jacket: Bring a lightweight jacket if you’re hiking in areas where the weather can be unpredictable or at higher altitudes where temperatures may drop.
    • Suggested Products:
      • Patagonia Houdini Jacket: This jacket is highly packable, wind-resistant, and provides just enough protection against light rain, making it a great choice for summer hikes​​.
      • Arc’teryx Squamish Hoody: Known for its durability and breathability, this jacket is perfect for protecting against wind and light rain without adding extra weight to your pack​.

By choosing the right footwear and outer layers, you can ensure a comfortable and safe hiking experience, no matter the conditions. Proper preparation and the right gear will allow you to enjoy the beauty of summer hikes to the fullest.

Also read: 100 Hiking Jokes for a Good Laugh on the Trail


Having the right accessories can significantly enhance your comfort and safety while hiking in the summer. From head protection to essential gear, these accessories are must-haves for any summer hike.


A good hat is essential for protecting your face, neck, and ears from the sun’s harmful rays. It helps keep you cool and reduces the risk of sunburn.

  • Importance of Head Protection from the Sun: Wearing a hat with a wide brim or neck flap provides extra coverage and shields your skin from UV radiation.
    • Suggested Products:
      • Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure Hat: This hat offers UPF 50+ sun protection, a wide brim, and a neck cape, making it perfect for hot, sunny days​.
      • REI Co-op Sahara Hat: With UPF 50+ protection and a moisture-wicking sweatband, this hat is designed for comfort and sun protection​.


Protecting your eyes from UV rays is crucial during summer hikes. Quality sunglasses can prevent eye strain and damage from prolonged sun exposure.

  • Benefits of UV Protection for Eyes: Look for sunglasses that block 100% of UVA and UVB rays. Polarized lenses can also reduce glare, making it easier to see on bright days.
    • Suggested Products:
      • Oakley Flak 2.0 XL: These sunglasses offer excellent UV protection, a comfortable fit, and a range of lens options for different conditions​.
      • Smith Guide’s Choice: Known for their high-quality lenses and durable design, these sunglasses provide superb protection and clarity.


Lightweight gloves can protect your hands from sunburn, blisters, and rough terrain. They are especially useful for long hikes or when using trekking poles.

  • When to Use Lightweight Gloves: Consider using gloves for added protection and grip, particularly in rugged terrain or sunny conditions.
    • Suggested Products:
      • Simari UV Protection Gloves: These gloves provide sun protection and are made from breathable, quick-drying fabric, making them ideal for summer hikes​.
      • Outdoor Research ActiveIce Sun Gloves: Designed to keep your hands cool and protected from the sun, these gloves are perfect for long days on the trail​.
Summer hiking in the mountains

Hydration and Safety

Staying hydrated and safe is paramount when hiking in the summer. Proper hydration keeps your energy levels up and helps regulate your body temperature, while safety gear ensures you are prepared for any unexpected situations.

Hydration Packs and Water Bottles

Carrying enough water is essential to prevent dehydration, which can be a serious risk in hot weather. Hydration packs and insulated water bottles are excellent choices for maintaining your fluid intake.

  • Importance of Staying Hydrated: Dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke, so it’s crucial to drink water regularly throughout your hike.
    • Suggested Products:
      • CamelBak Crux Reservoir: This hydration pack features a large capacity, easy-to-use bite valve, and an ergonomic handle for refilling.
      • Hydro Flask Standard Mouth Bottle: Known for its excellent insulation, this water bottle keeps your drinks cold for hours, making it perfect for hot weather hikes​.

Sun Protection Products

In addition to protective clothing, using sunscreen and lip balm with SPF can help prevent sunburn and long-term skin damage.

  • Importance of Sunscreen and Lip Balm with SPF: Apply sunscreen to all exposed skin areas and reapply every two hours or after sweating. Use lip balm with SPF to protect your lips from UV damage.
    • Suggested Products:
      • Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Sunscreen: This sunscreen offers broad-spectrum protection, is lightweight, and water-resistant, making it ideal for hiking​.
      • Burt’s Bees All-Weather SPF 15 Lip Balm: This lip balm provides effective sun protection and hydration, preventing chapped lips on the trail​.

By equipping yourself with the right accessories and ensuring proper hydration and safety measures, you can enhance your comfort and protection during summer hikes. These items are essential for a successful and enjoyable outdoor adventure.

Final Thoughts

Hiking in the summer can be a wonderfully rewarding experience, but it requires the right gear to ensure your safety, comfort, and enjoyment. By wearing moisture-wicking base layers, choosing appropriate footwear, and protecting yourself with the right accessories and outer layers, you can fully enjoy the beauty and adventure of summer hiking.

Proper hydration and safety measures are also crucial for a successful hike. With the right preparation and gear, you’ll be ready to tackle any trail with confidence and comfort.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I avoid wearing when hiking in summer?

Avoid wearing cotton clothing, as it retains moisture and can lead to chafing and discomfort. Also, avoid dark colors that absorb heat and make you feel hotter. Instead, opt for lightweight, moisture-wicking, and light-colored clothing.

How do I choose the right hiking shoes for summer?

Consider the type of terrain you’ll be hiking on and your personal comfort preferences. Hiking boots are great for rugged terrain and offer more support, while trail runners are lighter and more breathable, ideal for well-maintained trails.

Is it better to hike in pants or shorts during summer?

It depends on the trail conditions and your personal preference. Pants offer better protection against sun, insects, and rough vegetation, while shorts provide better ventilation and are more comfortable in hot weather. Choose based on the specific conditions of your hike.

What are the best materials for summer hiking clothes?

The best materials for summer hiking clothes are moisture-wicking and breathable fabrics such as polyester, nylon, and merino wool. These materials help keep you dry and cool by drawing sweat away from your skin and allowing it to evaporate quickly.

How do I stay cool while hiking in hot weather?

Wear lightweight, breathable clothing made of moisture-wicking materials.
Take frequent breaks in shaded areas.
Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
Start your hike early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the hottest part of the day.
Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun

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