Picture this: you’re trekking through a forest on a warm day, listening to the sounds of nature, and feeling the warmth of the summer sun on your skin as it filters through the trees – all while staying comfortable and protected from the elements. Sounds like a dream, right? Well, we’re here to make that dream a reality.
As the sun beams down with a cheeky grin, you might be wondering what to wear hiking in summer and how to best handle the heat. We’ve got you covered (literally and figuratively) with our ultimate guide to summer hiking attire and list of the best hot weather hiking tips.
In this article, we’ll explore everything from planning tips and essential gear to health concerns, ensuring that you’re well-equipped for your next summertime adventure. So, if you want to avoid feeling like a wilted flower in a greenhouse or a lobster fresh out of the pot, stick around for our 10 scorching hot tips on what to wear for a summer hike!
Planning Tips for Hot Weather Hiking
- Start Early
- Pick the Best Trail
- Cover Up for Sun Protection
- Hydrate A LOT
- Stay Salty
- Take Breaks
- Don’t Forget the Extras
- Know the Signs of Heat Related Illness
- Check the Weather
1. Start Early (Or Late)
You’ll want to dodge the hottest time of day, which is typically between noon and 3 p.m. I’ve found that it’s best to start early and wrap up as early as possible. If you can’t avoid hiking during the warmest hours, try to plan your trip so you’ll be in the shade or near water during that time.
Ever considered a night hike? In super hot locations like the desert, nighttime hiking can provide much-needed relief from the scorching daytime temps. As the sun sets, the air cools down, and the trails become a lot more refreshing. Read more here with our complete guide to night hiking.
Just remember to bring a headlamp and flashlight to light your way and always let someone know your plans before you head out. A little extra caution goes a long way, but the tranquility of the trails at night is definitely worth experiencing.
2. Pick the Best Trail
Picking the right location can significantly improve your summer hiking experience. I always opt for shaded trails, like those in forests or canyons. If possible, choose routes near water sources, like rivers or lakes, to take advantage of their natural cooling effects. Remember, the more shade you find, the happier you’ll be.
You should also avoid strenuous hiking and long distances when possible. Save those hikes for cooler days or off-season hiking.
3. Cover Up for Sun Protection
It may seem odd, but covering up can actually help keep you cooler and protect your skin from the sun. I usually wear a lightweight, long-sleeve shirts and pants, along with a wide-brimmed hat. Summer hiking outfits should also include sunglasses and sunscreen for any skin that’s exposed. Read more below for tips about clothing.
During most hikes, you’ll lose about a liter of water every hour, and the hot sun can double that amount. Trust me, bring more water than you think you need and take small sips quite often. Remember, if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.
Here’s a bonus tip: after sipping from a hydration bladder, blow back into the mouthpiece to keep the water in the drinking tube cool. No one likes a mouthful of hot water, right?
5. Stay Salty
Sweating means losing essential electrolytes like sodium and potassium, which help keep your muscles functioning properly. I always make sure to replenish these by munching on salty snacks or sipping sports drinks during my hike. Trail mixes or even a starchy fruit like an apple can be your best friends on the trail.
6. Remember to Take Breaks
Taking breaks and resting is absolutely essential when hiking in the heat. I always give my body a chance to recover by pausing in shaded areas, sitting down, and sipping water. Don’t hesitate to slow down your pace or even cut your hike short if you need to.
7. Don’t Forget the Extras
When it comes to hiking in the summer heat, extra precautions can make all the difference. I always bring sunscreen, insect repellent, and a small, lightweight towel for wiping away sweat.
If you’re hiking near water, packing a swimsuit for a refreshing dip can be a game-changer. If swimming isn’t an option but there’s water, you could always dunk your bandana or headband into the water to cool yourself down.
8. Know the Signs of Heat Related Illness
Educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of heat related illness and how you should treat each kind. Read more in the section below on the health concerns about summer hikes in the heat.
9. Check the Weather
Always check the weather before heading out! Check it in advance, several times as it gets closer, and morning of for any updates.
Summer Hiking Clothes & Gear Tips for Hot-Weather Hiking
Opt for Lightweight & Well-Venting Clothing
When it comes to staying cool, lightweight clothing is a game changer. It allows for better air circulation, which helps keep you cool. I’d recommend materials like moisture-wicking polyester or Merino wool, which helps your body regulate temperature and keep sweat under control. These fabrics are designed to pull moisture away from your skin, keeping you dry and more comfortable during your hike.
You should also wear loose fitting clothing that’s well ventilated with mesh panels and breathable fabrics. Air flow will help you stay cool and comfortable and allow your body temperature to remain as safe levels.
Choose Light Colors
Light-colored clothes is the way to go when hiking in the summer months. It reflects sunlight, so you stay cooler. Opt for whites, pastels, or other light shades to minimize heat absorption. Trust me, light colors and fabrics make a world of difference when you’re out on the trail under the blazing sun.
Go for UPF-Rated Clothing
When hiking in the heat, UPF-rated clothing is a must as it provides extra protection against the sun’s harmful rays. Look for garments with a UPF rating of 30 or higher to ensure you’re well-protected. Plus, these clothes are usually also lightweight and light colored so you’re getting several benefits from one article of clothing.
I can’t stress this enough: cover up with lightweight, breathable clothing to protect your skin from the sun and keep you cooler. Long sleeves, pants, and hats are essential for hot-weather hiking.
Beyond clothing, consider other sun protection methods like hiking on shady trails, using a lightweight trail umbrella, or wearing a neck gaiter. All these options can help keep your body heat down and make your hot-weather hiking experience more enjoyable.
Don’t Forget Sunglasses
Your eyes need protection too! A good pair of sunglasses will shield your eyes from the sun’s glare. Choose lenses that offer 100% UVA and UVB protection. Remember, the sun’s UV rays get stronger with altitude, so taking care of your eyes is crucial.
Wrap-around sunglasses or those with side shields can be especially effective in blocking glare from the surrounding terrain. Don’t underestimate the importance of quality eyewear when hiking in hot weather; it’s every bit as important as skincare and can make a significant difference in your overall comfort and enjoyment on the trail.
Wear Long Pants
You might think shorts are the way to go in hot weather, but trust me, long pants offer better protection from the sun, insects, and brush. Pick lightweight, breathable materials to stay cool and comfy.
Sure, it is an option to wear shorts, but most hiking pants are made from technical fabrics designed for trail mobility and breathability while still offering protection. Some even have reinforced knees for rugged terrain and extra pockets for essentials like your phone or an emergency whistle.
Wear Hats in the Summer Sun
A wide-brimmed hat shields your face, neck, and ears from the sun, offering added protection and helping you stay cooler. A good sunhat is invaluable on sunny days. The best hiking hats have a wide, 360-degree brim. If you prefer a baseball cap, tuck a bandana or Buff (like this CoolNet UV Buff) under the back for extra coverage for your ears and neck.
Related Post: The Best Hiking Hats
Apply Sunblock on Exposed Skin
Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30-50 or higher on all exposed skin and reapply as needed (based on the directions) during your hike. Even with long sleeves and pants, sunscreen is essential. Protect your face, neck, ears, and hands.
Proper Hiking Socks
Pick moisture-wicking, breathable socks to keep your feet dry and comfy. Synthetic materials or Merino wool make excellent hiking socks. If your feet are blister-prone when they get sweaty, consider pairing your hiking socks with a pair of hiking sock liners. This combination is ideal for blister prevention – ever since I started doing this I haven’t gotten a single blister! Don’t wear cotton socks!
Wear Good Hiking Shoes with Insoles
Supportive, well-fitting hiking boots or shoes are essential for a comfortable hike. Opt for breathable, lightweight options in hot weather, and consider investing in quality insoles for added comfort.
There’s an ongoing debate about shoes vs boots, but ultimately you have to choose what’s best for you. Shoes will be more breathable and may offer better ventilation when hiking, but boots may offer more protection from rocky ground and brush along the side of the trail.
Wear a Lightweight Hiking Backpack
Carry your gear in a lightweight, well-ventilated backpack with comfy, adjustable straps. Seek out packs with built-in hydration systems so you can stay hydrated on the trail. We both use Osprey daypacks and we wouldn’t recommend them more – read more about the Osprey Daylight Plus.
Have You Tried Hiking in Sandals?
Now, I’m not talking about your everyday flip-flops here. I mean sturdy, supportive sandals like Tevas, Bedrocks, or my personal go-to, Chacos. A quality pair of hiking sandals can work wonders to keep your feet cool and prevent sweaty feet from becoming an issue.
Trust me, I’ve hiked countless trails in my Chacos and they’ve never let me down. Just make sure you’re used to them and gradually work your way up to longer hikes to ensure they’re adjusted correctly.
The key to enjoying your hike in sandals is finding the right pair that offers ample support and protection for your feet. While sandals may not be for everyone, they can be an excellent alternative to traditional hiking shoes, especially in hot weather.
What to Wear Hiking in Summer
Picking the right gear for hiking in hot weather is crucial for both comfort and safety. Here are some key clothing items I’d recommend to stay cool and protected on the trail.
- Summer Hiking Shirts – Lightweight, long-sleeve, hiking shirts with a UPF rating and moisture wicking fabric.
- Hot Weather Hiking Pants – Lightweight, breathable pants that are UPF-rated and made of synthetic fabrics.
- Warm Weather Hiking Shorts – If you’re more into hiking shorts, choose moisture-wicking UPF-rated fabrics that have a stretchy waistband.
- Hiking Sun Hat – A wide-brimmed sun hat is a must for sunny hikes. Bonus points for moisture-wicking headbands and UPF materials.
- Hiking Shoes – Breathability, support, and traction are key when choosing hiking shoes or boots. Pair your footwear with Merino wool or polyester socks and sock liners.
- Sports Bras for Hot Weather – A sports bra designed for a hot day is crucial for staying cool and comfortable. Choose moisture-wicking, breathable materials and look for features like mesh panels or ventilation holes. Adjustable straps provide a proper fit and customizable support based on your needs.
Health Concerns for a Hot Summer Hike
Being aware of potential health concerns while hiking in hot weather is crucial for a safe and enjoyable experience. Familiarize yourself with these common issues and how to prevent or address them.
When it comes to sunburn prevention, I always make sure to wear sun-protective clothing and apply sunscreen regularly. You’ll want to grab a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, especially for hikes longer than 2 hours. Apply it generously about 15-20 minutes before you head out, and don’t forget to reapply after swimming, sweating, or drying off with a towel.
Keeping hydrated while hiking in hot weather is absolutely crucial. Dehydration can make you feel awful and even lead to heat-related illnesses like heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.
How much water you need depends on various factors like temperature, humidity, your activity level, age, body type, and the hike’s duration. In my experience, drinking about a half liter of water per hour during moderate activity in moderate temperatures is a good starting point.
You may need to drink more depending on the conditions and your activity level. As you gain experience, you’ll get better at figuring out how much water you need. And don’t forget about your furry friends; make sure to pack enough water for your dog and a collapsible bowl.
When I’ve pushed myself too hard during hot-weather hikes, I’ve experienced heat cramps. These painful muscle contractions can happen suddenly and are a good warning sign to slow down. Make sure to stay hydrated, and if you get heat cramps, try some gentle stretching to alleviate the pain.
Heat exhaustion can occur after prolonged exposure to high temperatures, and is often accompanied by dehydration. If you or a fellow hiker starts showing symptoms like heavy sweating, rapid pulse, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, or headache, it’s essential to address the situation immediately. Find a shady spot, remove excess clothing, and rehydrate. Splashing cool water on your face or dunking your head in a nearby stream can help too.
To prevent heat exhaustion, take time to acclimate to the heat, stay hydrated, wear appropriate clothing, rest in the shade, and be realistic about your fitness level when choosing hikes.
Heat stroke is a serious medical condition that requires immediate attention. If someone you’re hiking with exhibits symptoms of heat exhaustion along with a change in mental status, like confusion, disorientation, anxiety, or a throbbing headache, they may be experiencing heat stroke.
Rapidly cool the person down by laying them in the shade, removing extra clothing, and using cool water to lower their temperature. If they’re alert enough to hold a water bottle, get them to drink water.
Be prepared to evacuate and head straight to the hospital for further evaluation. You may even call 911 for emergency assistance. To prevent heat stroke, follow the same tips for preventing heat exhaustion. If you want to be even more prepared for medical emergencies outdoors, consider taking a wilderness medicine course.
And there you have it, fellow trailblazers! Armed with these hot weather hiking tips and wardrobe essentials, you’re ready to conquer those sun-soaked trails in style and comfort. Remember, the key to a successful summer hike is to stay cool, dry, and protected from the sun, so always opt for lightweight, breathable, and moisture-wicking clothing.
Now that you’ve got the lowdown on what to wear hiking in summer, it’s time to put your newfound knowledge to the test. Venture out into the great outdoors, and don’t forget to take in the stunning views, breathe in the fresh air, and savor every moment of your warm-weather outdoor adventure. Happy hiking, and may your trails be ever inviting and your memories unforgettable!
Ashley is an adventurous soul who loves all things nature, especially warm sunshine, wildflowers, scenic snacking, and mushrooms. She is an avid outdoor enthusiast who has spent years enjoying time outside doing things like hiking, camping, and rock climbing.
Her goal with Know Nothing Nomads is to make these hobbies easily accessible through knowledgeable content and how-to’s based on all the stuff she’s learned on her journey. If she isn’t writing an article, she’s probably in a forest looking at big mountain views and tiny pieces of moss on the side of the trail.