Hiking in hot weather can be a fantastic experience if you’re wearing the right clothing. However, anyone left unprepared is often faced with a long and tiring day on the trail.
Here at SnowSunSee, we know that finding the right summer hiking gear can pose a significant challenge. In order to help you keep your cool, we have put together this complete guide detailing what to wear hiking in hot weather.
Hot Weather Hiking Boots
The amount of different hiking boots on the market can make finding the right option a daunting task. Most products tend to prioritize wet weather performance over heat reduction, so finding the right product isn’t easy.
In order to keep your feet cool; you will require boots that are breathable, ventilated and lightweight. Each of these factors are vital to keeping your feet cool, dry and comfortable.
Breathability refers to the amount of perspiration your hiking boots allow to escape to the outside. It will determine whether the sweat omitted from your feet stays within the boot or evaporates.
One major cause of discomfort when hiking in hot weather is damp and sweaty feet. It can be a recipe for blisters and fungal infections, both of which you will certainly want to avoid.
In general, synthetic nylon and mesh offer the most hiking boot breathability while also being lightweight and quick-drying. Leathers such as suede and nubuck are often added for their durability, but these materials are certainly less breathable.
The material to avoid in summer hiking boots is full-grain leather. Despite its superb durability and water-resistance, it will not allow your feet to breathe.
Ventilation will allow air to flow in and out of your hiking boots. It’s an effective method used to keep your feet cool, allowing constant air circulation while you’re on the trail.
Ventilation is often used in the form of mesh panels added to the upper material of the boots. However, different manufacturers can use a range of ventilation methods to keep your feet cool.
It’s worth noting that the most ventilated boots will often lack waterproofing. The permeability of the outer fabric required for airflow will often make it impossible to also keep water from entering.
Wearing lightweight hiking boots is a great way to keep cool. They are generally more ventilated and breathable than heavier boots, thanks to their use of thinner materials.
Lightweight boots will also reduce the energy you need to exert with each step. Although the weight difference might seem minor at first, it can greatly reduce overheating and improve energy levels throughout the day.
Boots made using synthetic, nylon and mesh materials are often the lightest. The heaviest boots tend to be made from full-grain leather, which is best to be avoided in summer unless you absolutely require added support.
Most boots use an inner ‘membrane’ or ‘bootie’ for waterproofing. It will completely seal the boots from water, but can also lead to overheated feet.
Every manufacturer will claim that their waterproof membrane offers the best breathability. However, the fact remains that any time you add waterproofing to a hiking boot it will run warmer.
The best boots to wear hiking in hot weather often forgo water-resistance to keep your feet cool. By deciding against the use of an inner membrane, they are able to provide full ventilation for maximum airflow.
If waterproofing is essential for your needs, look for boots with a quality membrane and proven breathability. Gore-Tex is a popular option due to its reliable track record; although
Recommended Hiking Boots To Wear In Hot Weather
- Keen Targhee Vent Mid
- Merrell Moab 2 Vent Mid
- La Sportiva Pyramid GTX
- Hoka One One Sky Toa
- Adidas Terrex Freehiker Parley
Hot Weather Hiking Socks
Hiking socks aren’t just about protecting your feet. Wearing the right pair will also contribute to keeping your feet cool.
Quality summer hiking socks are designed to be breathable, ventilated and lightweight. The best options are adept at wicking away moisture and have quick-drying properties that are required for sweating feet.
Many hot weather socks also have antimicrobial and anti-odour properties, making them popular with thru-hikers.
Hot Weather Hiking Sock Material
Quality hot weather socks are generally made from merino wool, nylon or polyester. Each one has specific benefits that will keep you cool.
- Merino wool has become hugely popular thanks to its temperature regulating ability. It’s breathable in warm weather, but is versatile enough for year-round hiking. It’s also excellent at wicking away sweat, deterring odours and maintaining freshness during thru-hikes.
- Synthetic nylon and polyester is the more budget friendly option, but can still perform in hot weather. Both nylon and polyester are moisture wicking, lightweight and quick-drying; despite lacking the advanced breathability of wool.
Many socks will use a merino wool and synthetic blend to combine breathability with durability. It’s also common to see elastane or lycra added into the mix, which will give them a ‘snug’ fit.
Hot Weather Hiking Sock Style
Hiking socks come in four different styles; No show, knee-high, ankle and crew. The most popular options for hot weather are ankle and crew.
- Ankle socks sit just above your ankle and provide minimal lower leg coverage. Despite their inherent lack of protection, they will allow your legs to breathe in the heat.
- Crew socks sit around half way up your calf to provide a reasonable amount of lower leg protection. Although they give you less breathing space than ankle socks, they often pair better with mid or high-cut hiking boots.
Recommended Hiking Socks To Wear In Hot Weather
- Darn Tough Coolmax Crew
- Icebreaker Hike+ Light Mini
- Bridgedale Hike Ultra Light Crew
- Lorpen T3 Light Hiker Socks
- Darn Tough Coolmax Zuni Micro Crew
Next Step: Check out our complete guide to the best summer hiking socks
Hot Weather Hiking Pants
Many hikers dread the thought of wearing long pants in hot weather. However, finding the right pair will make sure you get the necessary leg protection without overheating.
Hot weather hiking pants are almost always made from synthetic nylon or polyester. They’re known for their lightweight durability and natural moisture wicking ability.
Although synthetics aren’t the most breathable materials, they will allow some sweat to dissipate when the cut is thin. The main material to be cautious with is cotton due to its tendency to absorb sweat when used in higher quantities.
It’s worth noting that most hiking pants also include elastane or spandex within the blend. Giving them this added stretch will give them vital mobility and comfort.
Hot weather hiking pants use various methods of ventilation. Zippered vents, roll-up cuffs and mesh lining can all help to regulate temperature in the summer sun.
Another key feature to look out for is ‘air-permeable’ or ‘targeted’ ventilation zones. These pants use a lightweight ‘ultra-ventilated’ fabric around classic overheating areas, which will greatly enhance their cooling ability.
Recommended Hiking Pants To Wear In Hot Weather
Next Step: Check out our complete guide to the best summer hiking pants.
Hot Weather Hiking Shorts
Many hikers relish the thought of hiking in shorts. It gives you a feeling of freedom and comfort that is often hard to find in longer pants.
The main drawback to hiking shorts is their lack of leg protection. If you plan on sticking to well-trodden trails then they can be great, but they will leave bushwhackers exposed when trekking off-trail.
Another thing to note about shorts is the lack of skin coverage. If you’re serious about skincare, be sure to wear sun cream or stick with long pants.
As with most hot weather hiking clothing, you should be looking to keep weight to a minimum. The thin cut fabrics used in lightweight shorts maximize breathability and often have the best mobility during summer scrambles.
Hiking shorts are generally made from either nylon or polyester. Both of these materials provide lightweight durability and have great moisture-wicking ability.
The inherent downside of these synthetic fabrics is their lack of breathability. However, the best products mitigate this by using thin cuts of fabric with a ventilated stitching pattern.
Most hiking shorts will include spandex or elastane within the material blend to improve mobility. Not only will this aid comfort, but it can also keep you cool by allowing further airflow without feeling restricted.
Recommended Hiking Shorts To Wear In Hot Weather
- Patagonia Quandary
- Arc’teryx Lefroy
- Columbia Silver Ridge Stretch
- Prana Stretch Zion
- Patagonia Nine Trails
Hot Weather Hiking Shirts
The shirt you wear will have a big impact on regulating upper body temperature. It should have a ‘light and airy’ feel that allows plenty of airflow and maximized breathability.
As with most hot weather hiking clothing; moisture wicking is key. Some shirts will use fabric that can pull sweat away from the skin, while many have quick-drying properties that will keep you cool and comfortable.
Hiking shirts come in a variety of shapes and sizes with unique pros and cons in hot weather. The most notable factors that will affect hot weather performance are style, sleeves and material.
Hot weather hiking shirts use either a button-up or crew style. Each one has specific benefits in hot weather and is best suited to a different type of hiker.
- Button-up hiking shirts give you a wide neckline that will enhance ventilation. If you choose a fit that is loose and lightweight, you will get excellent airflow that can keep you cool.
- Crew hiking shirts are usually very lightweight and flexible. Despite the reduced neckline ventilation, they usually offer enhanced breathability if you find the right fabric.
It’s easy to think that short sleeves are best for hot weather, but we generally recommend hikers wear a long sleeved shirt.
Wearing a long sleeved shirt will keep your skin protected from the sun. It will also stop your arms from getting scratched and scraped if you plan on hiking off-trail.
Remember that long sleeved shirts are also adaptable. You always retain the option to roll up your sleeves when necessary, while they can also be used during the winter months.
Many still prefer short sleeved hiking shirts due to the added ventilation and feeling of freedom. If you choose to expose your arms, just be sure to wear sun cream during long days on the trail.
Most hot weather hiking shirts are made from synthetic polyester. Its durability, reduced weight and moisture-wicking ability have made it by far the most popular choice amongst manufacturers.
It’s worth noting that polyester does lack breathability. It does have a tendency to trap hot air close to the skin, but getting a fit that allows some airflow will often remedy this issue.
Another important factor is the material’s UPF rating, which determines how much sun is able penetrate the shirt. Anything above UPF 30 is considered safe for most hiking scenarios, but you should look for UPF 50+ if you want maximum protection.
Recommended Hiking Shirts To Wear In Hot Weather
- Arc’teryx Velox
- Columbia Silver Ridge Lite
- Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily
- Outdoor Research Astroman
- Kuhl Response
Next Step: Check out our complete guide to the best hot weather hiking shirts.
Hot Weather Hiking Hats
The importance of wearing a hat is often overlooking by summer hikers. However, it is one of the most useful tools at your disposal when hiking under intense sun.
A quality hiking hat will help to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. It will also stop sweat from running down your face; something that’s always desirable amongst selfie seekers.
Looking for a hat that’s lightweight, ventilated and breathable should be a priority. Its style, fabric and features largely determine each of these factors.
Hot weather hiking hats predominantly come in two styles; sun hat or ball cap.
- Sun hats use a wide brim thatoffers maximum protection from the sun. It has the unique advantage of offering 360° shading, including the back of your neck.
- Ball caps are the lightest and most secure fitting types of hiking hat. Despite offering limited coverage, they are often preferred by anyone intending on scrambling up tricky terrain.
Hot weather hiking hats are almost always made from synthetic nylon or polyester. It’s lightweight, durable, cost-effective and great at wicking-moisture.
The downside of synthetics comes in their lack of breathability. However, many hats enhance airflow through the use of mesh fabric or added ventilation panels.
When choosing a hat to wear under the sun, it’s also important to assess the material’s UPF rating. It determines how much UV light can penetrate the fabric, with at least UPF30 recommended for reliable protection.
Recommended Hiking Hats To Wear In Hot Weather
- Filson Summer Packer
- Tilley LTM8 Airflo Mesh
- Outdoor Research Swift
- Columbia Bora Bora Booney
- Outdoor Research Sun Runner
Hot Weather Hiking Backpacks
Getting a backpack that can support your hot weather hikes is essential. Since your demand for water will increase in the heat, you will need a pack that can accommodate your needs.
Anyone hiking in serious heat should carry a hydration pack. It uses a ‘bladder’ and ‘hose’ design that provides easy access to water without the need to carry a bottle.
Most hydration packs are capable of carrying 1–3L of water. Since the bladder is stored inside the main compartment, they are very convenient to carry and feel secure on your back.
One main downside of hydration packs is their generally reduced packing space. Most products are predominantly designed for day-hikers, while some also find storage space compromised by the water bladder.
‘Regular’ Hiking Backpacks
If you’re choosing a hot weather hiking backpack, you need to make sure it can easily stash your water supply. Many of the best products include ‘stretchy’ side pockets that can hold your bottles, making them easy to access at any time.
It is possible to find hiking backpacks that have the option to add a hydration system. These packs are amongst the most versatile around, allowing you to increase storage space or add your water supply when appropriate. Just keep in mind that you will usually need to purchase your own hose and bladder separately.
Although small in size, fanny packs are more than capable of supporting most hot weather day-hikes. Their lightweight and manageable design can significantly increase the energy you have on the trail when compared to carrying a heavy backpack.
Some of the best hiking fanny packs have the capacity to carry multiple water bottles outside of the main storage compartment. Despite being limited in the water volume they can carry, they are a great choice for anyone hiking fast and light on a hot day.
Hint: Check out our complete guide to the best hiking fanny packs.
Recommended Hiking Backpacks To Wear In Hot Weather
- CamelBak Rim Runner 22
- Osprey Atmos AG 65
- Mountainsmith Tour Lumbar Pack
- Osprey Talon 22
- Granite Gear Blaze 60
Hot Weather Hiking Sunglasses
Anyone hiking for multiple hours under the blazing sun will need to protect their eyes. Extended UV exposure can cause all sorts of damage to your eyes, while it can also visibly age the skin around your eyes over time.
Wearing a pair of sunglasses is the best way to mitigate any damage the sun might cause. It will also make sure you can enjoy your time on the trail without squinting.
Hiking sunglasses need to be durable enough to survive tough days in the outdoors. You will need to find a pair that have a secure fit and lenses that are proven to protect your eyes from harmful UV light.
The frame shape of your sunglasses will determine how secure they feel. It will also affect how much sunlight is able to reach your eye, depending on the amount of side coverage they offer.
Our recommended shape for hiking and outdoor activity is predominantly ‘wrap-around’. It provides the most secure fit that will not shake loose on difficult terrain, while also providing complete eye coverage.
Keep in mind that most modern sunglasses prioritize fashion over safety and performance. Although they might look great in the shop; they often lack the security, protection and durability for use on the trail.
Lenses are tasked with protecting your eyes from UV rays, so you need to make sure they’re up to the task. Quality sunglasses will provide protection against 99% or 100% of UV light.
Another aspect to assess is VLT, which signals the amount of visible light they allow to reach your eye. The VLT rating of sunglasses is measured from 1-4, with a higher rating blocking out more light.
Most regular sunglasses use VLT 2 lenses, but we recommend most hikers use VLT 3 due to extended sun exposure. If you plan on completing multiday desert or glacier hikes where the sun exposure will be extreme, you should probably be using VLT 4 lenses.
Recommended Hiking Sunglasses To Wear In Hot Weather
Essential Hot Weather Hiking Clothing Tips
- Wear bright colours. It’s a well-known fact that dark colours soak up the sun and make you run warm. In comparison, bright coloured hiking gear will reflect the sun and help you keep cool.
- Wear loose fitting clothing. The natural air-flow and ventilation that comes with a relaxed fit will allow hot air and sweat to dissipate.
- Keep weight to a minimum. Lightweight clothing uses thinner fabric that enhances breathability and improves energy levels in the heat.
- Look for UPF rated clothing. Stopping harmful UV rays from hitting your skin is essential during long days on the trail. Choose items that are UPF30 or above to ensure you’re protected.
- Protect your skin. It might be tempting to go for minimalist clothing that exposes your skin to the sun. However, with skin safety in mind, we always recommend to limit sun exposure whenever possible.
- Quick-drying is key. Excess sweat will leave your clothes feeling heavy, uncomfortable and can compromise breathability. Prioritize quick-drying fabrics if you want to remain cool.
- Aim for antimicrobial fabrics. Hot weather hiking can leave your clothes open to bacterial growth and odour retention. Look for fabrics specifically designed to combat these issues for multiday freshness.
- Use ventilation if possible. Many modern hiking clothing includes built-in vents and mesh panels. The extra airflow this creates can be invaluable on a hot day.
Once you’ve learned what to wear hiking in hot weather, it can have a significant impact on your trail time. Keeping your cool is vital if you want to enjoy your time in the outdoors, with the clothing you wear being a huge factor.
Always look for keywords like moisture-wicking, breathable, ventilated and lightweight when making your choice. Following this, it’s important to thoroughly assess the features and fabrics used by each product to get a realistic idea of its performance.
Every item we have recommended is based on past experience and outdoor expertise. If you stick to the fundamental advice outlined in this guide, you are one step closer to hot weather hiking happiness.
James is the founder of SnowSunSee. He started skiing when he was five years old and has been a qualified ski instructor for 8 years. He has taught skiing in many countries, including UK, Europe, Japan, China and Malaysia. When he’s not on the slopes, James spends his time travelling the world one trail at a time.