What to Wear Hiking in Hot Weather: The Best Lightweight Clothing for Staying Cool

Fillmore Glen state park, old gorge trail
Fillmore Glen State Park

As a Florida native, I am no stranger to hiking in hot weather. While I prefer hiking in cold weather, sometimes hiking in the heat is inevitable. I want to be as cool and comfortable as possible on all my hikes and have learned over the years that what you wear is a major factor in doing just this.

It is always important to be prepared as heat can be dangerous, especially when doing physical exercise. Choosing the right clothing to wear in hot weather is a must so you can stay cool and enjoy your next hiking adventure to the fullest. Appropriate clothes for hot weather hiking include shorts, tank tops, hiking sandals, hats and cooling accessories but also long sleeve tops and bottoms to help protect from sunburn.

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How hot is too hot for hiking?

Not all types of weather are suitable for hiking. There are definitely days that are simply too hot to hike outside safely. One hundred degrees Fahrenheit is often considered the maximum temperature for hikes, although some people should not hike in temperatures of this magnitude especially if a trail offers no shade. Use caution if temperatures rise as high as 85 degrees Fahrenheit, and choose shorter hikes. Long hikes with little shade in high heat should be avoided. The amount of humidity in the air is another factor to think about. Humidity will make you sweat more so you will have a different kind of experience than if you were hiking in dry heat and may want to use different gear.

Tips for hiking in hot weather

Follow these hot-weather hiking tips to make the time you spend outdoors as enjoyable as possible.

  • Start your day early. Temperatures are at their highest point during midday and the afternoon. If you’re planning a big hike, make sure to go as early as possible to get at least a few hours of walking before the heat becomes unbearable. 
  • Stay hydrated. You might think this goes without saying, but many hikers underestimate how much they actually need to drink in the heat. It’s recommended to drink at least 8 ounces of water every 15 minutes, which adds up to approximately 1 liter per hour. However, always account for unforeseen circumstances and bring plenty of spare water should your hike take longer than expected. 
  • Replenish your electrolytes. Your body doesn’t only lose water through sweat but also salt, which is incredibly important for hydration. Pack some snacks like trail mix, apples, or protein bars to keep your energy levels up. Electrolyte drinks can also be helpful, although they shouldn’t completely replace water.
  • Wear clothing in light colors such as tan or beige. Dark fabrics absorb a lot more heat and will make you feel even hotter when walking in the sun. You’ll also be able to see insects such as mosquitos or ticks much more easily, so you can protect yourself from bites.
  • Pick your trails carefully. Not all routes will be suitable for a hot day, and some are best saved for cold-weather hiking. Choose trails with plenty of shade and maybe a source of water nearby so you can cool off if needed. Avoid hikes with little to no cover, and make sure to research a route before you go.
  • Wear sunscreen and make sure to reapply regularly throughout your hike. Wearing the correct clothing for hiking in hot weather is not enough, and you’ll have to protect any parts of your body that are exposed to the sun. Keep in mind that you can still get sunburnt on a cloudy day, so applying sunscreen to your face, neck, and hands at least 30 min before sun exposure is essential.
  • Don’t rush into hikes if you’re not used to hiking in the heat. It can take more than a week for the body to adjust to a new climate, and doing a lot of physical exercises is not recommended right away. Try a leisurely short hike before you commit to a more extended excursion to get used to hiking in hot weather.
  • Pack extra clothing. If you are sweating when hiking in hot weather, you might want to change your clothing during the hike or at the finish line to get back home more comfortably. I always love changing into my Birkenstocks after a long sweaty hike and putting on a fresh top for the ride home.
  • Take plenty of breaks. Hiking is meant to be enjoyable, and you should rest when necessary. It is best to prioritize your safety and not push yourself too far when hiking in hot temperatures.
  • Bring as little as possible. Having less weight on your back can make a world of difference when you are trying to stay cool while hiking in hot weather. You will need extra water and never skimp on emergency items but be conscious of extra pleasure items that can weigh you down.

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Tops to stay cool while hiking in hot weather.

When selecting clothing for hiking in hot weather, you should choose a shirt made from lightweight and thin fabric with anti-odor properties. Natural fabrics, such as linen, wool, and bamboo, have natural odor-resistant properties, but nowadays, many synthetic materials are treated with odor-resistant technologies.

While short sleeves will be more comfortable and bring more airflow to your body, you’ll also have more skin exposed to the sun, which means an increased risk of sunburn and insect bites. A long-sleeved top will help protect you from the sun but might cause you to sweat more. You may need to try a few different tops to learn what method you like best.

Sleeveless

Patagonia Capilene Cool Trail Tank Top

This versatile tank top may be the best hiking shirt for hot weather. It’s made from recycled polyester, which dries much faster than cotton and feels lighter. With several colors to choose from, you can grab a few spares so you can change throughout the hike.

Vuori Rib Crop Tank Top

I love this tank from Vuori for its build in bra (no cups) and crop style that pair nicely with any high-waisted bottoms. The top comes in a lot of colors that match a plethora of Vuori’s other active pieces. It is a V-neck that is slightly revealing with lite support – which is not the best for everyone. I would not run in this top, but for hikes, in hot weather, it is a go-to. I am a 32C, and the XS fits me great. It is so comfortable!

Shortsleeve

warm weather Hiking T shirt for women

Patagonia Capilene Cool Trail Shirt– equipped with underarm gussets, HeiQ® Fresh durable odor control, and a rounded drop hem to help it stay in place under a belt or tucked in.

REI Co-op Sahara T-Shirt– Has natural 30 UPF protection, stretches, dries quickly and fits looser to help make hiking in the heat comfortable.

Long-sleeve

Patagonia Capilene Cool Trail Long-Sleeve Shirt

Long sleeve top to where while hiking in hot wether

The Patagonia Capilene Cool Trail collection is made for hot days with its moisture-wicking technology and fabrics that feel like cotton but perform like polyester on hot hiking days. This stretchy long-sleeve top is perfect for hikes, runs, or any outdoor physical activity where you don’t want to expose too much skin. The fabric is light and breathable, making it one of the best women’s hiking shirts for hot weather with extra sun protection.

Bottoms

Should you be hiking in shorts or long pants in hot weather? Either or will do but it entirely depends on the nature of the trail, and your personal preference. Shorts are a lot more breathable and will help you stay cool, but they offer little sun protection and leave your legs exposed. Convertible pants can be the answer if you’re looking for a compromise between both options. You can wear the long pants when hiking in the morning and then unzip them as the sun begins to get stronger and the weather becomes more intense. Long pants are are best when trails are narrow and have a lot of brush that could scratch your legs or prick your skin along the way.

Hiking Shorts

REI Co-op Sahara Bermuda Shorts

These shorts are a great alternative if you’re not ready to wear pants when hiking in hot summer weather. They’re made from stretchy and water-resistant fabric with a UV rating of SPF 50, protecting you from the sun while you spend time outside.

Patagonia Baggies Shorts

These water resistant 5” inseam shorts are perfect for hot trail days or over a bathing suit. They come in a slew of colors and patterns, have an elastic waistband with draw string cord and are made from recycled fishing nets to help reduce ocean pollution.

Hiking Skort

alder Get Dirty Skort

Who said hiking clothes can’t be stylish? I love hitting the trails in a skort on a hot day. This one has 4 pockets and comfortable liner shorts that don’t ride up. This skort is made from comfortable wicking fabric and has a high waist design.

Pants

REI Co-op Sahara Guide Convertible Pants

Get the best of both worlds with these convertible hiking pants that can turn into shorts if you need more of a breeze in hot weather. They’re durable, quick-drying, and water-repellant, ensuring your clothing keeps you cool and dry even when hiking for several hours in hot weather. The drawstring leg detail allows you to keep insects out, protecting your legs from bites and injuries.

Leggings

I do plenty of hiking in regular athletic leggings and love the Athleta Salutation Stash Pocket II 7/8 Tights. They have pockets and dry quickly with a higher waist and good compression. I also love these Vuori Daily joggers for hot days when the trail is dusty. They don’t have pockets but are super comfortable and match a lot of Vuori’s athletic tops for a complete fashionable look on the trail.

Accessories

Accessories like sunnies, hats and the right socks will help keep you cool when hiking in hot weather. Socks should be moisture wicking and padded if you are prone to blisters and a wide brimmed hat protecting both your face and the back of your neck is best.

Cooling accessories such as ice bandanas and cooling neck gaiters along with sweatbands are meant to keep you cool and comfortable while out in hot weather. I don’t like bringing extra weight with me but I always keep a small microfiber towel in my day pack to dry my hands or wipe my neck and forehead during sweaty hikes.

Socks

REI Co-op COOLMAX EcoMade Ultralight Tech Hiking Socks

These soft and high-quality socks will keep your feet dry and comfortable even on the hottest days. Bring a spare if you’re prone to sweating so you can change throughout the hike.

Cool Tie

Kafka’s Kool Tie

If you’re looking for cool gadgets that promise to keep you cook, the Kafka Kool Tie may be the perfect choice. The polymer crystals soak up water and then slowly release it when heating up. Put the tie around your neck to cool down when the heat feels unbearable. The best part is that the Kool Tie works for up to two days, so it’s good for camping excursions or longer trips. I have not tried it myself but there are plenty of 4 and 5 star reviews raving about it.

Cooling Towel

REI Co-op Cooling Towel

Cooling towels are another trendy accessory worth a test to help keep you comfortable in hot weather. Simply wet the towel and wring it out before draping it over your neck and shoulders. The fabric has an SPF 50 UV rating, and the towel can be folded into a small square, so it easily fits into your pocket when you’re not using it.

Hats

Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure Storm Hat

This breathable hat comes with a chin strap to make sure it stays on even on adventurous hikes. It covers your neck and shields your face from the sun, providing ultimate sun protection when it’s hot outside. The mesh lining keeps sweat to a minimum, making sure your head stays dry and comfortable. It lightweight and easy to travel with.

I am a big fan of wide brimmed hats because they are functional and stylish. They are not as easy to pack and travel with but this hat clasp makes carrying large hats that don’t fit in my suit case super easy.

Day Packs 

A good backpack for hiking on hot days needs to be lightweight, with a breathable back panel and space for a water reservoir. Keep your gear light and only bring the essentials on your trip, the smaller the pack the better. On warm days a 17L -20L pack is what I use on day hikes up to 12 miles. Anything over that requires a larger pack so I can bring extra water. I never used to use a water reservoir pack but I now prefer them over using bulky water bottles mainly because I love being hands free.

Backpack

Osprey Tempest 20  

The Osprey Tempest 20 is the go-to backpack for many hikers and will help you to stay cool while hiking in hot weather. It has a compartment where you can store a water reservoir (purchased separately). The back panel is breathable, allowing for maximum airflow even on sunny days. The backpack is lightweight, durable and has and outside stash pocket for sweaty or wet clothes and also offers many points to attach additional hiking gear.

Hydration Pack

CamelBak Rogue Light 7 L Hydration Pack

This 7-liter hydration backpack helps athletes stay cool while hiking in hot weather, eliminating the need for bulky water bottles and a heavy pack. You can still store other items like a change of clothes or a snack, but this bag is definitely small and storage is limited. The built-in water reservoir can hold 2 liters which is a great amount for hiking shorter distances during hot summer weather.

Hip Packs

On really hot days if its a short hike (around 3 miles or less round trip) I’ll use a hip pack for necessities and crossbody carry my 24 oz Hrdroflask water bottle as a backpack always makes me sweat no matter how light they are. It is so much easier and enjoyable hiking without any gear on your back, unfortunately that is rarely possible as you need to make sure to have enough water and emergency supplies with you in case something unexpected happens while hiking outside. There are also hydration belts for hiking that have pockets and water bottle clips. I’ve never used one myself but this design is a great hands free option.

Hiking Shoes

I wear the same hiking shoes during cold weather and warm weather hikes but use thinner socks on warm weather hikes. I always recommend a waterproof hiking shoe but while hiking in hot weather you may want to use a hiking sandal. An open-toe hiking sandal can be a great option for trails with more even terrain and solid surface. I hate when I get pebbles stuck in my open toed sandals. I like my feet to be protected from loose gravel, dust and mud so I only use open toed hiking sandals when hiking through water.

Research the trail before hand to determine if it’s suitable for open-toe shoes or if closed toed boots may be the better option. Keep in mind that storms can occur even on hot days, so be prepared in case of rainfall.

Open-toe hiking sandal

Teva Hurricane XLT2 Sandals

These open-toe sandals have a great thread, padded straps, and cushioned soles. They come in a variety of color combinations and are so comfortable that they can be worn in day-to-day life. These sandals are known for their durability, so you’ll be able to use them for several years, even on rocky terrain. 

Covered Toe Hiking Boots

Merrell Ontario 2 Mid Waterproof Hiking Boots

Salomon Cross Hike Mid GTX Hiking Boots

The Merrell Ontario 2 is a waterproof and breathable option with features to help keep out debris and provide traction on wet and dry surfaces. They’re mid-rise, which protects your ankles and allows for maximum comfort on uneven trails. They are fit with Kinetic Fit Base removable insoles for flexible support and comfort.

Sorel Emilie Boot

I do a lot of hiking in these boots as well. They are a lighter, less bulky and more stylish option but are still waterproof with good traction.

***

I hope this guide on what to wear hiking in hot wear is very useful on your next outdoor adventure! Staying comfortable is so important to getting the most out of your hike. Make sure to plan out your hot weather hike to avoid any surprises, bring plenty of water, sun protection, a first aid kit and as always leave no trace!

This post may contain affiliate links which means I earn a small commission if you click and purchase anything from the affiliate links provided. Thank you so much for your support!

Hi, I'm Sam

After a lay off from the corporate world I decided to SEE the world. Sharing all my bucket list experiences to help spark your wanderlust and inspire your next adventure!

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