12 Tips on What to Wear on a Hot Weather Hike

Hiking in 95 °F (35 °C) is not for the faint of heart and poses a risk of heat stroke. However, by following these 12 tips, you'll make your warm hike enjoyable and safe.

If you’re a hardcore hiker, winter may be the season where you employ the most preparations for your hiking adventures. However, it would be unwise to underestimate how much of an impact that hotter weather can have on a hiking expedition.

While you’re not going to need to wear a great pair of winter hiking pants, your wardrobe selection should still be selected properly. Yet, it goes beyond what you wear. Deciding when and where to hike and remaining properly hydrated are also critical components in all of this.

The main focus will be on what to wear, though, so… What to wear hiking in hot weather? While we’ll get into the specifics, there are a few main things to keep in mind such as wearing loose, breathable clothing, a hat and sunscreen to protect against the sun, and lighter colors (in general).

So, instead of going through each different type of clothing (such as bottom wear, top wear, etc.), we just figured that we would mention some general clothing tips to remember when trying to figure out what you’re going to wear on hikes where you know the heat index is going to be high.

What you should wear on a hike in hot weather

woman walking with yellow backpack on
Image credits: Holly Mandarich
  • Wear clothing that’s both loose and breathable. The last thing you want to wear is clothing that’s thick, heavy, and unbreathable. The exact opposite should be what you focus on, which would be clothing that’s loose-fitting, breathes well, and light. Fabrics such as polyester and nylon will be strong choices for summer hiking wear.
  • Wear clothing that has venting. There are pants, shorts, and shirts on the market, designed for hiking, which will implement venting in their designs. This basically improves their breathability, which kind of goes back to the first bullet point.
  • Choose lighter colors to wear. Quite honestly, this one should be a no-brainer. Anyone who’s worn a black shirt on a scorching hot day knows how poor of a decision that it is. Wearing colors that reflect the rays of the sun instead of absorbing them will be what you want to do, and this will be achieved with lighter colors. Aim for white, khaki, tan, and other non-dark colors for all articles of clothing.
  • Select clothing that’s UPF-rated. Yes, you can select lighter colors to wear to help protect you from the sun. Additionally, you can buy hiking clothing that’s literally designed with a UPF rating. Such articles of clothing will be optimized to provide protection against the sun, and that can be the most dangerous aspect of hiking on the killer, hot days.
  • Don’t forget about your socks. When looking at what to wear hiking in hot weather, you may just overlook your socks. However, the importance of choosing the right hiking socks is always important, and it’s also important when hiking in hotter climates. Generally speaking, just avoid cotton socks. Opting for socks made out of wool or some blend of synthetics is going to be a much better choice. Ensure that the socks you have aren’t too big or too small. They should fit just right.
  • The same goes for a hat. You’d think that adding as few articles of clothing as possible would be the idea here. However, wearing a hat on boiling hikes can deliver some essential protection from the sun. We’re not even talking about generic baseball caps, either, even though they can provide some decent shade. Sun hats which are designed to deliver all-around protection from the sun are even better to wear. They may not be your thing, but they might make a huge difference when the sun really starts to wear you down.
  • Provide some cooling for your neck. Have you ever placed a cold, wet rag on the back of your neck when you’re overheating? It’s such an amazing sensation, and that’s kind of the idea here. A lightweight cloth, possibly a neck gaiter, dipped into cold water can provide cooling for your neck. Certain cloths will retain moisture better than others, and you can opt for those for superior results.

Other ways to make a hot hike more enjoyable

man holding water bottle on mountain
Image credits: Unsplash

Now, even though the following information isn’t going to pertain directly to what to wear, they can be vital tips to help hikers try and remain as cool as possible during hotter hikes.

  • Bring a squirt bottle with you. Clearly, keeping yourself hydrated is going to be of the utmost importance here (it always is but it’s specifically vital during brutally hot climates). However, there are other ways you can utilize your water. Bringing along a little squirt bottle can allow you to cool yourself down by spraying yourself with water. It may seem silly but when your body gets insanely hot, you’d be surprised how much the allure of cooling down takes over.
  • Bring a hydration pack. Again, proper hydration is everything. Having a hydration pack at the ready at all times will make it more likely for you to remain hydrated during the hike.
  • Make use of any bodies of water. If you’re hiking near a body of water (even just a river), the cooling breeze will help on warmer days. Clearly, hiking next to a large ocean or lake will provide superior breeze, but even a river can be a sigh of relief.
  • Hike in the early morning or late afternoon. Usually, the warmest point of the day is going to be between noon and 3 pm. So, if the weather’s going to be hot, then it can behoove you to either get out in the early morning and hike (before the real heat kicks in) or wait until the late afternoon (and into the night) when the weather finally starts to cool down a little bit. Hiking at night can provide different challenges altogether, but it’s also going to get rid of the issue of the sun (and the blistering heat).
  • Stay in the shade as much as possible. Doing some research on where you plan to hike can assist with this. After all, if you hike in a wide-open area with little to no trees then shade is going to be hard to come by. During hotter days, hiking in the shade can drastically make a difference. Keeping the sun at bay as much as possible is what you’re looking to achieve.

Why does hotter weather pose such a risk?

All this talk about what to wear hiking in hot weather can lead to the question of why warmer weather poses such a risk, in the first place. Most hikers will want to stay cool because they understand how miserable it can be when the heat takes over.

However, it goes far beyond being an issue of comfort and enjoyment and can quickly become dangerous and life-threatening if you don’t respect the dangers of extremely hot climates. Sure, you might just end up suffering from mild heat cramps on your hike, but you could also risk heat stroke (which can be life-threatening) if you aren’t careful.

What are some common heat-related conditions to be wary of?

As just mentioned, heat stroke and heat cramps are two common ones. Yet, conditions such as heat rash, heat exhaustion, and sunburn can also rear their ugly heads when you’re hiking in hot weather. Probably the most serious of them all are heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

What are heat stroke and heat exhaustion and how can you avoid them on your hike?

Basically, a heat stroke will occur when the human body is unable to control its temperature. Heat exhaustion, on the other hand, can simply occur if you spend too much time in an extremely warm environment.

The best way to avoid either one of them on a hot hike is to try to stay as cool as possible. The above methods of blocking the sun and staying properly hydrated (drink that water everyone) can go a long way.

However, let’s also mention that there’s only so much you can do when the weather is just TOO hot. If there are heat advisories and weathermen everywhere recommending civilians to stay indoors and remain in cool environments, then you should probably postpone or straight-up cancel your current hiking plans.

Also, know what you can handle. If you tend to overheat quickly in even mildly warm climates, perhaps you should reconsider hiking when the heat index gets into the triple digits. What to wear hiking in hot weather, after all, can only help so much.

Final thoughts

If you were to take any information away from this post, it should probably be the following. Protecting your body from the rays of the sun (via hats, sunscreen, etc.), wearing clothing that’s breathable, light, and lightly colored, and staying properly hydrated (which truly can’t be overstated enough), are essential ways to combat the heat during scorching hot summer hikes.

Yet, again, be your own judge and also listen to the powers that be, regarding when it’s simply too warm to even attempt a hike. Also, remember that doing additional things (such as planning your hike where you can get a lot of shade and avoiding hiking during the warmest parts of the day) can also help with the battle.

Hiking during really hot weather may not be the favorite time of year for hikers, but we understand that avid enthusiasts of the activity don’t want to wait for the hot weather to pass to do some hiking. Sometimes, though, you just have to admit defeat.

On the topic of hiking, the warmer weather might not stop you from bringing your hiking poles on your adventure. And if you don’t have any but have always wanted to get a pair, perhaps you’d like to learn what size hiking poles you should get for optimal comfort? Click on that link if so!

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Tyler Jones

Tyler is much like a swiss knife. Even though he has a degree in Computer Science, he knows almost everything there is to know about camping. He has been writing for HeadlessNomad since 2021 and has contributed with over 100 articles. If you have an outdoor-related question, then Tyler much likely knows the answer.