Best Clothes for Hiking: What to Wear Hiking in the Summer

When the sun is shining, and the weather is warm, there’s no better time to hit the trails and explore the great outdoors. Every time I head out for a hiking adventure, I always ensure I am dressed appropriately for the conditions. In this comprehensive guide, I will cover everything you need to know about selecting the best clothes for hiking, from what to wear hiking in the summer to clothes you should avoid. 

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Best Clothes for Hiking in the Summer

Hiking Pants or Shorts

Lightweight and breathable hiking pants are ideal for summer hikes. Look for options made from quick-drying materials like nylon or polyester, which offer protection against sun exposure and wick away sweat to keep you cool and dry.

I rarely wear shorts when hiking, though some hikers prefer them when it is hot out. I prefer the added layer of protection from insects, mainly ticks, when out on the trail. Pants will also protect from scrapes and scratches when hiking through thick brush or high grass. But on especially hot summer days, my go-to shorts are the Silverlight hiking shorts. They are light and comfortable, perfect for outdoor activities.

hiker on a dirt trail surrounded by trees wearing a tank top and black pants

I recommend light-coloured pants as the dark colours will attract mosquitoes and flies. Opt for beige or light gray. 

Loose pants are also better during mosquito season. I started hiking in leggings, which are very comfortable, but let me tell you, mosquitoes have no problem bitting you through those fitted pants!

Hiking Shirt or Tank Top

A moisture-wicking shirt or tank top is essential to stay comfortable in the summer heat. Choose a breathable fabric like polyester or merino wool that dries quickly and helps regulate your body temperature.

Consider wearing a long-sleeved shirt for added sun protection, or opt for a sleeveless tank if you prefer a cooler option with sunscreen instead.

hiker showing the best clothes for hiking in summer to protect from the sun
Wearing my long-sleeved light-coloured shirt while hiking protects me from the sun.

Again, the light-coloured options are better as they don’t attract heat from the sun as dark colours do. I would recommend staying away from a black or navy shirt on a hot sunny day. 

Hiking Socks

Invest in high-quality hiking socks made from moisture-wicking materials like merino wool or synthetic blends. These socks help prevent blisters and keep your feet dry and comfortable, even on long hikes in hot weather. 

My favourites are the Silverlight hiking socks or the Darn Though socks. Both are made from merino wool to keep feet dry and prevent blisters and they are made to last.

Hiking Jacket and Rain Gear

While summer weather is typically warm and sunny, it’s essential to be prepared for unexpected rain showers or cooler temperatures, especially at higher elevations.

Pack a lightweight waterproof jacket or rain poncho in your daypack to stay dry in case of inclement weather.

two hikers in a green rainy forest with their rain gear on

Some hikers opt for rain pants along with a rain jacket. Personally, I have never found a use for them, as my rain jacket is enough to keep me dry. They could come in handy when hiking in wet, cold weather, as staying dry would be even more important when it’s cold. The ones from Mountain Warehouse are a good price for the quality.

Depending on the hiking trail, I will sometimes bring my down jacket. I immensely enjoy scrambling above the treeline to reach a summit. When you gain enough altitude, the weather can rapidly change and it can be much colder at the top. Even in the middle of summer, I will have my down jacket with me and I often put it on at the summit.

hiker at the summit of mountain standing in snow with mountains in the background
wearing my down jacket on the summit of Pyramid Mountain in July

Sun Protection

Protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful rays is crucial when hiking in the summer. Wear a wide-brimmed sun hat to shield your face and neck.

I always wear my hat while hiking. It shields my face from the sun and keeps raindrops from my eyes and face when it is raining.

hiker in the rain on the trail bordered by trees wearing rain jacket
The brim of my hat keeps the rain away from my eyes.

I have a lot of hair, and it mostly shields my neck from the sun, but if you have short hair, consider a hat like the Sunday Afternoon hats (on Amazon). The hats also cover the neck, which is exposed to the sun on a long day hike. 

My OR hat (Outdoor Research) is my absolute favourite. I wear it on every hike. It is light, breathable, and protects from the sun. They come in many colours, and you can buy them at any outdoor store or on Amazon.

Sunglasses with UV protection are also essential to protect your eyes from glare and potential damage. I wear mine on my hat while hiking in the shade of the forest’s trees but will put them on when hiking above treeline or when getting to a lookout in the sun. 

hikers taking a selfie with Lake Superior in background on a sunny day
wearing my Oakleys on a sunny day

Choose sunglasses carefully, as you will be sweating on the trails. Rubbery nosepads and earsocks will be more comfortable and keep your sunglasses from slipping from your nose as you get sweaty. My Oakleys are perfect for that with their Unobtainium™ earsocks and nosepads (check them out on Amazon).

Hiking Shoes or Boots

Choosing the right footwear is crucial for a comfortable and safe hiking experience. Opt for lightweight hiking shoes or sturdy hiking boots depending on the terrain and personal preference. Make sure they provide ample support and traction to prevent slips and injuries on the trail.

Helpful Tips for Summer Hiking Clothes

  • Layering is key: Opt for lightweight, breathable layers that you can easily add or remove as needed to regulate your body temperature.
  • Choose moisture-wicking fabrics: Avoid cotton clothing, as it retains moisture and can lead to chafing and discomfort. Instead, opt for synthetic or merino wool fabrics that wick sweat away from your skin.
  • Remember your feet: Invest in high-quality hiking socks and footwear that provide ample support and protection against blisters and hot spots.
  • Stay hydrated: Bring plenty of water on your hike and drink regularly to prevent dehydration, especially in hot weather.
  • Consider the terrain: Choose footwear and clothing appropriate for the specific trail conditions, whether you’re hiking on rocky terrain, sandy trails, or through dense vegetation.

FAQs About Hiking Clothes in Summer

Can I wear shorts for summer hiking?

Yes, you can wear shorts for summer hiking, but make sure they provide adequate coverage and protection against sun exposure and potential scratches or insect bites from vegetation along the trail.

Are hiking sandals suitable for summer hiking?

Hiking sandals can be suitable for summer hiking, especially for shorter, less strenuous hikes on well-maintained trails. However, they may not provide enough support and protection for more challenging terrain or longer hikes.

Should I wear wool socks for summer hiking?

While wool socks are typically associated with winter hiking, they can also be suitable for summer hiking, especially if you’re prone to blisters or want added cushioning and moisture-wicking properties.

What is the best material to wear hiking in the summer?

Merino wool or synthetic fabrics, like polyester or nylon, that wick away moisture are best for hiking in the summer. Avoid cotton. 

How do you layer your clothes when hiking in the summer?

Layering will always depend on the weather conditions. During summer, it might be cooler in the morning when you start your hike, but it will likely get warmer or even hot as the sun rises high above you. Your first layer would consist of your short-sleeved shirt or a tank top. Over your short-sleeve shirt, wear a light long-sleeve shirt. You also have the option of wearing a windbreaker as a top layer. 

What colours should I avoid wearing when hiking in the summer?

Avoid dark colours such as black, navy, dark grey, or dark brown. These colours attract mosquitoes and are much warmer on a sunny day. Opt for lighter colours when hiking on a hot sunny day. 

Final Thoughts on Best Clothes for Hiking in Summer

With the right summer hiking outfit and hiking gear, you can enjoy exploring the great outdoors while staying comfortable and protected from the elements. Remember to choose lightweight, breathable clothing and footwear, prioritize sun protection, and be prepared for changing weather conditions.

Whether you’re embarking on a day hiking or a multi-day backpacking adventure, dressing appropriately for the season and terrain will enhance your hiking experience and ensure a safe and enjoyable journey.

Happy trails!

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