If you’re new to hiking, or maybe hiking more and more and need to bulk up your outdoor wardrobe, it can be hard to choose what clothing to buy and what to actually wear hiking. Hiking in the summer means planning ahead for hot, sunny days, bugs and ticks, afternoon storms and even chilly nights. I’m excited to share what I wear and how I prepare for summer time hikes below.
Pants vs Shorts for Summer Hiking
When I lived on the east coast, I lived in synthetic running/athletic shorts in the summers because it was so stinking hot! If that sounds like where you live – I would totally recommend hiking in synthetic shorts in the summers.
You don’t even have to go all out and get brand name anything, there are lots of generic/no-name running shorts out there too. I’ve found lots of my synthetic shorts, shirts, and apparel over the years at stores like TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, Ross, and even second-hand stores like Goodwill.
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Insider tip: if you’re having issues with chafing or discomfort, cutting out the underwear lining of shorts that come with it and going commando can be a life saver! (Don’t knock it till you try it.)
But shorts are not for everyone, or for every hike. Some hikers just don’t like hiking in shorts, because they either ride up all the time or maybe you just can’t find the right length, and shorts give your legs little protection from bugs, ticks, the sun and other elements.
Sometimes, hiking pants or leggings can be a better option. Again though, hiking in leggings is not for everyone, some people hate them. Pants definitely protect you from the sun but can also help prevent ticks from latching on to you, even more so if they’re treated with Permethrin, so that’s one major benefit of hiking pants. But I know, they are definitely not always the most comfortable option.
Like I said, I usually do wear shorts in the summer, but almost always bring along rain pants that I can put on if it gets windy, stormy or cold.
It really is a personal preference whether you wear shorts or pants to go hiking in the summer, and may depend a little on the location or trail conditions, but now you know some of the pros and cons of each.
Best Shirts for Hiking in Summer
As much I love tank tops, I almost always opt for a synthetic t-shirt to hike in so that I know my pack straps won’t bother me as much. That’s a pretty big priority – making sure your hiking shirt fits well and fits comfortably under your pack shoulder straps and hip belt.
You could go as basic (cheap) or as fancy (expensive) as you want when it comes to hiking shirts. Whatever you choose – go with a synthetic material like polyester, nylon, or even merino wool or silk, just not cotton.
The kind of shirt you wear is personal preference, I never really got into the outdoorsy button up shirts with the collars, but a lot of hikers like them! And I do see their benefit for sun protection and possibly extra bug protection if they’re chemically treated.
I stick with a basic t-shirt, no-frills, buttons, or pockets because they tend to annoy me either when I have to add on more layers or they rub under my pack straps.
Even in summer, I always bring extra layers! Usually, just a warmer fleece pullover and my raincoat are enough to keep me warm during the day. If I’m backpacking though, I also pack my puffy down jacket for after the sun goes down.
Shoes and socks to wear in the summer heat
A new hiker’s great debate – can you wear Chacos or Tevas or similar sandals hiking? Well, of course, you can! But again this comes down to personal preference.
I honestly do not like hiking on actual trails in my Chacos. They’re okay for me on ‘urban hikes’ like municipal paths and parks, but if I’m going to be on a rocky, rooty trail, I just prefer to wear light trail runners or sneakers in the summer along with lightweight, lower cut FITS hiking socks.
There are a lot of hikers out there though, my husband included, who love to hike in sandals. If you want to hike in sandals, my recommendation would be to test out wearing them on short, easy hikes and progressively test out more trails and terrain over time to see how your feet and legs feel in them.
And of course, always be prepared for potential blisters any time you’re testing out hiking in new or different shoes than you’re used to.
Extras to Wear and Pack While Hiking in Summer
- Extra water and electrolytes – I love Ultima Packets for a clean alternative to sports drinks.
- Sun protection – whether it’s sunscreen, a big sun hat and/or a UPF sun protection shirt
- Bug protection – you can treat your outer clothes and gear with Permethrin and use Picaridin on your skin as a gear safe alternative to DEET. I also have been known to wear a bug net, even though I get made fun of, still totally worth it.
- Always rain gear – it’s so common for afternoon storms to rush in throughout the summer, better to be prepared than totally soaked, and possibly hypothermic (yes! Hypothermia happens in the summertime, too!)
- A hammock or lightweight camp chair or closed-cell foam sleeping pad to just chillax on in the sunshine 😉
Let us know your favorite summer hiking clothing item or favorite way to stay cool while hiking in the comments below!
For more tips on what to wear hiking and how to find backpacking clothes, check out:
- What To Wear Hiking In Fall
- Find the best clothes for hiking
- Your guide to finding the perfect hiking shoes
- Choosing the best hiking pants