The best advice on what to wear hiking in summer

When the summer sun beckons you onto the trails, choosing between pants or shorts isn’t just about fashion—it’s strategic. 

Pants offer a shield against the sun’s rays, unwelcome insects, and the occasional scrapes from unfriendly plants. However, they can sometimes feel like you’re trekking in a sauna. 

On the other end, shorts are the epitome of freedom, allowing your skin to breathe and bask in the breeze. But beware, they leave you vulnerable to the sun’s kisses (read: burns) and overly familiar bugs.

But there is much more to take into account when preparing for your next summer adventure.

Keep reading if you want to know the best tips on what to wear hiking in summer.

What to Look for in Summer Hiking Clothes

Fabrics That Keep You Cool

Cotton is a no-go—it holds moisture and can leave you feeling clammy (or worse, chafed). 

Instead, opt for lightweight, breathable fabrics that wick away sweat. Synthetics are stellar at this, and some even come with built-in UPF for sun protection. 

Look for brands that specialize in outdoor gear; they’ve got the tech to back up their threads.

Layering Like a Pro

As any seasoned hiker knows, figuring out what to wear hiking in summer can be a real head-scratcher. You want to stay cool, dry, and sunburn-free. 

That’s where the genius of layering comes in. It gives you the flexibility to adapt as temperatures fluctuate. 

Layering isn’t just for the cold. It’s a year-round strategy that offers flexibility for all weather conditions. Let’s break it down:

Base Layer

This is your second skin. In summer, think thin and moisture-wicking fabrics that pull sweat away from your body. 

Your base should be snug but not tight, allowing for movement and breathability. 

Materials like merino wool or high-tech synthetics are your best bet here. They keep you dry and comfortable, and they’re quick-drying to boot.

Mid Layer

You might wonder, “Why bother in summer?” 

But a mid-layer can be a lightweight fleece or a breathable long-sleeve shirt that provides a touch of warmth during cooler early morning starts or when you gain altitude and the temperature drops.

Mid layers should be easy to shed and pack away. 

Outer Layer

This is your shield. 

A light windbreaker or a breathable rain jacket will protect you from unforeseen weather changes. And It’s essential for warding off those pesky insects.

Make sure it’s lightweight and compact enough to stow in your backpack without weighing you down.

The goal is to choose clothing that’s as breathable and moisture-wicking as possible, with the added bonus of sun protection. Trust me, your future, non-sunburned self will thank you.


A good hat can shield you from the sun, while quality sunglasses protect your eyes from harmful UV rays. 

Don’t forget a broad-spectrum sunscreen and insect repellent to keep those bugs at bay. 

And let’s talk about your feet—breathable, moisture-wicking socks are a must, paired with sturdy, comfortable shoes that provide good grip.

What to Wear Hiking in Summer on Your Upper Body

This is what to wear hiking in summer

Upper Base Layer

Your base layer is your first line of defense against sweat. Go for a short-sleeved, synthetic, or merino wool top that fits the bill. 

Ladies, a supportive sports bra or tank top is also key for comfort on the trail. 

These pieces are designed to regulate body temperature and manage moisture, which is exactly what you need when the sun’s beating down.

Upper Mid Layer

Even in summer, a mid layer comes in handy. A lightweight fleece or a long-sleeved shirt can provide just enough warmth for those occasional chilly moments without overheating you. 

They’re also perfect for layering under your outer shell if the wind picks up or you find yourself in a surprise rain shower.

Upper Outer Layer

Your outer layer should be a light barrier against the elements. 

A breathable windbreaker or a water-resistant jacket can save the day when weather conditions change. 

And don’t forget a hat to protect your face and neck from sunburn. 

Sunglasses? Absolutely—they’re not just a fashion statement, they’re essential for protecting your eyes.

What Pants to Wear Hiking in Summer

Pants vs Shorts

  • Convertible Pants: For those indecisive moments, get yourself a pair of these versatile trail companions. They zip off into shorts when you want to catch some rays or transform back into pants for protection.
  • Durable Hiking Shorts: Look for ones that are stretchy and quick-drying to keep up with your pace without leaving you soaked.

 Underwear or Base Layer

Skip the cotton—once wet, it stays wet. 

Instead, go for **synthetic or merino wool** fabrics that wick away moisture and say goodbye to chafing. Opt for lightweight and odor-resistant materials that keep you feeling fresh.

Ensure your choice hugs your body just right, without turning into a nuisance that rides up or bunches.

What Socks and Shoes to Wear Hiking in Summer

Your feet are your wheels, and you wouldn’t put shoddy tires on a sports car, would you? 

The right socks and shoes are imperative. They cushion your steps, protect against blisters, and ensure you have the grip to scale those slippery slopes.

  • Moisture-Wicking Socks: Seamless designs in synthetic or merino wool will keep your feet dry and happy.
  • Breathable Hiking Shoes: Look for ones with enough support to take on rocky paths and waterproofing for those unexpected streams.


Sunglasses are your personal shields against glare and dust. Polarized, UV-protective lenses are your best bet. 

Ensure they fit snugly without squeezing the adventure out of you.


Choose a hat, cap, or bandana based on the sun exposure you’re expecting. 

Something sun-protective, lightweight, and breathable will top off your outfit perfectly. 

Steer clear of hats that don’t fit the bill—literally or figuratively.


If the terrain calls for it, lightweight gloves can save your palms from the sun and give you a better grip. 

They are especially handy if you are using hiking poles. Just make sure they’re not stifling or slippery.

What to Pack for Hiking in Summer

Remember to carry plenty of water and snacks to stay hydrated and energized. It’s especially important if you are traveling alone.

Don’t skimp on the sunscreen and lip balm. A compact first aid kit and insect repellent can be lifesavers.

And of course, a map and compass or GPS will keep you on the right path.

 Summer Packing Tips

  • Use a backpack that feels like part of you—comfortable, spacious, yet secure.
  • Organize your gear by necessity and frequency of use.
  • Embrace minimalism: if you don’t need it, leave it.

What not to Wear Hiking in Summer

Steer clear of jeans, dark colors, tight clothing, and heavy boots. They’re the antithesis of a good hiking experience. Always choose comfort and functionality over style.

Also, cotton clothes are a no-go.

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Picture of Daniel Espada

Daniel Espada

Daniel Espada is a passionate adventurer, certified scuba diver, and the mind behind With a background in Engineering, Daniel combines his technical knowledge and love for the outdoors to create content that not only informs, but inspires action.
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