Hiking is an age-old warm-weather pastime. Spending time exploring the wonders of nature, learning about new environments, and simply enjoying the breathtaking beauty is a humbling experience unlike any other. Even those who are new to this activity will take something special away from it. There’s no better way to connect with the world, feel the stillness of the crisp air, and take in your surroundings from fresh and often unexpected vantage points.
But for all of the joy that it brings, hiking isn’t comfortable if you aren’t wearing the right clothes — especially during summertime. One of the best ways to prepare yourself for the journey is to stock up on a few essentials that will keep you comfortable no matter what the conditions might be like, from shorts to easy women’s polo shirts. For those intrepid enough to hike in the heat, here are a few ideas to wear throughout the season.
Some people prefer to wear pants even when hiking during the summer. The additional fabric provides extra protection from potentially harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. If you’re particularly susceptible to burning or take precautions to avoid excessive exposure, try a pair of active pants made with a moisture-wicking fabric so that you stay as cool and dry as possible while you’re negotiating those winding paths and trails.
But if you’re concerned that covering up too much may feel too uncomfortable as the day wears on — particularly if you’re hiking in the afternoon when it’s especially hot outside — then you should opt for a pair of long shorts. Active styles are always appropriate; they’re typically built with elements like fabrics that pull moisture from the skin and minimize odor so that you stay fresh and cool. You might also prefer styles with elastic waists or drawstrings if you are concerned about adjustability.
It’s best to wear lighter weight, breathable tops, and polos that promote air circulation and don’t trap heat between the fabric and your skin. A material like polyester is ideal, but even cotton is a great choice if it pulls moisture away and helps you combat excessive perspiration. Some materials also control odor, something that’s key if you plan to make the most of your time and spend a few hours exploring the scenery. If you do wear cotton, you may want to toss a backup women’s summer shirt in your backpack in case you need to swap it later in the day.
What about the sleeve factor? If you have sensitive skin or are vulnerable to burning, you might want to wear a top with long sleeves just to be safe. Again, the key is to go for a lighter, looser fit that doesn’t constrict movement or feel like it’s suffocating your skin. This might not be possible if conditions are desperately hot, but don’t limit yourself to short sleeves only if you think that you might feel more comfortable with a little bit of extra coverage.
You should also wear a sports bra underneath for optimal support. This foundation piece is simply essential to your comfort. Just avoid anything with metal clasps or hooks, as these can start to dig into the skin as time passes and cause irritation, especially given that skin swells in the heat.
These days, there’s almost no reason to avoid wearing protective fabrics that are infused with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF). This rating refers to the level of protection the fabric offers against potent ultraviolet (UV) rays. Think of it as a wearable sunscreen of sorts. When you purchase something with UPF 50, for example, the garment will prevent at least 98% of those damaging rays from filtering through the fabric.
You should still wear sunscreen, of course, since it’s impossible for materials to block 100% of rays. But garments like active women’s khaki shorts, tank tops, T-shirts, and light jackets are all available with UPF ratings. Combined with your sunscreen of choice, your skin will enjoy double the protection while you’re hiking.
You might not think much about jackets and cardigans in the summer, but there’s always a chance that you may need a warm outer layer if weather conditions change abruptly. If you’re vacationing in a generally cooler area, for example, you’ll want to have something on hand that you can throw on if the winds pick up.
Temperatures may also drop a little bit in the evening, and if you’re still making your way back to base you’ll be grateful for that lightweight topper you stashed in your backpack or wrapped around your waist. Again, lightweight is the key — don’t bring anything too bulky or you’ll quickly tire out.
Don’t leave home without the basics! It’s those little extras that will make life so much more comfortable when you’re on the trail. Always, always, always wear a hat, or have it close by so you can slip it on as needed. It will shield your eyes and face from blinding sunlight and make it easier for you to navigate unfamiliar areas. It’s a great idea to pack a bandana, too — you can moisten it and wrap it around your neck or place it on your face or head if you start heating up. When you wear the right clothes and arm yourself with the proper accessories, you can be sure that your hike will be a success!