Summer is bearing down on us hikers bringing soaring temperatures and while the long days and dry weather mean you have abundant opportunities to hit the trail, if you do so in your usual technical hiking pants and waterproof hiking boots, you might melt. Dehydration and heatstroke become common hiking hazards at this time of year, so it’s important to update your hiking kit to help you stay cool and dry on the trail. Read on for our top 10 gear picks for hot weather and hike safely and comfortably this summer.
For hot weather, you probably want to ditch the collared hiking shirt and find a performance T-shirt that’s breathable and can handle a lot of sweat. This summer, we’ve had The North Face Bolt Tech T-shirt out in the hills and we love the breathable perforated back and its great sweat wicking capabilities. It comes in both men’s and women’s sizing, dries quickly and is easy to tuck into your shorts.
As long as you’re not bushwhacking through the undergrowth where there might be ticks, you can definitely dump some heat by losing the trousers and wearing hiking shorts this summer. Though we’ve tested a few that are more performance-related, if you’re going to be doing some wild swimming on your hot hikes, we love the versatile Finisterre Walker Hybrid Shorts which are comfortable for hiking and have good storage but are quick-drying if you want to jump in a lake or river to cool off.
Summer’s temperatures might mean you can lose a lot of layers, even when you get up high, but you might not be safe from the occasional summer downpour. Three-layer waterproof jackets can be far too heavy and sweaty for summer conditions, but a lightweight shell such as the Montane Pac Plus XT waterproof jacket is totally mountain-ready but highly breathable for vigorous ventures.
Longer walks in sweaty conditions massively increases your chances of developing blisters, which can definitely hamper your summertime hiking plans. Forget about waterproof boots or shoes which can trap moisture and increase friction and for a lighter alternative, you might be able to get away with comfortably hiking in trail running shoes in the summer. Avoid shoes with a chunky rocker sole for hiking as these can be a little unstable on rocky ground, but seek out a rugged sole with less trail feel and protective uppers such as the Dynafit Alpine. Don’t forget to go up at least a half size to give your feet room to swell and wear sweat-wicking hiking socks made from a merino wool blend.
4. Tilley TH5 Hemp Hat
Hiking hats for summer are definitely an individual choice, but one thing is clear – you need one to keep the sun off your face and protect your scalp when you’re hiking. For the best protection, we like the iconic Canadian-made Tilley TH5 Hemp Hat which looks as at home on safari as it does on the mountain and is our favorite pick to provide shade, wick sweat and repel rain. Check out our list of the best hiking hats for more ideas.
In hot weather, you need to stay hydrated and when it comes to water bottles, we love the lightweight Lifestraw Peak Series Collapsible for a whole host of reasons. Not only does this soft water bottle carry a liter of water at a time and collapse as you drink to make it easier to carry, it doubles as a super easy water filter so you can safely refill it from rivers and lakes as you hike, as many times as you like.
If you hate the hassle of taking your backpack off every time you need a drink of water and prefer to sip while you stroll, you’ll want to consider a hydration pack in place of both your water bottle and your backpack. These hydration solutions are often designed for trail runners who want to move light and fast and can lack the storage required for the hiking essentials, but packs like the Vango Swift 10 carry two liters of water at a time and still have enough storage to double as a daypack.
Climbing up steep slopes is sweaty work at the best of times, made all the worse when you’re carrying a heavier load and planning on spending a night or more in the wild. If it’s time to upgrade to a new backpacking backpack, make sure you opt for one with a suspended mesh back panel, such as the Osprey Levity 45 which is especially well-suited for hiking in hot weather.
In addition to protecting your skin and face, you need to shield your eyes from the sun’s rays, especially if you’re hiking in high glare situations such as near water or snow in high alpine areas where the harmful UV rays are increased. It’s easy to fall into the trap of using cheap gas station sunglasses for hiking since they always get bashed around, but those might not provide adequate protection or coverage, and aren’t always comfortable for long hikes. We tested out the best sunglasses for hiking and found loads we like, such as the SunGod Tempests which are great for glare, lightweight, sturdy and comfortable enough to wear all day.
Warm weather doesn’t just bring hikers out onto the hills, it brings swarms of bugs looking for a buffet and it’s always worse in areas near water – you know, the places where you like to go to cool off in the summer. Whether you’re dealing with mosquitoes, midges, flies or ticks, you want to protect yourself from insect-borne diseases and itchy skin with an effective insect repellent. The WHO recommends DEET-based formulas for the best protection, such as Life Systems Expedition Max DEET which works in malarial zones and can go on your clothes without damaging them.
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Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.