What to Wear While Hiking in Hot Weather. Desert Tested!

Big Bend National Park near Blue Creek Trail.

I love hiking, and I live in South Texas along the U.S.-Mexico border. It is subtropical with summer temperature averages in the high 90s F with spikes into the 110+ F range. I get serious about proper hiking clothing for hot weather.

If you are planning to hike in hot weather, what you wear is a critical decision.

While hiking in hot weather, you should wear light-colored clothing covering your entire body from head to toe. You should wear loose-fitting clothing made from polyester or nylon that allows air to flow over your skin. Wear clothing that will completely protect your skin from the sun.

Recently we hiked in the Chihuahuan desert at the Big Bend National Park in west Texas. The sun was intense, and the temperatures during the day were high. Read on to see what I wore and my recommendations for what to wear while hiking in hot weather.

Best Hiking Hat for Hot Weather

Columbia Bora Bora Booney II hat & Gunnison shirt from Poncho Outdoors.

I wrote an entire blog post about hiking in hot weather with all of the experience living here in the heat. One item that I never leave home without is a wide-brimmed shade hat.

The Columbia Bora Bora Booney II is the best hat for hiking in hot weather. The hat is made from light-weight nylon and polyester that block the sun and allow air to flow to your head. The hat has a wide brim that provides shade to your face and neck.

Hiking increases our exposure to the outdoor elements over what we typically see daily – if, like me, you have a desk job. Of all these elements, the direct sun beating on your head, face, and neck for hours can be deleterious to your health and put a real damper on your hiking experience.

Two years ago, I bought the Columbia Bora Bora Booney II. It is the perfect hat for hiking.

I used it in Peru in 2019 for multiple hikes, including a five-day trek at Ausangate. I wore it while hiking all over the White River National Forest in Colorado in July. And, more recently, I wore it while hiking all over the Chihuahuan Desert in Big Bend National Park in Texas – just a short, 10-hour drive from my house.

On all of these hikes, the sun was a significant factor, and having the Columbia Bora Bora Booney II on my head helped stave off the ill effects of exposure to the sun.

The hat is so great my wife would routinely steal it for our afternoon walks together. So I bought her one for Christmas. I have the ‘fossil’ color, which is essentially beige or khaki. It is the perfect, hot weather hiking hat.

It is made of polyester and nylon, which are good at drying quickly. The hat is designed to protect you from the sun while also allowing air to flow to your head. The underside of the brim is a darker color to reduce glare for your eyes.

I cannot recommend this hat enough. You can usually find it for about $30 on Columbia’s website. It folds down into a wad you can shove into your pocket. I would never go on a hot weather hike without it because it is so versatile and essential.

Are Poncho Outdoors Shirts Good for Hiking?

Iceman shirt from Poncho Outdoors & Silver Ridge Convertible pants from Columbia

There are so many options for shirts for hiking in hot weather. My recommended shirt is one that most people have never even heard of. If you are hiking in hot weather and want to make a subtle but important style statement, choose a Poncho Outdoors shirt.

The Poncho Outdoors shirts are good shirts for hiking in hot weather. The shirts are made from sun-blocking material that breathes, looks great, and dries quickly. The collar provides additional protection from the sun. They are loose-fitting and ventilated.

Here is a list of features directly from the Poncho Outdoors website.

  • Soft, lightweight, and breathable
  • Built-in stretch
  • Dries in minutes
  • Easy-open magnetic pockets (do not wear with pacemakers)
  • Built-in lens cloth
  • Large, hidden zippered pocket
  • Slit to hold sunglasses
  • Vented back
  • UPF 50

I have the Gunnison and the Iceman. The Gunnison is a soft green color, while the Iceman is super white. Poncho Outdoors have poured their heart and soul into these shirts that are jam-packed with features.

The bullet list above isn’t even complete. The long sleeve versions have roll-up tabs to hold them in place.

They have a built-in lens cloth to clean your sunglasses! They have literally thought of everything. I love these shirts. Instead of wearing a Columbia PFG shirt like everyone else on the trail, get a Poncho shirt instead directly from their web store. It is a shirt that you are going to want to wear every day.

I hiked all over Big Bend National Park in these shirts, and they performed flawlessly.

Best Pants for Hiking in Hot Weather

Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pants. White River National Forest near Vail, Colorado.

I am originally from Vancouver, Washington, which is essentially a suburb of Portland, Oregon, where Columbia Sportwear was founded more than 80 years ago. You could say I might be partial to Columbia products because I am a hometown fan. The truth is they make quality outdoor clothing, and their pants are no exception.

The Silver RidgeTM Convertible Pants from Columbia Sportswear are the best pants for hiking in hot weather. Made from nylon and polyester, these pants provide complete protection from the sun while allowing your skin to breathe.

They retail on the Columbia website for about $60, usually stealing for pants of this quality. I recently replaced my older pair, which had seven years of use! They were still functional, but the stitching in the crotch gave out, and it was easier to buy a new pair.

While hiking in hot weather, you should not convert these pants into shorts. You want complete protection from the sun. By keeping your body covered, you will also conserve water loss from sweating. Check out my blog post on surprising tips for hiking in hot weather.

I have hiked all over the world in these pants. They are equally capable in colder weather too.

Recently, I hiked in the Big Bend National Park and removed the lower pant legs to swim to Mexico in the Rio Grande River. After our brief swim, I reattached the pant legs, and my pants were dry in less than one hour in the warm desert air.

You can get the Silver RidgeTM Convertible Pants from Columbia Sportswear online. I have the ‘tusk’ color, which is a darker khaki and better for hiding trail dirt and such while hiking. I cannot recommend these pants enough.

Do You Need Special Footwear for Hiking in Hot Weather?

Danner Mountain 600 Hiking Boots. Beaver Lake in the White River National Forest

I have been hiking for three years in the Danner Mountain 600 boots. You can check out my review here. All of the hikes mentioned above (Peru, Colorado, Texas) were done in these boots, and they performed above expectations every time. I love these boots.

These hikes presented very different weather situations, from freezing cold to sweltering heat.

In this post, I have covered your head, your upper body, and your lower body for hiking in hot weather. What about your feet? Do you, in fact, need special footwear for hiking in hot weather?

You do not need special footwear for hiking in hot weather. For the best hiker experience, you should wear light-colored footwear that allows your feet to breathe, are comfortable, and provides support and grip on uneven terrain.

Put another way, you do not want to wear black rubber rain boots for a hot weather hike. Of course, you would not want to wear these boots for any hike.

Use your common sense, and as always, don’t get so caught up in gear choices that you allow that to stop you from hiking. Just get out there and enjoy the trail. You can make just about any clothing choice work for hiking.

I really like the Danner Mountain 600s. Danner is another Portland, Oregon company like Columbia Sportswear; I might be biased. My boots are suede leather and have a Danner Dry liner for water protection. I hiked all over Colorado in July and, more recently, in a desert in these boots and had zero feet issues. No sweating, no blisters, nothing.

I hiked 8+ hours per day for four days at extreme elevations in Peru in the Danner Mountain 600s and had zero problems. They are like basketball sneakers crossed with mountaineering boots. They are lightweight and extremely comfortable with a super-grip sole. I love these boots. Go get them here from REI.com.

In this post, I have given my top choices for what to wear for hot weather hiking. I used all four of these items on hikes in Peru, South Texas, White River National Forest, and Big Bend National Park.

Check out my pick for the best hiking shoes of the year.

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