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Stay Cool When It’s Hot :: What to Wear Hiking in the Desert

Yes, the desert is hot.  Really freakin’ hot.  It’s also an incredibly beautiful place to hike.  When preparing for a desert hike, always remember these three things:

1.  No cotton.  Ever.  Wear lightweight, breathable, quick-drying materials.

2.  Always remember head-to-toe sun protection. From sweat-proof sunscreen to UV-rated sunglasses, always think about UV protection.

3.  Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Make drinking water easy and accessible.

Here’s a basic outfit for hiking in the desert:

Desert Hiking Outfit


UV Protective Long-Sleeve Shirt: 

Button-fronts are good because they’re easy to get on and off, you can leave them open for ventilation, and the sleeves are easy to roll up.  

Full-Back Tank:

A light colored, quick-drying top is a must.  Sleeveless tops are nice because they provide the most airflow, but choose wisely as you consider where your pack will rest.  Something with a full back is the most comfortable, and avoid thin or spaghetti straps.  Cap and short-sleeved shirts are also great. Remember to avoid cotton. 

Low-Profile Sunglasses:

Always bring a great pair of lightweight and breathable sunglasses.  Avoid metal frames that will get hot, and stay away from large designs that can trap uncomfortable moisture and dust.  Native Eyewear, Oakley, and Under Armour make some great sunglasses for hiking. The outfit above features a pair of Native Eyewear Dash XP shades, which have a rimless bottom for plenty of ventilation. 

Sport Sunscreen:

Sunscreen is so important, even when it’s cloudy.  Choose a type that is made for athletes and isn’t greasy or heavy. It needs to be sweat-proof, but you don’t want something that will attract dirt or clog your pores.  

Hydration Pack:

Invest in a good, low-profile hydration pack that will make drinking plenty of water easy.  When it’s not easy, you’re more likely to forget or procrastinate.  That’s never a good thing. 

Breathable Hiking Shorts:

A lightweight, quick-drying pair of hiking shorts will keep you cool and comfortable.  Some hikers like biking or yoga shorts, which work, but those can be hot or cause chafing if they do not fit perfectly.

Lightweight, Breathable Hiking Shoes:

Breathable shoes with grippy rubber traction are a must.  Pair with lightweight, moisture-wicking hiking socks.  Don’t hike without socks.  Your feet will sweat and blister. Ouch.


Other Desert Hiking Things to Consider

Some other things to consider:

  • A sun hat that fits comfortably over your sunglasses
  • Lightweight, quick-drying hiking socks
  • Lip balm with sun protection
  • A bandana to wick moisture when it’s dry and keep you cool when it’s soaked in water
  • Breathable, moisture-wicking sports bra and underwear


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