When hiking in the summer heat, it’s important to use a shirt that keeps you cool and dry when you inevitably start to sweat. Depending on the fabric, the shirt will perform differently when it comes to aspects of its job.
You may want something with more sun protection, like a long sleeve shirt or one with UPF sun protection in the fibres of the shirt. Others look for cooling and comfort in hotter climates and care more about the moisture and sweat-wicking qualities of their hiking shirts. Smaller details such as zippers and ventilation paneling may not be on your mind, but they help make or break if your shirt will last in the environment you are wearing it for years or months.
The materials that your hiking shirt is made out of also has a huge effect on its performance. Keeping what types of clothing and fabric you like to wear can help you figure out which hiking shirt is right for you. Here are several different shirts, and the differences between the materials they are made out of.
The two fabrics we will be focusing on are merino wool and synthetic. The fabric your shirt is made out of is the core reason it can wick away moisture, keep you cooler or warmer, and give you protection from the elements.
If you tend to prefer natural fabrics in your closet, like cotton or linen, then merino wool is probably right up your alley. Merino wool is a highly breathable material, which maximizes your body’s ability to cool itself while wearing clothes in the sun. The breathable fabric allows your sweat to evaporate, promoting self-cooling.
It is super soft, and unlike most woolen products, it is not itchy, so it is comfortable to wear all day long! Merino wool has a similar feel and texture to cotton, so it is in no way like that itchy, ugly, Christmas sweater in the back of your drawer. It is usually softer than most synthetic materials since it is a natural material rather than a man-made one. Merino wool dries very quickly, so any sweat that seeps through the fabric will dry, and will not keep your shirt wet and, quite literally, dampen your mood.
An issue most people have is that wearing wool in the summer is not the brightest idea. However, merino wool can be made into ultra-fine fibres that can be used for lightweight summer garments. For summer hiking clothing made from merino wool, you will want to purchase a shirt with 150 gsm (grams per square metre) and no more than 200 gsm.
Synthetic fabrics are man-made blends of different materials and have bee designed with certain features in mind. Synthetic hiking shirts are fantastic at wicking moisture and moving sweat away from your body to promote cooling and evaporation of sweat. Most synthetic shirts do not absorb water either, so they stay lightweight and dry quickly.
Some synthetic shirts have been made with materials that can help protect you from the UV of the sun rays, so if you burn easily, synthetic is a great choice. Make sure to check the shirt to see if it has UV protection before you make your purchase.
Smartwool Merino 150 T-Shirt
This t-shirt has the properties of the fantastic merino wool you know and love! It has the same soft, light feel and feels dry to the touch even when damp, so you will not feel like a wet blanket hiking up that mountain.
It is the perfect number of grams per square metre at 150 gsm, meaning it is perfect for outdoor adventuring in the summertime! It comes in different colors and styles, so you can find one that suits your personality and sense of fashion.
This shirt also has Core Spun technology, meaning that this shirt has more durability and a longer lifespan than other shirts, so it can be worn for years, whether you are adventuring in the great outdoors, mowing your lawn, or just hanging around the house.
The seams have been designed to minimize chaffing while hiking with bulky backpacks, so this shirt is great for long trekking backpackers.
Ice Breaker Tech Lite SS
This shirt is a merino wool t-shirt with bonuses! The shirt itself is light and airy, woven to improve sweat evaporation and keep you cool. The fabric is soft and more importantly, stretchy, so you can keep your mobility without any restrictions. This fibres in this shirt have Core Spun technology to increase their strength and improve the durability, lifespan, and quality of the fabric ensuring that you get the most use out of your t-shirt.
This t-shirt comes in a variety of colors, so if you want a pop of color or neutral tones, you can find it. The shirt also is odor-resistant, thanks to the natural origin of the material, which is perfect for longer camping trips where you can’t wash your clothes all too often. It is 150 gsm so it is perfect for summer and hot days. It is a great shirt for both bottom/ first layers or on its own completely!
Arc’teryx Motus Crew SS
This t-shirt is a great option for those who prefer a synthetic shirt. If you are a fan of technical trail running but hate the heat that builds up as you go, this is a perfect choice! This shirt was designed with trail running in mind, so you know that it will perform its best for you. It has fantastic moisture management and draws sweat away from your body and into the fabric, which is quick-dry, so the sweat evaporates leaving you cool and dry. This shirt also boasts UPF protection (protection against UV rays), so you can feel safer from the sun as you go about your run or hike.
It is a wonderful choice for any body type or size, as sizes range from small to extra-extra-large, and is highly inclusive. This crew neck t-shirt comes in a variety of different colors, from bright orange to a soft gray.
Patagonia Capilene Cool Lightweight
If you are looking for something with a bit more skin coverage, this shirt is the best pick. Although it features long sleeves, it is made with an ultra-lightweight material that feels like it is barely there, and dries super fast.
This shirt also features odor control technology integrated into the fabric to help keep you smelling fresh and clean, even on steamy, sweaty days. This shirt is capable of going from hot weather to cold weather and still giving you peak performance.
The company, Patagonia, manufactures this t-shirt with 52 to 100 percent recycled materials, so you are supporting a very eco-friendly company that cares about the environment as much as you love to camp and hike in it. It is also certified fair-trade sewn, so the workers are treated properly and with respect, as well as having healthy and proper working conditions, which many clothing manufacturers cannot say they have.
Columbia Silver Ridge Lite LS Shirt
This button-up brings class, style, and practicality all together in one shirt! If you like a neat and professional appearance, or simply enjoy a shirt that can be unbuttoned for more cooling, this is the hiking shirt for you! The Columbia Silver Ridge Lite shirt has Omni-Wick technology to keep pulling sweat away from your body, to help you cool down quicker, and has an anti-microbial coating that prevents bacteria from growing, so it keeps odor at bay and you smell fresh.
The long sleeves have tabs to hold them up if you choose to roll them up, and the vented paneling increases airflow and comfort on the hot trails. This shirt also boasts UPF sun protect 40, so you are protecting yourself during long stretches of hiking in the sun. As a bonus, this shirt comes in sizes from extra-small to extra-extra-large, so there is one for every body type!
Patagonia Sun Stretch LS Shirt
This shirt is a perfect lightweight option for those who like button-ups! This shirt is great for fishing trips (and fishing!) since it was designed, made, and marketed with humid, hot climates in mind. It is made with a super-soft, stretchy, and lightweight nylon and polyester blend that breathes and moves with you.
The stylish button-up design is great for layering as a means of extra sun protection and easy to toss on. It is also great on its own as just a shirt. The wide variety of sizes that this shirt is available in helps all body types get out into the great big wilderness! As previously stated, this shirt is wonderful for fishing. Particularly because it dries ultra-fast thanks to the blend of fabric! It also has a mechanical stretch fabric, so your casting isn’t restricted by your clothing! The zippers are all made of plastic to prevent rust, corrosion, and damage from humidity or salty air!