12 Summer Hiking Apparel Essentials for Staying Cool and Comfortable on Trail
Need some new digs for hiking the PCT and your other favorite trails this summer? Check out our picks for some of the best summer trail apparel and footwear for staying cool and comfortable for the short and long hauls.
Norrona Bitihorn Tech Tee
New to us this year, Norwegian company Norrona has been producing high-performance outdoor apparel since the 1920s. We gave the Bitihorn Tech Tee a run, and it quickly became one of our favorite baselayer pieces. This ultralight, breathable t-shirt is constructed of recycled polyester and has an odor-resistant treatment to help keep it from getting funky on multiday outings. The flatlock seams keep it comfy under heavy pack straps, and the gusseted armpits ensure good freedom of movement without chafing. Plus, it’s one of the fastest-drying shirts we’ve ever used on the trail—often completely dry before we even finish setting up camp. Like most European designs, the Bitihorn Tech Tee is pretty slim fitting, so if you like extra room, be sure to size up. $69
Prana Sol Protect Top
If you’re looking for a casual, athletic top that’s as good on the trail as it is in the yoga studio then check out Prana’s Sol Protect Top. This lightweight, longsleeve is made from a soft blend of stretchy, recycled polyester and TENCEL fabric that’s warm enough for the cool mornings and evenings, and breathable enough to wear all day. The relaxed fit creates a nice silhouette, without being too snug, and allows enough room underneath for an extra baselayer if needed. Our favorite feature is the little snap slits at the side seams. These create a stylish detail, and function as a way to add a little extra ventilation when the day, or activity, heats up. A little added bonus, we found this top still looks nice and mostly wrinkle-free, even after being crammed into our packs, making it an ideal option for trail-to-town versatility. $69
Royal Robbins Bug Barrier Tech Travel LS
When we asked our tester to describe this lightweight longsleeve, their immediate response was, “It was like wearing a hug.” Royal Robbins’ women’s Tech Travel LS is made of a super-soft, super-stretchy polyester blend material that breathes nicely and feels fantastic. It features a long hem for extra coverage over the waist, which helps keep it from riding up under pack straps, and long, tapered sleeves with a stylish cuff design that provides a little extra coverage over the hands. And it’s finished with Insect Shield permethrin to keep annoying buggers away. The cut is fairly form-fitting, but stretchy enough to keep it from feeling too snug or clingy. If using as a layering piece, you will probably want to size up at least once. A team favorite! $60
Royal Robbin Bug Barrier Vista Dry Plaid
In recent years, we’ve taken a liking to Royal Robbins’ Bug Barrier button-up travel shirts for their versatility and ability to keep the pests away. This summer, we’re hiking with the new Vista Dry Plaid long-sleeve shirt and have been pretty pleased. The casual, stylish design looks good both on the trail, and in the pub after the trail. It’s constructed of lightweight, breathable, quick-drying nylon, with a vented yoke, so it stays cool, even on warmer days. Plus, it’s treated with Insect Shield permethrin to keep mossies, ticks and other biting buggers away—ideal for trekking through Oregon’s swampy Cascade Lakes country. The fit is a little on the slim side, so size up if you like extra breathing room. $80
Prana Alana Knickers
For maximum versatility, the gals on our team loved Prana’s Alana Knickers. These stylish short pants have a 16-inch inseam, and are soft and stretchy with excellent range of motion for just about any activity. Made of Prana’s UPF 50+ ReZion UPF recycled nylon fabric, these lightweight and airy bottoms were comfortable enough to wear over long trail distances, then transitioned easily to casual wear nice enough to wear to brunch or the office, without screaming “I’m a hiker!” The Alana Knickers are treated with a PFC-free DWR finish, and have five pockets: two front hip pockets, two rear pockets (one with a security zipper), and one thigh pocket. The latter is large enough for small and medium-sized smartphones. Sizing is pretty standard. $79
Mountain Hardwear Basin Pants
Getting on the trail with these lightweight, stretchy climbing pants was love at first hike. Constructed of a breathable nylon–elastane blend for maximum mobility, Mountain Hardwear Basin Pants have a comfortable, relaxed fit, with a stylish tapered leg. Plus, the material has a soft finish, so doesn’t chafe or rub, and has a gusseted seat for excellent mobility and freedom of movement. The super-stretchy waist is true to size, and can be adjusted with an internal drawcord. Front pockets, back pockets and one zippered thigh pocket provide easy storage for any small items you want quick and easy access to. They’re also treated with a PFC-free DWR finish, so they can hold up to drizzle and light rain before digging out the rain gear. If you see us on trail this summer, it will likely be in our Basin Pants. $90
Outdoor Research Helium Wind Hoodie
Of the two ultralight wind shells we tried, we couldn’t decide which one we liked more—so decided to include them both! The first one is the Outdoor Research (OR) Helium Wind Hoodie. We’ve long been fans of OR’s Helium ultralight line, including the amazing Helium rain gear and Helium Down Hoodie. Constructed of the same Diamond Fuse Pertex, water- and windproof ripstop nylon as the others, the award-winning Helium Wind Hoodie weighs a scant 5.3 ounces, and packs down into its own chest pocket. It features laser-cut underarm vents (to eliminate zipper weight), an adjustable hood, and stretchy cuffs. The longer back side is great for staying in place under a pack, or for keeping your backside covered while riding. This one’s a winner in our book! M/W standard fit. $119
Mountain Hardwear Kor Preshell
Our other favorite wind shell for the season is Mountain Hardwear’s Kor Preshell. This compact, hyperlight jacket weighs just 4.3 ounces and packs up small enough to go in just about any pocket. The Kor is constructed of Bluesign-approved, partially recycled, Pertex Quantum Air stretch ripstop nylon. It features two hand pockets, and a small internal mesh pocket that doubles as a stuff sack. The fit is pretty standard, with enough breathing room for a thin layer or two underneath. It’s also water-repellent enough to stand up to light rain and drizzle, and dries quickly afterward. The Kor has been our go-to shell for everything from early morning trail runs, to trail riding, to cool weather trekking, and has earned a spot in our permanent gear kit. Available as a jacket or pullover, with or without a hood. M/W sizes and colors. $120
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Montbell Torrent Flier Jacket
We’ve long been fans of Montbell’s ultralight hiking gear. Their Down Hugger bags have no equal, and their shell jackets have been a mainstay in our packs for years. Their latest offering, the Torrent Flier Jacket, weighs just 7.3 ounces (men’s), and is constructed of Gore-Tex-lined Pac-lite PLUS ripstop nylon. It features taped seams and Aqua-Tect zippers for keeping the wet on the outside, and pit zips and adjustable cuffs for keeping it cool and breathable on the inside. A large chest pocket is roomy enough to hold some of the beefier smartphones. We found the fit to be pretty standard, with enough room for an extra layer underneath if needed. If you’re not familiar with this Japanese brand, which often flies under the radar in the American market, they are definitely worth checking out. M/W standard fit; stuff sack included. $249
Outdoor Research Motive AscentShell Jacket
A few years ago, Outdoor Research (OR) developed their own unique, multilayer fabric for waterproof, breathable outerwear. Called AscentShell, it’s constructed using a high-tech process of electrospinning fabric to be as lightweight, breathable and stretchy as possible, while still ensuring maximum water repellency. Earlier this year, we took OR’s Motive AscentShell Jacket on most of our wet, spring outings and were quite impressed. Both on the trail, and bike commuting in the rain, the Motive’s water repellency is fantastic. Even better, it kept us cool and dry underneath, with no wet, clammy feeling. The Motive features two hand pockets, a small chest pocket, an adjustable hood, taped seams, and weighs just 11 ounces. It can also conveniently be stuffed into its own pocket for easy packability. M/W standard fit. $199
Sierra Designs Cold Canyon Hoodie
We added this comfy, heavyweight layer to our apparel closet late last year, and it’s been going with us on most of our outings to date. Sierra Designs‘ Cold Canyon Hoodie is constructed of cozy, stretch grid fleece, and features a nylon-lined chest panel for keeping chilly breezes from blowing through. The sleeves feature thumb holes and stretch cuffs for keeping them in place, regardless of your movements, and the fitted hood is a nice addition for the cooler times of day. In addition to the two hand pockets, it has one zippered chest pocket that’s big enough for chonky smartphones. It doesn’t, technically, stuff into itself, but we were about to turn it inside out and cram it into this pocket for easy packing. It also makes a decent pillow (just smooth out the lumps), as one side of this pocket is the soft grid fleece. M/W standard fit. $150
Salomon Cross Hike Mid GTX
Of the few new trail shoes we tried this season, the standout was this pair of lightweight mid-hikers from Salomon. For several years now, one of our favorite lightweight hiking boots has been Salomon’s X-Ultra 3 Mid GTX mid-hikers. The new Cross Hike Mid GTX has a similar fit and feel, and incorporates a new Quicklace system so you can just grab and go. The Gore-Tex upper is constructed of a seamless, closed mesh synthetic fabric that remains remarkably light and breathable. Underneath, the Contagrip rubber sole incorporates beefy lugs for maximum traction on just about any surface. We took these tromping across water, mud, snow, wet rocks, downed trees, you name it, and stayed secure to the ground through it all. And weighing just 1.7 lbs/pair (men’s), they’re light enough for fast and agile travel over short and long distances. M/W styles and colors. $170
See more great gear picks in 10 Gear Essentials for Great Summer Hiking.
When you click and shop thru our partner brands, you support the operating expenses of PCT: Oregon. Thank you for your patronage!