You’ll agree with me that there are so many clothes in the market today and finding a good one (that can withstand high heat and low humidity) that is fit for desert hiking is such a difficult task.
Well, this is no longer a problem for some people only because they now know what criteria to look out for when shopping for desert hiking clothes.
I happen to be one such person.
And as a result, I’m qualified to show you these same criteria that I’ve used over the years.
So, that’s what I’ll be doing in this post today.
Before we get to the core, let’s talk about the basics of desert hiking, shall we?
Quick list of the Best Desert Hiking Clothes.
Columbia Women’s Bonehead II Long-Sleeve Shirt
Core 10 Women’s Motion Fleece Hoodie Jacket
MAGCOMSEN Tactical Military Combat Long sleeve shirt
Columbia Men’s Bonehead Long Sleeve Shirt
Types of Deserts
If you’ve been in the desert hiking game, this might not be so helpful. But if you’re a newbie or this is your first time hiking in the desert, you do want to know this.
Check out the major types of desert biomes there are in the world.
These are dry and hot deserts, picture the Sahara desert.
They are usually characterized by hot temperatures with sparse rainfall. During the day the temperatures are usually very high ( about 90-120 degrees) while at night it can plummet down to 0 degrees and below.
Furthermore, you’ll find low shrubs and short wooded trees there.
Another interesting fact about arid deserts is that the humidity of the climate can cause the weather to change quickly resulting in sandstorms, thunderstorms, and even flash floods.
Next are the Semi-arid deserts.
These are a step above the arid deserts. they are cooler compared to the arid deserts with short intervals of rainfall and some dry winters and summers.
The summer temperatures range between 70-80 degrees, while the winters average between 25-35 degrees. These deserts are home to the Cacti plant.
Lastly, these deserts are found in North America, Greenland, Europe, and Asia
Finally, there’re the coastal deserts.
These deserts are a bit colder than the other three deserts with a larger amount of rainfall. You can find these deserts along coastlines, large bodies of water, and even between mountain ranges.
The temperature ranges between 50-75 degrees in summer, and they can fall below 40 degrees in the winter. They have a cool winter and a long, warm summer too.
Some Desert Weather conditions you need to know when Hiking
It is ill-advised to go hiking in the desert without knowing what you might face there.
So we have prepared a list of some desert weather conditions you are likely to face and how to tackle them effectively.
- Flash Floods: Flash floods involve the rapid flooding of depressions and dry lakes. They are usually caused by heavy rain associated with severe thunderstorms, hurricanes, or tropical storms. In the desert, flash floods can happen in a matter of minutes, and can be strong enough to uproot trees. So, always watch out for thunderstorms on the horizon when hiking, and be careful if there’s ongoing rainfall. The best thing to do is to get to high grounds as quickly as you can once it starts to rain.
- SandStorms: Also called dust storms, sand storms arise when a gust front or other strong wind blows loose sand and dirt from a dry surface. A dust storm can be a dangerous and life-threatening situation to get caught in. When you notice a sandstorm coming, seek shelter quickly. If there’s no shelter, find structures and stand behind them to protect yourself. And if caught in a situation where there’s no shelter or structure to hide behind protect yourself by covering your eye with a cloth or a hat (bringing it low), Ensure you do not inhale flying sand by placing a wet hankie over your nose. Use your hands to shield your face and head from unsuspecting flying objects.
Tips to stay safe on a Desert Hike
Inexperienced hikers might make the mistake of hiking in the desert with minimal or open clothing, but this is wrong.
Because of this, I’ve prepared a list of tips to help you safely hike in the desert. Let’s go!
- Drink a lot of water.
- Carry more water than you think you’ll need.
- Before setting out on a hike, find water sources. Guthook’s is an app that provides updated information about water sources from fellow hikers.
- Never forget to get as many electrolytes as you lose. bring along drink mix packs!
- Avoid hiking during the hottest time of the day.
- Practice the buddy system, especially on your first desert hike.
- Make sure a family member or friend has a copy of your itinerary. In case you get hurt, they can get help to where you are.
- Know your body’s signs of heat exhaustion and watch out for them. some of the general signs of exhaustion are; Headaches, Muscle weakness, Dizziness or confusion, Nausea, diarrhea, etc.
- Take siestas!
- Watch out for wildlife, rattlesnakes, and other poisonous insects. stay away from them and inspect your shoes before wearing them.
- Dressing appropriately by packing the best clothes for desert hiking.
- Ensure you stay dry at night to prevent hypothermia. Keep all clothing dry down to the socks on your feet.
- Don’t forget your desert hiking gear!
A must-have Gear for Desert Hiking
I’ve carefully prepared a list of gear and accessories you need for your next desert hiking trip. Let’s take a look at this desert hiking gear.
- Lip balm with SPF
- Water filter
- Wide scarfs or wide-brimmed hats
- Tweezers. very handy for cactus spine removal.
- Clothing layers: Desert hiking shirts, Desert hiking tops, Hiking pants, Underwear, Socks, Rain jackets, etc.
- Hiking boots.
A Good Desert Hiking Clothes (shirts and pants) Criteria
Desert hiking material is key to hiking in the desert. Generally, hiking materials are commonly made of polyester or nylon.
While this may be a good choice for some hiking conditions, it’s not recommended for desert hiking for obvious reasons.
All desert hiking shirts/materials you need should be made of cotton only or cotton and polyester, or cotton and nylon. And also, your desert socks too.
The point here is that cotton must be in every desert hiking clothing. For hiking shirts and pants.
Majorly, cotton material is advised because cotton has the ability to not allow the evaporating moisture gathered during the hiking process to escape. This moisture gathered helps to keep you cool. This is very important, especially in hot deserts.
While polyester and nylon-only fabrics for desert hiking will do otherwise.
What I’m saying basically is that nylon and polyester are not okay for gathering moisture and cooling in hot weather.
Here are some facts about cotton that you need to know;
- It’s comfortable to put on
- Cotton resists the build-up of static electricity
- It absorbs water and as well breath (the main reason it’s good for desert hiking)
- Cotton clothing can withstand heat but can be easily ruined by continuous exposure to sunlight
This is another important factor.
I’ll only explain a bit of it here because I’ve dealt with it here extensively.
Here’s a brief explanation.
The UPF is a rating that determines the number of Ultraviolet rays a cloth can absorb and as well repel when exposed to sunlight.
A good hiking shirt’s UPF rating is up to 50+. The higher the better.
When you finally decide to purchase any desert hiking clothing, you should look out for this rating since it will help prevent sunburn and other related sicknesses that come up when exposed to sunlight for a long time.
Desert sun protection is a must if you desire to avoid chronic health issues like skin cancer.
The importance of having an antimicrobial property in your cotton clothing isn’t really that paramount but it’s necessary to keep odors out of your shirt.
Antimicrobial agents in your clothing kill any microbe that comes from sweating etc.
Cotton, for example, Chitosan is an antibacterial agent used in treating it.
And this Chitosan kills these bacteria (Escherichia coli and Hay bacillus) directly the moment they are formed and also inhibits their reproduction.
Cotton is reputably the most durable fabric. It’s very strong due to its high tensile (under tension) strength and it hardly rips after some washings.
Since our go-to fabric for desert hiking is cotton, then, it wouldn’t be overwhelming to make a decision of buying one.
One thing I didn’t mention in the material section is that Wool is also a goto fabric for hiking in the desert only that it’s commonly used for hiking long underwear.
The reason is that it has the ability to keep you cool.
This is something I think you might have guessed. Having comfort while hiking in the desert is advisable.
You don’t want a situation where you won’t have physical ease and freedom from constraint.
Therefore, it’s advisable you get cotton/wool clothing that is stretchable, doesn’t fit tightly to your body, etc.
Not only that, the style of the best hiking shirt should be a long sleeve so it can cover your entire arm from the scorching sun.
And your hiking pants should be long enough to cover your entire leg region.
It’s now an established fact that the main clothes for hiking in the desert are made of cotton, a mixture of cotton and polyester, or wool.
Now, it’s also important to know the weight of the fabrics we should use.
Why? You may ask.
It’s because the weight of the fabric determines the breathability of that fabric.
To determine the breathability of your desert hiking cloth right now, just hold the cloth against the sun/light to know how much light that passes through it you can see.
More light suggests more breathability.
You must be wondering what this has to do with clothes for desert hiking.
Well, it’s simple.
The type of stitch that holds two or more layers of fabric determines its look and feel and strength and ultimately prevents it from unraveling.
For most fabrics including cotton, the backstitch is the best for strength.
I guess you already know what a zipper is.
The importance of a zipper for your shirt or pant is due to its great durability, strength and it’s ease of use.
Plastic zipper for example is waterproof, dust, and wind resistant.
Buttons are okay too in case you couldn’t find a zipper.
Basics of Desert Clothing Choice
I’ve put together a simplified list of tips for picking out the best desert hiking clothes, the best desert hiking t-shirts, the best desert hiking pants, and the best synthetic hiking shirts for desert hiking.
- Choose the right desert hiking cloth material. Cotton is great for desert hiking when it’s hot, but you might want to try a cotton-polyester mix or wool during cold nights.
- Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothes. The looser the cloth the better the comfort for desert hiking.
- What’s more, dark colors absorb heat energy from the sun and you don’t want that. So opt for light-colored clothes.
- Do not be scared to layer your clothing. It may seem counterintuitive but it can save you from severe sunburn or the more dangerous skin cancer. Don’t forget poisonous insect bites!
- Lastly, they must have length. Yes, your desert hiking clothes must be long enough to cover your entire arm and to cover your legs. Keeps the sand away, dn’t you think?
Top 3 Desert Clothing For Women
Having a very good desert Shirt or desert dress as a lady is paramount.
With those criteria, I listed above in mind we will see the top three desert clothing for women.
It took me a good time to find these. It was really strenuous.
#1 Columbia Women’s Bonehead II Long-Sleeve Shirt
* This hiking shirt is made of 100% cotton.
* The Fabric is lightweight.
* Long sleeve
* No UV rating indicated but it has an SPF (Sun Protection Factor)
#2 Hanes Women’s Long Sleeve Tee
* 100% Cotton
* light Material
* Long sleeve
* No UV rating
* Provides comfort
#3 Core 10 Women’s Motion Fleece Hoodie Jacket
* 66% Cotton
* It’s lightweight
* Sun Protective Clothing. No UV rating was found though
* Fleece (wool) embedded
* It has a hoodie that can function as a cap
* BONUS: Oprah vouches for it so do I (since it meets most of the criteria)
Top 3 Men’s Desert Clothing
This process is the same as the previous one. We used the criteria for good desert hiking clothes to find these men’s shirts. Here are the top 3.
#1 Columbia Men’s Bonehead Long Sleeve Shirt
* 100 % cotton
* Long sleeves with roll-up
* UPF 30
* Well vented for comfort
* Button up placket
* Durability is sure because the linings are made of polyester
* Antimicrobial properties absent
#2 MAGCOMSEN Tactical Military Combat Long sleeve shirt
* Made of cotton and polyester
* Long sleeve
* Features a zippered chest up
* Provides comfort because it’s breathable
* Sun Protective Clothing
* Slim fitted
* No antimicrobial qualities
* BONUS: it’s very cheap
#3 Global Men’s Sweatshirt
* Cotton and polyester blend (60% cotton)
* Sun protective clothing
* Likely durable because of its seam construction
* No antimicrobial qualities
* Long sleeves
* Zipper closure Present
* Seam construction is “split stitch”
* Hoodie for better coverage of head
Read Best Hydration Pack For Hiking
A Good Desert Hiking Boot and Shoe Criteria
Your desert hiking boots should be light, durable, and breathable. They are critical gear for your hiking journey
In case you don’t know, there’s a difference between a hiking boot and a hiking shoe.
For desert hiking, hiking boots are most preferred.
But if you still prefer to go for hiking shoes, then, i will give two or three options that are good enough to get you through every desert hiking.
I really don’t want to go into details that much (i feel tired already).
But I assure you that you will still get the meat of good hiking boots here.
Desert hiking boots should and must be lightweight. I can’t stress this enough.
Why? You may ask.
When hiking through the desert, at every point you should be able to lift your leg over barriers, etc.
And also you will easily get tired if you decide to make use of weighty hiking boots.
For a hiking boot to be lightweight, it needs to weigh between 1 to 1.5kg. Anything more than this simply means it’s heavyweight.
Well, this is always an obvious factor we consider when purchasing wear and tear products.
To know if a hiking boot will last longer, there are basic things you need to know. Though it’s not a guarantee since other unforeseeable factors can undermine these.
These are what you should be aware of;
The materials used for the making of the upper (for support), soles (provides friction, redirect shocks), tongues (the part underneath laces), linings (for comfort) and paddlings, insoles/footbeds (for balance), shanks, scree collars, crampon connections.
Moreover, the best material for sole is Polyurethane(PU) a type of synthetic leather that ultimately ensures durability and resistance.
However, for comfortability, a rubber sole should be your go-to.
The ability for a hiking boot or shoe to give you comfort while hiking in the desert means it must be breathable.
So, when choosing breathable shoes, the ones made of rubber are no-go because they can’t breathe.
Additionaly, when a boot is breathable, it keeps your feet cool.
Shoes for the desert should not be flexible. The reason is that you will be hiking on rocky and uneven terrain.
Therefore, the use of flexible hiking boots (rubber boots)will hurt your feet (this is something you don’t want).
The upper part of a boot and the insole are designed to provide support for your feet.
What’s more, the “upper” gives entrance of air to your feet to prevent too much moisture from causing blisters.
In conclusion, you should consider these parts carefully before buying a hiking boot.
Top 3 Boots for the desert for men and women
#1 Timberland Men’s Waterproof Boot
* 100% leather
* Super lightweight because it weighs 0.34kg
* Hard to break
* Provides ankle support because of the lifted upper
* Made of rubber sole
* Has EVA (Ethyl Vinyl Acetate) footbed which provides comfort
* It’s waterproof
* No need to worry about foot pain because it has a large toe box with plenty of room.
#1 Columbia Newton Ridge Waterproof Boot
* Lightweight 1.8kg
* Made of leather
* Not Waterproofed
* Made of rubber sole
* Mesh construction ensures durability and breathability
* Provides ankle support
Here’s the Women version
#3 Merrell Women’s Moab 2 Mid Boot
* Super lightweight. Weighs 0.34kg
* Constructed for good arch support
* Made of rubber sole
* Can be easily broken to prevent blisters
* Durable leather
* BONUS: Currently the best out there
Here’s the Men’s version
Top 2 Shoes for the desert for men and women
#1 Merrell Women’s Siren Edge
* Super lightweight. Weighs 0.34kg
* Good mesh lining for breathability
* Made of Vibram sole. Therefore it’s durable because Vibram soles provide wonderful traction and are abrasion resistant.
Vibram soles are coupled with vulcanized rubber.
#2 KEEN Men’s Targhee II Shoe
* Super lightweight. Weighs 0.04kg
* Made of rubber sole
* Removable footbed
* Provides arch support
* It has a good toe box
There you have it!
Desert hiking clothes and shoes for men and women. All that you need to know are carefully explained in this article. So, have a great hike!
Finally, the only thing in between you and a good desert hiking shirt or shoe is your decision to get one today because everything has been painstakingly laid out already.
Drop your comments if you want one on one clarification.
What type of clothing is best for the desert?
Because of the unstable temperature conditions in the desert, there’s no one perfect best desert hiking cloth.
Although, cotton materials are great for hot deserts or hot times of the day in the desert, a cotton-polyester mix or wool is preferable during the cold night
Is cotton good for desert hiking?
Indeed, cotton is a great material for desert hiking, but only during the hot times of the day. A damp or wet cotton material will increase your risk of hypethermia during the cold nights.
What materials are desert clothes made from?
The best desert clothes for hiking are made with cotton, cotton-polyester mix or wool materials.
Is polyester good for hiking?
Certainly, polyester is a great choice when picking out hiking shirts and t-shirts. But, for desert hiking, you want to keep of pure polyester or nylon materials.
How to fix velcro damage on clothes?
To prevent velcro damage on your hiking clothes, avoid fabric softeners, oils and solvents and do not leave your clothes wet for an extanded period of time.
When stowing your garment in a gear bag, turn it inside out and, if possible, store it in its own small bag. Keep the velcro on your gear fastened at all times when transporting.
Is polyester good for backpacking?
When backpacking at non-desert biomes, essentially, polyester is your best bet. Though if you’re on a thru-hike in the desert keep off of polyester.